By Dimithri Wijesinghe
Milinda Rajapaksha recently launched his book, 2020 Corona Diary, describing the events and issues in Sri Lanka which took place during the first three months of the Covid-19 curfew and how the Government tackled the pandemic.
We spoke to Rajapaksha about the book and why he chose to present it in the form of a diary, to which he stated that the book is essentially his thoughts put to words, documenting experiences from when the islandwide curfew was imposed on 16 March.
Rajapaksha was the Media Spokesperson for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and one of the youngest members of the Colombo Municipal Council, and considering his particular position and affiliations, he was in a unique position to gather information. He added that he made an effort to follow international media to gather updates on the matter as well.
When asked whether the book is in fact limited to his particular experience and point of view, he stated that as he started writing the book and it was revealed that he may be publishing it, there were many of those who reached out to him with their stories and their individual experiences about the pandemic and the lockdown.
Therefore, he shared that while about 50% of the book contains what he himself has seen, having travelled extensively during the height of the curfew in carrying out social services, there is a majority of its content coming from diverse experiences, and so if he were to describe his work to anyone looking to read it, he would say that it is a summary of issues; international, social, and political, all viewed from the collective voice.
He also spoke of the effective way in which Sri Lanka handled the pandemic, adding that he wished to put together the unprecedented nature of the way the Sri Lankan Government utilised its resources to battle the threat of the pandemic.
Rajapaksha stated that Defence Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne, who delivered a keynote address at the launch event for the book, actually worded it beautifully; how Sri Lanka utilised the defence forces in an efficient manner. “Not only the healthcare workers, but also the tri-forces, the Police, the intelligence services, and the entire government administrative machinery contributed in this effort to save the country from the coronavirus outbreak,” said the Defence Secretary.
The author then stated that he hopes that the book will serve as a document which shows the world the exemplary nature in which a nation such as ours handled the unknown threat of the pandemic in the most efficient manner. He said that on the global sphere, there is not much discussion about the way countries such as ours went about the situation, even though we have a near-perfect model on how we tackled the situation.
He also said that great credit must be given to the healthcare professionals who did not ask for much and took a risk in order to perform an invaluable service, and also to the island’s people who were co-operative and continued to listen to the regulations issued by the authorities.
However, speaking about the new normal and moving forward, Rajapaksha said that there is a new normal which we have adapted to and that we are of the understanding that life must go on regardless of what the situation may be, and all we can do is adhere to the regulations to the best of our abilities. Nevertheless, referring to the most recent incident in Minuwangoda, where the curfew had to be reimposed due to the discovery of a Covid-19 patient, he noted that people have become complacent and comfortable.
There has been a period where the concern has plateaued and everyone has gone back to living comfortably. However, an incident such as this shows that the public must continue to show their support to the authorities when it comes to keeping the pandemic at bay; to continue to correctly wear protective gear and listen when instructions are given. The health and social sectors in the country continue to give their absolute best and so the public, as they once did at the height of the pandemic, should continue to be sensitive, aware, and alert of the situation and lend their support when necessary.