29 October 2020

Secure the borders!


‘Secure the borders!’ Secure the borders? That sounds like a slogan. A political slogan. Not that there’s no reason to be political or talk/write politics. Indeed, it is apt, given the flurry of ‘diplomatic’ activity in recent times.

We had Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa chit-chatting online with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. We had a visit by a high ranking Chinese delegation. And now we have US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doing his thing. All for love or all for profit, of one kind or another? Profit, clearly.

Now one can argue that borders are superfluous in a world order of inter-connectedness and that no nation is or can be an island, consequently. True. We are not an island. We are not isolated and neither are we isolationists. Neither have we been; not in a pure sense. Connectivity doesn’t mean that independence is meaningless, however. Sovereignty still has currency.

This is not about such a border discussion. It is about Covid19.

What are the keywords and key terms in this regard if not protection protocols, quarantine, self-quarantine, isolation and self-isolation? The initial success in containment came from such things. Tests, identification of the infected, treatment and, most importantly, tracking and tracing. That was done.

And then we got ‘Minuwangoda/Brandix.’ Then the Peliyagoda fish market. And we don’t know if Minuwangoda is a product of Peliyagoda or vice versa.

We do know that strict screening processes are in place at ports of entry. People coming in are tested. They are required to go into mandatory quarantine followed by a period of self-quarantine.  There are exceptions in the case of diplomats and that is worrying. Apart from this, the basic safety measures were in place. Things were more or less under control. Until ‘Minuwangoda/Peliyagoda’ came along.

We don’t know the source. We do know that the borders are not as secure as they seem. It’s not only the ports and airports through which people arrive. There have been reports of smuggling. That’s how drugs get into the country. It’s not just drugs. The restrictions on imports saw a spike in such activity, the more talked about commodity being turmeric.

This stuff comes from India. And India is certainly not a happy place when it comes to what the virus has done and is doing. And so, we have to return to the border. The border issue. The issue of securing the border.  

Are we too late, though? Is it going to be a question of closing the stable door once the horse has bolted or, in this case, once the bug has plonked itself inside? There is some logic to that kind of reasoning no doubt. Nevertheless, it doesn’t make sense to allow things to get worse.

A few weeks ago, in this column space I wrote about the danger of dropping one’s guard. To use a cricketing analogy, if a batsman loses his concentration for even a moment, he could get out. Indeed he could get out to even a poor delivery!

Let’s return to the notion of a ‘border.’ Any restriction imposed on any specific area presupposes a boundary. So there are borders within borders. Containment efforts within containment efforts. There’s country, there’s district, there’s community and then there’s household, and at each level there are gatekeepers — from the government to the householder.

The government of course has the greatest responsibility. It has, also, the greatest ability. However, even the best laid plans can be wrecked by a few irresponsible individuals. No citizen can claim that he/she was ignorant of protection protocols. The government has constantly issued warnings and precautionary guidelines. These have been echoed by many institutions, public and private. You see the signs all over. You just can’t miss them.  

It boils down to simple things. Do we open our doors to danger? We do not. Do we, in the belief that we are immune, pose a threat to others? We do. Do we keep our community safe? We try. Do we keep our household safe? We try harder to do this. Do we keep ourselves, as individuals, safe? Well, we probably try but we can be negligent too. We take things easy. We drop our guard. We are arrogant. In this sense, we become carriers of one kind or another, of the virus or a virulence that makes things that much harder to handle.

This is a moment to put up defenses. This is a moment to stand watch. We are not at a make-or-break moment but we could get there because this is a border-moment and more crucially a border control moment.



Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']  
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten   Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing

Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ alre
ady a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Ange
A dusk song for Rasika
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer