By Rajpal Abeynayake
The vaccine has been mandated in this country for all intents and purposes, with the Army Commander stating that a vaccine certificate would be required for any person to visit a public place from 15 September. The futility of vaccine mandates and their odious nature was written about in this space last week, but here is more about the subject now that a mandate has been imposed.
Even in India, vaccine mandates have been frowned upon and Courts have intervened and stopped such odious practices. There is a judgement issued by the High Court of Meghalaya at Shillong, which among other things states: “Article 21 encompasses within its fold, right to health, as a fundamental right. By that same analogy, the right to healthcare, which includes vaccination, is a fundamental right.
However, vaccination by force or being made mandatory by adopting coercive methods, vitiates the very fundamental purpose of the welfare attached to it. It impinges on the fundamental right(s) as such, especially when it affects the right to means of livelihood which makes it possible for a person to live.”
This judgement handed down in a High Court in India makes clear that coercive methods of vaccinating people is a violation of basic rights. Yes, vaccinations are the need of the hour, but when the Army Commander of this country announces a clear mandate for vaccines, we are in dictatorship territory.
These are tactics used only in countries such as the Philippines. The palpably deranged Filipino President said he would jail anyone who does not get vaccinated. This is the same man who notoriously went on an extra judicial killing spree which targeted drug runners, but created enough impunity to cause the deaths of many innocents as well.
No civilised country so far has enforced vaccine mandates and vaccine passports in a blanket manner, least of all countries which manufactured some of these jabs. France has been an exception of sorts, but about 160,000 people protested around that country on Saturday (14) against a special Covid-19 pass for restaurants, and mandatory vaccinations for health workers. Many marchers shouted “liberty!” and said the government shouldn’t tell them what to do.
In April, the White House ruled out introducing mandatory federal Covid-19 vaccination passports, saying citizens’ privacy and rights should be protected. However four states in the US have active vaccination apps, according to MIT Technology Review.
Yes, citizens’ privacy and rights should be protected. Here is a quote from a Bloomberg Opinion piece: “Most governments, for now, are treading lightly, because they fear alienating the very people who need to roll up their sleeves and cooperate. Italy, for example, has mandated Covid-19 vaccines only for health workers, and the UK is considering doing the same.”
So here we are. Sri Lanka has chosen to follow Duterte rather than the democracies of the US, the UK, or Italy. Remember that all three countries, particularly Italy, were ravaged in the early stages of the pandemic. But yet they are not going down our route, getting the Army Commander to announce vaccine mandates that severely curtails people’s civil liberties.
As the Bloomberg article states quite clearly, the vaccine mandates would alienate the very people who may otherwise roll up their sleeves and take the jab. A government must have a sense of what civil liberties are in this context. If it does not have the persuasive powers to get its citizens to take the jabs of their own volition, then there is something wrong in the way in which a state functions.
In Sri Lanka the entire Covid-19 response has been botched. All that the lockdowns succeeded in doing was to bring the economy down to its knees. Have we got a zero Covid-19 spread as was the goal when contact tracing was supposed to do the job in those early stages? That’s laughable.
The Sri Lankan Government response to Covid-19 has been so unenlightened that it’s clear it has come from people who do not read. It has come, in other words, from a militarist regime which is led by a military mind. That’s not a mind that reads and assimilates objective information on all aspects of this issue and gets suitably enlightened. Try telling an Army General to read.
It’s not to disparage the Army. The Tri Forces personnel have been doing a tremendous job – that’s an understatement really – fighting the war first, and then helping us fight Covid-19. But we cannot be led by a military mind, particularly when there is an issue as complex and as nuanced as Covid-19 – a contagion that cannot be fought by brute force.
The Government ignored the rights of the employed as far back as 2020, allowing employers to willy-nilly get rid of their workforces because during the endless lockdowns in that period it was felt that necessitated it. The rationale at that time was that Covid-19 would be eradicated if we locked down suitably.
There was no prescience to realise that; (a) this was not possible and (b) that these lockdowns and these employer-friendly methods would bring the economy down crashing, which it did. Now that the entire Covid-19 response of the Government has been botched in this way, they issue an edict by the Army Commander to make the people pay for their mistakes, by being exposed to compulsory vaccination drives.
It’s reiterated that vaccinations are a good thing, but there are some who have health conditions that give rise to fears of blood clots due to jabbing. There are a myriad other reasons curtailing civil liberties in this way is odious.
For example, there are people who may lose their vaccine certificates. Not everyone is equipped with a smartphone to digitally store the certificate. Also, knowing the type of gatekeepers we have – security guards – there would be instances in which people would be required to produce original paper certificates.
These types of restrictions are a recipe for disaster. On top of people being hit economically and not having money in their wallets, they would have the additional burden of not having access to supermarkets or ordinary public places, making life excruciatingly difficult.
That the citizenry in general is called upon to bear all these burdens after the Government right royally botched its Covid-19 response is odious. The military mind that runs the affairs of state could not come up with the nuanced and sophisticated response that was needed in the face of the contagion.
All that was resorted to was brute force – the brute force lockdowns and the brute force tactics to let employers do as they please and retrench employees. These tactics have brought about untold misery, without controlling Covid-19. Indeed, without so much as being anywhere near controlling Covid-19.
But what does the Government do? Change its tack and make sure there is course correction? No. It doubles down on its tactics and gets the Army Commander to announce a vaccine mandate. What’s the cognitive dissonance in this attempt to “serve the people” by rudely increasing their burden at every turn?
For those who missed the article in this space last week, the vaccines, yes, are a good thing, and should be encouraged, but it is clear by now that they don’t stop anyone from contracting the disease. There is no evidence whatsoever that the jabs decrease the chance of death or any such thing – there were articles that were referenced to show that the complications from Covid-19 are equal in both vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.
Mandating these vaccines in any way under these circumstances is a violation of the fundamental freedoms of people and in a country such as ours it’s a particularly odious measure as we have a history of state overreach after various periods in which violence was the norm.