Arumugam Thondaman is now no more. For years his popularity as a politician has been waning. But in his death, he has now become more valuable and marketable than ever. As the law of the land is left by the wayside the corpse of the late politician is being marketed as never before.
The Covid 19 pandemic forced us to rethink and inevitably change our cultural relations. Health and safety became an integral part of this change and led the country down a different path. The majority not only accepted these new changes but was also seen to be welcoming them with open arms.
People readily changed their cultural traditions. Those who once shared food understood the importance of social distancing and adhered to it. Despite the difficulties, people spent what little they had to buy masks and protect themselves from this unseen danger. They even bought sanitizers and disinfectants at exorbitant prices. They washed, scrubbed, and washed again even when entering a shop. Many it was clear followed these practices not solely for themselves but also for the safety of others in our society.
It was the discipline practiced by the people that eventually allowed for the government’s humanitarian aims in combatting Covid 19 to succeed rather than the sacrifices and efforts of the Security forces and health officials alone. The livelihoods of a mere daily wage worker to large scale businesses took a major economic hit. While many went in hunger they suffered in silence. Understanding the situation even today they continue to suffer patiently. Perhaps there is no better example of the discipline practiced in a very difficult time.
During this very time laws were implemented focusing on the health and safety of the people. Despite possible issues, no one questioned its legality. The Police issued curfew passes. Many who were caught on the road without one during curfew found themselves put behind bars. Some ended up in quarantine centers. Those who violated quarantine laws were punished. Ranjan Ramanayake for example ended up behind bars for this very reason.
Muslims set aside the hopes of meeting their creator in heaven to cremate their dead relatives. Those who died had to leave with the world without their funerals being attended by their loved ones and according to instructions of the public health officials and the Police. The Police determined the day of the burial. It even controlled the crowds hoping to pay their final respects. We heard of those who were not allowed to cross district lines to attend funerals of their closest relatives. One father chose not to attend his child’s funeral and remained in quarantine while setting an example to the country.
A close-knit society, Sri Lankans patiently followed the laws being forcibly enforced even during emotional moments like funerals. These were the immeasurable sacrifices made by the people to support the efforts to combat the Covid 19 pandemic.
But it is now shocking to witness the absolute disregard of a man, one can only describe as an immature child for the sacrifices made by the country’s people to practice his undisciplined politics. It is even more surprising that the government of the people is turning a blind eye to this brazen behavior displayed.
The law of this land is valid for Thondaman as it is for us. This invariably also applies to his son. His son is carrying out his father’s final rites not in Tamilnadu but in Talawakelle, Sri Lanka. While curfew has been imposed in the Nuwara Eliya district, Talawakelle appears to be exempt from this.
Curfew in the areas was imposed in the district even before the late Minister’s cortege entered Talawakelle. According to health officials, all health guidelines and quarantine laws have been brazenly disregarded since then. As complaints came trickling in top officials of the Ministry of Health met last evening (29) and decided that steps must be taken to make sure quarantine laws were being adhered to.
But disregarding all this, Jeevan Thondamn is now planning to gather over 5000 people for the final rites of his father tomorrow (31). To the Director of Health Services who had advice for Jeevan, this was what he had to say.
“keep your advice on social distancing to your self. It is necessary to bring in people to attend the funeral of my father as he a politician who was always with the people. I am not prepared to hold the funeral without the attendance of crowds.”
But perhaps we should not be concerned about this statement made by Jeevan. The President, Prime Minister. Leader of the Opposition, Former Speaker all violated quarantine laws that were enforced on the common man at the country’s legislature itself. From there onwards, the cortege of the Minister was taken round the country till it finally reached Nuwara Eliya. It is to the organizers of a VIP funeral such as this that Jasinghe is attempting to enlighten the importance of the health regulations imposed.
But nevertheless the dead must be sent on their final journey honorably. But that honor cannot be created through petty politics that seeks to sell and market the dead man. It can only be done by bowing before the law of the land and setting an example to the country.
The method Jeevan Thondman choose to enter politics is in itself uncivilized, illegal, and distasteful. To receive an honorable death a man must be meritorious. Considering this one can only pity a father like Arumugam Thondaman. The union leader leaves this world in the same tragic way any father would after having given life to a foolish son.