Someone is ill and you laugh? Hmmm….
When it was announced that the Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi had been tested positive for Covid-19 those who are opposed to this government salivated. It was disgusting. It reminded me of a newspaper editor who barged into the room of his features editor when the news broke out that the then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka had been subjected to a suicide attack. His eyes were shining. He was smiling. ‘Has he died? Has he died?’ That was what he asked. Needless to say the newspaper editor was a staunch supporter of the UNP (then in the Opposition).
Pavithra has not done herself too many favors, this is true. Even if we are generous and assume that the gimmicks she indulged in were about alleviating general public anxiety, there were other ways to go about it.
That said, it is fair to state that the minister has been in the thick of things. The Opposition may laugh, but we haven’t heard any medical professional dissing the lady in any way. Pavithra was a disaster as the Power and Energy Minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, succeeding Champika Ranawaka. She was clueless. She even fled a press conference she herself had called, unable to respond to questions put to her by the media. Health, on the other hand, has been a safer portfolio. Maybe she matured in some ways (and didn’t in others!).
The point here is not about her competence or a balance sheet which has the positives and negatives, appropriately weighted. It’s about the crass, inconsiderate and downright uncivilized response of her critics to the news that she’s been infected. Those who are doubling up, clutching stomachs and laughing obviously don’t know that this is a pandemic of a kind that does not make anyone absolutely safe. Tomorrow, those who are laughing today, might curse themselves for their unkindness — they may be infected. We hope not.