By Nisal Rukshan
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to every corner of the world by affecting not only human lives but the lives of animals too. It has made a huge impact on almost every sector of the country: agriculture and livestock, sports, technology, manufacturing, welfare, etc.
Introducing the new concept of ‘living with COVID-19’ directed people all over the globe to think anew and adjust their lifestyles on par with the exigencies of the new system. Businesses around the world were badly hit and continue with the work of focusing on new challenges.
The Sri Lanka Army as the ‘Protectors of the Nation’, giving a new meaning to the ‘living with COVID-19’ concept renders yeoman service to uplift the country in various ways and means under the direction of Army Commander and Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 (NOCPCO).
Amidst the pandemic situation, the Army being the largest, effective, efficient and most disciplined human resource entity, continues their role of duty towards the nation in a myriad ways in these challenging times. The concept of bio-bubble was the foundation of the way forward of the multiple contributions of the Army to the nation.
The Sri Lanka Army has contributed and continues its yeoman service towards the nation during the pandemic situation in the following ways:
The Army joined hands in setting up Quarantine Centres (QCs) around the country at the preliminary stage of the pandemic. Not only constructing, but facilitating those QCs with free meals, medicine, WIFI and mindfulness programmes. In addition, the troops give priority to the differently-abled inmates and infants. Presently, there are 50 QCs managing by the Army around the country.
Intermediate Care Centres
In strengthening the efforts of the Government Health sector to provide adequate treatment to COVID-19 patients, the Army constructed, renovated and established Intermediate Care Centres (ICC) islandwide on a small as well as large scale in centres in Iranawila and Brandix Seeduwa. Medical experts of the Sri Lanka Army together with the Health Ministry, medical experts, doctors and other medical staff are still serving at the ICCs on behalf of citizens of the country in the name of humanity. There are 90 ICCs around the country managing by the Army to date.
To reduce the spread of the Coronavirus and to lower the death rate, the vaccination process was started in the country on January 29, 2021. Medical experts of the Army together with the officials and Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) of the Government Health sector carried out vaccination programmes vaccinating the frontline workers of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees of the Free Trade Zones, the Education sector and the general public; presently they are vaccinating schoolchildren.
Enhancing the vaccination drive, the Sri Lanka Army introduced new and different strategies such as Day Vaccination Centres, 24-hour Vaccination Centres and the Mobile Vaccination Drive to serve the nation as Protectors of the Nation.
Thuru Mithuru Nawa Ratak
Even when the pandemic engulfed the whole country, the troops did not stop their contribution to the protection of the environment. Empowered by the concept ‘Thuru Mithuru Nawa Ratak’, the green drive of the Sri Lanka Army, the troops conducted tree planting programmes and shramadana campaigns around the country. Army troops also removed the waste from the X-Press Pearl ship along the coastal belt, a service which was commendable.
The Sri Lanka Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Sri Lanka Signal Corps and Sri Lanka Engineers played a vital role in shouldering the responsibility of manufacturing innovations to deal with the pandemic. These innovations consisted of disinfection equipment and machines and vehicles developed to match the requirements of COVID-19 preventive measures. These innovations helped to save public funds.
Disaster Relief Operations
In addition to the pandemic, the country faced natural disasters such as floods, landslides and bushfires worsening the challenges people faced in their day-to-day lives. The Sri Lanka Army has taken the lead in search and rescue operations in this regard and dealing with bushfires.
Blood Donation Campaigns
The troops of the Sri Lanka Army also provided a vital service by donating blood, fulfilling the national requirement that emerged during the pandemic situation. In doing so they did not bother about the religion or caste of the receiver of the blood, they cared only to save a life from Point Pedro to Point Dewundara.
Donation of dry rations and other items
The pandemic hurts all Sri Lankans in many ways. But the helping hand of the Sri Lanka Army was there at any time to heal the people in every possible way like providing dry rations and sanitary items to their doorsteps. This extends to providing drinking water to needy families in drought-affected areas.
Assisting Senior Citizens
Without forgetting the contribution that senior citizens have provided for the country, the troops of the Sri Lanka Army assisted them to collect their monthly pensions by providing transport facilities from their homes to banks or post offices. Vehicles of the Sri Lanka Army and buses of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) were utilized for this purpose.
The Sri Lanka Army is always of the view that the ‘pandemic cannot beat our motivation.’ Even with a load of other commitments, they did not stop completing the housing projects without any delay, for the needy families around the island including in the Northern and Eastern areas.
To decrease the spread of the COVID-19 virus, several disinfection programmes were carried out at public places by Army troops. Especially places such as bazaars, railway stations, bus stands, and banks around the country were disinfected round the clock.
Roadblocks and Security
During the period of the Quarantine Curfew, Army troops gave their fullest cooperation to the Sri Lanka Police to maintain law and order in the country.
In addition, the rider teams of the Sri Lanka Army conducted patrolling around the country, ensuring the security and the safety of the public.
Agriculture and Livestock
Even under the pandemic situation, the Army continues the cultivation of paddy, vegetables, wheat, coconut, chilly and turmeric. Also the Army provides dairy products like fresh milk, pasteurized milk, curd, chickens, eggs and fruits like mango, papaya and banana.
Nation Building Programmes
The pandemic, natural disasters, or any other obstacle will not be able to stop the forward march of the troops of the Sri Lanka Army. The Army Engineers, Corp of Engineers Services and all the others at the frontline of nation-building continued their work. Following the directions of the President, under the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ policy, the troops played a vital role by constructing roads for needy villagers (in Lankagama), playgrounds and other building at schools, tank renovations for farming, etc.
How has the Army spearheaded all of these projects at one and the same time?
The simple answer is discipline. Yes, indeed discipline made them stay in their respective bio bubbles and it proved its value with tangible and intangible outcomes.
Under the direction of General Shavendra Silva, Major General Priyantha Perera, Chief of Staff, Major General Sampath Kotuwegoda, Deputy Chief Of Staff, Commandant Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force, Commanders of the Security Forces Headquarters, Colonel Commandants and Colonels of the Regiments, Division Commanders, Brigade Commanders, Commanding Officers, all Officers and Other Ranks are the stakeholders of the said projects.
The pandemic still prevails in the country. But the efforts and the contribution of the Sri Lanka Army towards the nation in eradicating the Coronavirus remains unchanged. Discipline, training and professionalism of the troops of Sri Lanka Army will make a better future for the nation by proving the complete meaning of the phrase ‘Protectors of the Nation’.
Courtesy - www.dailynews.lk