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Historical glance at Galle

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Galle is the capital of the Southern Province. The popular derivation of its name is from the Sinhala word Gaala – a cattle pen.

The mighty king Ravana’s cattle pen had extended from the present day Mahapola premises to the Town Hall, according to legend.

Galle is also considered to be the Tarshish in the Bible.

It is reputed for cottage-crafts, lace making, tortoise shell work, gem polishing, ivory carving, jewellery and ornamental ebony elephants.

Area – 6.5 sq. miles

Latitude – 6° 2′ North

Longitude – 80° 13′ East

Altitude – 41 feet above Mean Sea Level

Weather – Longest day – 22nd June, shortest day – 22nd December. On the 7th April and the 5th September the sun is directly overhead Galle.

Emblem – A cock standing on a rock.

In about 2300 B.C. the Galle mechanics are reputed to have invented the king Ravana’s airship, Dandumonaraya named Pushpaka Yanaya

A.D. 545 – Cosmas Indicopleustes, Greek merchant, makes first reference to Galle.

1000 – Masudi, Muslim traveller, makes specific reference to Galle.

1344 – Ibn Batuta, the Arab traveller, from Morocco, visits Galle.

1409 – Chinese General Cheng Ho and his men landed at Galle.

1505 – Lourenço de Almeida, son of the Viceroy of Goa, was the first Portuguese to set foot in Galle.

1587 – The Portuguese capture Galle.

1592 – James Lancaster, a pioneer sailor, was the first Englishman to land in Galle.

1625 The Portuguese built the Fort of St. Cruz at Galle.

1640 – i). The Dutch capture Galle. ii). The 1st map showing Galle and its harbour was produced by Barretto de Resende.

1663 – The Dutch built the Galle Ramparts.

1758 – The first breadfruit tree brought to Ceylon from Batavia, planted in the Galle Fort.

1796 – The British capture Galle.

1800 – The Survey Department of Ceylon was created by a Proclamation issued at point de Galle.

1801 – The Kachcheri system introduced.

1810 – The British brought in Chinese and settled them at Galle to cultivate English vegetables. This settlement later came to be known as ‘China Garden’.

1832 – The Galle Library inaugurated.

1838 Galle-Colombo mail coach commenced.

1844 The Galle Police Courts established.

1848 The first lighthouse in Ceylon, built at Galle.

1850 Galle-Colombo ‘Pigeon Express’ started.

1854 – The first Sinhala Magazine in Ceylon –Yathalaba Sangarawa was published in Galle.

1860 – ‘Lanka Lokaya’, the first newspaper in Ceylon published in Galle.

1862 – The first bank in Galle, along modern lines, the Mercantile Bank established.

Prior to it was the ‘Kittange system of Banking’, which was confined to Galle, and managed by the South Indian Chettiars.

1866 – The first direct telegraph message from New York, received at Galle.

1867 – The first meeting of the Galle Municipal Council held.

1868 – The Oriental Hotel (later the New Oriental Hotel), the last and only one of the Victorian Hotels to survive today, opened. It is the first registered hotel in Ceylon.

1870 – A newspaper called ‘Gall telegraph’ published in Galle.

1874 i). Galle Cricket Club founded.

ii). The construction of the St. Mary’s Cathedral.

1880 – The arrival of Colonel Henry Steele Olcott in Galle.

1881 – The construction of the Galle Clock Tower.

1885 – i). The Galle Gymkhana Club founded.

ii). The Hindu Vel Festival commenced at Galle.

1886 – The first horse race in Galle.

1887 The first Buddhist Sunday Dhamma school in Ceylon, started at

Wijayananda Vihara, Galle. It was at this temple that Colonel H. S. Olcott observed the five precepts in, for the first time.

1888 – The birth of the National hero, Edward Henry Pedris, at Dangedara in Galle.

1889 — Opening of Victoria Park. (Now Dharmapala Park)

1892 — Reservoir at Bekke was built.

1894 — The first train from Colombo reached Galle. People had danced on the platform, with a band in attendance.

1896 — The first Galle baby born in London. She was named ‘London Harry’.

1897 — King Choolalankara of Siam visits Galle.

1903 — The demise of Dr. P. D. Anthonisz, in whose memory the majestic Galle Clock Tower was built by a grateful public, while he was still living.

1905 — i). Richmond-Mahinda big match series commenced.

ii), The first owner car arrived in Galle.

1907 — Low Country Planters Association formed. (L.C.P.A.)

1911 — Hiyare Reservoir constructed.

1913 — The Southern Province Boy Scouts Association founded.

1919 — At the age of 13, Prof. Lyn Ludowyk, then a student of Richmond College, was the youngest King’s Scout in the British Empire.

1922 — i). Dr. Rabindranath Tagore visited Galle.

ii). Widespread epidemic of bubonic plague in Galle.

1924 — The first film theatre ‘Britannica’ opened.

1926 — i). Ceylon National Congress Sessions held in Galle with E.W. Perera as president. ii). Galle gets electricity.

1927 — Mahatma Gandhi visits Galle.

1930 — The first principal, P. R. Gunasekara of Mahinda College, elected to the Galle Municipal Council. He ended his career as the Ceylon’s High Commissioner in Australia.

1931 — Mahinda College Scout Troop represented by B. Piyadasa de Silva, at the International Scout Jamboree held at Arrow Park, England.

1933 — The Patron Saint of Galle Cricket, E. M. Karunaratne (E. M. K.) of the Galle Cricket Club, elected President of the Ceylon Cricket Association.

1935 – The first aeroplane seen at Galle.

1937 – The first Cricketer from Galle, to play for the All Ceylon Cricket Team D. D. Jayasinghe of Mahinda College.

1938 – Mohamed Macan Markar of Galle, the first Muslim in Ceylon, to be knighted.

1939 – i). The first Mayor of Galle elected – W. Dahanayake.

ii). The first Sinhala speech in the Galle Municipal Council made by Muh. A. William Wijeratne.

1940 – i). Ananda Samarakoon’s National Anthem first sung at Mahinda College.

ii). Mayor W. Dahanayake declared May Day a holiday for the Municipal Workers, long before 1956.

iii). A group of scouts of the St. Aloysius College, Galle, scaled 14.700 feet of the Himalayan Mountain range.

1942 – The first Muslim Mayor of Ceylon, A.I.H.A. Wahab, elected at Galle.

1953 – i). The demise of the founding father of hydro electricity in Ceylon, D.J. Wimalasurendra, who was born at Muhandiramgewatta, Galwadugoda in Galle.

ii). The All Ceylon Buddhist Congress holds sessions at Galle.

iii). Wicketkeeper W. B. Bennett, playing for Mahinda College against the Galle Cricket Club, dismissed all 10 batsmen, in one innings to establish a world record.

1955 – The last English G.A. of Galle, R.H.D. Manders assumes duties.

1956 – Galle gets a new Town Hall.

1958 – W.M. Neil de Silva of Galle, captains the Ceylon Athletic Team.

1959 – The Galle MP, Dr. W. Dahanayake, assumes duties as the Prime Minister of Ceylon.

1961 – Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet Cosmonaut, visits Galle.

1963 – The Galle Cricket Club wins the ‘Daily News Trophy’.

1964 – National Independence Celebrations held at Galle.

1967 – i). Galle Municipal Council turns 100 years old.

ii). The first ‘Cricket Stamp’ issued. Cricket enthusiasts will be interested to know that Galle has a claim to Sri Lanka’s First Cricket Stamp. The 25 cent stamp issued in 1967 to commemorate the Centenary of the Galle Municipal Council which depicts a large area of the Esplanade, has been included in the category of cricket stamps by philatelists.

1969 – Galle Fort declared an Archaeological Reserve.

1970 – Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma of Galle, was the first Ceylonese to handle the precious lunar soil, when the Apollo astronauts returned from their journey to the moon.

1992 – Galle city declared a World Heritage site.

 

Some phrases synonymous with Galle

 

1. Weda bari unath gama Galley

(One who tries to live by the reputation alone)

2. Ikkai mai galu giya

Ikka giya mang awa

(When one gets hiccup, one of the practises at Galle is to sip water seven times, while reciting the above stanza in one’s head. It is said to be an instant cure).

3. Wedath ahaki

Gamath Gaaley

(A good worker also hailing from Galle).

4. Galu giya aawe netho

(Refers to the disappearance of youth at the 1971 insurrection. With grateful thanks, to Prins Gunasekera, the then MP for Habaraduwa)

5. Galle Legs

It is a type of filariasis brought to our country by a Chinese called ‘Chiang Kai’ who had come with General Cheng Ho, way back in 1409 A.D.

6. Gaalley kollo bohoma vasai

Ung hapuwath Naaga visai

Yakada kandan dekata navai

Dekata nawala thunata kadai

(The boys of Galle are very dangerous

If they bite you, it’ll be like a snake bite!

They can bend iron girders!

Bend them in two and break them into three

7. Galle Face Green

The name brings back nostalgic memories of native Galle.

8. Some Landmarks of Galle

i. Pacha Gaha (Fibber’s tree)

The space under this tree was akin to the world famous Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park, London, the difference being that in addition to people who wanted to get something off their chest, minor politicos, political aspirants, agitators, ‘Kavi Kola- karayas’ (poets of sorts who recited and distributed their work written in sheets of paper), magicians, astrologers, itinerant vendors of instant cures for everything from the common cold to snake bites, would also extol the virtues of their wares here. It is now no more, bowing to the Law of Impermanence.

 

ii. Moda Ela (Fool-cut canal)

The fool-cut canal. It was cut by the British, at Galle to drain inland water to the sea. However, on completion, it was found that instead of water flowing to the sea, sea water was flowing inland. The people then started calling it the ‘Moda Ela’. It exists to this day and functions with a pumping system.

 

A poem written by teacher, A.B. Dionysius de Silva

 

Galu Pura

 

Sweet city of Ruhuna, adorned by ramparts,

Galu Pura of traditional fame;

How glorious thine enthralling vistas

Vying with each other to exalt thy name.

 

Leaving their ancient stately heritage

Portuguese and Dutch in by-gone days

Furnished us with landmarks, tarnished by age

Standing as sentinels in diverse ways.

 

Skirted by mighty Roomassala ridge

With well known Unawatuna hard by seen

Fringing the ramparts – the butterfly bridge

Depict a gracefully picturesque scene.

 

Splendid record Galu Pura did hold,

In scenic beauty, second to none

Gigantic clock tower, as monument bold

Venture to kiss the clouds in fun.

 

Embellishing Ruhuna’s annals with grandeur

Graced by educationists of Olcott’s fame,

Of pandits, scholars, philanthropists of lustre

And Premier Dahanayake appending his name.

 

Gone are the renowned ‘Galle Bulath Vita’

The famous ‘Pacha Gaha’ honoured of yore

Veterans of Galle, now sigh with pity

Bowing to law of impermanence – they’re no more.


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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development

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There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.

The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.

To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.

Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.

It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.

All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.

Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.

If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.

In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.

However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.

It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.

The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.

It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.

A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.

Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.

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Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka

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By Sanjeewa Jayaweera

It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.

The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.

We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.

This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.

Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!

At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.

One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.

It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!

ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!

The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.

When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!

I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.

I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.

I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.

Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!

I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.

Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.

We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.

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Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?

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Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!

To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.

Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.

The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..

How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!

If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.

And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!

Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.

Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.

With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.

I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.

He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.

Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.

He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!

I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:

“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.

“There is no science to beat common sense.”

But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!

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