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Legal implications on claiming damages by SL under international law

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Fire on New Diamond crude oil tanker:

BY Dulip Jayawardena

A Very Large Crude Career (VLCC) double hull tanker under the flagship of Panama was built by Mitsui Ichihara Engineering and Shipbuilding, Ichihara, Japan, in 2000 and has a gross tonnage of 160 079, with a dead weight of 299986 tons (DWT). The former names were Diamond Warrior (2013 Panama) and Ikomasan (2013 United Kingdom). It was reported that this tanker carried over 270 000 metric tons of crude oil above the gross tonnage.

The length of the tanker is 333 meres and breadth 60 metres. The present owner and manager are from New Shipping Company Athens, Greece. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Registration No. 9191424 Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is 351247000 for this tanker.

According to Ekathirinorini.com an Athens-based business site, the VLCC Panamanian tanker has been owned by Porto Emporios Shipping Inc., since 2013. The vessel’s commercial and safety manager is Greece-based New Shipping Ltd., which has a fleet of 32 oil tankers and bulk carriers under its care.

 

THE SEA ROUTE OF VLCC

NEW DIAMOND

This VLCC set off from Mina Al Ahmadi Port, in Kuwait, to the Paradeip Port, in the east coast of India, with 270 000 tons of crude oil. There were 23 crew members, comprising of five Greek and 18 from the Philippines. The position of the VLCC by the Automatic Identification System (AIS) was at the Persian Gulf (co-ordinates 26.32473 N/53.7858 E) on 23 August 2020 and was scheduled to reach the Port of Paradip Garh, on the east coast of India, on 5 September 2020, at 10.00 am. However, a fire erupted due to an explosion of a boiler in the main engine room on 3 September 2020 at 8.00 am, Sri Lanka time, when sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, according to the Sri Lanka Navy.

The VLCC, that left the Persian Gulf on 23 August 2020, reached the location of the explosion on 3 September 2020 after 11 days, travelling a distance of 2153 nautical miles at 195 nautical miles per day. It was scheduled to reach the port of Pradeep Garh on 5 September 2020 at 10 am travelling a distance of about 750 nautical miles at over 10 knots or 240 nautical miles per day. It is evident that the VLCC was to increase its speed while travelling from the south of Sri Lanka to the Port of Destination and it should be ascertained whether this caused a boiler in the engine room to explode.

 

PRESENT STATUS OF THE FIRE ON VLCC NEW DIAMOND AND SALVAGE OPERATIONS

According to News First, a Sri Lankan media, the VLCC, as of 6 September 2020 at 7.58 am, is 40 nautical miles away from land and there is a continuous effort to spray cooling agents to cool the oil storage section of the tanker.

As mentioned earlier, the vessel’s commercial outfit, New Shipping Ltd., of Athens, Greece, has appointed SMIT Singapore Pvt Ltd., as a salvage group for future operations and has one tug boat at site with the salvage chief who deals with such disasters. Two more large tug boats that can handle oil tankers of this size are expected. Further, 10 British and Dutch professionals with expertise in rescue operations, disaster evaluation and legal consultations have arrived in Sri Lanka and are expected to make recommendations on the future course of action.

It was reported that the fire erupted again on 8 September 2020 and was brought under control by the Disaster Management Team on the morning of 9 September 2020. A Dornier aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard air dropped diesel dispersant as there was a leak of diesel from the engine room. Further a research vessel from NARA has been dispatched to collect sea waters around the distressed tanker.

 

LEGAL IMPLICATIONS UNDEER

INTERNATIONAL LAW

The legal issues under international law are complicated as there are responsibilities under the three major entities involved, namely the Panamanian flag state, the owners Porto Emporios Shipping Inc and New Shipping Ltd of Athens, Greece.

The fire on board VLCC New Diamond as reported by the Sri Lanka Navy has occurred 38 nautical miles on 3 September 2020. Since this point is not within the territorial sea of 12 nautical miles and also is away from the contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles, it is within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is over 200 nautical miles.

 

UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON

THE LAW OF THE SEA (UNCLOS)

It is now evident that since the fire occurred within our EEZ, the vessel had the freedom of navigation under UNCLOS.

Sri Lanka ratified UNCLOS on 16 November 1994 the day that the Convention entered into force and therefore has the rights and obligations under international law.

 

NATIONALITY OF SHIPS AND FLAG STATE DUTIES UNDER ARTICLES 91 AND 94 OF UNCLOS 1982

Article 91 states that every State identify conditions for the grant of its nationality for registration of ships in its territory and the right to fly the flag and has a genuine link between the State and the ship. According to the Lloyds Register, there are 10 Flag State countries with the ships flying their flags. These are Panama (9367 ) Singapore (4962) China (4881) Marshall Islands (4163) Liberia ( 4027) Japan (3846) Hong Kong (3707) Malta (2637) Greece (1545) and Bahamas (1512).

Freedom of navigation and the right of flag State to sail ships on the high seas are included under customary law and codified under 1958 High Seas Convention and subsequently under Article 87 and 91 of UNCLOS 1982.

Freedom of Navigation as referred to in Article 87 of UNCLOS (Freedom of High Seas) also applies to EEZs.

Under Article 94 (1) (2) (3) and (4) of UNCLOS the flag State is responsible for duties related to effective jurisdiction and effective control over administrative technical matters on their ships on the High Seas or EEZs

Article 94 section 6 of UNCLOS refers to “A State which has clear grounds to believe that proper jurisdiction and control with respect to a ship have not being exercised may report the facts to the flag State. Upon receiving such a report, the flag State shall investigate into the matter and, if appropriate take any action to remedy the situation.”

In the case of VLCC New Diamond the flag State is Panama and the appropriate authorities should initiate action, if not done so, inform Panama about this fire.

Attention is also drawn to Article 217 of UNCLOS highlighting the responsibility of the flag State to strictly take appropriate measures and adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control of pollution and ensure the compliance of those vessels flying its flag with international marine pollution laws. It must also be stressed that the flag State is bound to investigate any case where any ship registered under its flag violates any international anti–pollution laws.

However, the implementation of duties of flag States termed open registers or flags of convenience do not follow the obligations under UNCLOS and other relevant maritime Conventions under the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The IMO Conventions are divided into (1) Maritime Safety – 11 Conventions (2) Marine Pollution – 7 Conventions (3) Liability and Compensation – 7 Conventions and (4) Other Subjects – 4 Conventions.

Some of the important Conventions relevant to the fire on board of New Diamond are International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) -1974 and International Convention on Maritime Search Rescue (SAR), 1979 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 as modified by the protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL73/78),Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (LDC) 1972, and International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness , Response and Cooperation (OPRC) 1990 .

As related to claiming of compensation and liability the applicable convention is the international Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) 1969 and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (FUND) 1971, and International Convention of Salvage (SALVAGE) 1989.

It is customary to delegate responsibilities of Flagship States to Ship Classification Organizations (SCO) which are private institutions who are delegated to establish and maintain standards for the construction, maintenance and classification of ships including tankers.

 

The major problem is that majority of flag States are delegating most of their duties to SCOs and it has been noted that the SCOs lower their standards due to competition and attract more clients.

Sri Lanka is a member of International Maritime Organization (IMO) since 1972.

IMO has formulated the International Safety Management Code (ISM) which applies to the safe operation and management of the vessels and also for prevention of environment pollution. As a member of the IMO Sri Lanka should take action to report if the VLCC New Diamond has violated the applicable conventions indicated earlier.

 

PROCTED WATERS OF SRI LANKA

An excellent article by Howard Martenstyn (https://www.slam.lk/protected-waters..) Have listed Marine National Parks and Marine and Associated Sanctuaries.

The fire on VLCC New Diamond if resulted to oil spills would have severely polluted the Yala and Kumana National Parks, Pigeon Island near Trincomalee The other Marine Sanctuaries such as Godayaya , Kalametiya Lagoon (Hambantota), Little Sober Island, Great Sober Island (Trincomalee), Kokilai lagoon would have also been subjected to severe oil pollution. The rare fauna and flora in these areas would have been subject to extinction, including the rare species of Omura Whales.

SUGGESTED FUTURE PLANS FOR PROTECTION OF THE SEA AREA OF THE EEZ ON THE EAST COAST

The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) is the main body established by the Government of Sri Lanka under the marine Pollution Prevention Act No 36 of 2008 with the full responsibilities for preventing control and manage the pollution of Sri Lanka’s marine environment. The fire on VLCC New Diamond was within the EEZ of Sri Lanka and it is queried whether customary laws have been formulated and enacted in conformity with the international laws conventions and treaties covering our EEZ.

It is also reported that there is no effective modalities to ascertain that flag States set their own individual standards for registration of ships including tankers and to identify and implement protocols to effect conditions covering all flag States have failed. (Refer 1986 UN Convention on Conditions for Ship Registration).

Accordingly, the legal framework in place for monitoring and implementing effective flag State is not complete. It is also noted that most flagship States do not give much importance to identification of ownership of ships and accountability of ship owners and most of these States register ships without the requirement of the identification of owners. Accordingly, such incorporation is secretive and will normally cover all the related jurisdictions.

It has been reported that the Attorney General has ordered that VLCC New Diamond to be towed out of our EEZ which is identified as 200 nautical miles from the high water mark on the coastline.

Sri Lanka is now in the process of claiming an extended see area of 1, 400,000 sq. kilometers on the eastern Indian Ocean which is over 24 times the land area of 650 612 Km 2 under Article 76 of UNCLOS Annex 11 UN Commission on the limits of the Continental Shelf. With this development Sri Lanka will have a major task to control maritime pollution in such a vast sea area apart from the security and exploitation of off shore non living and living resources.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As a researcher at United Nations ESCAP I was involved in covering marine affairs under UNCLOS for over 13 years.

I would recommend the following for future course of action related to the VLCC New Diamond.

(1) The Treaties Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should get actively involved in filing claims related to marine pollution of the eastern seas of Sri Lanka together with the MEPA, NARA, Environment Ministry, Environment Protection Authority, Department of Maritime Shipping and other prevalent agencies.

(2) The Government must work out a new sea route for all VLCC tankers to avoid Sri Lankan waters and navigate south of Sri Lanka to the new sea port now operating at Port Blair on the Andaman Islands. From Port Blair the path of the VLCC tankers should go north to the Indian coast avoiding Sri Lanka’s EEZ at present and also the extended sea area after the finalization of the of the extended sea area by the UN Commission on the Continental Shelf. Bi lateral talks should be initiated with India and Bangladesh regarding this matter. India imported 2.724 million metric tons for its refineries on the eastern seaboard of India. Accordingly, Bangladesh imported 1.4 million tons of crude oil from the Middle East in 2020. Most of these tankers were of the VLCC class. It is also reported that Sri Lanka also imports crude oil from India and to maintain our clean seas programme should also recommend avoiding our sea area defined as our EEZ.

(3) All VLCC tankers bound to the Chinese coast and Japan avoids Sri Lanka’s waters and navigates on a sea route to the Malacca Straits. The Chinese government as an integral part of the Belt and Road Project has initiated talks with Thailand to construct the Kara Channel, a 1220 kilometer Thai Channel . However the project is still on hold by Thailand and when this project is completed our southern sea waters will be safe from any oil spills from VLCC tankers and any ships carrying dangerous chemicals.

References :

(1) A Critical Analysis of Flag State Duties as Laid Down Under Article 94 of UNCLOS – Nivedita M. Hosanee – The United Nations – Nippon Foundation Fellowship Programme 2009 -2010.

(2) The International Law of the Sea by Yoshifumi Tanaka University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law Cambridge university Press 2012

(3) Maritime Security and the Law of the Sea by Natalie Klein Oxford Monograph in International Law 2011.

(4) Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation – The Application and future development of IMOs Particularly Sea Area Concept by Julian Roberts 2010 Springer Publication.

(5) The Law of the Sea United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea with Index and Final Act of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea United Nations New York, 1983

 

(The author is a Retired United Nations ESCAP Economic Affairs Officer and also worked as a Senior Research Officer at NARA from 1986 -1989 and a World Bank Consultant to the Ministry of Industries in early 1990 and can be reached at fasttrack@eol.lk)


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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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