The rules are for everybody | Daily News

The rules are for everybody

The ordinary people cannot be left with the impression that they bear the brunt of the travel restrictions while the rich and the powerful get away, and do their business as usual. If the daily wage earner feels he or she suffers while those in powerful positions do not make an iota of sacrifice, that does not bode well for the continued viability of our social contract. 

There has been apprehension in some circles that though the Government is committed to maintaining the integrity of Covid control, the police have in some instances been partial in tackling violations of restrictions on the streets, and in public spaces. 

If the allegations being made in some media that law enforcement has indeed been openly partial are correct, that should call for a serious reappraisal of the role of some uniformed personnel. If the reports are accurate, in several instances, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to personally intervene to ensure that individuals are treated without fear or favour despite their social standing or background.

These issues are never supposed to end up at the Presidential Desk. It is lamentable that there have been instances in which law enforcement has been flagrantly partial towards prominent persons. This too is not a blot on the police. The majority of the men in uniform are doing a thankless job with admirable integrity, under trying circumstances.

Thus there is a greater responsibility that the few personnel who were out of line have to bear for any undermining of the rules pertaining to restrictions when both society at large and law enforcement had in the main, stuck to the rules. This is important, because ordinary folk have shouldered a tremendous burden. It is not merely the daily wage earner who has been subject to tremendous stress and strain under a regimen of limitations on personal freedoms.

The sick and elderly have suffered too. Even though there are arrangements for such individuals to obtain their medicines, to channel doctors, etc., that process is not all that easy to contend with, and it is clear that some persons have been disadvantaged to a point where their health may have been endangered. This may not be commonplace, but there are enough incidents to underscore the fact that the people have been shouldering a very heavy burden.

Under no circumstances should the playboys and obnoxious abusers of the power of office be tolerated when there is so much being sacrificed for the benefit of society at large by the average man or woman on the street.

There have been countries in which Health Ministers have publicly apologized for breaking their Government’s lockdown rules. Powerful State advisors have made cringeworthy explanations in certain European countries for their alleged breach of Covid control protocols. Here, there has not been any such significant spectacle of embarrassing violations – or mea culpas – by elected officials and their immediate confidants.

 But the people should not feel that in secret, the powerful may be getting away with rule breaking because there is no accountability for their actions, compared to various other countries that demand strict compliance from everybody. Politicians and those who hold high public office need to lead by example.

That is the only way to keep Covid numbers down. The people should, as they do now, feel that it is a burden they bear for the larger interests of society when they stay home. But, if that compact they make with each other and with law enforcement is in jeopardy due to the behaviour of a few, that would not only be sad, it would also be dangerous. 

People sense they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They are aware that there is a steady supply of vaccines even though there may have been hiccups in the supply process, as expected. They have decided that their compliance is worth the sacrifice as there would be better days ahead.

That sort of optimism should not have to be devalued because some people feel they are more equal than others. Those who flout the control protocols are exposing themselves to greater risk of being infected by the rampaging virus, and at least that knowledge should keep these people at home, with their children and their dogs or stuffed toys, while being surrounded by familiar creature comforts. Yet, there is obscene impatience. Some feel the need to feel superior – greater than the hoi polloi, and much more powerful than everything including the virus.

Most ordinary folk look at the transgressions of the busybodies with a measure of detached good humour. They assure themselves that the rule breakers are to be pitied because they suffer from the uncontrollable itch to control, and probably are mentally imbalanced too. But there are others who feel understandably angry. A few of the indignant feel the need to get even, by breaking the rules themselves. That is the danger in ignoring the antics of the errant. The rules are for everybody and that, particularly these days, should be the first, second and third ironclad principle of law enforcement.