“EVEN DEMOCRACY COULD become one of the victims of Covid-19,” was a note of caution, raised by Father Arturo Sosa, the superior general of the Society of Jesus, during a recent interview. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has plunged the world into a crisis. How the world leaders respond to the emergency are pointers for their commitment to the people who have chosen them to rule their countries.
Implementation of emergency powers in many of the ‘democracies’ in the world on the pretext of fighting the pandemic raise a new challenge. In their attempt to kill the coronavirus, they might also kill democracy and fundamental rights of the citizens. Many a decision by national heads during this period of crisis were clearly not in the best interests of the people they claim to serve!
Hong Kong’s aspirations for democracy are fast eroding with the government unwilling to hear the grievances of its own people. The forthcoming national security law to be enforced by the central government could be a way of dictating what the people of Hong Kong should do, say and believe in. Unfortunately, this trend is not something specific to Hong Kong or China, rather the world’s recognised democracies also confront similar predicament.
Faced with the pandemic spreading across the globe, the democratic governments around the world used their emergency powers for unilateral, unscientific decisions on treatment models, lockdowns and reopenings. The world’s most powerful democracy, the United States of America, with all its technological know-how and economic stability, failed to contain the outbreak and surprisingly became the worst-hit nation, with over 120,000 people losing their lives and over two million infected.
Things did not go well for its president, Donald Trump, as the George Floyd tragedy became be a missed opportunity for him to be reconciled with the black community. The president’s clumsy photo op, wielding a Bible in hand in an attempt to appease the people of faith, backfired. After all, the Bible is not a device meant to gain political mileage. Once again, a democratic government failed to address the grievances of its people.
India, the world’s largest democracy with 1.39 billion people, is now the fourth most infected nation in the world with the dreaded virus. The threat is real. Lack of adequate testing facilities and accessibility to medical care in many parts of the country pose huge threat to the lives of millions.
It is a shame that a government that could spent over 30 billion Indian rupees ($3,332 million) for the construction of a bronze statue of a late national leader, now fails to provide medical assistance and food supplies to its citizens. If not for the humanitarian services of numerous charity social welfare organisations, more people would have died, not because of the virus but of starvation during the days of lockdown. This form of democracy is failing its people.
The Philippine government believes tackling terrorism is more serious issue than the spread of the pandemic. At the behest of it president, Rodrigo Duterte, the House of Representatives approved the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in the first week of June, triggering online and street protests even as community quarantine restrictions are in place. The critics of the bill say that “It’s not about going after terrorists, but critics of this administration.” Can democracy prevail?
“It’s much easier to find a vaccine for the coronavirus than for the virus of selfishness, war and the possibility of having a more equitable distribution of wealth than what we have now,” says Father Sosa. Jose