Letters to the Editor

4th February 2001

Golden age of the politician

February 4th is a landmark in the history of this country. Looking back over the past 53 years, one is confronted with the realisation that as a free nation, our many failures far outnumber the successes. 

In fairness to our colonial masters, one must concede that in 1948 they left a democratic structure and a fairly sound economy. 

Self-government has not brought in its wake the desired economic benefits and social justice. Instead poverty has increased and society is fragmented. Unquestionably, the bane of our many ills has been the lack of honest political leadership. 

We experimented with socialism in 1956 and after decades of dragging the economy to ruin, reverted to private enterprise. Now, we are hellbent on pushing the open economy without any caution. Having taken over the estates in 1972, now, when the state coffers are running dry, we are selling them to all and sundry, often bypassing tender procedures, at ridiculously low prices. Who has benefited? Certainly not the common man. 

Privatisation of LP gas is giving hell to the consumers price hikes. A domestic gas cylinder which was Rs. 225 in 1994 is now selling at Rs. 525. A litre of petrol is over Rs. 50, a price unheard of anywhere else in the world. In political parlance we are the beneficiaries of 'an open economy with a human face' but for the common man it has been a vampire which bleeds him white. 

The economy which is teetering on the brink of collapse is being buttressed by the sweat and tears of hundreds of thousands of women workers in the apparel industry and migrant workers in the Middle East. 

Meanwhile, the ad hoc approach to the language policy began with Sinhala only, then to Tamil also and now to English with gusto, making guinea- pigs of two generations. 

The last two decades have been the golden age of the Sri Lankan politician. In the early years after independence, it was only an allowance, but today politicians are a salaried pensionable class enjoying an array of perks which keep increasing. Their number too has proliferated to include MPs, cabinet ministers, provincial councillors, provincial ministers, chief ministers and governors. 

In 1948, there was a Parliament of 101 MPs and a cabinet of 14. What have we today? Two hundred and twenty five MPs and 46 ministers with the prospect of the number increasing to 299 in Parliament and even more ministers, if the aborted new Constitution sees the light of day. 

A colossal sum of public money is spent annually for their salaries and upkeep. They move about in super luxury vehicles such as Volvos, BMWs, Monteros, Mercedes Benzes etc. A minister is entitled to four vehicles with an unlimited fuel allowance. To make life still easier for them, a four-course lunch for Rs. 15 and breakfast for Rs. 6 (milk tea at only 60 cents) are provided when they engage in the 'people's affairs' in Parliament. With all these comforts, why should they rule when they can reign? 

That is what is happening in our country today. 

Independence has certainly smiled on the politicians but what is the lot of the common man? From Wayamba to the October general election, it is the sad saga of democracy on the wane. Elections have been transformed into virtual wars against the voter, free and fair elections are only a thing of the past. Women have been stripped and paraded on the highways, some assaulted with clubs and their heads shaven. 

What goes for democracy in Sri Lanka today is a government of the politician, by the politician, for the politician. For the man in the street it is another struggle - seeking independence from this new bondage. 

D.J. Sirimanne

Disgusting, disgusting

It is regrettable that in- spite of complaints against Anuruddha Ratwatte by fellow candidate D.M. Jayaratne, he has been reappointed a Cabinet Minister and Deputy Defence Minister. 

This and other appointments as ministers and deputies of those against whom there are serious allegations, are a gross violation of the people's trust. Another example is the transfer of Central Province Deputy Inspector General Sirisena Herath. All these need correction immediately. 

If the policymakers think that time heals and makes people forget, they are mistaken. 

People, workers' associations and unions should protest against such violations of trust. 

Disgusted Citizen

Find the black box Hakeem

After the last violent general election in our country, the People's Alliance managed to form a government with the help of the National Unity Alliance (NUA), The leader of the NUA, Rauf Hakeem, put forward some demands to President Chandrika Kumaratunga as a condition for their support. 

The demands called for the formation of an independent Judiciary, independent Police Commission, independent Elections Commission and independent Public Service Commission. 

However Mr. Hakeem has failed to put forward a very important demand - the production of the black box of the aircraft that crashed killing SLMC leader M.H.M. Ashraff. Not only Mr. Hakeem, but even Mrs. Ferial Ashraff has kept silent on her husband's tragic death. 

Without trying to fool the Muslims, Mr. Hakeem should try to find out the cause of the aircrash. 

K. Uthuman Lebbai

Do not forget the root cause

Sri Lankan newspapers whether Sinhala or English have very racist attitudes towards Tamils when the ethnic issue comes on the scene. When I read the editorial in The Sunday Times of January 21, I wasn't surprised by the attack on Tamil moderate parties. Whether you act in the national interest or your community's interests the root causes of the LTTE's armed struggle should be kept in mind. 

Karl Marx said that state terrorism compels the people to seek violent methods. You should not forget that the Tamils have grievances which cannot be dealt with through military means. 

The Sri Lankan government gave priority to the Buddha Sasana, but waged war against the Tamils in the name of peace. Peace cannot be created by war, war only further escalates war, not peace. 

The demands of the Tamil moderate parties are reasonable and don't violate the principle of Sri Lanka's unity and integrity. The moderate parties lost most of their partymen because they have supported state terrorism. They have now realized that those whom they supported have betrayed them and cannot be trusted in future. 

You and the government should be grateful to the Tamil moderate parties which innocently trusted and supported the government and went against the LTTE on political and military fronts. But they paid the price for that because they went against the will of the Tamil people which was contained in the Vaddukoddai Resolution of 1977. 

The LTTE believes the government cannot meet Tamil aspirations through peaceful means. Riots after riots which claimed thousands of Tamil lives prove it. 

Meanwhile, the British government never banned the LTTE because it knows the root causes of the ethnic problem. It is internationally accepted that the Sri Lankan government is misusing power and doesn't have a genuine interest in solving the ethnic problem. 

The extension of the ceasefire gave political and military propaganda benefits to the LTTE and I have reliable information that the British government won't proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. 

The diplomatic blow for the Sri Lankan government is eagerly awaited by the Tamil people all over the world. By supporting the peace process and referring to the LTTE as a party the government reveals that the international community now wants to recognise the LTTE as freedom fighters. 

A TULF member. Not an LTTE supporter


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