Letters to the Editor

6th January 2002

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Some lessons to ponder after the euphoria dies

I still remember the post-election euphoria of 1956 when S.W.R.D. Bandranaike came into power. As a medical student together with two others, Susil Manukulasuriya, now a Consultant Psychiatrist in UK and Jaysena who became a Professor of Pharmacology, we were in the crowd that "stormed" the Parliament (near Galle Face) that memorable morning when Ape Anduwa came into being.

The crowd surged into the chamber and I believe Susil sat on the chair before he was unceremoniously "unseated" by the huge strapping Sergeant-at-Arms, H.S. Ismail.

Such was the euphoria that people power generated, that people attempted to enter the operating theatre of the General Hospital. 

Outraged by this, Dr. Noel Bartholomeusz, one of the leading surgeons removed his cap and gown and offered his scalpel, saying "Here are the people's cap and gown and scalpel, now operate" and was about to leave the theatre when the patient's relations implored him to continue the operation!

Unfortunately, the euphoria died down with constant strikes and the Prime Minister's inability to make Sinhala the state language in 24 hours. Ultimately, he was gunned down by a man in yellow robes. The rest is history.

Alternate parties have been voted into power and later sent home by the very same people, when governments cannot deliver the goods and satisfy their aspirations. 

At a general election the people give a mandate to a party to govern the country. This mandate is a sacred trust which must be honoured and looked after by the government. The party to whom the mandate is given changes according to the whims and fancies of the electorate and in Sri Lanka we have seen the mandate changing from one party to another.

Therefore, the elected Members of Parliament must realize that their membership in Parliament depend solely on the discretion of the voters.

Neither violence nor threats nor utter falsehoods can win elections as was clearly demonstrated by the people when they used their franchise on December 5.

What happened in and outside Parliament in the last year should be an eye-opener to the new government MPs. People watch their behaviour and the language they use. Several MPs with foul mouths from both sides of the House have been sent home by the people.

The chief reason why the last government lost even in the rural areas was the poor economy with little excess money in the hands of the wage earners and self-employed. 

The government and specially the bureaucrats in the Treasury would not give heed to the pleadings of the captains of industry, banking and business who knew more than the bureaucrats with moth-eaten Ph.Ds. If only the Secretary to the Treasury had come down from his high horse, the result of the election might even have been different.

The President must rue the day she depended solely on a few people and their advice to run the economy.

The absurd interest of 20-21% on Treasury Bills had a snowballing effect with banks raising interest rates and thereby the cost of all goods and specially food. People do not accept excuses, when the stomach is hit. When the rates were brought down the damage had been done.

This is a good example for not appointing theoretical Johnnies to crucial posts.

In the euphoria of the U.N.P. victory we see a common repetition of receptions, garlanding, speeches and traffic blocks on all major roads. 

Once the voting is over a majority of the people forget politics and wish to go back to their normal day-to-day activities. More so now with a backward economy.

The first sign of anger against the politicians is when buses are blocked at receptions and the people cannot get about their normal activities. People start scolding the politicians and unfortunately the government.

All politicians who enter Parliament are guilty of this offence and are responsible for the unpopularity of the government. Hence it is best if steps are taken to stop this wastage of time and money. Ten days of rejoicing are sufficient.

Very few people also wish to see mug shots of politicians on TV daily. This has commenced with receptions in temples, churches or mosques. The winning candidates make speeches and promises.

One reason for the PA defeat was the over-exposure of the President on national TV. At times she would appear on TV in between overs on one day international cricket matches, to the chagrin of the spectators.

The result should be an eye-opener to the new government members.

The next reason for unpopularity was the vulgar language used in the House. Fortunately, some of the hooligans have been voted out by the people.

The language and behaviour of some members of the last Parliament were revolting.

The new Prime Minister and the Leader of the House must insist on good behaviour and sack any member from the party if he brings the House into disrepute. This will give a better image to the leadership.

A Minister must be given only two vehicles and prevented from using pool cars. Ministers should not be scared to travel at normal speed. If not, they should either remain at home or resign their posts. 

The previous government became unpopular because of security personnel ramming vehicles of citizens and at times pushing them off the road, along with an excessive show of weapons.

After every election, supporters seek employment and this is a hardship faced by MPs. The government must have a clear policy and not allow Ministers to fill all the vacancies from their electorates.

Therefore, the new Prime Minister must see that employment is given by one organization which will collect all the data and advertise vacancies and after holding a test give employment to the best.

Sometime back nearly 5-6000 workers from the east were employed in the port. This should not be allowed. Employment should be given on ethnic proportions to prevent problems for the government.

I hope that this letter would catch the eye of the relevant authorities.

Dr. Neville Fernando
Former MP

Who's wearing what?

I wish to draw the attention of the new Minister of Interior to the uniforms of a few private security agencies which are almost similar to the uniforms worn especially by the special forces like the STF and the Army commandos.

This is creating a lot of confusion in the minds of ordinary people especially the non English literate as these security men are mistaken for military personnel.

The irony of it all is that even the officers in these private security firms have shoulder pips similar to commissioned officers of the Armed Forces.

This trend should be stopped immediately and a general code of dress for all such organizations drawn up. They should be given a white or any light coloured shirt and appropriate trousers which would clearly indicate -especially at night times -that they are a civilian force of private security guards.

If this trend is not corrected immediately it won't be long before we see all types of mafia goons masquerading in military style uniforms and adding a few medals too onto them for major crimes committed according to the laws of the jungle.

K. Deen

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