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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.