If there were two serious matters that have caused much anxiety and anger among the citizenry in recent days, it is the presence of arsenic in the fertilizer that could have contaminated the rice they eat, and the contamination of petrol that has resulted in vehicles grinding to a halt with owners incurring heavy damage.
In both cases, one thing has happened and another has not. What has happened is that the ordinary people have been terribly inconvenienced; what has not happened is a Government explanation as to how this came about.
The President saying that he will continue to eat rice is cold comfort to the common citizen. The point is that in so many instances -- and the list is endless -- the citizen, while being kept in the dark, is asked to grin and bear in muttering resignation. The Minister of Agriculture has suggested a cut in the fertilizer subsidy because "too much fertilizer is being applied to the ground", another deft move to tamper with the multi-billion rupee fertilizer subsidy by expounding a novel theory. On the other hand, the Petroleum Minister is blaming his officials for the snafu on petrol without being man enough to take the moral responsibility.
There are so many other cases of recent origin where the citizen is either hoodwinked or simply not informed. A fortnight ago, this newspaper revealed Government plans to give some 500 acres to a Chinese consortium to build a new port-city off the Colombo harbour, only to have it suspended the next week because the plans were revealed. The people have hitherto been told nothing of this huge project that could have lasting environmental and other impacts. The sale of land at Galle Face Green is not made public. Is there a rock in the new Hambantota port that is impeding its progress, or not?
Is the Government investing public funds in private companies as a matter of policy? We mentioned before that even the President's health is a matter of public importance, and asked why his visit to Houston some time back for consultation could not be announced without leaving room for unnecessary rumour to take wing. Why is the Norachcholai coal plant not firing and providing the power that was promised? And did we need a former national cricket captain to go to the home of cricket in London to spill the beans that sports writers were for years penning about -- the mismanagement, nepotism, power politics and corruption at Sri Lanka Cricket? As stated earlier, the list is endless.
The Government may, or may not realize it, but its credibility is very much at stake. When it tried to slip through a private sector Pensions Bill, taking advantage of a sleeping Opposition, there was suspicion about its motives among the working class. It was not the traditional opposition that rose up, but the non-traditional sector -- drawing widespread support. Now when the Agriculture Minister says the fertilizer subsidy needs to be reviewed because there is too much fertilizer being applied, it is bound to create ripples that the heavy subsidy will be tampered with.
Some might say that if they were to go by the embarrassingly contradictory statements the Government has been issuing on the UN panel of experts report and the Chanel-4 video, it is best that the Government not issue statements. That is hardly the point. Not only is the Government refusing to pass a Freedom of Information Law in this country when more than 100 other democracies have done so for the benefit of their citizens, it is not even in the habit of issuing statements on matters of national importance. Media officers of ministries are only interested in portraying their bosses being garlanded or receiving VIPs, but nary a word about anything of substance that concerns the people. The Information Department is a mere postbox forwarding mail from the ministries. Secrecy, the hallmark of this administration, is not second to that of the Kremlin in the days of the former Soviet Union and present-day China.
It is a well known diktat that Democracy is not only about holding elections. Democracy means government by all the people and all the time, not elected representatives running an administration rationing out information. Decisions have to be taken by the Government on behalf of the people, not by keeping them in the dark about public affairs, confused, and anxious about what is happening around them.
Dr. Fox- a friend in deed
British Defence Secretary Dr. Liam Fox eventually made it to Sri Lanka yesterday, and delivered, as he had promised, the 5th annual Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial Lecture.
The visit was shrouded in controversy initially. It was a known fact that Dr. Fox was willing and able to come to Colombo to honour the memory of the former Foreign Minister, a statesman with whom he had interacted both professionally and personally for more than a decade and a half.
The Liam Fox Agreement that he brokered (which he said yesterday should have been called the Fox- Kadirgamar Agreement for the role the former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister played) between the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to ensure that neither side derailed a negotiated settlement with the LTTE in the late 1990s displayed as much the ugly side of post-Independence Sri Lankan politics and the need for our colonial rulers to keep a tab on events in this one-time outpost of theirs as much as Dr. Fox's abiding interest in the welfare of Sri Lanka.
However, it was internal politics and his coalition government that kept Dr. Fox away last year. Whatever official reasons attributed for postponing his visit at the time, it is an open secret that some of his own cabinet colleagues stood in the way of him coming then, because of their own electoral compulsions and national interests.
It is, therefore, salutary that Dr. Fox kept his word to the Lakshman Kadirgamar Foundation because western double-standards in international relations and especially in the global war on terrorism are very much an issue in many countries outside the northern hemisphere, including Sri Lanka. He has come also at a time when UK - Sri Lanka relations have seriously plummetted.
Dr. Fox's words yesterday therefore have been judiciously chosen by the speaker who is presiding over Her Majesty's armed forces who are in active combat in our own neighbourhood, while speaking in a country that has just defeated the evil forces of terrorism.
The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for Foreign Relations and Strategic Studies, a statutory body created by Parliament not only in memory of the late Foreign Minister but which is of vital importance to the future strategic interest of Sri Lanka -- meanwhile remains defunct even after the President handed it over to the incumbent Minister of External Affairs by Gazette Notification dated May 3.
||From : P.L.J.B.Palipana
Thanks lot! Dr.Liam Fox.
||From : Lion
Your editorial deserves appreciation of anyone who loves
Srilanka.Please show the true picture of this government.