The P.A. Government on the threshold of its third year in office, is reported to be facing the formidable task of maintaining various subsidies, while waging a war in the North and the East.
The President appears to be making a valiant effort to pull the country out of the morass of a failing economy. In this effort she should get the unswerving support of her Cabinet of Ministers, if not for the national good, at least for its own political survival.
In order to meet the critical situation facing the country and to trim the budget deficits, not only the ordinary citizen of this country, but also their elected representatives, the Ministers, Deputy Ministers and other Members of Parliament as well as their counterparts in the Provincial Councils should make a willing contribution by sacrificing some of the avoidable subsidies they now enjoy. They should indeed set an example to the deprived citizens of the country by volunteering to forego at least part of the privileges they now enjoy at subsidized rates.
As a preliminary measure, shouldn't some of their subsidies, be curtailed so that the rest of the country could feel that these privileged persons too are involved in the national effort - the national struggle - to tide over the economic crisis. This could be applied for instance to additional allowances now being paid to Members of Parliament, for sitting in Parliament, whereas other categories of people who hold office are not entitled to any extra allowances to supplement their salary, for attending to their normal and legitimate duties. This could also apply to the subsidized meals provided to Members of Parliament, while the cost of essential food items is sky-racketing in the country and severely felt by the people. Apart from the subsidies, the periods of pension entitlement and payments for Parliamentarians are widely at variance with those applicable to salaried public officers.
It is perhaps not very widely known that according to a government circular issued in October 1994, a Minister can have, apart from his Private Secretary and the Public Relations Officer four coordinating officers all of them highly paid and each entitled to an official vehicle with fuel allocation. In addition to these, every Minister is entitled to supporting staff consisting of one personal assistant, stenographers, typists, peons, clerks, and drivers. This is apart from whatever staff and facilities provided to them for security purpose.
There appears to be such proliferation of privileges spreading on to the bureaucracy as well, no matter what the economy forebodes for the country. At the same time every Minister appears to be eager to widen his own sphere of influence to strengthen his home base gaining popularity with the masses by offering as many employment opportunities as possible. And in the case of organization like the C.P.C. or the C.E.B., price increases of their products have to be effected to meet the higher costs of production and so the vicious circle goes on while we hear responsible persons mouthing slogans of 'productivity increase' and 'economy measures!'
And turning to the vexed question of having too many public holidays, counting at the rate of one day per month we find that there are at least 12 such days in one year, which is two working weeks out of the 52 weeks. In the same way that the Government decided to restrict certain holidays to the Muslims or the Hindus, couldn't some of the Full Moon days of lesser significance be removed from the list of national holidays, and restricted only to Buddhists? On the other hand I understand, that "Poya" or the "Fast Day" is not a peculiarly Buddhist concept. It is pre-Buddhistic in origin and the Buddhists should not grudge even the reduction of one or two of Poya holidays if it would serve the greater good of the country, taking into consideration the fact that very few Buddhists devote a full day for religious purposes on a Poya Day.
It is hoped that the authorities, concerned or those responsible in trimming the budget deficits when dealing with subsidies, will take into account matters referred to above on avoidable subsidies in order to soften the burden on the deprived citizen of the country.
At a recent interview with Rupavahini, the former Finance Minister Ronnie De Mel made an important statement, which the press media inadvertently failed to report. He said that if the IPKF was allowed to stay in Sri Lanka for three months more, the LTTE would have been crushed completely and the Eelam war would have been over.
The former President J.R. Jayewardene has said the same thing and Ms. Sirimavo Bandaranaike said in Parliament that the most foolish thing that President Premadasa did was, to have sent the IPKF away prematurely.
Anyway it is never too late to mend or if I am to quote another adage "Better late than never." Under the Peace Accord of 1987 (Gandhi - Jayewardene Agreement), which is still in force, it is the responsibility of India to force the LTTE to put down arms. Why should we not apologise to India for the shabby treatment meted out to the IPKF by a former President and ask India to send the IPKF back to finalise her obligation under the Peace Accord of forcing the LTTE to put down arms? Thereby we can save the lives of hundreds, nay thousands of our rural youths and Rs. 40 billion war expenditure per year.
Such a mighty nation like U.S.A. got the assistance of 13 other nations to subdue Iraq. So why should we consider it 'infra dig.' to get military help from India to fight the 'common' enemy? The greatest disaster that has come upon us is not the presentation of arms and ammunition and Rs. 130 million from the Treasury by President Premadasa, but the sending away of the IPKF before it could complete its obligation of forcing the LTTE to put down arms as required by the Peace Accord of 1987!
Though we are all reluctant to admit it, the Government too can provoke intense dissatisfaction leading to revolt. When a Minister visits a village where the people have no food to eat or clothes to wear due to extreme poverty and gets down from a car that has cost 10 million rupees of the people's money to preach austerity, the bitterness of the people cannot be estimated. The present sizes of the politicians as compared to pre-election times, adds to the disgust. It is therefore best that such visits are made very rarely and under heavy protection if made at all.
Will the authorities concerned, please give the people of Kelaniya who travel in Bus Route No. 235 a better bus service, especially on Sundays.
A few days ago (on a Sunday), I was at the Thorana Junction waiting for a bus for well over half an hour, when there came a private bus I think a tin of sardines would have had more room. With the greatest difficulty I managed to get into the bus, as there was no other alternative. The private coach took off after some time (trying to fill in more passengers mind you), when lo and behold!! there came a C.T.B. bus almost empty, trying to overtake the private bus. Those in the private bus had to do the 'twist' 'jive' or 'baila' to hold on to a support for their dear lives, as the private bus was going at a terrific speed.
Since there seems to be some sort of understanding between the private bus operators and the C.T.B., will the authorities concerned, please look in to this 'modus-operandi' and give the people of Waragoda, Kelaniya a better bus service and also a decent bus halt at the Thorana Junction.
More letters to the editor - "GG (Sr.) did the correct thing" * Pollution and Public Nuisance in Kotte U.C. Area * Cure this disease once and for all *
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