One more public venture is on the verge of falling into the jaws of privatisation. The usual background record has been set in motion, extolling all the alleged grand benefits that will thereby accrue to the ordinary people and bemoaning about all the shortcomings and deficiencies of the present system.
The Postal System of Sri Lanka has a very long history and has certainly grown to be the most intimate and sensitive one of all public ventures. The local Postmaster is one of the most influential persons in the rural areas. The Post Office itself is similarly a very vital and important centre. It caters to some of the most human needs of the people such as easy communication, pension payments, issuing of Identity Cards, maintaining of Savings Accounts (This is the oldest Savings Scheme in the country), and being an information centre by having the Gazettes, etc. The village people treat the village Post Office with veneration as they are aware that it belongs to them. Hence, any Government which really cares for the ordinary people has an undisputed obligation to preserve and promote this system - pro bono publico.
The main reasons adduced by the P.M.G. (I am using this abbreviation as I do not want to get embroiled in a gender controversy) to justify the privatisation are: (1). It is running at a loss. (2). It is inefficient. The pertinent question that arises here is, 'Who is Responsible for this parlous state?' It is certainly not the public! It is entirely due to the incompetence and inefficiency of those who are administering the system. One almost gets the feeling that some of them may even be conspiring to undermine the system in order to hasten up the privatisation process. The question that the public directs to the Minister is how he expects the very officers who were unable to effectively run the public postal system, can be considered to be suitable to run an efficient private postal system?
Countries such as India, U.K., U.S.A., etc. which have gargantuan postal systems have still not abdicated their rightful obligations to the people and thus have preserved a public postal system. Sri Lanka, having a comparatively miniscule system, has got itself into a mess! It wasn't so in the past when the people selected to man the service were selected with care and well trained, inculcating inter alia, a high sense of discipline and honesty. Subsequently, when the tentacles of the politicians gradually began to infiltrate the system, decadence, dishonesty and indiscipline crept in with the result that almost all the public ventures are now in shambles. The people no doubt feel dearly cheated when these very same politicians offer alternative systems professing their gratuitous concern for the woes of the people.
It is indeed a telling indictment that none of the privatisation ventures already in operation has offered the people any reasonable solace or service, but has only further increased the financial burdens on the people. The privatisation of Lanka Gas is a classic example!
The existing postal services provided certain personal services such as the transfer of monies through postal or money orders, the payment of Examination Fees, Licence Fees, various application fees, etc., which were a great boon to people in remote areas. Questions also arise regarding the design and issue of new stamps.
The people are fully aware that the last Government established a network of private postal services known as Agency Post Offices, which have been run at great profit to the owners, whilst owing millions to the Government. Monies abstracted from people have not been transferred to the Government. Is this going to be the fate of the entire postal system in future? This is what privatisation has been all about.
The nation wishes to salute all those officers and workers who are girding up to oppose this vexatious attempt to privatise the postal system. They have certainly not been tempted by the carrot that is being dangled before them. But of course, you can always find in any system a breed of animals who can be deluded and duped by such fantasies!
I am sure Justice Minister Dr. G.L. Peiris would have listened to Rev. Madoluwawe Sobhitha on Sunday (1st Sept. 1997) night on TNL under the "Janahanda" programme.
In case you were too preoccupied with other pressing matters such as "educating" the lesser intelligent on your famous Package and consequently had no time to listen to the Rev. priest, let me repeat to you what he said.
"(a) We speak of a Tamil problem. Has any one so far identified what this problem is? The Tamils constitute only 12 per cent of the entire population of the country and more than half of that 12 per cent too live in the south amongst the majority community carrying on with their day to day activities without let or hindrance. They hold top positions both in the Govt. and private sector. In the professional field too they hold very high positions.
(b) With the proposed merger of the North and the East to constitute one unit for one community, namely the Tamils we are giving them 25 percent of the land area which is quite disproportionate. On the other hand, the Muslims too want a separate unit for themselves on the basis of ethnicity. This will naturally press Mr. Thondaman to establish Malayanadu in the Central Hills. Ultimately what will be left for the Sinhalese? Is there any other country like ours that has broken up the country into pieces on the basis of ethnicity?
(c) A major portion of the newly developed land under the accelerated Mahaweli project falls within the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This land, according to the new proposals will automatically vest with the North-Eastern Provincial Council, and, in the matter of colonisation people in the newly created North-Eastern Provincial Council will get first priority. The Provincial Council which will become the sole authority over this land can reject even an application by the Central Govt..
(d) But massive loans obtained from foreign countries for this project will have to continue to be repaid by the Central Govt. say for the next fifty years.
(e) Coming back to the question of non-cooperation by any Provincial Council (refusal to release land for use of the Central Govt.) when this question was put to you, your reply was that such provincial Councils can be dissolved by the President".
Come, Come Mr. Minister. Now, one of your most solemn promises at the last General Elections was the abolition of the Executive Presidency. In fact it was given the highest priority in your agenda for disposal when elected to Parliament. Of course after the elections, you and the President were prepared to risk even the Government itself by allowing your colleagues to resign from the Government on this issue. But your Government is prudently silent about it.
But my question is not that. We take it that if you keep your promise and abolish the Executive Presidency, you will then be left with a Ceremonial president sans all executive powers. Can such a president take executive action to dissolve a provincial Council? Your comments, Mr. Minister.
With the export of meat cattle, thefts are being reported from all parts of the country. The worst affected are poor rural and urban folk having small dairies with few cows and calves as their main or only source of income. They find their animals vanishing overnight and are thereby driven to destitution. Also, thefts from large herds set free for grazing in the countryside have increased greatly.
Organized butcher robbers, who in the wee hours of the morning come in lorries with covered number plates are mainly responsible for these thefts. Aluminium bodied vehicles with closed doors are now increasingly being used for such thefts as well as the transportation of such cattle for slaughter and even meat illicitly slaughtered. Persons who happen to cross the path of these butcher mafia in their night prowls are threatened with violence and death by brandishing Kuriees etc.
The lethargy and inactivity of the law enforcement authorities to apprehend the culprits and stem the tide of increasing thefts, has led to butchers having a field day. It need hardly be emphasised that the meat trade stinks in corruption, violence and abuse of the meagre laws on prevention of cruelty to animals. As such the entire trade has fallen into the hands of unscrupulous, traders and butchers. In fact, the illicit meat trade has become the norm.
Animals prohibited in law from slaughter such as pregnant animals, milking animals and young cows below 12 years and buffaloes are slaughtered with impunity. Similarly goats, sheep and pigs also prohibited in law from slaughter are also slaughtered.
The Government talks much about uplifting the dairy industry, including helping small scale farmers and making the country self sufficient in milk. Politicians are sometimes shown on T.V. donating imported cows and goats to enhance the milk supply. But it adopts a negligent, couldn't care less attitude to preventing widespread thefts of animals, which would ultimately be the fate of the donated animals as well.
To update and strengthen the animals ordinances there is an urgent need to deal with the illicit trade, which is a national calamity. The present paltry fines and punishments do not in any way act as a deterrent as the same offence is committed repeatedly. Though the Government is in the process of updating obsolete laws, the indifference displayed with regard to updating the over-100-years archives ordinances pertaining to prevention of cruelty, abuse and exploitation of animals needs to be looked at.
In recent times and in recent history, no man or woman had been bestowed with, and recognised by so many titles as Mother Teresa.
She was the "Saint of the Gutters", 'Angel of Mercy', 'Living Saint', Nobel Laureate', 'Champion of the poor and suffering' etc. Call her what you will, Mother Teresa was 'God's little Angel' who lit the 'Flame of Love' that will burn and shine for ever. She was the embodiment of selfless love, and she gave solace and comfort to the poor and the suffering. Mother Teresa not only endeavoured to alleviate the sufferings of the poor, but through her mission of mercy gave a message, loud and clear, to the rich and the affluent - that you cannot love God unless you love your neighbour.
Mother Teresa radiated true Christian Love, and every Christian and non-Christian alike will echo in unison - It Was The Singer And Not The Song .
Farewell! Dear Mother, you have earned a well deserved rest. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet you on that beautiful shore.
More letters to the editor * GELT: there's much to learn * Those who co-operate and those who don't * An invasion that must be stopped
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