It's time for cleaning up
By Victor Ivan
Given the depth to which the country has fallen, the task of getting back
to a state of normalcy is not that easy. People must understand that the
country is on a path to gradual recovery. But at the same time, the government
must also give them a sense of hope.
state vehicle without number plates: Security concerns or crime?
An opposition party achieving power may be considered a real victory
in the Sri Lankan sense. But those who achieve power should act with responsibility.
Discipline and humility are very essential, not when one is out of power,
but more so when one is in power. Pride is a serious illness that usually
afflicts those in power. It caused the death of the PA administration.
Therefore, it is necessary to use the power achieved for the benefit of
the people in humility to promote the well-being of the people.What the
country needs more than anything else is an exemplary leadership. We need
leaders who are themselves exemplary and who will urge their rank and file
to lead an exemplary life. Such exemplary behaviour should be seen at the
top so that those in the lower rungs could take a cue from them and behave
One of the main factors that have slowed the progress of the country
is inefficiency. Productivity can be raised to the maximum level only if
the ruling party becomes efficient. If that happens, the bureaucracy will
be efficient and the entire social machinery could be brought to a level
of efficiency. In this context, one of the main challenges facing the new
government is to restore the rule of the law.
For that purpose, the government must, before everything else, ensure
that all the persons connected to the government, including the head of
the government himself, should not only be law abiding but should seem
to be law-abiding. But what is happening is the opposite. Take for instance,
the manner in which road rules are enforced. It appears that road rules
are applied only for the ordinary people and not for politicians, especially
those from the ruling party.
By applying the law equally irrespective of political power one wields,
it will be possible to make the people see that politicians are not above
the law. The practice of politicians using vehicles with no number plates
or with bogus number plates must be abolished immediately. The number plates
on the Defender vehicles allegedly used in the killing of ten persons at
Kandy have been found to be bogus. Also police inquiries revealed that
the number plates on the vehicles used by former minister Mangala Samaraweera's
security men to indulge in alleged pre-election violence were bogus number
plates. It is said vehicles used by the Presidential Security Division
men also carry bogus number plates.
The purpose of a registration number is to establish a vehicle's identity.
Granting permission to use bogus number plates ostensibly for security
reasons has led to a situation where criminal acts are committed freely
and criminals escape without leaving a trace.
If altering a person's identity card fraudulently is an offence, then
this too must be a serious offence of similar magnitude. Use of bogus number
plates even for reasons of security must be made illegal immediately.
The practice of giving political protection to noted criminals should
be abolished and disarming of all those who possess illegal arms should
begin immediately as these are essential conditions for suppression of
crime and establishment of the rule of the law. The practice of offering
political protection to noted criminals has prevailed in this country for
some time now. There were occasions when politicians scrambled for the
services of men who committed grievous crimes. The official quarters of
ministers and MPs had become popular haunts of IRCs. The Police as well
as the general public were aware that IRC Dhammika Perera who reportedly
was wanted by the police was living under the alleged protection of a former
minister. Criminals who live under political protection commit crimes not
only for their political masters but also for their own private needs.
However, because of their political protection, the law is not applied
against them. The new government has an obligation not to allow such happenings
under any circumstances. After Julius Nyerere came to office in Tanzania,
he gave a grand dinner for the criminals who had helped him and ordered
the police to take all of them into custody. It is such a policy that our
country needs today.
The aim of the Bribery and Corruption Commission, too, must be reviewed.
An institution like the Bribery and Corruption Commission must not be a
puppet that can be manipulated by the ruling party to suit its own political
requirements. On the other hand, such an institution must aim, not at minnows
at the base of the power pyramid but at the big ones at the top.
The large scale frauds and corruption can be prevented to a great extent
only if the commission which closely looks at activities of top level politicians
and officials including the head of state. A commission inquiring into
corruption must be endowed with the power to order prosecution in connection
with offences falling under the assets and debits law. However, the present
commission has no power to initiate even an inquiry except when there is
a plaint before it.
Although it appears that the institutional structure of the commission
is independent, it cannot have the ability to play a progressive role in
curbing bribery and corruption if political yesmen who have no understanding
of and an interest in the subject are appointed to it.
In the absence of any moves to strengthen this commission, the alternative
is to introduce a freedom of information act so that the media could play
a positive social role in eliminating bribery and corruption in our society.
The writer is the editor of Ravaya
Circus of coloured names goes on
What's in a name, asked the Bard. Well, judging by the Sri Lankan scenario,
everything and more and if you have any doubts about that, just ask Tyronne
Last week, so the newspapers said, the Moratuwa stadium was re-named
the Tyronne Fernando stadium, a mere fortnight after the general elections
that swept the United National Front to power and Mr. Fernando to the coveted
post of Foreign Minister. Co-incidence, perhaps!
We are not trying to cast aspersions on Mr. Fernando here. Instead,
what we would like to focus on is the malady that seems to afflict Sri
Lanka's policy makers-that of confusing everything- including the naming
of public places and events- on party lines.
Examples are galore, the most famous of which is the Airport. Whenever
the blues were in power it was christened the Bandaranaike International
Airport and when the greens took charge, it transformed into the Katunayake
International Airport-and this happened many a time. At the moment it is
still BIA, but that might all change in the near future.
Then we had the ludicrous spectacle of our National Day changing with
every change of government. Under the blues, it was May 22, the day the
country became a Republic. Under the greens, it was February 4, the day
we were granted independence. And no marks for guessing that it was D.
S. Senanayake who was instrumental in obtaining independence while the
republican constitution was ushered in by Sirima Bandaranaike.
Perhaps the most extreme case of this party bias came when September
26, the day S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike was assassinated, was declared a public
holiday. United National Party governments vetoed that, only for the holiday
to be restored by Sri Lanka Freedom party-led regimes. (R. Premadasa's
death anniversary will hopefully stand the test of time by default, by
virtue of being assassinated on May Day!)
And so it goes on at many levels. Sirima Bandaranaike had her picture
on a postage stamp during the Non-Aligned conference in 1976 when the lady
was very much alive. J. R. Jayewardene and R. Premadasa had their profiles
engraved in coins while they were in power. On a smaller scale, the stripe
on the side of state buses turned either blue or green, depending on the
party in power. And old-timers will recall that a similar colour change
was once seen in hospital curtains, from blue to green, after an election.
(Thereafter however, it has mercifully stayed green, perhaps because someone
forgot to do the needful in 1994!)
And the battle continues in the sports arena as Minister Fernando will
testify, because Tyronne Fernando stadium promptly became Moratuwa Stadium,
just as much as Premadasa Stadium became Khettarama Stadium-only to be
renamed once more.
So, in Sri Lanka to have your name perpetuated, you must not only be
of some service to the nation but you must have your party in office. J.
R. Jayewardene- the man who despite all his shortcoming, ushered in a new
economic era- for instance has no statue in his memory in Sri Lanka, though
lesser mortals have been accorded that honour. His crime? Dying when the
government of an opposing party was in office.
But then, that might change soon because the UNP is the Uncle Nephew
party and the nephew is in charge now!