All professionals, doctors, lawyers, engineers and university lecturers follow a written or an unwritten code of ethics, mandating that they do no harm in the pursuit of their professional practice.
Should we not then expect our professional middle class to act responsibly in maintaining a civil public sphere, and maintaining standards of hygiene and aesthetics in our neighbourhoods and streets?
Unfortunately, not everyone holds this view.
For example, certain Rajagiriya residents who are engaged in house building are contributing to the national epidemic of illegally dumping refuse, marring our neighbourhoods, harming the environment, debasing our community spirit, and undermining our tourism industry. These residents, who live in a lane off Nawala Road, Rajagiriya, have been dumping refuse, garbage, construction debris and toxic materials on a small plot of land in front of our house, despite being repeatedly told not to do so.
On September 12, 2006, acting on complaints made to the Kotte Municipal Council, the Deputy Mayor visited the site and issued an official warning to the offenders. The dumping of refuse stopped, but only for a short while. On November 3, on being confronted by irate neighbours, the offenders insisted the site where they were dumping refuse and garbage was private, unused property and was therefore “none of our business”.
This was insulting, and a spurning of public responsibility. The fact that the land belongs to someone else is no excuse for spoiling and disfiguring the neighbourhood with dumping activities.
The cost of keeping the neighbourhood clean and free of garbage and building debris has now been passed on to others living in the lane. The resumption of dumping activities has once again dragged us back into the complicated, time-consuming process of seeking redress from the Kotte Municipal Council.
There is a larger issue involved: when you show scant regard for you neighbours and your neigbourhood, you end up losing your neighbours’ goodwill and gaining a bad reputation in the neighbourhood.
In any neighbourhood, there should be a community spirit and sense of collective responsibility. It is in the public interest that neighbours work together to create a decent, orderly, mutually respectful community.