Seeing young students sitting their “O” level examination recently holding umbrellas over their heads to prevent the rain soaking them and their answer scripts, is certainly the most poignant and heartrending scene I have seen in a long, long time. That such young kids — boys and girls — could be subject to such indignities [...]


That, my citizens, was most painful decision I’ve made


Seeing young students sitting their “O” level examination recently holding umbrellas over their heads to prevent the rain soaking them and their answer scripts, is certainly the most poignant and heartrending scene I have seen in a long, long time.

That such young kids — boys and girls — could be subject to such indignities and stressful conditions besides the stress already imposed on them by a critical examination that would and could determine how far they proceed in their intended careers, would surely touch the hearts and minds of sensitive persons who viewed those snap shots displayed on social media.

Getting to the examination centre itself could prove a nightmare with the uncertainty of transport and students from some rural areas probably having to walk miles to get there. It is bad enough having to brave the weather on the way to the centre but having to hold umbrellas over their heads for hours and still think clearly enough to answer the questions is an unenviable task.

It might not have meant much to some of our politicians, especially some of those elected representatives who have never faced public exams or, if they did, could not clear the hurdle.

It was not too long ago that I read a comment by a former university academic saying at a media conference that 95 of the 225 MPs (if I remember correctly) in parliament today had not even obtained their “O” levels, if they ever got that far.

Their interest is not in educating themselves but in other pursuits that would enhance their lifestyle more than their reputation as dignified representatives of the people. Scant wonder then that parliament’s administrators fought shy of releasing the educational background of our worthies supposedly representing the citizenry when such information was sought under the Right to Information law.

What a contrast those students who sat the exam the other day make as they strive to succeed, writing with one hand and holding an umbrella with the other, against some uneducated and backward persons, protected by the forces of law and disorder, provided with perks and privileges and entrusted with the vital task of law-making and voting on policy decisions they probably have not read and if they had, not understood.

Surely this is a most ludicrous situation where those who probably do not understand the contents and implications of what they are raising their hands or whatever they have to raise, to vote to enact laws on behalf of the people.

It is not surprising that the GotaGoGama protesters and those who support them, added the 225 to the list of those they wish to see out of power and out of the way along with a ragtag lot of sycophants planted in an increasingly corrupt and corrupted bureaucracy.

While most viewers would have been moved by this lamentable and unprecedented scene and in their hearts of hearts wished they would succeed at the examination, one was surprised at the unexpected Tweet comment from Namal Rajapaksa of the Rajapaksa clan who not too long ago was a cabinet minister in the Gotabaya Rajapaksa-Mahinda Rajapaksa-led government.

In words of unmitigated profundity young Rajapaksa writes; “Many schools have limited facilities but not having a complete roof is unacceptable. We need to re-evaluate our priorities as a nation and ensure a better future for our children. We need not only educational but political and social reform.”

Indeed we need all that. That is what the “Aragalaya” is all about and more. But what took Namal baby all this time to realise that we need radical reform in more areas than one. The fact that it has finally dawned on him might be a small step for Sri Lanka but a giant step for him.

Perhaps he has forgotten that it was not too long ago that he supported and voted for the 20th Amendment. That undermined many of the gains made to strengthen democracy and accountable governance in the country through the 19th Amendment and transferred power to autocratic hands.

What is galling is that some of our politicians — and that includes those who have governed the country in recent years — keep proudly announcing to the world that Ceylon, as it was called then, is Asia’s first democracy and that we have enjoyed universal franchise for around 90 years. We glorify the past because we have nothing to claim in the present.

Yet amongst those who continue to sing hosannas to our democratic heritage are the very people who have enacted legislation that detract from the democratic values we boast of. It is they who wish to have their cake and eat it.

Namal Rajapaksa laments that some schools do not have complete roofs. It is not just complete roofs they do not have. If he had paid sufficient attention to the budgets present by his father and his uncle he would have understood where the major budgetary allocations went.

Twelve years after the war against the LTTE ended the highest allocation went to fatten the armed forces. That is true of the last two budgets which saw the allocations for education and health even below the money voted for highways and related infrastructure.

Just the other day another of Namal’s uncles, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, lamented that the most difficult and painful decision he had made in his life was to ask elder brother Mahinda to resign.

That is understandable. After all, he would not be at the top of the totem pole today and struggling to stay there, had Mahinda not brought him into the political limelight by first appointing him defence secretary.

But surely there were other painful decisions made by President Rajapaksa except that the pain is being endured by millions of people, “my people” as rulers of nations like to call them with hauteur.

It took quite some time for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to concede that it was his egregious gaffes in decision making that drew the economy closer to the edge of the cliff. Perhaps the fault lies not in the stars but in some of his over-confident advisers and the inner circle.

But it was the ill-advised policy making that brought the house of cards crashing and scattering the jokers. Now the pain is in the other foot, as it were.

As I re-read the “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” to refresh my mind of the grandiose promises made under this bombastic title the more intense my pain — and surely that of millions of others — though it may not be the same as the pain the President suffers.


(Neville de Silva is a veteran Sri Lankan journalist who was Assistant Editor of the Hong Kong Standard and worked for Gemini News Service in London. Later he was Deputy Chief-of-Mission in Bangkok and Deputy High Commissioner in London)

Share This Post


Buying or selling electronics has never been easier with the help of! We, at, hear your needs and endeavour to provide you with the perfect listings of electronics; because we have listings for nearly anything! Search for your favourite electronic items for sale on today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.