In this land of ours and in most oriental countries we are treated to the ludicrous spectacle of certain people conducting ostentatious functions to ceremonially open and reopen buildings even repaired and retouched ones - bridges, canals, water wells and public conveniences too, with much fanfare and tamashas.
With a lot of trumpet blowing and eye-catching ritual on every major or minor occasion, the organisers make it a point to impress the onlookers and ensure that photographers are present on all such occasions to highlight the events in the press and other propaganda media.
Politicians are ever present at all such ego boasting events. Taking the major role and flashing their made up smiles they would start their usual harangue reiterating that they always work for the cause of public welfare. These politicos claim that nobody else but they alone are solely responsible for providing all those amenities although not a cent from their own money is spent.
Everyone knows that only the resources and finances of the general public are utilised and expended for all such works.
It has become almost epidemic for catchers and supporters to outwit each other in arranging costly ceremonies with the sole purpose and ulterior motive of getting into the good books of the powers that be and for gaining personal benefit and popularity.
It has become a fashion even for ordinary heads of departments and institutions also to imitate the examples set by politicos and state heads to visit important places of religious worship along with their kith an kin an retinues and get their pseudo-benevolent countenances with beaming smiles photographed and flashed in all sections of the media. Since of late not a single week or fortnight passes without this type of ridiculous pictures spotlighted in the media.
In most government offices and other public institutions too, the so-called organisers who are really the henchmen of Bigwigs at the drop of a hat - for the slightest stir or change of stewardship - organise pirith chantings and "blessings" from men of the robe and cassock, bringing into ridicule the lofty values of religious blessings and also wasting the precious time, energy and monetary contributions of the working staff.
Although these types of ostentatious events are arranged and staged with a lot of pomp and glory they make the least effort to show the same zeal and dedication to carry out their legitimate duties in their offices and workplaces to serve and help those ordinary men and women who turn up to get their requirements and business transacted, in the course of their struggles for existence. Some of these officials and staff adopt indifferent unsympathetic and sometimes abusive attitudes when dealing with the ordinary people who call over personally to get their grievances redressed when their written appeals repeatedly made over a long period of time are not attended to or even acknowledged.
Such is the sad plight the ordinary citizens have to encounter at the hands of some officials in public institutions who do not have the slightest inclination to stretch a point from their cussed officialdom and help their fellow citizens although from public platforms and the media their bosses together with their politicos shout out hoarse and blare forth that they are the servants of the people and always work for the public weal.
At the way things are taking shape and in the context of various happenings all around, Citizen Perera can never visualise a satisfactory future or heave a sigh of relief and yearn for a bit of self satisfaction in a just and fair social order.
All these aspects of social malady could perhaps be traced to the peculiar oriental customs and slavish surrender and obeisance the Kings/Rajahs of yore and modern day dictators demanded and expected from their subjects and followers. It is high time our people who are supposed to be better educated and intelligent than most in the South Asian countries, made an honest attempt to cast away their servile attitudes and discard these outwardly grand but hollow anti-social practices that have reached epidemic proportions and get used to cultivating simple behaviour patterns and meaningful practical work systems, if we are to prosper as a Nation!.
However, ceremonies and rituals may be allowed or indulged in, up to a point in modest and moderate proportion in view of the fact that some of our people will find it difficult to do away with them outright.
Although we decry and blame the countries of the occident as the rapacious West, we still cling on to and are in the habit of aping their life-styles, especially the obnoxious modes of their living and loving. We have not made any attempt to emulate their simple, but solidly efficient work ethics and practices.
In the past Sri Lanka went through two dark periods or 'Bheeshana Samayas', one in 1971 and the other in 1989-90. Both were JVP insurrections.
The PA coalition and particularly Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga, promised something for every section of the population in return for support for her to come to power. The help of every disgruntled element such as dismissed members of the forces, disgruntled public servants whose services had been terminated for various offenses, enemies of the country such as the LTTE and members of the underworld were canvassed and something was promised for each and everyone in return for support to win the election.
Having failed to fulfill a single of those promises yet, the P.A. Government has started kicking around blaming the UNP, the public servants, the business community etc. for the failure. Once again it has re- started the 'promising' campaign through the Government news media, the Rupavahini and the Lake House newspapers, by daily pouring out lists of various projects that have been earmarked for the future and pointing to a distant mirage of a prosperous future. If all the foundation stones laid during the last two years, as was shown over the Rupavahini, are collected together a rampart could be built round the city of Colombo to prevent the LTTE infiltration. If all the billions that are said to have been set apart for development projects, as announced over the Government news media are added up the total will be more than the total budgets of all the Asian countries put together. At the same time the President has started asking the people to tighten their belts and not to expect subsidies from the Government.
A third 'Bheeshana Samaya' appears to have begun. Everyday one reads or hears of dozens of brutal murders all over the country, rapes more than at any previous time in our history, gang robberies, highway robberies, attacking of rival political parties etc. According to statistics given by the police there have been more rapes this year than in any previous year. Daily the mid-day SLBC news bulletin gives a long list of people missing and of dead bodies found and awaiting identification in various police mortuaries. Police appear to be helpless before political thugs. The country is safe no more for law abiding citizens but the criminals appear to be enjoying full freedom.
The letter headlined 'Siren-system for security in villages' in The Sunday Times of September 1 has referred to Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena's recommendation for the security of villagers. If the gongs and sirens are provided by the state, they are, no doubt, the ideal. However, if the residents, be they villagers or town-folk, have to provide themselves with them, they are going to be too costly for most individuals. I once suggested a less costly means of raising alarms among neighbours in emergencies in an article which was featured in Law Gazette Vol. 5 No. 1 published in May 1993. I recommended a whistle system, which I have very fruitfully introduced in my neighbourhood, and the entire system could be summed up as good neighbourliness.
The whistle system is one where every household provides itself with a whistle - in fact as many of them according to the number in a household, including children. At the slightest sign of suspicion, whoever detects it blows his/her whistle which is kept under the pillow, to be at hand even at night. On hearing that whistle, whoever hears it follows with his/her whistle. When the neighbours hear it, they blow their whistles and the entire area is alerted. Where there is a siren available, the siren could be sounded on hearing the whistles to alert a wider area.
The system recommended by me could not only be used to alert neighbours about intruders but also to seek assistance in the day or night, from neighbours, in case of any other emergency such as illness too. By this means a neighbour who feels reluctant to go to another's assistance on hearing any commotion, not knowing whether he would be welcome, would take the whistle as a signal that help is needed.
It is, perhaps, not possible to provide sirens or gongs to every individual or household. The whistle system could, therefore, go even along with the siren-system or gong-system introduced by Dr. Jayawardena.
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