No one scans the heavens with more attention than do the residents of Kotte. And just why are we so occupied? We are thus occupied because every tiny shower, every little gust of wind, and all the heavy vehicles that ply the Pita Kotte Road regularly cause crater-like holes to appear overnight which make that daily drive into Colombo an adventure of nightmarish proportions.
Out of the 36 months I have spent in the capital of Sri Lanka two months were absolute bliss. This is to say that the Pita Kotte Road surface was actually pre mixed. The Bund Road alongside Parliament was smooth and pretty, while the Thalawatugoda Road that leads to the hospital was, for once, not in its usual state of pot holed disrepair.
Residents of Kotte were stupid enough and euphoric enough to whisper to each other that road transport was really on the up and up. Alas for dreams. We had 60 days of unalloyed pleasure before digging up operations began on the Pita Kotte Road. Exactly what was being dug for is anyone's guess.
By the side of the road huge trenches appear. A few stone drains have been constructed but there is nothing else to show for the 15 months of digging. Day by day this road gets worse. Shoddy repairs are effected in piecemeal fashion. Little remains of that expensive pre-mixed surface which was laid down barely two years ago.
The colossal waste of money, coupled with the constant work on the road nowadays, must be costing the Government very dearly indeed.
The Pita Kotte Road takes an enormous amount of traffic. Thanks to those dreadful ruts, craters, mud pools and trenches the traffic snarl-up is horrendous. The daily drive plays havoc with tyres, shock absorbers and under carriages. Drivers scream, shout and stand on their horns. Blood pressures rise. Tempers likewise.
Across this scene from Dante's Inferno falls the shadow of our stately Parliament Buildings which rise in airy fairy beauty just a stone's throw from this arena of mayhem. Those of us who brave this trauma so regularly keep reminding ourselves that surely things just have to get better. The trouble is ...... When?
Will the Kotte Road makers kindly give us what we so desperately want. A network of smooth surfaced main roads so that we may keep our sanity and the Government may keep our votes.
The Evil that men do or are supposed to have been done by them, lives after them the good is oft interred with their bones.
Is this why the policy of taking the government to the rural areas, which was initiated by the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who has been denigrated as a murderer although there was not an iota of evidence or proof against him, not been implemented.
If it is the intention of the government to improve conditions in the rural areas, would it not be more simple and practical to take the government to the rural areas so that the bureaucracy can meet the people and work for them instead of having a complicated, expensive and futile exercise in devolution which no one seems to desire.
In this context it might be well to remember a quote by Krishna Menon of India who said: 'It is the habit of mediocrity to complicate a simple issue. It is the mark of genius to simplify a complex one'.
Devolution will only divide the country and widen the rift between the Tamil people and the Sinhalese who have lived together through the centuries and still live together despite terrorism by a few Tamil killers.
Devolution will also afford the opportunity to unscrupulous politicians most of whom have been rejected by the people and who have only a lust for power and wealth to enrich themselves by employing thugs to intimidate anyone who does not support them.
The fact is that these representatives of the people, particularly from the north who claim to be concerned about the masses, who have gone through tribulations and stress in recent years, had not even tried to meet the people from the north.
The only time these politicians, who will be surrounded by armed guards, will meet the people briefly is before an election when they will make impossible promises of a Shangrila which they will forget promptly the moment they are returned to power, by a trusting and gullible public. These Satanic politicians who have only a greed for power and wealth indoctrinate the public with emotional issues which promote conflict and retard any progress that can be made for the country and the people.
How relevant is British style democracy for a poor under-developed country like ours. Are lofty concepts like the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary more talkable and lively myths? Is a politicised judiciary essential for stable and effective governance? These then are some of the questions that must surely occupy the minds of public spirited persons and can indeed be debated till the cows come home.
When Indira Gandhi was confronted by an obstrctive Supreme Court, she disregarded seniority in the appointment of a Chief Justice. The customary furore then climaxed in a fierce debate in the Lok Sabha.
The government's case was argued by that brilliant Lawyer from Madras, Mohan Kumaramangalam, who sadly like our own Sarath Muttetuwegama met with an untimely end. In a scintillating speech, worthy of reproduction in our newspapers, he provided a subtle thinking and an interesting slant on political Judges. All governments would do well to digest this conventional wisdom and apply it, even to the bureaucracy.
Quoting Abraham Lincoln he said:
"We cannot ask a man what he will do. We cannot go and say, will you uphold this legislation, if so I will appoint you. If he agrees, we should despise him for it. So we cannot ask. Then what do you do? Therefore we must take a man whose opinions are known; whose outlook on life is known."
Doc. Gamani Corea, a Sri Lankan most rare,
At U. N. Where you shine, your talents you combine
With humility rare, you work for the welfare
Of Lankans everywhere; for future generations,
The flower of our nation. You will protect in truth
The heritage of youth; you will let nothing foil
their industry and toil, but guide them on to face
Life's competitive race.
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