Sri Lanka has had enough of inter-party rivalry, which has gone beyond the bounds of decency and fair play, and which has now become a Frankenstein's monster. It is crystal clear to any ordinary intelligent person, who is not influenced by such considerations as race, caste, religion, nepotism and chauvinism, that the two major political parties of the country have too long been engaged in cut-throat conflict with each other in consequence of their failure to bridle their impatient party workers.
The minority political parties have been mainly concerned about being friendly with, or hostile to, the majority parties in their efforts to acquire a larger share of the political cake for themselves and their supporters. As soon as an opportunity arises they flex their muscles in a show of strength through the activities of trade unions sponsored by them, with a view to browbeat and overawe the government in power for advancing their sectarian interests. The people have verily been landed in a political mess. An early solution to this malaise is now called for and is indicated herein by way of a professional and egalitarian approach to be adopted by persons who are in or those who aspire to, political power.
The present Constitution is a blend of parts of the British, American and French models of governance, and it is quite unfortunate that the operation of the laudatory provisions therein has been marred by the foul play of politics in our country: we have in effect been the guinea-pigs in our experiments with the parts of this political machinery imported from the three countries concerned. Nevertheless, successive Presidents insulated by the immunities, privileges and rights enshrined in the Constitution, have perforce had recourse at opportune moments to adopt extraordinary and extra-legal measures to survive in power in the teeth of adverse situations wherein their political opponents had taken undue advantage in the guise of democracy for creating havoc with a view to acquiring state power by means other than the ballot: some of the opponents had enlisted even the underworld elements to achieve their selfish ends. In the circumstances of having sensed imminent dangers to the country, successive Presidents upto the current times in their wisdom, have exercised their executive powers to frustrate the efforts of the undesirables to overthrow governments. That has been perhaps the only saving grace in the Constitution utilised to avert a state of anarchy.
It would have been wholesome politics in Sri Lanka if the political parties had taken a cue from the fair practices of the business world of refraining from condemning rivals: the policy of advancing and extolling one's own brand of a product or service without running down the alternative products or services of rivals is not adopted by a large number of our politicians.
Anyway, it is now time to reform and revamp the political party system to make it wholesome and not disruptive and destructive as it actually has been to the interests of the people, who have had to grin and bear all suffering for too long a time. Therefore, some drastic action is immediately called for to avert worse disasters in the not too distant future. A code of ethics should be formulated to be observed by those in power and those aspiring to power. It is advisable that the code be subscribed to by oath/affirmation at public meetings to bring home to those concerned the gravity of the situation.
A further salutary measure should be for each MP, Provincial Councillor or Member of a Local Authority Council to have a professional approach to national issues and pursue a policy of voting independently in accord with his conscience ignoring, wherever necessary, party fiat: for that purpose legislation should be enacted to enable the member to be immune from any party action to disqualify him from the membership of the legislature. This course of action will not only save unnecessary expenditure and effort spent on litigation arising out of political issues but will also make a clean sweep of our Augean stables.
"Agrahara" - Free Medical Insurance Scheme for Public Servants has been launched. Pensioners hail this scheme, which is going to benefit their counterparts who are in service. Alas! as usual the pensioners have been overlooked once again. What a pity? It appears to be only, "Bindhusara" for pensioners (just nothing only a zero), while there is now "Agrahara" for Public Servants. Pensioners are the persons who need a Medical Insurance Scheme most.
How strange the two young-looking but old political veterans, the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Public Administration seem to have forgotten the pensioners! It may be because both of them are still in active service. However the pensioners earnestly appeal to these two elder statesmen, and also the Chairman SLIC to formulate a similar medical scheme for pensioners too without delay. The SLIC has put out similar schemes for journalists, film artists, etc.
The details of the "Agrahara" Scheme and its complementaries have been publicised. However the "Risk Areas" for Pensioners would be somewhat less than their counterparts in service. For example, the majority of pensioners may not need cover for: (a) dependants below 21 years of age, (b) expectant wives, (c) expectant retired females, (d) loans (non-eligible). Hence for pensioners, only one scheme need be formulated as a "Free Medical and Accident Insurance Scheme".
The pensioners wish that the President and the Prime Minister would be kind enough to get such a scheme inaugurated soon.
Also the public servants are due to receive a salary increase. They will get their current salaries consolidated, and will receive substantial salary increases on them, as new salary scales effective in two stages, in 1997 and 1998. On the other hand the pensioners will not get any revised new pension scales. However the pensioners are due to receive just a mere 5% increase in 1997 and another 5% in 1998 on their current basic pensions. This is also unfair treatment.
May I suggest a more fitting gesture for the Government to be meted out to the hapless elders, who have given their best to the country by serving the state. It would be to consolidate the current pensions and grant them a 10% increase on them effective from 1997 itself.
Why not create a Peace Zone, in Vavuniya town, within a radius of five miles, all around?
All the flotsam and jetsam of refugees and displaced persons from all corners are now converged in Vavuniya. They are all languishing in transit camps set up in all the schools in the town and suburbs of Vavuniya, undergoing great hardship and suffering.
They have been denied travelling to Colombo, except under very exceptional circumstances and after much struggle and entreaty. Only a few days ago, a woman was denied release from the refugee camp, to go for the funeral of her husband who had died in Switzerland.
The schools have been disrupted and the children's education very badly affected. A move was made last month to shift these camps to a vast teak reserve about four miles from Vavuniya, on the Mannar Road. About twenty or thirty acres of this unsuccessful teak reserve was bulldozed and action was being taken to put up temporary sheds, with UNHCR assistance. But suddenly, the whole scheme, appears to have been abandoned and the refugees are still in the schools.
Vavuniya is a safe haven for thousands of people who have abandoned their homes and sought shelter here. But instead of treating them as refugees and destitutes, with all the sympathy due to them, the government is more or less adopting Hitler tactics.
Every refugee appears to be a "Tiger", in the eyes of the Government and they are unable to wean the chaff from the grain. It is like getting the whole class to stand up on the bench when one or two unidentified boys have created mischief in the class That is the principle on which the Government is acting now.
The pernicious pass system for residence as well as for movement from place to place, has become a nightmare. It is full of restrictions and injustice. At one time, people over sixty were exempted from getting a Pass. But now suddenly, even the old and feeble over sixty, are required to hold a Pass and they are expected to make pilgrimages to the Pass issuing shrines and spend long hours in never ending queues, to obtain their Passes.
To enable one to get a Permanent Pass, his name should be in the Voters Lists, for the years 1990, 1991, 1992 1993, 1994 and 1995. Apparently, all the others are being considered as illegal immigrants, by this People's Government. This stipulation is being stressed, in spite of the fact that the ravages of war, have driven them from pillar to post, from place to place. Property qualifications, a person's standing, reputation and background, do not count at all in the matter of issuing Passes. The civil administration is ignored completely, in this matter. The Grama Sevaka and the Government Agent are being treated as dirt and their recommendations have no effect at all, except as a formality. We, in Vavuniya, feel that we are under a subtle form of military government!
Apparently, all this is being done to prevent Tiger infiltration and to check their activities in the town as well as their entry into Colombo and other towns, under Government control.
But why make the people of Vavuniya and the exodus of refugees suffer like cattle condemned for slaughter? Is the Government bereft of common sense, fairplay and justice, in dealing with this matter? Or, is it because they feel that they could ride rough shod over the minorities like this? Surely, they dare not impose all these restrictions among their own people, in the South.
Therefore, in all humility and fairness, this appeal is made for a complete change of heart, for sympathy and for a sense of fairplay.
Under all these circumstances, it is not inappropriate to suggest that Vavuniya should be declared a Peace Zone and put into effect by:
1. Keeping a token U. N. or International Peace Keeping Force of a very limited number, within this demarcated area.
2. The P. K. F. will maintain and monitor absolute peace in this area.
3. The Security forces and the LTTE to be made to accept the conditions and observe complete ceasefire in this buffer zone.
4. Possession of arms by militants in the town and by all the others too, should be completely banned. Only the PKF will carry small arms for their protection as well as for prevention of any untoward incident in their sphere of influence.
5. The present Pass system in this area should be scrapped to allow the PKF to issue these Passes in a more humanitarian way, in collaboration with the civil administration.
If the proposal adumbrated here gains acceptance and is implemented, then the present suffering being undergone by the harmless, innocent people will cease altogether and they will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Fighting outside the restricted zone could go on, if necessary, but the cardinal principle is that with the satisfactory progress of the Peace Zone and the Peace Keeping Force, the peace overtures must follow, without delay!
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