The left-oriented ideological shift of the Bandaranaikes and their coalition partners ruined the Sri Lankan economy. Similarly those who succeeded the Senanayakes totally disregarded law and order. President Chandrika Kumaratunga is slowly but surely repairing the extensive and colossal damage on all fronts with a patch here and a patch there.
She is now inviting foreign investors who were chased away by the ideologues. She is striving very hard to give credibility to war- torn Sri Lanka saddled with human rights problems. In that context it is not prudent to change the constitution of Sri Lanka right now, because she should run the full term to ensure economic, political and social stability.
Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike politicised education, health and religion by stirring up teachers, physicians and the clergy. The education system was further shaken by the take- over of schools. The final blow was the manipulation of the university admission scheme. All those manoeuvres boomeranged and they never hit the targets! Though rural youth excel in sports, the doors are now closed for them to attain high proficiency in science. Isn't it more practical to teach Science in English rather than in Sanskrit as it is now done through the Sinhala medium? The importance of English has been recognised in the proposed education reforms. Is it to train tour guides and housemaids? Are those the vocations open to rural youths?
Sri Lankan youth living in even the remote parts of the country should be given the opportunity to develop their talents and skills in higher scientific education too as in other lesser academic spheres such as law and commerce. Revert to English in Science teaching and introduce an accelerated crash course in rural areas by the state or other benevolent N. G. O.'s who prefer not to operate off the beaten track.
The Postal Museum was officially inaugurated on July 4, 1994 but it has still not been opened to the public. I understand that rats have now taken over the premises.
It is time that the Post-Master General and the Director of the Philatelic Bureau of Sri Lanka confront the rats, take over the premises and take immediate steps to re-open the Postal Museum to the public as Museums in general are a public draw
The latest we hear is that Narasimha Rao, former Prime Minister of India, is to face charges of corruption, not for receiving bribes but for paying millions to buy the votes of smaller parties to enable his government to stay in power. During the past few years the world read of two former Presidents of South Korea who have been found guilty of amassing millions of dollars of ill-got money. And now the son of the incumbent President has been charged for using his influence to siphon off to his bank account money for favours done to companies.
In our own little island various allegations are being made about individuals and companies who have been at the receiving end of huge commissions and other benefits. But we are yet to see anyone brought to justice. A former army commander has been arraigned by the Bribery Commission. However the newspapers are full of information of various types of military hardware yet being brought into the country which are either defective or superfluous, thus costing our country millions of rupees.
All this goes to show how much of corruption there is in high places. Politicians come to power to serve the people. But no sooner they are in the seats than their one aim is to feather their own nests at the expense of the masses who put them into power. The needs of the people are furthest from their minds. At the end of their term of office they try to gain re-election. Even if they fail they are not worried because what has been earned both legally and illegally can stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. But the masses who elected them are no better if not worse. This has been the pattern of politics in our country.
To go back to the ex-presidents of South Korea, both were persons who brought prosperity to their country. From a war-torn country South Korea has emerged as a leading industrial nation during their stewardship and therefore one could excuse their conduct. But in our fair isle things are very different. The country is going down a precipice, politically, economically and in morality. When will we find honest leaders who will steer clear of corruption and bring this land to paths of glory and prosperity where every citizen can live free from fear and hunger in a house of his own, with the minimum of daily needs available freely.
Double tracks upto Galle: new railway station for Galle: a straightened track at the Galle end (for trains bound to Matara). These are a few components of a grandiose development' project for the Railways. For what (and whose) benefit and at what (and whose) cost?.
'Development; may mean different things to different people. But certainly it does not mean new buildings and extra facilities for a few (and additional tracks for the Railways?). Development has to do with the effective and efficient utilization of (scarce!) resources for the betterment of man, taking into account distributional and environmental aspects as well.
The actual beneficiaries of this type of Top-Down Project are unusually those directly concerned with their planning and implementation.
The commuters and the general public at large, the Railway Department and the Government the potential beneficiaries according to project documents- will not benefit at all. In fact they will be the net losers.
At present, the bus stand and the Railway station are in close proximity, a very convenient situation for the passengers. When the station is shifted , will they also shift the bus stand or is it the commuters' business to bear the additional cost of transport between the bus stand and station? The colonial masters appear to have been more thoughtful of the poor commuters' welfare than their democratic counterparts!.
Another important aspect is the resettlement of several thousand families to be displaced by this intervention . Have the planners taken into account the inconvenience and the loss to these people in the cost/benefit analyses? Will they get sufficiently compensated in a timely manner or will they be thrown onto the roads? .
One hundred per cent of the families to be displaced belong to the majority community . Some wonder whether this is a sinister move to alter the ethnic ratio in the city of Galle.
The law and order situation in the country is going from bad to worse daily. Despicable crimes like child sex, rape, robbery, homicide, suicide etc., are on the increase.
The judges and the police cannot handle all these cases alone. They can only deal with them when these are brought to their notice. But Government Agents and Grama Sevaka Niladharis can nip them in the bud.. The G.S.N. in particular, can exercise his authority by keeping an eye on his Division and preventing these crimes getting out of hand. He will report to his immediate superior the Government Agent, cases which he feels need the attention of the G.A.
During the British period, the Government Agent was invested with extra-judicial powers and police powers. The Village Headman enjoyed police powers. The Government Agent functioned as the Police Magistrate, accordingly, in addition to his duties as Government Agent. This system worked very well and the people looked upon them as 'first aid' officers and they were thus able to keep all smouldering crimes under check and control.
Subsequently,when politicians got rid of this system and allowed the police to have their own way of controlling crime, which, was to deal with these when they had already been committed and then brought to their notice! The Government Agent and Village Headmen on the other hand, being in much closer touch with the people, acted as a buffer against all crimes developing into uncontrollable proportions. But, it must be said that a wave of national fanaticism decrying everything British, saw an end to this very laudable system and today we are in a very sorry state, due to this mistake.
What is strongly suggested now is an immediate return to the old system. The Government Agent should be given extra-judicial and full police powers. When the permanent judge goes on leave or vacation, the Government Agent should mount the bench and deal with all the cases coming up, by giving extended dates. He can deal with urgent cases like remand etc., by following accepted procedures.
Teresa, Mother of the Gutters,
So, you were called,
Leaving your native land,
To minister to the down-trodden and the dejected,
In a foreign clime.
Your love and dedication knew no bounds
'Cause it was given to you from above,
Thus making you the noblest of God's creations of our times.
Humanity has pronounced you a Saint,
Something only a few to receive, are ordained.
Your immeasurable love for precious lives was a mystery indeed,
As you saw Christ in all of them.
Bless the work you begun, Gracious Mother.
This slogan was adopted by the political parties in Nigeria over three decades ago after their bitter experience of the Biafra civil war. Apart from thousands who died in combat, over two million innocent civilians were reported to have perished due to the shortage of food during this conflict. Thus it is one of the worst, if not the worst internal conflicts in the history of mankind. Nigeria is not the ideal example of a democracy to be emulated. The major part of its post-independent period has been under military rule. However there are some significant lessons Sri Lanka could learn from the steps they took to re-establish ethnic harmony in the country after the conflict.
Nigeria at that time was very much similar to Sri Lanka now. The majority of its population belongs to one particular ethnic group. Their educational and economic levels were low. The rest of the population consisted mainly of two minority ethnic groups who got better opportunities during the colonial period and were more advanced educationally as well as economically.
It was after this calamity that all the ethnic groups came together and decided to eschew communal politics and adopted the concept of One Country and one Nation. Apart from this, they made another vital decision which could be an example for us in Sri Lanka to follow. Instead of dividing the country on a basis of ethnicity and promoting ethnic disharmony and separation, they decided to prohibit communal political parties from contesting parliamentary elections.
Have not the people of Sri Lanka suffered enough to realize that the time has come to sink ethnic differences and adopt the concept of One Country and one Nation? Should not Tamil and Muslim political parties forget communal politics and think of non-communal national politics?
The Peace Caravan (Thavalama) touring the seven provinces outside the N-E is supposed to be for the purpose of propagating the concept of One Country One Nation and educating the people of the importance of the Devolution Package in solving the so called ethnic problem. The concept One Country One Nation should be propagated not in the seven provinces in the south but in the north and the east where the majority of the separatists are living.
What is the content of the package that is being presented to the people through the Thavalama campaign? If not, the organizers of the Thavalama, at least the draught animals involved in it, should realize that they are carrying an empty package? All the major and most crucial items in the devolution package have not been discussed even by the Parliamentary Select Committee.
More letters to the editor * The South African connection *Take up the challenge *Let us be Sri Lankans, one and all
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