I wonder if it was ever reported in the press that Sri Lanka Telecom Limited has increased its tariff by 300 per cent for peak hours (i.e. 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m )? When several of us received unusually high bills (not only in terms of money but also in terms of units) discreet inquiries revealed that the 'unit' had been whittled down from 80 seconds to 20 seconds, since April. This would mean that if we only used our telephones during the peak hours, our bills would be four times the earlier amount. There are smaller (though by no means inconsiderable) increases in the rates for the other hours of the day.
What is further infuriating is the fact that Sri Lanka Telecom Limited made no attempt to publicize this considerable change. Was this done on purpose? Given that we receive our bills around five months late, and that SLTL charges a business turnover tax of 25%, this means that an unsuspecting public has been gaily using their phones at this soaring new rate for almost half the year, blissfully unaware of this conspiracy to milk their purses dry. It is high time that we, the subscribers made our outrage known. I also understand that this increase may not be the only one for some time, as the agreement signed with the new investors in the company have also got a clause saying that the rate may be increased by shortening the duration of a unit.
The structural base of Sri Lanka for over two thousand years has been a unitary one, and the proposed "Union of Regions" is nothing but federalism. This by some other term, is a radical change, segmenting Sri Lanka into a mosaic of communal bits; solely designed for the purpose of gaining some communal political mileage.
We have been and are a multiracial and multi-religious unitary state all these years, living in harmony and peace in all parts of the island except in the terror stricken areas. Why are the authors and their co-partners so eager to disturb the peace and harmony, and create communal friction by this anti-national act? The mere fact that the propaganda machine the thavalama or rather the kolama, is travelling the length and breath of the country, is in itself an expression of the inherent weakness of the proposals. Good wine needs no promotion as "Unions of Regions" is as sweet to the federalists as federalism. This is an attempt to play the cards without disclosing the trumps "Kole vahala gaheema", "How can there be a "One Nation, One People" concept, while proclaiming and promoting a federal state? Then again when devolution proposals are publicised without defining the unit of devolution, a further attempt is made to hoodwink the public, for the extent of devolution has to be in accordance with the unit of devolution. Devolution to a district is not the same as that to a province. Perhaps the the political maturity of the Sri Lankans is underestimated. It maybe the authors of the package are misled by co-partners who have gathered vast-separatist experience and strategy having started in 1947 as Illankai Arasu Thamil Kadchi (IATK) maturing to TULF and ending up in the LTTE.
Once the proposed ethnic ball starts rolling, the Tamil brothers will proclaim the North and East for themselves while enjoying equal status with the rest in all parts of the island. The Muslims have already wanted the separate Muslim Council in the N-east for themselves as they have no desire to exist as a minority in the North East Tamil region. This demand can get extended to the rest of the country if they succeed in the North and East. While all these things are happening, the plantation Tamils are eagerly waiting for their pound of flesh- regional councils for them in the plantation areas. Once this regional ethnic segregated areas are established, infighting amongst the regions will gather momentum leading finally to ethnic cleansing of the minorities in their respective regions.
Nobody in Sri Lanka will ever want this to happen, but if the package goes through this inevitably would result. How silly it is to draw a parallel with the devolution of power to the Indian states, to what we envisage as our devolution to the provinces. There is no comparison whatever. How can one lose one's sense of proportion to that extent? Therefore if these proposals are put to the test in our legislature, as this is a national issue and not a party one, the members must be given the opportunity to vote according to their conscience without party strictures.
That will be a test to the validity of the proposals, and that opportunity should be afforded to the members of Parliament. A further request to the proposers of the package is to search their own conscience about the sequences that would follow by the acceptance of their brainchild, the package, and stop this misadventure in time, so that all groups continue to live together in peace as a united nation of Sri Lankans. Let wiser counsel prevail.
The message of unity in diversity must reach all sectors, the majority and the minority groups. While encouraging power sharing at the regional level offered by the devolution proposals, without disturbing the unitary status, the more important aspect of sharing power at the centre must be stressed, for it is here that all groups can contribute to the harmony, stability and economic development and progress of the country, and help cultivate the true Sri Lankan spirit. Then the centre must be more representative with better minority participation in collective governance.
The poor performance and absence of economic progress despite the advances in the sphere of education, can be attributed to the political system thus far pursued, the Westminster type of parliamentary practice which is a misfit to our society.
The sooner we discard this system, and adopt a more co-coperative system of governance such as the executive committee system, the better it would be for us to face the next century with confidence.
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