By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –
Many, including the writer, depend heavily on the News Programmes on television, for updates on what happens around us. We cannot but be astonished by the overwhelming content of the sensational and trivial, smothering all that is even mildly comforting. Members of the governing elite complain that their achievements are ignored while the failures are highlighted. There is some justification for this lament. But the media must depend on popular demand for their existence. It is up to the Government to use their vast resources to provide viewers with the “truth”.
As it is, we are fed a diet of Ceremonies, Strikes and Demonstrations, Road accidents, and Crimes with almost nothing of importance and stimulating value. This is amidst a looming financial crisis. Are we fiddling while our Rome burns? Leaving aside the unimpressive claims of Governmental excellence, it is alarming to note an unconcern for the repeated and informed warnings. A few dogs may bark but the wasteful caravan moves along. Calls for public sacrifice when profligacy and indulgence is evident among the privileged few, will not draw a positive response. “Do as I say, not what I do” is counterfeit currency. Are we (actually the Government) serious? We have to believe that they really are. Experience suggests that they may not be.
Surprises and shocks await us by the day. Is it not time (may already be too late) for a determined effort, beginning from the top, to stop this hemorrhage? I am tickled by the monotony with which sundry visitors to the Sri Dalada Maligawa, Malwatte and Asgiriya are repetitively pictured, offering fruit baskets and Atapirikaras to the Mahanayakas. Some of these synthetic Upasakayas – whose deserved place is in Bogambara – should explain how camera crews are always at hand. Distressingly, it seems that the contagion has infected Service Chiefs and appointee s to positions of importance. Have these people no more useful duties to perform? Does it not prick their consciences to waste public funds, paid time and official vehicles to secure their places in heaven? Do they think that the Gods who they seek to placate cannot see through their synthetic piety? Should not the Mahanayakas be spared their time to engage in study and meditation, which are the very reasons for their abandoning lay life? How come that the genuflection before their particular symbols or deities are less on public display by adherents of our other faiths? Is this part of the business of “according the principal place to Buddhism”? The piety writ on their faces as they slyly glance at their camera crews is hilarious! It is about as sincere as the way they dip their heads or place their palms together in salutation to the corpse, which must “regret its inability to thank them individually”. What brings their camera crews along to record their master’s display of most assuredly spontaneous grief! (Reminds me of the guy who said “I make it a point to attend as many funerals as I can, to ensure that they will attend mine”)! It used to be also said that one could hire (for a fee) teams of such “Profession wailers” who would then provide a 24-hour coverage.
The on-going political circus, has provide some mirth but has encouraged the realization that this country can do as well without “governance” as it has done with. How can one endure, without protest, the heavily self-serving antics of our representatives as they trundle between “official residences” expensively renovated and well equipped, in posh cars, provided them at taxpayers cost to help them return to their sinecures. Add to that, the numerous other perks supposedly to help them to do “Political work” in their electorates. while denying estate labour in their clamour for a minimum daily wage of Rs. 1,000/= which is one hundredth of the monthly “electoral service” allowance of their representatives, numbering 225 (and likely to increase further)? The local government members, (universally faulted as a monumental waste) planned to be doubled from 4,000 to 8,000. This against, revelations of a shortage of Teachers, Doctors and Engineers to provide essential services. Anger is visibly building up and is alarmingly displayed by farmers and housewives, threatening ghastly action against those who show their commitment only to garner votes. I find it curious that many seem to think that all ills arise from the postponement of elections of one sort or another. Hardly anyone deals with the accompanying costs of many millions that will be incurred in an exercise, whose return to investment has amply proved to be deficient. If elections are indicators of democracy, the last regime would be one of the most successful exponents of the system.
To me, the most alarming consequence of the cavalier negligence, might encourage actions where there will be no winners. Already there is a breakdown of discipline. More elections, will not assuage the anger of the people – in fact there is a chance that they would increase it.
A preposterous excuse for the lack of a quorum at Parliamentary sittings or of empty front-benches, that this is due to many members (sometimes in dozens) being abroad or many matters of importance postponed “Until the Minister returns from abroad”) do no good. Added to this, the scandal of Car Permits, could be akin to stoking an already raging fire! An obvious remedy is for Parliament getting an adequate number of utility vehicles – to be loaned, cash free and upkeep, drivers and fuel being provided by the State, for the duration of a member’s term. Even if the vehicles return in a totally derelict state, it would be worth the while – avoiding the totally corrupt method that now prevails.
All of this, and more, justifies the heading of this piece. There is no means left than to indulge in cynicism however repugnant.