By Karu Jayasuriya –
According to Buddhist belief, natural disasters such as famine, floods and untimely rains occur in a country when it is ruled by unjust, wicked, corrupt and dishonest rulers. Isn’t that what is happening in our motherland today? I have no intention whatsoever to gain any political advantage from the disasters that our land is facing today, yet it must be emphasized that the pitiful victims of all these disasters are our innocent people who have been subjected to untold injustice and they remain helpless. If one pays even scant attention to what’s been happening recently in the country, it is patently obvious that the rulers of today have totally forgotten the fact that it was on the shoulders of the people they rode to power.
Instead of being sensitive to the needs of the people and attempting to solve many a problem that the people are confronted with today, the ruling cabal has chosen to ignore the people, their dire desires and problems and wants. But history bears testimony to the undisputed fact that those rulers who disregard the needs of the subject people would not rule for a long time although those rulers might think and plan otherwise. In that context, it looks like the end of the coalition Government led by the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has begun in earnest.
At this very moment of penning these woeful thoughts, we have lost a minimum of 25 lives due to inclement weather conditions that prevailed in the country during the last week or so. 33549 men, women and children belonging to 7592 families have been displaced and become roaming refugees of these disastrous weather conditions. These statistics alone tell us a grim story that is only a part of the plight of our people.
We believe that it is almost impossible to avert disasters caused by natural weather conditions, but failure on the part of our officialdom to make adequate preparations for such disasters is unforgivable.
In the subcontinent, Sri Lanka ranks third among those who are affected by natural disasters. To deal with such disasters, we have established a special Ministry with adequate financial appropriations, yet the question remains whether these Ministries and monies allocated are being put to efficient and sensible use by those who are charged with the responsibility to do so.
Simply stated, it is with utmost sadness that we record that the authorities failed even to issue an elementary warning signal to those who lived in the most vulnerable locations where such disasters occurred. It will be almost impossible to accurately ascertain the true financial value of those lives lost and properties damaged and destroyed. But it is very necessary that a proper assessment is made of these disasters in order to manage such cataclysmic events in the future. One cannot deny the economic impact these disasters would entail and the ominous forecast made by the Asian Development Bank that by 2016 this country stands to lose investments amounting to 4.3 billion if disaster management is not properly executed should be borne in mind by all.
It is in this context that we state that the current President and his governing cabal have no sense of responsibility towards the welfare of the nation. Although we faced many natural disasters in the last few years, it is apparent that we have made no attempt whatsoever to put in place a properly planned and conceptualized disaster management process; nor have shown any inclination to do so. No ruler has any moral right to abdicate the responsibility of protecting his people from disasters, natural or otherwise. It’s high time that the present rulers realized that.
Even though the rulers looked the other way, majority of our people who have been disciplined by their respective religions did go out of their easy ways to lend a helping hand to those who needed it and those good Samaritans, unlike the ruling clan, would have a conscientious sleep each night.
The situation at our centers of learning, Universities, is even more dangerous. Both students and teaching staff of our Universities have entered a battlefield of sorts to win their own rights and privileges. What happened in the Ruhunu University last week was indeed tragic and the involvement of outside elements in the handling of University affairs and executing an all-out assault on the students should be condemned by all. The independence of our University system was shattered; a protest against the holding of ‘Deyata Kirula’ is legitimate and inalienable right of each and every student of the Ruhunu University. But the authorities responded to this democratic expression of a thinking process in the most repressive and draconian manner, to say the least. On top of all that, the Minister of Higher Education declared in the most unruly (and in his usual uncouth) manner that those who protested against the Deyata Kirula hosting would have to find alternative dwelling places. The local ‘gundas’ got the green light from such statements made by the higher-ups and resorted to physically beating the University students in the most brutal manner and form. The Police once again became mere spectators. It is indeed most tragic that a political program such as ‘Deyata Kirula’ which has not generated one single opportunity for gainful employment has already caused such social havoc in the South of our country.
The University had to be closed for months in the wake of the Wayamba University hosting the last ‘Deyata Kirula’; the Ruhunu undergrads decided they would not allow that disaster to repeat itself on their own campus.
The fate of the University Dons is even more telling and demands immediate resolution. The University academics had to resort to union action last week after realizing that they had been taken for a big ‘ride’ by the Government. After reneging on the pledges given to the academics by the authorities, the situation turned a corner, making it amply obvious that the rulers are not interested in finding a solution to the many problems faced by the whole of University fraternity- academics, students and staff. It is a great betrayal of the country’s intelligentsia that the rulers have paid no attention whatsoever and allowed a monumental brain-drain for our shores simply because the legitimate demands of our academics are not even half-way met. A mere boast of making Sri Lanka a ‘center of learning’ in Asia is like a mirage and the current rulers are notorious for such empty rhetoric.
All this and more reveal that the rulers of today are utterly incompetent to bring about solutions to many problems the country is facing today. “While a politician focuses on the next election, a true statesman looks at the next generation”; such golden words are quite alien to today’s rulers of Sri Lanka. We need not be surprised by the total incompetence and lack of aptitude shown by the current rulers who are bereft of all professionalism and good governance. That indeed is a great tragedy.
*Statement issued by Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the Leadership Council, UNP