By Asoka Seneviratne –
British left our land 72 years ago. Americans are sending spacecrafts right into the Sun’s outer rings and even to fast moving meteorites. Small rovers are blowing holes on the surface of Mars looking for water. A large swath of global population are at a second away thank to the progress in technology. Driverless cars and drones are running tests and new traffic laws are being formulated for them. Automation is taking over the world.
Yes, we are well into the 21st century.
But back in our little motherland, a simple cooking gas cylinder has become a time bomb. People are opting to go back to wood-burn stoves. Simple fertilizer, farmers essential has been replaced with an expensive gunk which refuses to grow crops, driving farmers to the brink. Gasoline, milk powder, rice, dhal, sugar, fish and other daily staples have become a daily grind. Prices have sky rocketed meaning a section of the population barely avoid hunger. The only refinery was shut down for want of crude oil. Government is managing the country on a daily hand to mouth basis. Finance minister has become a pan handler for dollars from neighbors. Shortages have become so rampant that lines are everywhere for the staples.
Saffron robed monks who represent Buddha’s noble doctrine of Avihimsa (loving kindness) openly use filth on each other. Even one of them is entrusted to draft a legal system of equal justice for all!
But wheelers and dealers with top connections are having a hey day! They have turned even basic sugar, fertilizer and even cooking oil into a gold mine
No, this is not sub Saharan Africa. Far from it. This is the Pearl of the Indian Ocean ,once an admired little land with very educated and generally well off people but today the beggar of the sub-continent. Both the Rajapaksa family, Ranil led UNP and Sirisena’s SLFP have mismanaged our economy to the ground, not to mention the corruption galore. In our land today, wealth trickles up, not down.
Despite the ruination of our land by the politicians, we as a nation continue to venerate them and their minions daily.
For example why on earth do we have to address the President or Prime Minister (a meaningless and costly office) as “Right Honorable?” Why not a simple “Mr. President or Mr. Prime Minister?” Then those 225 guys sitting and wasting scarce money in the parliament. Why do we call them “Manthri Thuma” or “Emathi Thuma”? What is the need for this respect and veneration when they are only the guys or gals we hire and pay to (miss) managing our land for a few years.
Why not a simple “Mr. So and so”? Yes a handful of them may command some respect but definitely not the majority. Many of them blatantly violate our laws after having taken a sacred oath to protect and defend. So laughable. How foolish of us?
Same thing applies to the government big shots. Why on earth do we address them as “sir? Many of them are unqualified kith and kin of politicos who are there for only one reason and one reason only; to milk those organizations and doing so running them into ground. Ever heard of Sri Lankan Airlines, Mihin Air, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, CTB, Hambantota port, airport and many government owned business? How did we as a nation come to a point that an unqualified goon get a free car, bungalow, petrol , driver and fat pay check and as if that is not enough we venerate them as “sir”? Now, again, there are some qualified and deserving ones. Always the exception than the rule!
Violating public trust is a huge violation of the oath all politicians and government bosses take! Kickbacks is a direct violation of public trust. So why on earth they need to be respected or venerated? Golden rule in a democracy is never to violate public trust. Disappearing public trust started mostly from JRJ’s 1978 foolish constitution. Today we experience the pain. We are a mess!
So far the media has been free enough to talk openly. But they need to be more vicious. Forget about niceties and ask the tough questions. Address them with their names only. No Amathi Thuma business. It is very common practice for corrupt politicos to laugh at questions and dodge answering them. Many actually even resort to sarcasm and never answer the questions directly. Honestly I have never seen Mahinda Rajapaksa directly answer a media question. He resorts to sarcasm. Another goon who does that is UNP’s Rajitha Senaratne. They display a sense of ridiculing the media so they stop asking questions!!
That culture must end. Only a brave media can do that.
They lack the CLASS and CREED to be honorable but we call them right honorable! Worse they call each other “honorable” knowing full well many of them are outright criminals.
Many former and current politico sons have entered politics. Some of them have never done a day of work for a living, held accountable for a job, but maintains extremely high life styles. Reporters need to ask the tough questions “how do you maintain such a high lifestyle when you never did a job of work for a living?” This is a perfectly legitimate question from our elected politicos. Once they get elected and get paid with people’s money, they become public figures and must be subject to top public scrutiny.
President Barak Obama, the Nobel laureate and the constitutional law professor have said many times “a free media is a de-facto 4th branch of government. They are supposed to hold the leaders’ feet to the fire. A free media by design should be adversarial to the leadership.” That is one of the ways to keep their culture clean. How true?
Thanks to social media, this message is getting through to many countries where Democracy is mostly limited to a periodical vote only. Democracy is baskets of precious rights, privileges and obligations enshrined into a citizen by birth. Entitlement to a decent living is a birth right, not a privilege only for the powerful and the corrupt!
*To be continued ….