4 July, 2022


On Missing The Bus

By Upatissa Pethiyagoda

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

When we look around, much is in turmoil, and there is no evidence of any rapid relief. Seventy years of folly cannot be repaired in a few weeks. It is as if the “Light at the end of the Tunnel, may well be that of an oncoming train”.

I can only look around from my own circumstances. My recitation may sound like self-glorification, but I seek the indulgence of Mr Editor and any readers, who do not mind a few minutes of boredom. I may have quoted this before, but repeat the sage advice, “If thou tooted not thine own trumpet, the said trumpet will oft go untooted”. One of the many joys in becoming old, is that it bestows the right to be silly.

In sharp contrast, just look at our politicians, who are able to continue well beyond their “Best before” date. And the MP’s seem to continue, beyond the mandatory five years to a “well-earned” lifetime Pension. I admit that I do harbour some envy, considering that I have served the State, in one way or another for more than half a century but do not get a “red cent” or more fashionably in Sinhala (thamba salliyak) as Pension. This is technically quite correct, as the copper one-cent and half cent coins, disappeared more than 60 years ago. Maybe that I have been a donkey, for choosing to be an Agriculturist rather than a Politician. But, I do sleep soundly most nights.

In the medical field, the one Speciality that suffers no scarcity, is Ophthalmology. The reason being that we have so many “I-Specialists”. One of the clever ones, and possibly the first, was our President JRJ, who was a canny operator, adept at using the “First Person Singular”, to suggest “a Singular First Person”.

Others less clever but more bigoted, were not able to avoid using the “I”, (not to mean, impaired vision) freely, instead of the much more elegant and accurate, “we”. When one has gaffed, it would be a gentlemanly means of admitting responsibility. As an example, It was “we” who won the War, but it is I who takes the blame for battle defeats. In this context, it has been said that a good General. As jn team games, the order to his men would always be “Follow me” and not “You go“. That is true leadership: credit for glory goes to “us”, but infamy of defeat is “mine.”

Sadly, seldom is this seen in our public life, it being a lot more comfortable to blame “Them” for our misfortunes, while the truth is that we and they are both equally culpable. “We are bad, but you are worse” is almost a refrain, (as Parliamentary deliberations often show). The ugly truth is that “one may be worse, but both are the worst” Sinhala puts it well. As the pithy “Unuth ekai Munuth ekai”, maybe we should also add “Apith ekai”. “There are two kinds of elephants,- those who haul the logs, and others who strut in the Perahera’ But, the unfortunate guy, who memorably said “Malli, ung okkoma yaluwo”, earned him four years of “rigorous imprisonment” for defaming the Court.

But in our present plight, correction is urgent. When the lights flicker, one wonders whether it is a “Power cut” Rigorous Imprisonment for defaming the Judiciary, merely by vocalizing what is thought by many, who however prefer to remain silent. Did not somebody say in essence, that evil triumphs when or “Lights out”. Anyway, it is wise to keep your “Boarding Pass”, ready while awaiting the announcement of your flight, in most cases unaware of your destination.

Is it just that a poor woman, caught stealing a packet or two of milk powder off a Supermarket shelf, invites legal force, while a privileged one, who robbed billions of public money such as in the (James) Bond scam. The poor fellow, had to extend his stay beyond the Birthday or Wedding Party, despite the then Finance Minister to whom he had promised to return in a fortnight. Likewise the President, in his ill-advised enthusiasm, triggers a “Fertilizer Fiasco”, which has devastated the entire Agricultural system, caused a loss of millions of Dollars, and pauperized thousands of poor farmers, draws no punishment for his monumental folly escapes punishment by merely resigning, and just walking (or flying) away, but stubbornly defying even what seems a token and a gentle prod, for such a massive loss. What of the “Professional” boot lickers of the “Vipathmaga” brigade, who have failed to advice The President to avoid what will certainly be disastrous, and could justifiably be regarded as an abominable “Crime,” They seem to have retreated into their shells

In order to give some meaning to the heading of this piece, here are some random thoughts:

1. We must remember that we are a State, that prides itself as being a “Five-Star Democracy”, and boasts incessantly about the famous “massive majority,” yet fails to achieve their undertakings and while realizing this, they should depart. This is the only respectable (or with some hesitation I say, “honourable,”) option. Otherwise the same majority that installed them, will dislodge him. Meanwhile, the lofty visions of “Prosperity and Splendor”, lie in soiled tatters, in a gutter. Partial extraction of an offending tooth, while leaving the roots, is bad dentistry and poor governance.

2. Would the entrenched, dare to test their popularity by agreeing to a fresh mandate. We are told that this is possible by holding the much overdue (?) local Government elections, which in my opinion, is still a pointless waste of time and money) I remember how a very committed UNPer of the past, ruefully commented about a “historic” win, thus: “The same lump of ……., but different flies”.

3. The fuss about a New Constitution, is a farcical Joke. When some party needs to have some 20 or 21 A (it matters not which), Committees to fulfil its promises during a relatively short life-span, does not speak of much cranial and editorial competence, does it? With all their numerous Committees, proposed by the recently minted PM, who is said to be our most experienced (and most tenacious) PM, who wants to set up some 15 New Committees, of various kinds. In this I cannot but be reminded of the definition of a “Camel”, as the product of a “Committee” that set out to design a horse. With 15 such, we could possibly equip a whole caravan. But why only 15, when a few more would entitle us to a “Quantity Discount”.

A word about written Constitutions is warranted. Firstly, Is this what is urgently required? I believe that it is not. Many First World countries, including the UK, have no written Constitutions but manage better than us who do. It is far better to let integrity, honesty, compassion and incorruptibility to be our guide, rather than expend mere scraps of paper with debatable words.

Constitutions, whether written or not, need to be based on good values. This would be infinitely better than nit-picking battles about interpretations. This should be seen as relevant to the plight of Sri Lankans.. It is far better that the basis and spirit should concern us, rather than convoluted “legalese”, which will do more for “legal eagles” than for us.

What the people in the long and endless lines want, are not Cabinets, Constitutions, Coalitions and Amendments, But what they are crying for, are basic Food, Fuel, Medicines for the sick and Milk for their crying children. Even if it means hours of standing in lines, without rest, sleep, water, food and even toilets. Many difficulties are bearable, if all of us who are able, share our difficulties equally, and by banding together. Human decency and compassion demand no less.

Cannot our “Representatives” share the burdens equally, with those whose “Vedagath Chandayas’ put them into their Duty free luxury vehicles, from which some of them might not see the food, petrol, kerosene, bread, eggs, karawala, and parippu lines, often without even a “Panadol peththa” to relieve their exhaustion-caused headaches by waiting in lines in the scorching heat, enduring the full fury of the sun, for a miserly morsel which is all they can afford. It is an injustice brought upon them by some corpulent, apology of a man who, sticking out his head from the back seat of a driver-led, vulgarly large vehicle (duty Free) who has the cheek to ask, “What queues? where? I saw none on my way to ‘Office'”. His Whisky soaked eyes are blinded by the Booze – induced hangover, perhaps. These highly paid, superannuated persons continue in office, unmoved by the misery brought about by his ilk, on suffering masses, perhaps for the last time one hopes, in the light of the (deserved) curses of the many. A word about Constitutions is warranted. Is this what is urgently needed? I personally think that it is not. Several First World countries, such as the UK have no written Constitutions, but seem to get on even better than us who do, Written Constitutions seem only to encourage nit-picking battles about interpretations, which are not relevant to the current plight of Sri Lanka. It is far better that the basis and spirit, should concern us, rather than convoluted “legalese”, which will do more for “legal eagles” than for the rest of us.

The antics of our MP’s and Ministers, cruising around in their posh vehicles, probably representing a gross abuse, for interminable “discussions” (Sakachcha), must (rightly) infuriate the poor citizens standing, sometimes overnight, in long lines, for bare existential essentials. It would be wiser if politicians would at least share their vehicles (car pools), and also avoid photographs and “Voice cuts”. Most can certainly do without these inanities. I for one, don’t give a damn for absurdities ms such as this.

“Constitutions” or ”Codes of Conduct”, whether written or not, are useless, seeing that they are broken, with gay abandon anyway. I would say, please don’t bother me with having to listen to all this expensive crap. When I have the time, I would much prefer watching the current ongoing cricket against the Aussies. I apologize If I have been too harsh in my comments. But I do feel deeply, and cannot suffer fools gladly.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    The sentence, -Seventy years of folly cannot be repaired in a few weeks-, caught my attention!
    Upatissa Pethiyagoda accepts that it was downright ‘folly’ for seven decades.
    Where was he for seven decades? Where were others.
    Who is responsible for such irresponsibility?

  • 4

    Dr! You made me laugh loudly and constantly attracting my wife’s curiosity. Anyway good piece of write up with sense of humour.

  • 2

    Members of the Viyath Maga or more appropriately as the essayist points out Vipath Maga brigade are all either square pegs in round holes or round pegs in square holes.

    Take for instance the Governor of the Eastern Province……………Anuraddha Yahampath
    Qualified as a Textile designer and sold bedsheets,pillowcases and curtains at her outlet Kandygs…………
    She was also a pioneering member of the Viyath Maga outfit.

    Whom to tell child?………….

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