By Suresh Mendis –
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Sri Lanka seems to be heading in the wrong direction.
Since the war ended four years ago, we have been promised endless “miracles”.
I am by no means unhappy at the incredible changes in the capital city, which have been long overdue, and are a source of much wonder to returning expatiates and especially those from neighbouring India, who are astounded at how clean and vibrant Colombo looks. Hats off to those concerned for this incredible transformation, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
Yes, the roads in most parts of the country have been upgraded, the Jaffna railway line is nearing completion, a few hospitals and schools have been built, we have a couple of key highways with a few more coming up, but what of the other things that need to be done?
What have we got to show? Three white elephants in the Hambantota District – the Port, the Airport and the Cricket Stadium – not to mention the myriad buildings which are going to house Government Departments, endless roadways which have no traffic on them (especially in the Deep South), faltering coal power projects……the list goes on.
Consider the facts:
- The dilly-dallying on trying to solve the Ethnic Problem. This has been due to the total rejection of the fact that there were reasons for the Tamil youth to have taken up arms – like the standardisation of education openly discriminating the minorities in University entrance , the “Sinhala Only in 24 hours” which alienated the Tamils and the Burghers with the resultant loss of Government jobs resulting in mass emigration, the constant reneging of agreements signed by the Government with the Tamils in the early post-Independence period etc,
- the flagrant deception of the economic statistics and falsification of reports in the Government sector organisations, including the Central Bank,
- the blatant discrimination against Tamils in particular in Government employment – especially since this regime came into power,
- the constant and costly appointment of unnecessary Commissions to probe and report on the causes and effects of the ethnic conflict – the results of which are swept under the carpet, until the next investigation into Sri Lanka’s situation by an international body like the UN,
- inadequate schools and barely-operating hospitals due to a lack of funds,
- qualified teachers and doctors for those schools and hospitals,
- the shoddy living quarters provided to teachers, doctors and Government servants,
- the lowly salaries paid to civil servants, those in the medical and teaching professions, when compared to those in the Armed Forces
- the heavy army presence in the post-conflict areas – even intruding into private lives, such as informing it of functions and meetings to be held,
- the taking over of ancestral lands for Government purposes without realistic or no compensation –even Lakshman Kadirgamar’s ancestral home, which his son is fighting for in courts,
- the virtual demolition of the Rule of Law – even senior police officers (corrupt as some of them are!) are being arrested, for heaven’s sake, while other offenders are protected,
- the brutal suppression by armed forces (as opposed to the police) of any demonstration or sign of dissent anywhere in the Island,
- the clamping down of anti-Government writing or speech,
- the absolute rejection that no civilians were knowingly killed during the last stage of the Eelam War (Humanitarian Operation?) in 2009,
- the impunity with which even petty Government local area leaders (not to mention the Ministers!) behave in the knowledge that they will be protected The rape and murder of the British tourists, Atha Kota’s 15-year rampage in Dernaiyagala spring to mind…,
- the Armed Forces getting involved in construction and even running road-side “kadays”, in order to keep them occupied, thus depriving ordinary citizens of carrying out these tasks and getting an income,
- the approval of “pie –in-the-sky” projects like the Krrish development, the Packer “Mixed Development” (read casino), with the attendant tax and other incentives
…..where does it end?
With the Economy being mis-managed by unqualified people and our foreign relations hampered by square pegs in round holes, Ministers and underlings with dubious qualifications who don’t have a clue of what they are responsible for (Bandula Gunawardene and Pavithra Wanniarachi are prime examples!) it is patently obvious that the Government is going on reverse gear – and fast, somewhat like the Lambroghinis they keep importing!
Mind you, this is while we are spending billions hosting CHOGM, bidding for Commonwealth Games (which we thankfully lost!), building safari parks next to the real safari parks and importing animals to stock them, instead of looking after our own (the human-elephant conflict is a disgrace!), re-claiming land from the sea to build a mini-Colombo, gallivanting around the world with mega delegations to obscure African and Latin American countries trying to make new friends, while ignoring the ones who assisted us to win the much-heralded war.
All I am asking is for the regime to take heed that the war euphoria is fast-evaporating, and that the endless side shows which are tossed our way at key crisis points, such as the grease devils, the Kahawatte murders, the Deraniyagala and Weliweriya fiascos, the 13th Amendment circus, the Electricity hike, the petrol scandal, the Bodu Bala Sena carnival etc, are just not going to cut it with the masses forever.
Granted that the UNP and other parties can’t seem to get their act together, but there will definitely come a time in the not-so-distant future, when more of what we saw at Weliviriya is going to happen.
After all, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time!!