People used to identify Sri Lanka as ‘the best country in the world’ a few moons ago! This may have been when ‘Ceylon’ was primarily a self-sufficient, agriculture-based nation. Sri Lankan ancestors were highly skillful, with proven skills of construction and engineering tasks, such as creating drainage systems with a gradient of ½ inch, along a 25 mile long stretch. Also, the building of stupas in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are highly skilled engineering tasks that amaze the modern engineers and technocrats.
How did they manage to get the alignments with supreme accuracy remains a mystery. Parakramabahu Samudrya and the rock fortress Sigiriya, are beyond anyone’s comprehension. Even today, modern tourists have to climb 1,200 steps to get a closer view of the ruins of the citadel.
Ummagga Jathakaya reveals how the giant Mahushada pressed a button to open a series of doors along the corridors of palaces, signifying the existence of electricity during that era. Society was united and humane then, unlike at present, but parenthetically, there is still a residue of the ancestors’ gene among Sri Lankans that makes Sri Lanka a nation of people with the highest intelligence quotients, among the countries in the region.
Lack of policy
One is able to comprehend to what degree the country has progressed or regressed only when one visits a highly developed foreign country. Building of high-rise towers to change the skyline of Colombo, and construction of expressways alone cannot be counted as progress of a country, but development depends on to what extent people are content with their day to day living.
The pioneers who fought for independence from Colonial rule, did so, without shedding a single drop of blood, yet the sad aspect of it had been, those very patriotic politicians had adopted the same colonial mentality afterwards – from their dress, language and even espoused same colonial policies. On being an independent country, successive governments worked on five-year plans to develop the nation. The programmes adopted by the previous government had to be changed when a new administration came into power, according to new proposals and procedures to suit their political will. This was simply because Ceylon (Sri Lanka) did not have a single strong government policy.
The attitudes of current politicians have taken a 360 degree turn from their ancestors; by appearing as business orientated and egocentric, rather than working for the progress of the people. The modern politicians have proven beyond any doubt this aspect by accepting various kinds of monetary gains for themselves to raise their salaries increased in allowances, of many a kind, even to attend Parliamentary sessions!
The contemporary regulation making Parliamentarians qualify for a lifelong pension, after being a Member of Parliament for five years, makes a mockery of the law, which deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most ignominious record. Despite, President Maithripala Sirisena’s address to the 8th Parliament of Sri Lanka, on 1 September, 2015, no specific National Policy and so on, has been formulated except for individual policy documents relating to Health, Education, Disaster Management and the like. In the absence of a National Policy, the whole country seems to move towards an economic backyard on roller coasters, especially when the two main political parties attempt to rule the country, with a ‘Unity Government’.
The writer’s experience in Switzerland speaks volumes for a developed nation. Switzerland is one of the most beautiful, clean and law-abiding nations in the world. During travels over the past decades and recently, in two villages, Rotkreuz and Kriens, in Luzern, nestled among pre-house mountains to Alps (Rikki and Pilatus), one could see how civilized and disciplined the society is. There was not a single piece of rubbish strewn on to any street, and the whole environment seemed amazingly decent and kempt. Locals themselves take pride in keeping their environment spotlessly clean and consider it a part of their responsibility.
Residents in apartment blocks are allotted special bins in a separate area for garbage disposal, with a magnetic card ( similar to a credit card) to swipe it against an electronic device on the bin to open the appropriate waste bin. That enables waste bins to be used individually by the occupants of the respective apartments only. Garbage disposal is subjected to a levy based on weight basis.
Traffic Police are vigilant in Switzerland and execute their duty to the very letter of the Law with no interference at all from anyone. To this end, road cameras make a good contribution in detecting every offending motorist. Container traffic must use the inner lane only, by law; after 8 p.m. no goods vehicles are permitted to travel at all on roads.
Well designed road markings for cyclists in Krien, Switzerland
In a cost cutting operation, vehicle and driver particulars (including fitness certificates, insurance particulars and road tax) are all computerized, and each Police Panda Car carries a data-base containing such details. This means no more revenue licences (road tax discs) to be displayed on car windscreens. Even in Europe, this latest technique of doing away with paperwork saves money for the respective governments. In Switzerland, speeding is not a violation of a traffic code but a Legal Offence.
Separate Lanes for motor traffic in Luzern
It is ludicrous to formulate an umpteen number of rules and regulations, and to impose heavy fines on motor traffic law violators if such statutes are not implemented by the law implementing authorities, or if they are being obstructed by political will. Sri Lanka faces no terrorist threat at present. In such a backdrop, deployment of Police and other security forces to control student demonstrations, and other industrial disputes, using water cannons and the like, as well as utilization of national forces to guard politicians during their travels on the road and on ceremonial duties, with a band wagon of ‘hell’s angels’ shoving other motorists to clear the way for politicians move, has become a comedy of errors in this country, as much as wasting Police and other forces’ time, and public money unnecessarily, on overtime payments and fuel.
Water cannons used to disperse protesting crowds in
A systematic National Policy in Sri Lanka is vitally essential for any future government to follow. Even in mercantile offices, there are manuals to refer to, so that any new comer to the organization can simply follow the instructions. By the same token, if one were to be seriously thinking of a rational National Government Policy, the following factors pointed out by many frustrated citizens, in the form of a signed online petition, which has been doing the rounds on the internet and social media, need serious consideration.
The online petition included the following demands:
- Parliamentarians’ pension should be abolished. They are appointed by the people as peoples’ representatives. So, how could they qualify for a pension, after being an MP for 5 years? They are not employed, but voters appoint politicians to represent them.
- Appoint a Central Pay Commission for Parliamentarians too, as applicable to all Government servants.
- Abolish Parliamentarians and Local Councilors in getting their salary increases arbitrarily by their own vote, while turning a blind eye to the suffering of the poor and the helpless.
- Parliamentarians should also be subjected to the existing healthcare system applicable to the general public, rather than making exceptions towards privileged parliamentarians to pay millions out of State funds on Medicare to visit overseas hospitals, while the ordinary citizen does not have essential drugs in hospitals.
- Parliamentarians should not be treated as a privileged group, and the word ‘honorary’ in addressing them should be completely eliminated from any vocabulary.
- Abolish Parliamentarians’ special concessions such as duty-free car permits, duty free petrol, reimbursement of electricity bills, water and phone bills. Make politicians purchase new cars out of their own money or out of loans from a Government bank at rates of interest applicable to the general public or according to existing leasing facilities.
- Candidates with previous tainted records, such as criminal records and convictions, should be barred completely in contesting any election on any pretext.
- Financial losses incurred by politicians due to their inefficiency, while holding office, need to be thoroughly investigated and recovered. All properties bought and registered under their families and/or nominees, locally and in foreign lands, need to be thoroughly investigated. Declaration of their assets and financial status should be recorded by law prior to their nomination as peoples’ representatives.
- In short, Parliamentarians themselves should abide by the same regulations they impose on the general public, and the rule of law should be strictly applicable to those who fall out with the law, irrespective of their position and power.
Picture credit: Sri Lanka parliament – Ceylon Today ; water cannon : Google pics and Swiss pics – writer;