Opinion

Towards a Disciplined and Prosperous Society

September 6, 2020

A grim situation faced by Sri Lankan living in  Emilia Romagna, Northern Italy was brought to the attention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by letter in Mid-July 2020. Their complaint was about Sri Lankans resident in Emilia Romagna having to travel 500-600 km to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Rome for the slightest official task. A General Consulate in Milan established during the previous regime helped Sri Lankan residents having to  travel 500-600 km to the Sri Lankan  Embassy in Rome for the slightest official task. A General Consulate in Milan established during the previous regime helped Sri Lankan living in Emilia Romagna to visit  the Consulate with much ease (100-200 km).

Election fever is finally over. The SLPP went into history books with a landslide victory by gaining a two-thirds majority. The opening session of the new Parliament proceeded on the 20 August 2020 without the usual pomp and pageantry. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa maintained his simple and unceremonious stance by arriving in an unattended vehicle.  There was no horse ridden guards, police on motorcycles or even an ambulance. An ambulance to follow wherever former Presidents of Sri Lanka travelled had become a part and parcel of a ritual.

In his opening speech, the President emphasised his vision and mission on the national security and Buddhist values. He focused upon eradicating the underworld and tracking down of drug lords and peddlers. Within a short period, billions of rupees held in drug lords’ and peddlers’ bank accounts, unearthed by the Police and the STF, were frozen immediately and confiscated in complying with the Law of the country.

During the ‘Yahapalana’ regime, large amounts of drugs seized by the Police went back to drug lords and peddlers. The cat is out of the bag only now, after the recent investigations ordered by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa advising the Defence Secretary (retired) Major General Kamal Gunaratne to proceed with it, with the help of honest police officers. It is debasing to learn some of the hierarchy in the Police Force and Prison Service behaved in an undignified manner. They had engaged in a scheme to destroy not only the whole society but targeting and influencing the school children as well. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa vouched to eradicate the drug menace and convert the community into a free society where everyone should be able to walk easily on the streets of Sri Lanka.

President’s Vision and Mission

The President’s opening speech in Parliament focused on the political culture in Sri Lanka by introducing a new Constitution, for which the entire Nation gave the new Government a two-thirds majority. In doing so, the Government’s priority is to preserve good aspects of the 19th Amendment such as retaining the Independent Commissions, Right to Information Act and Maintain Law and Order.

The President concentrated on the rural heartland that included building of new hospitals and/or refurbishing rural hospitals, schools and the lakes for cultivation of farmlands. From his previous experience as the Defence Secretary, he is right on the ball regarding his assessment of the situation on public service functions. He identified the problematic areas and the urgency of reforming the entire public sector. 

His programme to employ 50,000 unemployed graduates and 100,000 low-income earners were formulated within weeks after President Rajapaksa assumed office in November last year, but halted due to pressure from the Commissioner of Elections. However, it is now being implemented where graduates will receive a training allowance of Rs.20,000 a month for one year. After the training, they are posted and are bound to work for a five-year period in the district they are posted to. The idea of employing one hundred thousand from low-income families is based on, suppose a person from a low-income family becomes well established, then, in that case, that person will be able to help other members of his family in a better manner.

Advice to Ministers

All Cabinet Ministers and State Ministers were given a specific choice and possibilities in a well-defined manner. The President expects from each relevant Minister to implement policies related to every field and monitor activities towards the efficiency of State Ministries. In appointing the State Ministerial Secretaries on the 27th of August, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa firmly instructed the Secretaries to draw up a definite plan to work on how “they should go to the public and find out what the people need.” He further emphasised that water is a critical issue at present in some areas, and “if the Government fails to address such problems, there is no point in having a Government.” Do not fear in making the right decision in fulfilling State Ministerial duties without any interference or monitory provisions required to implement development. He promised to backup. The President further ensured how financial obligations are directly placed with the State Ministries to fulfil their responsibilities without any hindrance.

During his Election campaign for the SLPP, he saw and heard from the public how they reacted to the lethargic public service. Therefore, his instructions to all Ministers, Departments and Institutions that came under their purview to pull up their socks and to identify new procedures to provide an efficient, speedy, convenient and friendly service. Any Department’s failure, he said, will not add any value to the Government or to the public, but such incompetence will only be seen as a waste of public time and money.

Public Suggestions

Those who are in favour of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policies, principles and the style of his governability have come out with additional suggestions to the President, through the Social Media, to include into the Statute Book as follows:

  • Suppose motorist is found driving under the influence of liquor/drugs and causes an accident thereby causing death to a pedestrian or another motorist, the minimum penalty should be ten years rigorous imprisonment
  • Import of three-wheelers (tuk-tuk) should be banned with immediate effect. Or the operation of a tuk-tuk is permitted to those who are mature to drive. It is because most of the young drivers who operate tuk-tuk are clueless about the Highway Code. Usually, tuk-tuk drivers in foreign countries are over the age of 35 years.
  • Schools have become a financial burden on parents. If a Principal of a School/College found falsifying school admissions or seek contributions from parents covering various events (such as farewell parties for outgoing teachers on transfer and/or school repairs), he should lose his job within 48 hrs. 
  • Anyone found committing personation in examinations should be banned to sit an exam for eight years. 
  • Members of Parliament who don’t attend 80 per cent of Parliamentary Sessions should be banned to stand for election for the next five years.
  • Pensions on Parliamentarians should cease immediately. If any Government servant is found corrupt, he/she will lose his/her job within 48 hrs. 
  • It has become more than a pun (especially to gain publicity) for every Tom, Dick and Harry to contest as a Presidential Candidate. Therefore, the law needs an amendment that a Presidential Candidate who does not poll a minimum vote percentage (to be determined) should have to pay a fine of Rupees Ten million. 
  • Those who support or encourage political favours (inclusive of Government Ministers/Members of Parliament)  be banned for a lifetime in participating in any future Election.
  • Pharmacies issuing Medicines/Medications, without prescription will lose their licence within 48 hrs. It should be made Law for pharmacies to name the drug, dosage rather than placing in assorted envelopes.
  • Properties bought and sold before 50 years will have to pay 50 per cent of the value as taxes. (Hitting the rich!)
  • Another secret police force should monitor traffic police.  Price controls on all private hospitals. (Urgently needed).
  • Introduce more stringent Laws against perverts, cheats and fraudsters. Those who are involved in the rape and repeated sexual misconduct to face Surgical/Legal emasculation. Barbaric as it may appear, but if implemented such misconduct will cease.
  • Anyone engaged in Nepotism should forfeit all their wealth and lands to the State. 
  • 2,500 secret police to monitor all suggestions, in non-combatant clothing.

A Sri Lankan Problem in Italy

A grim situation faced by Sri Lankans living in Italy (Northern Italy – Emilia Romagna) was brought to the attention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by letter (forwarded to the Presidential Secretariat) in Colombo in Mid-July 2020.  Their complaint was about Sri Lankan residents in Emilia-Romagna province having to travel 500-600 km to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Rome for the slightest official task.  A General Consulate in Milan established during the previous regime helped Sri Lankans living in Milan to visit the Consulate (Milan) with much ease (100-200 km). Unfortunately, due to an erroneous decision made by the previous regime, this facility was withdrawn and now everyone in Milan has to visit the Sri Lankan Embassy in Rome for any official work, which is a long way (approximately 600km).

The North Italy Sri Lankan Voice’ (A Sri Lankan Association) requests the President to reverse such imprudent decisions taken by the previous regime and strengthen the hand of the Consular General in Milan, Ms Prabashini Ponnamperuma, by “employing two hard-working, non-diplomatic officers  from Colombo to the General Consulate in Milan.” This will help Sri Lankans living in Milan to cut down on a long journey all the way to Rome and save foreign exchange too on Government coffers in terms of a diplomatic officer’s salary with all his/her allowances!

The North Italy Sri Lankan Voice’ has confidence in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who takes instant action whenever he becomes aware of any problem; still one wonders whether the above -mentioned letter has reached the President so far?

Picture credit: Ceylon Today Newspaper and Google photos

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