Connect with us

Opinion

2022: Just another ‘Happy New’ year?

Published

on

Is it going to be another ‘New Year’ with only the usual change of calendars? Or, one marked by a more judicious change of cooking methods: a shift from the cooker fitted with a self-immolation gas-trick contrivance, to a multipurpose rice-cooker? By the way, one would say that “long live litro!” is a mediocre use of alliteration to heighten sarcasm, but even such justifiable cynicism appears a bit too crude in a social context; where people’s unashamed greed for money seems to have eclipsed even the most rudimentary concern for the lives of their fellowmen. Sporadic gaseous explosions would have amply compensated for the want of seasonal cheer, if only they had occurred without taking innocent lives or causing material harm and island-wide trauma.

Coming back to the New Year, all of us have, as usual, the unending hope of better times ahead, despite all the bad signals. 2021 proved to be an unmasking of the worst vices of humans: political impudence, verbiage and cronyism, blatant abuse of power, profiteering at every turn – even at the expense of Corona victims, callous disregard for the poor, vulgar display of wealth, insolence and political clout, wheeling and dealing and, last but not least, religious blinkeredness of the worst type as shown in the brutal killing of the Sri Lankan, Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana in Sialkot, Pakistan. It provided a heart-rending climax to a series of tragicomic episodes.

Of course, none of the above excesses went without eliciting responses of indignation and shock, but all in vain. Hapless people, who have been accustomed to witnessing the culprits going undaunted and unpunished, have no option but to adapt themselves to the relentless pattern of increasing insolence, and increase their capacity for shock absorption. As for the ruling party, they know that the Opposition’s election-oriented bark, being mere political theatrics as usual, is worse than its post-victory bite. Hence, they have no fear of the latter’s threats of reprisals that they jolly well know are meant for the ready consumption of the irate masses.

Aren’t the frequent festivities, including two ‘New Year’ festivals in January and April, innocently working as painkillers to temporarily make us forget a perpetuating illness? If not, why do we long for them so much? The freethinker, Dr. E.W. Adikaram, used to say that the more festivals a society needs as temporary distractions, the more ailing it is. In other words, if enough happiness is attainable in your day-to-day life: what you do for a living, your personal relationships and how productively you spend your leisure, most people would not have to count much on special ‘happiness days’, so to speak. Perhaps, this is why you hear cynics say, “if you were moneyed, you would have Christmas / New Year every day.” Political leaders on both sides never miss an opportunity to wax eloquent about the significance of each festive occasion, because they know better than to waste such seasonal palliatives for the crowds. The grander you make the carnivals appear to the masses, the more ardently they invest in them and the more stoutly they bear their daily grind, which they attribute to their karma or lot in life.

Celebrations are all well and good, but they cannot solve the chronic social maladies built into unsound structures, be they political, economic, ideological or cultural; and it would be prudent to have the fun, not forgetting that we have stuck to the rituals for donkey’s years without any of them helping us to get over our familiar problems, which we complacently attribute to subjective factors. It’s a pity if festivals are allowed to be felt as rewards for our ‘forbearance’ when, in fact, it is nothing but our apathy and powerlessness, which all sorts of fraudsters dutifully applaud as people’s intelligence and decency.

The sad fact is, our excited and unquestioning adherence to formalities on the calendar unwittingly helps us to stick to our hoary political, ethnic, and religious guns, all the more zealously. For ages, we have been conned by our political saviours, and sedated by other manipulating agents and institutions. This has erected barriers between us and the so-called political, religious or ethnic ‘others’, without many of us recognising the overt and covert propaganda or brainwashing concealed in it, no matter whichever euphemism you may use to call it. This has resulted in a prolonged numbness, which we variously ‘interpret’ as devotion, patriotism, nationalism, faith etc., which has created ever-elusive and toxic fault lines in society.

The sad paradox is that the outcomes are everywhere, but intangible. Where have our political loyalties brought us? We have been seeing mighty ‘differences’ in political parties that are all but identical in the way they have governed the country. Our acquired political, ethnic and religious ‘identities’ have created imaginary foes and we have seen the results. Nonetheless, complacency remains to be the rule, occasional ‘shock’ being the exception. The Sialkot tragedy is just the tip of a multifaceted iceberg.

Surely, it doesn’t pay to be pessimistic, but no amount of optimism will compensate for addiction to familiar placebos. Everybody talks about the need for change. However, the problem is that most of them are convinced that many familiarised ‘structures’ should not change. It’s time they looked long and hard at those seemingly indispensable and unchangeable ‘constructs’ that make them stiff and immobile, in some respects to the detriment of overall progress.

However, all this doesn’t mean that seasonal greetings are in any danger of losing their social relevance and, so, yes. Happy New Year!

SUSANTHA HEWA



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion

Priority need to focus on Controlling Serious Economic Crimes

Published

on

Open letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The Ministry of Defence has advertised five vacancies for the “Recruitment as Reserve Assistant Superintendents of Police to the Ministry of Defence, affiliated to the Sri Lanka Police, skilled professionals to become proud members of the Ministry of Defence, dedicated to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as well as to public safety and to play a superior role for the nation. These recruits will function as Cyber and Forensic Analyst, Geo-Political and Strategic Analyst, Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism Analyst, Economic Analyst and Statistical Analyst (the last two covering security perspectives regarding national security)”. Any justified decision to strengthen the knowledge and skills based professional capability of existing human resource of the state is a welcome move, so long as the recruits have in addition to the specified qualifications, requisite commitments to best practice professional standards, ethics, correct attitudes and values.

The caring civil society fervently hopes, in accord with your stated commitments in the manifesto and the several public pronouncements that followed your election as the President, that you, with the support of your Cabinet colleagues and the top officials of the executive, will similarly focus on the essential priority need to focus on controlling serious economic crimes, which can easily debilitate the financial integrity, fiscal and monetary stability and solvency of Sri Lanka; and if allowed unabated will destabilise the economy and prevent the realisation of the goals of splendour and prosperity.

The optimum operational environment to assure financial integrity minimizing serious economic crimes is by having effective laws, regulations, policies, systems, procedures, practices and controls, with efficient and effective independent oversight mechanisms, enforcements, investigations and prosecutions, followed by independent justice systems with penal sanctions and recovery of proceeds of crime. The critical drivers of such a system are independence, capability and professionalism of supporting human resources in the entire chain. It is however quite evident from many case studies that the systems controlling financial integrity of Sri Lanka fails to meet required standards of effectiveness, due mainly to the lack of competent and committed professionals in the chain engaged in independent oversight mechanisms, enforcements, investigations and prosecutions. Due to this incapacity the independent oversight control, enforcement, investigation, prosecution and punishment of offenders of money laundering, transfer pricing, securities offenses, bribery, corruption, financial fraud, organised crimes, drug trafficking, smuggling, and avoidance of taxes/ excise and customs duties are ineffective; and more importantly the recovery of proceeds of these crimes eventually fail and are thus unable to restore the state revenues leaked and state assets stolen or defrauded.

Civil society looks to you as the President, to take early action to strengthen the structures, systems, laws and regulations along with the capacity of the resource persons engaged in the independent oversight control and enforcement of mechanisms; and thereby minimise serious economic crimes system wide and facilitate successful recovery of proceeds of crime. In the above context it is suggested that you pursue the undernoted strategic action steps under your direct leadership supervision:

* Seek Cabinet approval to set up an Enforcement Directorate similar to that of India under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police, reporting to an Independent Public Commission made up of three members, comprising of a high integrity competent retired Appellate Court Judge, a retired Senior Officer of the Auditor General’s Department and a retired Senior Officer of the Central Bank.

* Enforcement Directorate to be entrusted with the mission of minimizing the identified serious economic crimes systems wide; enhancing oversight mechanism and controls system wide and where suspected that any such crimes having taken place professionally investigating and prosecuting, optimizing recovery of proceeds of crime

* Seek technical support in setting up the Enforcement Directorate from the Financial Integrity Unit of the World Bank and its affiliates Financial Action Task Force, UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative with extended human resource training and development support from bi lateral supporting countries and other specialized agencies

* Recruit competent and highly professional staff for the Directorate, similar to the staff recruited to the Defence Ministry; and support them with requisite resources, knowledge, skills, systems, data bases, best practices and technical and investigation assistance linkages

* Enact essential legal and regulatory reforms, commencing with the early enactment of the Proceeds of Crime Act draft sent to the previous regime for cabinet endorsement

* Enhance the capability of the prosecutors of the Directorate to successfully prosecute serious economic crimes and judges to effectively support the judicial processes connected therewith

* Make it a compulsory requirement of all state remunerated persons to adopt the ethical standard to report to the Directorate any known or suspected non compliances with laws and regulations

Trust you and your advisory team will give due consideration to this submission

Chandra Jayaratne

Continue Reading

Opinion

S.Thomas’ Class of 62 and O/L 70 Group celebrates 60 years Nexus

Published

on

By Rohan Mathes

Once again the old boys of the Class of 62 and O/L 70 Group fraternity of S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia gathered last Saturday (22nd), under one banner to celebrate their 60 th anniversary of their association and loyalties with their prestigious Alma Mater, long way down from 1962, whence they were admitted to the school by the sea.

This rendezvous was of paramount importance to the membership near and far, inclusive of those domiciled overseas, who had turned up in their numbers to enjoy the long-awaited fellowship, with their comrades, despite the prevailing Covid pandemic restrictions. Nevertheless, those who could not make it, had been amply served by the provision of a Zoom link. Kudos to the organisers who had painstakingly and meticulously planned all the nitty-gritties of this epoch-making celebrations, however with less pomp and pageantry, compared to their fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 2012.

Following the service at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, the Thomians spend the day within the precincts of this hallowed institution which had undoubtedly imparted a unique, state-of the-art and wholesome education to them. They took this rather rare opportunity to joyfully tour around their old school, of course reminiscing their nostalgic memories of their childhood. They were simply overjoyed by viewing the latest developments and modifications done by the school authorities, utilising the charitable donations and contributions made by the old boys, parents and well-wishers of the school, in numerous ways, throughout the years gone by.

At this event, the Group also assisted the college in their project to install “Smart Boards to every class room”, by handing over a cheque to the Sub Warden Asanka Perera, to the value of Rs.400,000, collected from its membership. Esto Perpetua!

Continue Reading

Opinion

Why cry for Djokovic – a reply

Published

on

I strongly object to the remark Dr Upul Wijayawardhana (Dr U W) made in the first paragraph of his Opinion, in The Island of Saturday 22 January, titled  ’Why Cry for Djokovic?’ critiquing Cassandra in her Friday 21 Cassandra Cry.

Dr U W writes: “Cassandra uses her column liberally to criticise our politicians for giving special treatment to their kith and kin.” I, Cassandra, have two reasons to object to this damning statement. I have never criticised politicians for “giving special treatment to their kith and kin”. I have criticised politicians on various other issues such as what they have done, but not on this particular accusation. Hence Dr UW deliberately, or carried away by his writing eloquence, placed me in danger of reprisal. Such is not done.

Please read me in Cassandra Cry on Friday January 28, where this matter, and some others  the doctor has written regards Cassandra will be refuted,

CASSANDRA

Continue Reading

Trending