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Politicians exploit National disasters for personal gain

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Throughout history, the vast majority of politicians the world over have been self-serving, while professing aloud to work for the emancipation of their people. Apart from a few leaders, such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Angela Merkel of Germany and a handful of others, this truth is universal. This selfish behaviour of politicians is disastrous, especially in the third world countries which lead virtually a day-to-day existence, with large numbers of the population being below the poverty line.

The deepening economic hardship Sri Lanka is undergoing at present, is the direct result of the fraudulent activities of the self-serving corrupt politicians ever since independence, more so in the past 40 years. Apart from almost routine daylight robbery of the national treasury by the political minions taking place on an almost daily basis, it is shameful how national disasters have been exploited by the leaders for personal gratification.

Draining the national coffers, during the ethnic conflict, allegations of financial fraud on purchases of aircraft and weaponry was commonplace. Due to the political power of those deemed responsible, details are unlikely to be divulged, and culprits are unlikely to be indicted.

The last phase of the Eelam war began with the Tigers blocking the Mavil Aru irrigation dam. This caused much financial hardship to the farmers who experienced a large scale loss of crop. A sizable proportion of the funds sent as relief ended up in the private bank account of the spouse of a local politician. Though all the bank details were divulged in the press, no action was taken to recover the loot or to punish the offender. The politician concerned remains a noisy minister in the government to this day.

The 2004 tsunami was the most devastating natural disaster the country experienced in its history. Over 30,000 people lost their lives, and many of the bodies have not been recovered even. Thousands more lost their house and property and their livelihoods. Such human suffering had never been seen on the island before. Large amounts of money, material and humanitarian aid came in from concerned donors, both local and abroad. Yet again millions of rupees in the relief fund ended up in the bank account of the wife of the local political heavyweight. When the courts were about to apprehend the culprit, the judge who happened to be a close friend of the politician, dismissed the case. It was shameful how at a later date the judge apologized to the nation, admitting that he committed an offence by letting a wrongdoer off the hook. Both the politician and the judge remain free to keep preaching to the people on the virtues of honesty!

The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading all over the country taking away many lives on a daily basis. However, it has become a money spinner for the politicians and their henchmen. While the henchmen openly engage in the COVID business, defrauding the people, there is no doubt that the politicians are reaping the benefits behind the scene. Those closely connected to the ruling family were given the business of repatriation of Sri Lankans from affected regions abroad, and their quarantining in selected hotels. Even those doing lower rung jobs in the Middle East to come out of poverty at home, were charged exorbitant sums, sometimes amounting to a full one year’s salary, for airfare, hotels, etc. They were not allowed to board the planes unless they made the full payment for the hotel stay or the exaggerated costs of PCR testing as well. The private sector is profiteering on serological testing. There is no attempt to control prices, thus allowing the businessmen to make hay when the sun shines.

While the entry at airports was restricted, a cousin of the leader, already accused in a previous financial fraud, was entrusted to bring in plane loads of Ukrainian tourists in a lucrative business. They were allowed free movement in the cultural triangle, violating all quarantine regulations. Later, yet another close family member was involved in a programme of bringing in Indians for quarantining here, as they were not accepted anywhere else. While both these were profitable ventures for those involved, the country ran the risk of bringing in more virulent strains of the virus prevailing in their countries of origin. In fact those foreigners are said to be responsible for such strains causing disease in the country now. While preaching “one country, one law” the current leadership has ensured that their family members and henchmen operated under a different set of rules allowing a free run.

How a fund of nearly two billion rupees collected as donations from various sources was spent is now being questioned. The expenses revealed in the accounts published so far, leave many questions unanswered. There is no doubt that even this fund has been defrauded by the political masters.

The government has been making use of COVID cover for political misdemeanors as well. Having come to power exploiting the Easter Sunday bombing, they somewhat successfully controlled the first COVID cycle. That success was used as campaign propaganda for the general election, obtaining a massive victory. Later, during the second cycle when public gatherings and other political activity was prohibited, a controversial 20th Amendment to the constitution amassing many powers in the hands of the President, was pushed through the parliament.

Now under the cover of the rapidly worsening third COVID cycle, with restrictions of movement, political activity, mass gatherings and curfews in place, the Port City Bill with even more potentially disastrous long-term consequences, was going to be rushed through, not allowing public discussion such controversial legislation richly deserves. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has intervened to remove the provisions that were obviously against the constitution of the country. How our leaders attempted to catch the citizens blindfolded and wrong footed is obvious. Surely, it should have been obvious to the legal experts in the Cabinet, and others involved in drafting the Bill, how it goes against the basic tenets of the constitution. In all probability they had realised it. That is why every attempt was made to prevent the people petitioning the Supreme Court within the stipulated seven days. They made use of the long New Year holiday period, and declared an additional holiday as well, leaving only two days for action. All these attempts were foiled by the timely action of the law abiding citizens. The impression given is that our so-called patriotic leaders are prepared to go the full distance to please their foreign partners, sacrificing the fundamental rights and interests of our own people. No doubt our leaders had something, probably dirty lucre, to gain from this treacherous deal.

History will record the current leadership, as the worst traitors we have ever had, as they are doing all the evil under the cover of a thick cloak of patriotism, hoodwinking the people.

We live in a country where nearly 75% are Buddhists. There is co-existence with Christians, Hindus and Muslims in a multi-religious society. All religions preach the virtues of honesty, compassion, kindness and peaceful living. The percentage of the population that follows and practises their religions is said to be somewhat higher than in the rest of the world. We are also aware that despite all the religious beliefs, greed for money and material is a basic, innate evil of man. When this weakness manifests itself in those in authority with ready access to such wealth available for stealing, whole societies suffer. It is particularly treacherous when these unscrupulous leaders go down to the level of exploiting the misery of their countrymen in times of national disasters as well.

Thus, various instances of national disasters as described above have been exploited by politicians and their acolytes for personal, mostly financial gain. As a result, we hear on a daily basis, the cries and curses of the people suffering with untold hardship. Buddhists believe in retribution. We can only hope that the rogues disguised as Samaritans suffer that retribution sooner than later, as they are unlikely to be apprehended by the laws of the land.

 

DISGUSTED SRI LANKAN



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Opinion

Nelum Kuluna poses danger to aircraft

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The top of Nelum Kuluna (Lotus Tower) stands 350 above sea level in the heart of Colombo City, as the air navigators of old would say, sticking out like a ’sore thumb’. It has to be lit up in accordance with the Aircraft Obstacle Lighting recommendations contained in Annex 14 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Convention originally signed by Ceylon in 1944.

A free-standing tower of that height is required by international law to be lit up not only at night with red lights, but also with high visibility white strobe lights during the day.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be on always during the day. The authorities concerned must realise that the strobe lighting during the day is not for beauty but for air safety, especially these days, when the air quality and visibility are low during the day.

Have those in charge of the tower been briefed properly on the legal requirement and the use of proper lighting? In case of an accident, this certainly will have implications on insurance claims.

I wonder whether the ‘Regulator’, Civil Aviation Authority Sri Lanka would like to comment.

If not rectified, it will be just a matter of time an aircraft will be impaled by the Nelum Kuluna.

I M Nervy (Aviator)

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Opinion

Simple questions to Sirisena and Gotabaya

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If Sirisena had not been informed of the plans to explode bombs on 21st of April 2019, as he has claimed, shouldn’t he have taken immediate action to call for explanation from Nilantha Jayawardena, then head of State Intelligent Service (SIS), who had been notified several times about the impending attack by the Indian intelligence.

Sirisena and Jayawardena should be prosecuted for allowing a mass murder to take place. Further Sirisena should be made to explain his famous uttering, “I will reveal everything, if somebody tries to implicate me”.

Why did Gotabaya, who announced his candidature for presidency almost immediately after the Easter Sunday attack and promised to punish those who were involved in it, pay no attention to Nilantha Jayawardena’s failure in taking necessary action with regard to information he received, instead he was given a promotion?

President Ranil Wickremesinghe at a meeting with USAID Administrator Samantha Power on September 11, 2022 had said that Scotland Yard had been requested to review the reports and reach a final conclusion on claims that there was a hidden hand behind the bombings.

We do not need Scotland Yard, just get an honest set of Sri Lankan police officers to question Nilantha, Sirisena and Gotabaya to find the “hidden hand behind the bombings”

B Perera

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Opinion

Open letter to Sirisena

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Y you were in Singapore when the Easter Sunday attacks took place. You claimed that you had not been informed of the intelligence received by your intelligence officers. However, the Supreme Court has ordered you to pay Rs 100M as compensation to the victims of the terror attacks. The reasons for the decision are stated in the judgement.

Acting on a claim that there was a conspiracy to assassinate you and former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya you caused the interdiction and arrest of DIG Nalaka Silva, who was held in custody without bail for a long time.

In his testimony to the Presidential Commission  of Inquiry, Silva said that he had been interdicted while plans were in place to arrest Zaharan.

Due to the arrest of DIG Silva, Zaharan escaped arrest. Silva was never charged. Zaharan continued with his plans and the rest is history.

After the SC order you have been claiming that you have no money to pay the Rs 100M as compensation. You are asking for public help to pay compensation to Easter carnage victims. You even accepted some money collected by a person called Sudaththa Tilakasiri, who begged from people.

You have said publicly that you submitted your asset declarations. I suggest that you sell all your assets declared in the declarations before asking for funds from the public.

Hemal Perera

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