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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

MPs can show their colours

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I refer to this article, ‘Covid bonanza for….’ by Shamnidra Ferdinando.

It was obvious that the LC could not easily be cancelled. It will be interesting to know when the LC was actually opened; before or after Cabinet approval? The answer will be revealing.

Now that the vehicles will come in, come hell or high water with burning ships, there is a simple solution.

If the government is sincere in its intentions to reverse this totally unnecessary expenditure, which the country cannot afford,  scraping the bottom of the vangediya as it is, then the vehicles can be sold in the open market, in a transparent manner and at a profit, too, and the wasted  funds reimbursed to the Treasury. Personally, I know this will not happen, seeing what we are helplessly seeing being enacted in the country yesterday, today and alarmingly, tomorrow, too.

The next best option is for those MPs who oppose this criminal waste of public funds, to work out a method by which they can sell the vehicles presented to them by the starving masses, in a transparent manner and utilise the proceeds again in a transparent manner to uplift the lives of the millions of poor citizens in their electorates.

ACabinet given opportunity for Members of Parliament to show their true, even if highly faded and smudged, colours!

 

CITIZEN FERNANDO

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Opinion

Gazette Bill in blatant conflict with Constitution

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The Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill had been gazetted on March 24 after Cabinet approval, and placed in the order paper of Parliament on April 9. Normally, before placing a Bill on the order paper of the Parliament, it goes through the levels of the Legal Draftsman, Attorney General, Ministry of Justice, and the Cabinet of Ministers.

According to a news item that appeared in the Daily News, on April 27, the Attorney General has informed the Presidential Secretary that the Port City Economic Commission Draft Bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution. But the same Attorney General has advanced the submissions and amendments in court, during the hearing of 18 petitions filed by members of civil society alleging the Bill is inconsistent with the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has found more than one third of its clauses are conflicting with the Constitution – the supreme law of Sri Lanka. Thus, it has been proved the Gazette Bill was in blatant conflict with the Constitution.

High officials of the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General and the Legal Draftsman who are supposed to have been involved in the drafting of this Bill are professionals of recognized capability. They are committed to follow the best practices of their professions and should adhere to standards in procedural manuals and professional codes of conduct and ethics. They are bound by the oath taken by them in line with the Constitution and the accountability of the offices they hold. They also would have been supported by several legal eagles and experienced politicians in the Cabinet.

Citizens are confused as to how on earth such a Bill, in blatant conflict with the Constitution, could have been approved by the Attorney General and be drafted by the Legal Draftsman. 149 Members of Parliament have voted to amend 26 clauses of 75 clauses of the Legal Draftsman’s Bill. This is tantamount to a No Confidence Motion on the Legal Draftsman.

JUSTIN KEPPETIYAGAMA

jdkgama02@gmail.com

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Opinion

Probe into expressway construction and floods

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The news item appearing in your issue of 10th June, regarding the Expressway Construction and Floods, is of interest to me, as I had handled Road Projects when attached to the then Department of Public Works [PWD] and later the Ministry for Highways.

It’s stated that Minister Johnston Fernando had instructed his Ministry Secretary to investigate immediately, whether there was any truth in the claim that some areas in Gampaha were inundated owing to the construction work, in the first phase of the Central Expressway, from Kadawatha to Mirigama; and continues to say ‘Yahapalana adjustments to the construction master plan may have lead to the present situation’, which could be insinuated as placing the blame on the previous Yahapalana government. This is the usual blame-game adopted by bankrupt politicians. It will not be surprising if the present government will be blamed when a new government is formed, for mismanagement of projects carried out now.

As far as I know, while construction is on, there comes up certain problems, which may necessitate altering or deviating from the original design. Hence the responsibility lies entirely on the Engineer, and not on any politician or government in power. Here the integrity of the Engineer counts. Sad to say, there have been accusations where professionals have given way to political pressure and projects have become failures. I would like to quote Moeller’s theory “One of the major reasons for a country to be subjected to bad governance is when its professionals do not speak out, but worst still, these professionals actually gang up with those committing anarchy for their own benefit. What the professionals do not realize is that in the long term, they too would be subjected to the worst treatment by these despotic dictators whom they were keen to protect. Moeller’s theory being proved time and again consorting with an autocratic regime is a worst act of treason against one’s own country and its people”

To the credit of Minister Johnston Fernando, he also mentions the likelihood of this flooding by saying “We must keep in mind that the highest rainfall in the known history was reported from this area”. Whatever, the findings of the investigations be, the accusation should be taken as fault finding of Engineers, and they should now come forward to protect their prestigious profession and give reasons, which lay, incompetent politicians, do not have the capacity to understand. Hope the Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers will expose the viles of politicians to steer this country in the correct direction. This goes for other professions as well.

G. A. D. SIRIMAL

Boralesgamuwa

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