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Ranil and the UNP’s continuing nemises

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The majesty of our elephant has regretfully fallen to the state of scavenging for food at roadside garbage dumps. A fate so fallen on the once mighty United National Party, under its unmoving bungling mahout for 26 long years. The leadership of the UNP fell into the lap of Ranil Wickremesinghe with the tragic obliteration of the powerful frontline party leadership. If JR. Jayewardene resurrected the mainly bourgeois political party, once sarcastically referred to as Uncle. Nephew Party, R. Premadasa the grass root politician he was, touching the hearts of the common man, strengthened the support base of the party to be the strongest single political party in the country. Assassinations of R. Premadasa and Gamini Dissanayake resulted in a second liner in leadership, Ranil Wickremasinghe (RW), becoming Prime Minister, in May 1993, appointed by DB. Wijetunga.

His lordly attitude and level of commitment for the concerns of the rank and file of the party was apparent from the beginning. The UNP, with one seat less, to form the Government, at the 1994 General Elections, RW, the incumbent Prime Minister, to the astonishment of the party seniors and members, throws in the towel, leaving Temple Trees, in haste, with bag and baggage, making way for childhood family friend Chandrika Kumaratunga to form a Government. This paved the way for her to become President. RW never showed to be a proactive leader who led from the front to win the hearts of the people. Never a marketable product. As the leader, he was more a stopgap alternative of the people, in times of adversity, and used as a slap to those whose governance was going at a tangent. This happened to Chandrika and Mahinda. As proved, RW could never retain power entrusted because he could not govern. His road map for power was opportunistic basking in the light of others.

During the six-year reign of Chandrika B.Kumaratunga, beginning 1994, the economic development of the country plunged to below zero, and the war against LTTE took a disastrous turn, leaving the country in deep turmoil. In utter frustration, people had no other option but elected the UNP, under RW, in 2001. RW in his pessimism, believed that the LTTE could never be defeated. People were yearning for peace, but not at any cost. An honourable deal, without division of the country, upholding national sovereignty. With a biased Norway mediation, which appeased pro-LTTE Western Powers, RW concluded a Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), which was considered one sided, favouring only the LTTE, a complete give away, demoralizing the spirit of the Armed Forces, with hands tied, confined to barracks, whilst LTTE cadres were roaming free, violating the terms of Agreement. RW came to be despised by the Sinhalese, home and abroad, and nationalistic movements, for his weakness to the situation. If some long term benefits were generated by the Agreement, it was wholly unintentional. Paralalley RW’s arrogance of governance and hard economic measures, to better the economy, did go beyond the already unbearable limits. Those who suffered most were the UNPers, whose expectations of jobs and compensation for victimization, under CBK rule, was completely ignored, a hallmark of RW administration.

The threat of CBK capitalizing on the situation was ominously clear and imminent, which RW, in his own wisdom, chose to ignore, even grounding moves to impeach her in Parliament. CKB struck back by taking back two important Ministries and abruptly dissolved Parliament, in April 2004. The UNP reeled and, under RW, lost the election, destined to be in the opposition till 2015. Party defeat did not matter much for RW, because he enjoyed his position and perks as Leader of the Opposition, thanks to evergreen Colombo voters. He switched to the safe base of Colombo, from his original home electorate of Biyagama, where he last contested in 1977. If he remained, he would have been soundly rejected at all subsequent elections.

In the aftermath of RW’s abortive bid for Presidency, in 2005, there was a strong call for change of party leadership in favour of Karu Jayasuriya, but with RW artfully dodging the issue, Karu and 18 stalwarts of the UNP chose to leave the Party and join Mahinda R. Karu came back but others, today, are the frontliners in the Rajapakse Camp, carrying his party forward. Most of them are now Cabinet Ministers. RW’s artful dodging history was revisited with Sajith Premadasa, and seniors, leaving the party, to oppose RW.

The UNP had to wait till August 2015 to taste power, under similar circumstances, that pervaded in 2001. RW should have had the Parliament dissolved immediately, after Sirisena’s Presidential victory, in January 2015, which would have maximized a UNP victory in a new parliament and a wholly UNP Cabinet of Ministers. Instead RW, with a minority in Parliament, had a thirst for instant power, crowning himself Prime Minister of a Yahapalana coalition Government, with Sirisena, till August 2015, which he took forward to the gradual and steady destruction of the UNP, till 2020. He and some of his political sidekicks were booted out by the UNP City of Colombo. RW did lead to reduce the Great Party to a little over 2% of votes received nationally, with no elected representation in the new Parliament. RW ployed with the naïve belief that UNPers always loved to vote for the Elephant than the candidate. He did not grasp the hard truth that people want him and his cahoots out. RW still seems to believe he is the UNP and will certainly nominate himself to the allocated a Parliament seat, come next week. Profoundly assisted by his cabal, he has made the symbol Elephant a forgotten trade mark and the UNP a forgotten brand.

ADOLF SILVA

 

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Opinion

Youth battle against drugs needed

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Twenty-one-year-old student Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read a 10-point manifesto aimed at reform of Thailand’s politically powerful monarchy

If our university students are daring enough to challenge the government for their rights for a clear-cut education policy, that no government could change, according to their whims and fancies or for the benefit of corrupt ministers, and state officials, then our university students’ unions could also challenge the government, regarding the drug mafia.

They should follow the 21-year-old. Thailand girl, from Thammasat University, who stood up against Royalty and called for a monarchy change, saying all humans have red blood and called for various reforms, as she fearlessly delivered the manifesto, including the call to change the constitution and education. This speech could have sent her to jail for 15 years, but she stood her ground.

Our university students, for the sake of our young generation, and those to be born, could challenge the government to take genuine action, as promised at the recent election, against all those who are involved in the drug mafia, be they ministers, officials or relatives. It is a well known fact that such an amount of drugs, etc., cannot be imported without the help of VVIPs.

Only the challenging from the young generation of all fields could induce positive action to expose the culprits. Mr. President, you asked the people to give you the strength to fight all corruption. You got it, but the people are worried about the outcome. Was it an ‘election gundu’? Do it, though you may not get the goodwill of corrupt ministers and officials, but the people, the honest and the hard working parents will be thankful to you.

Save the children before introducing any long term plans. Remember this drug mafia is very much worse than terrorists, because ministers did not get commissions from the war, but drugs bring in millions of rupees.

 

Barbara Seneviratne

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Opinion

Reduce number of vehicles on our roads

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Please allow me a short comment on the perceptive article by George Braine, in The Island ( 4th September, page 6), on renationalizing the private bus service. I hope it catches the eye of our President.

Firstly, his observation about how in Hong Kong and (Singapore too), buses are washed every day, and trains are comfortable and clean. Let alone comfort, couldn’t the “higher powers” provide us AT LEAST with CLEAN public transport, despite the now ingrained lack of hygiene in Sri Lankan society (it’s now part of Sri Lankan culture!). We have become an unhygienic people immune to uncleanliness – if you doubt this, tell me the name of ONE South Asian country which is as filthy as us. (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong …?). Habits such as spitting betel leaf in public, onto the pavement, throwing “Buth Parcels” on to it for the purported purpose of obtaining “merit”, by feeding the disease- infected stray dogs and cats (I almost forgot to include the rats) – this is us!. If you still doubt, go have a look at the state of our Public Toilets ANYWHERE, including the “international” Airport. Our children should be taught at an early age, how to use a toilet correctly – obviously most parents don’t know this skill.

Forty years ago, the belching buses with people hanging onto the footboard for dear life, were a common sight. It remains so today – in what aspects did we lopsidedly “Develop”? Highways – for whom?

Recently I travelled from Colombo to Galle, and last week, from Colombo to Nuwara-Eliya by car. On the Galle trip, I saw private buses tearing along, racing each other on the wrong side of the Galle Road. It was reported the following day that three had died in a head-on collision. On the Nuwara-Eliya trip, even up in the dangerous winding hills, private buses were engaged in a permanent roadrace to gather passengers.

In the very same newspaper (September 4th), on page 3, headlines read – “Three persons killed, three others seriously injured in car mishap”. It goes on to say that due to speeding, two young men sent themselves to a premature death. At least three die every day in fatal road accidents. The country’s Traffic Police are out of touch with reality. Dishing out parking fines (for the ulterior motive of collecting revenue!), watching idly as trishaws (a law unto themselves), cut across the line of traffic, allowing motorcycles to “short-cut” along the pavement, Mr Braine’s suggestion that vehicle imports should be BANNED (including Duty Free ) for five years is absolutely right! I hope the President will firmly refuse to bow to pressures in this regard, in the public interest.

He will receive fervent thanks from the public at large if he can reduce the number of vehicles on our already clogged roads. By prohibiting vehicle imports he also creates jobs for the numerous vehicle repair shops needed to keep existing vehicles in good order.

 

JAYANTA KURUKULASURIYA

 

 

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Opinion

A true People’s Company for a People-Centered Economy

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By JUSTIN KEPPETIYAGAMA
Jdkgama02@gmail.com

 

As per the policy manifesto of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ (‘Rata Hadana Saubhagyaye Dekma’), the main objective of the government is creating a people-centered economy through rural development.

In achieving these expectations, Sapiri Gamak, a community-based development programme is being implemented, anticipating to convert the entire country to one development zone, by building a people-centric economy that will be fully owned by the people of the country, and strengthen the local entrepreneurs; instead of selling and mortgaging national resources and financial assets of the country to foreigners.

The objectives of this programme are, improving employment and livelihoods through development of rural facilities, and thereby uplifting the socio-economic condition of the rural economy. These development projects should facilitate the income pathways of villagers and generate self-employment opportunities.

Under the guidance of the Prime Minister through this programme, projects for development of roads, infrastructure facilities required by the agriculture sector, facilities required to uplift the economy at rural levels, facilities required for development and upgrading of rural health, development of education by providing electricity, water and sanitary facilities for schools and other priority physical infrastructure facilities that are directly attributed to development of rural economy will be implemented.

Under this programme, Rs. 2 M. will be spent to implement development programs at each Grama Niladhari Division, covering 14,021 Grama Niladhari divisions of the country. At present, under this program, 37,862 development projects worth of Rs. 27,920 M. are being implemented island-wide by the Divisional Secretaries under the supervision of District Secretaries.

Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries are not the stakeholders of these projects. To implement this project there should be a mechanism that should include all villagers as the stakeholders of this project. It should not be a mechanism, operated by bureaucrats, or one dependent on budgetary funding. It should be a mechanism, funded by the people, entrepreneurs, farmers, producers, consumers, living within the G.N. division and supplemented by the Government. It should be a mechanism, owned by the villagers and operated by the villagers and for the benefits of the villagers. This should be a self-financing mechanism; a legal entity having its own identity. It should be a village-based mechanism to address the problems faced by the villagers. It should be a mechanism that leads to a self-sufficient economy.

The situation prevalent today must be changed. The course of development followed so far must be reversed totally. It must be village-based. All modes of production must be village based. The villagers must be given the knowledge to improve all their economic activities. Any industries facilitating all economic activities of villagers should be commenced in the village itself and by the villagers themselves. All technological knowledge we get must reach the villagers. This mechanism should transform all villagers to stakeholders in the village economy.

1. To create a people-centered rural economy I propose to promote one co-operative society per G.N area under the Co-operative Societies Act. It should be an enterprise of villagers, by the villagers for the benefit of the villagers. There should be 14,021 co-operative societies covering the entire island. The objectives of these co-operative societies should include:

a. Buying, stocking, selling and supplying all forms of industrial, agricultural and trading inputs and consumables and livestock required for raising the living standard of villagers.

b. Accepting deposits from members and providing venture capital or debenture capital to them to carry on their business activities. It should be the Rural Bank.

c. Providing credit, in cash, or in kind, to members to meet their other needs.

d. Undertaking the promotion, management, control and supervision of any enterprise or scheme using identified deposits of members for the benefits and advancement of such members or a group of members, and charging a fee, commission or a share of profits for such services.

e. Making investment of identified deposits of members in stock, shares or securities, on behalf of such identified members

f. Carrying out survey and research, issuing publications, and maintaining a database helpful for improvement of economic conditions of its members.

g. Providing professional services to the members regarding investment in income generating activities.

h. Promoting all types of business entities as sole proprietorships, partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies, or cooperative societies among or between members and be a partner, shareholder as the case may be, of such business.

i. Consulting, promoting, issuing, organizing, managing and administering mutual funds of any type or character for the benefit of their members.

j. Rendering managerial, marketing, technical and administrative advice to members to carry on any form of commercial or economic activity.

All government development projects relevant to a particular G.N. area should be contracted to the relevant co-operative society. They also should be agents for state owned enterprises such as Paddy Marketing Board, Sathosa, Milk Board, Fisheries Co-operation and State Banks.

2. To create a people-centered national economy the government should promote one Peoples Company making all 14,021 G.N level co-operative societies and all State Owned Enterprises as its shareholders. Government’s all national level development projects should be contracted to this company.

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