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Opinion

Unity can be decisive

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Even the most tenacious optimist would agree that the country is in bad shape. Perhaps, even at this eleventh hour of our country’s relentless spiraling down towards a state of chaos, the leaders, who have been holding the reins alternately-those whom we believe can make a difference-do not seem to have realised the importance of changing track and putting the country before every other consideration.

The present predicament makes it clear that two-party politics, as it has been practiced in our country, has not benefitted the people much. The elected party, after a few weeks in power, gives enough evidence to show that people are mistaken in thinking that our chosen “representatives” have anything but our interests in their mind. The contempt with which they treat the voice of the people and the condescension with which they “explain” away everything they do ,leave no room for doubt that parliamentary politics, as it has been practiced all these years, does not much reflect the representative character of the ruling party, whichever it may be. Only when they lose an election and are demoted to the “Opposition” would they begin to “voice” the wishes of the people and be sensitive to every single problem of the constituents who they choose to treat as a bunch of rabble-rousers when they were in power. Judging by how people-friendly every Opposition has been, people may, after every General Election, plead with all the newly elected members, “Please, ladies and gentlemen, be the opposition.” A cynic may suggest that “the political party which is on the side of the people until they come to power” may be added to the OED as another increasingly relevant meaning of the word “opposition.”

It is not difficult to see that this kind of cynicism is not at all an exaggeration considering the conduct of the “Oppositions” we have had in our parliamentary politics. As we know, in our normal human relations, disapproval, condemnation or rejection begets animosity. Not in the relationship between a political party and the general public! Politics seems to be an odd game in which rejection engenders friendship and compassion. Every time a political party is rejected at a General Election, it immediately begins to love the very people who have shooed them away unceremoniously. However, as our political records show, every “opposition” has amply demonstrated the art of settling scores after a period of wound-licking. Our entire exercise of electing our rulers, if shorn of its periodical fits of “sound and fury,” boils down to a vicious cycle of hope, disappointment, disbelief and rejection. Unfortunately, today, the moments of “disbelief” of the people are becoming ever more frequent and acute with each new decision made by the ruling party. A presenter may invite a weary audience to just look at the present Sri Lankan society to get a rough idea about how shock-absorbers work.

There is something essentially wrong with the existing mechanism of politics. You may blame individual leaders; you may blame parties, the system or even the populace. Each of these entities has been blamed enough with no tangible results forthcoming. Perhaps the problem lies in isolating the entity when we choose to blame it. Perhaps, we have missed the wood for the trees.

It is quite likely that all these actors: leaders, parties and the masses are nearly equally responsible for the present predicament and thus have to be taken together when we look for the underlying problem. If we can agree on that, what is needed is a mechanism where all the stakeholders can get together for the sake of the whole nation. As we know, the country can boast of experts in every important field, be it science, politics, economics, social sciences etc., but each of them has been working, more or less, in his or her “little corner.” Those who love the country as strongly as they profess can take the first step towards pooling all that expertise together to push the country forward; but first, “Leaders of all parties, unite!” For the betterment of all, including you worthies, we may add.

Susantha Hewa



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Opinion

Send them back to school!

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We are not talking about our children going back to school but about the request made by the Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella to allow parliamentarians to enrol in the Sri Lankan Law College, or any other university, to further their studies. How about the basic qualification to enter university? Talking about the basic qualification we remember there was a talk some time ago about some members who have not got through even their GCE (O)Level, a bare minimum qualification, required even for a peon in a recognised organisation or in government services. We request the Chief Opposition Whip to request, on behalf of these members, to allow them to go back to school, no matter how old they are.

We remember one SAARC member country brought in a regulation saying that all those who come forward to contest a seat in the parliament should possess a university degree and at the submission of nomination the officials detected that nearly 20% of the certificates were fake. Anyway, we are proud that such things are extremely rare in our country.

Finally, I urge Kiriella to include schools, too, for MPs, who need the basic qualifications for university admission.

S. H. MOULANA

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Opinion

Compensate victims of gas explosions

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There is no shortage of hot topics for the media these days, the latest being the unusual occurrence of gas related accidents. Any ordinary person would understand that the present series of accidents are certainly due to the release of newly arrived consignment of gas cylinders whose composition ratio of propane and butane has been altered to maximise profits.

The responsible institutions and authorities as well as some ambidextrous politicians are defending the culprits who deny any change in the gas composition. The special committee appointed by the President to investigate into the matter, seem biased. The other day the public saw (through the TV news footages) that these so-called experts were trying to bully the innocent victims of these accidents, accusing them of the use of worn out hoses and regulators as the main reason for the incidents. Why the hell can’t they figure out the fact that these accidents are all due to the use of the newly bought wrongly filled cylinders. A committee of this nature is useless if its aim is to serve the vested interests. Instead of blaming the victims, one compulsory question they should ask is if the cylinder is newly bought or an old one. It is sad that this Kekille committee of experts is also trying to put the blame on the innocent consumer and defend the businessman.

All that the government should do at this critical hour is to introduce a mechanism to collect the data of the victims of these explosions and pay due compensation to them forthwith at the expense of the concerned gas company. The ministry in charge should also issue an urgent order to the company to recall the return of all these defective gas cylinders distributed to all districts and take immediate action for refilling them with the correct prescription of the chemical composition and issue with a new label giving all required instructions. In the meantime, the Consumer Protection Authority must ensure that accessories like the hoses and regulators, conforming to the SLS standards, are available in the market at least from now on for the safety of the consumers.

M. B. Navarathne

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Opinion

Banks make a killing at depositors’ expense

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The motive of the government decision to lower the interest rates of deposits was predominantly to engross the banks to lend at lower interest rates for entrepreneurs to boost the economy of the country which is in dire straits. However, would this proposal prove productive?

Owing to this absurd stunt senior citizens and pensioners have been left high and dry high and dry, resulting in unprecedented agony and anguish. Many victims have highlighted their grievances on behalf of the distraught senior citizens and pensioners. This much spoken of government’s harsh decision to lower interest rates has made the lives of senior citizen’s and pensioners miserable with the escalating high cost of living, skyrocketing cost of medical expenses, etc. It is pertinent to mention that monthly interest rates on fixed deposits, which they mostly rely upon, have been reduced to alarmingly low 4% and 5 % which has added to the woes already the senior citizens face.

All senior citizens who are not receiving or entitled for a pension, depend solely on monthly fixed deposit interest as the regular source of income for their living. As a result of lowering interest rates of deposits, their plans have all been shattered causing them to be wondering how to make ends meet.At this dire juncture, the intervention of the President is needed to revoke this unreasonable decision of lowering the interest rates of deposits.

The only redress the senior folk benefits is by the Central Bank’s special scheme of 15% interest for senior citizens. However, in this too the senior citizens have been slapped and battered with a Rs 1.5 million ceiling.

In comparison to the reduction of interest rates of deposits, if one takes into account the number of loans granted to entrepreneurs at lower interest rates the answer would be very negligible, particularly as the bank’s do not take risks to lend to entrepreneurs whom they believe to have projects not viable. The banks of course, would show enhanced profits at the end of the year as they have paid the depositors lower interest rates which reflects as plus mark for their balance sheets. This is a blessing in disguise for the management of banks at the receiving end of impoverished pensioners and senior citizens.

In the above contest the intervention of the President Gotabaya Rajapakse is most needed to bring about redress to ‘distressed” senior citizens and pensioners

Sunil Thenabadu

Brisbane, Australia

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