By ROHANA R. WASALA
While surfing the net this morning (October 6) I saw a flash of a YouTube video purportedly uploaded by Niroshan Premaratne, former UPFA Matara District MP (2015-20) from the Wimal Weerawansa-led Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP). He failed to enter parliament in the general election held on August 5 this year. It must have been a great disappointment to him personally; but it certainly was more so to the JNP and its loyal followers, and the general public who loved to hear him talk in parliament, while championing the nationalist cause and launching devastating verbal onslaughts on the yahapalanaya government. Before becoming an MP in 2015, Premaratne was a popular TV host of star quality at ITN. In that capacity, he had demonstrated his skills as a well-informed and articulate journalist. When he became a politician, the nationalist camp greatly benefited from his oratory. Premaratne lost the election this time, but not through his fault; perhaps he was too good for his own survival among his rivals. At only 40, he need not worry about that. Though he belongs to a different party, he is also a beneficiary of MR’s tutelage. There is time for him.
The glimpse of the video that I saw today bears testimony to his brilliance as a political commentator and communicator. In it someone offers one half of a cracked coconut with its fresh white kernel to a hungry grey monkey, gazing down from a tree at the invitingly gleaming food. The person places the coconut half on the fork of a lower branch, where it sits rather precariously. In trying to grab it, the clumsy monkey drops it. Poor monkey! Because of his stupidity or clumsiness, he lets a golden chance of having a sumptuous meal slip through his fingers. The little video shows that Premaratne’s ability to communicate a message with clarity remains intact.
I don’t know whether Premaratne actually intends to convey what I am arbitrarily attributing to the video here. But, I wonder, doesn’t he want to suggest, not seriously though, I mean with a touch of relaxed humour, that the government is running the risk of losing the opportunity offered by the overwhelming popular mandate that the SLPP won at the August election to repeal 19A and bring in 20A, in preparation to introducing a completely new nation-friendly constitution that will ensure a safe future for all communities; while also confirming the survival of the Sinhalese and the Buddha Sasana, through the Rajapaksas’ apparent preoccupation with the appeasement and accommodation of the likes of Rauff Hakeem and Rishad Bathiuddeen? I for one do not believe that they want to go out of their way to please these nincompoops, and kick themselves down the ladder by disowning the likes of Wimal Weerawansa, and the monks who were basically instrumental in recalling the Rajapaksa rule that ended terrorism in 2009 and ushered in an era of communal harmony and general national resurgence. Besides, where is the need for the Rajapaksas to run after duplicitous opportunists, at least faintly suspected of having had dealings with Islamic suicide bombers, when the SLPP has in its ranks genuinely unbiased Muslim politicians like JNP’s national list MP Mohamed Musammil, who, while serving as his party’s media spokesman, proved to be a great communicator? Will the sensible Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims who compose over 90% of the parliament, allow a handful of Muslim turncoats to decide the country’s future? However, there is an important point that the government leaders should pay heed to. That is, the clarity of information it provides about itself and its actions is an essential item in its defence armoury.
‘In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power’, says Juval Noah Harari (44), Israeli historian, author and public intellectual (introducing his book ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’, 2018). We may usefully adapt this observation of a scientific thinker to suit our country, which is faced with an unprecedented threat to its very survival from doubly serious ethnicity- and religion-based extremism, compounded by relentless geopolitical victimization, thus: In a country suffocated by anti-national misinformation, clarity is not only power, but the source of the very vital force that rejuvenates it. To be purblind to reality in this context as much as to deliberately obfuscate it, hoping that it might become something more acceptable, and more livable with, is dangerous, to say the least. Political correctness has its limits.
The President has assured that there is no political deal behind the release by the police of Rishad Badiuddeen’s brother. Unlike the previous regime, the present government will not interfere in such matters, leaving the law enforcement authorities to do their job properly, without let or hindrance. Actually, I feel, it is unfortunate that situations arise that cause the President to issue such statements, which give some recognition and dignity to those who don’t deserve it at all.
Providing clear information without ambiguity to the public and the outside world about the good things that the government is doing is as important as the good work itself. Relentless witch-hunting from 2015 to 2019 failed to substantiate the many false allegations that the yahapalana champions had raised against the previous MR government. This means that the war-winning government’s failure to answer false corruption and other allegations against it properly, without the truth being left to be accepted as self-evident believing in the pious principle ‘satyameva jayate’ — ‘Truth alone triumphs’, led to disastrous domestic and diplomatic consequences. Why risk the repetition of a catastrophic omission like that once again?
Save us from our govt.!
When watching daily news bulletins, on several local TV channels, one could observe two significant matters.
One is how Gotabaya Rajapaksa shamelessly meets foreign diplomats and officers of international organizations, who are well aware of the grave situation of the country, and also the prime reason for it.
Remember, as kids, how we hide from our parents, or teachers, when some small mistake happens – that is because we were ashamed, and afraid of punishment. And ther, too, it would have been only our own mistake, not by the whole family of ours!
Next is how the Police and armed forces are let loose on the men, women and children who have been waiting in queues for hours or days. The authorities are not finding ways to stop queuing or at least maintain some order at those places, but chastise the people, for electing as Basil Rajapaksa had said, a stupid, clueless president and an incompetent government.
The greatest disasters we have faced since Independence are the JVP insurrection, the LTTE war and the tsunami in 2004, and during those times the people were protected by then governments; now Sri Lankans have to struggle against the government, which is steadily throttling them to death.
Challenges, and need for an all-party govt.
Whoever wants to take charge, must first disclose how they are going to set about it. making statements that ‘WE WILL PUT IT INTO ORDER’ is not acceptable. Even SJB, the main Opposition party, hasn’t put forward at least an outline plan as to how they will set about it.
What did the current President promise? What did the current PM promise.? What are their results? Can the country afford more of such vague promises? Three months have gone and still there is no plan from any Party in Parliament. How can any country or institution assist one who has no plan?
Challenges are many and very unpopular decisions have to be made. Resistance from entrenched interests, such as trade Unions, including the GMOA, some corrupt business interests, political interests, mafias, monopolies, etc., has to be countered. Are they prepared to overcome them?
Why go far? Are they prepared to reduce the Parliamentary allocation substantially, and even reduce the number of MPS from 225 to about 150 – on par with countries of similar size, population, GDP, etc.
Parties trying to form a Govt. must first agree amongst them on their Plan, at least on the following:
(i) on their strategy to get Foreign Exchange to purchase limited quantities of fuel for essential services, food, medicines. and fertiliser for the next 6-9 months. Their strategy to increase exports, foreign employment and foreign investment so as to increase Foreign Exchange in the short and medium term. With current conditions it is futile to expect tourists to come to Sri Lanka.
(2) as to how to balance the budget. Are they unitedly prepared to close down or privatize CEB, CPC, AirLanka and Water Board, etc.? Budgetary Allocation for Defence is another, which has to be drastically reduced, the developed countries spend only 2 to 3 % of their GDP on Defence. What does SL do? Out of the Defence allocation, Navy must have the major component for they have to patrol the sea area, which is many times larger than SL land area. SL sea resources are at risk from illegal fishing, human smuggling and illegal dumping, etc.
(3) Are they prepared to close down unnecessary Ministries, Corporations, and Departments, most of which were created for the benefit of politicians, especially for Ministerial Positions.
(4) Staff levels in Ministries, Departments. Corporations that are to function, have to be drastically reduced, so that they could function efficiently and cost effectively. Reducing staff will also reduce the need for large office spaces, electricity, telephone cost etc.
(5) What are their plans to support and or rehabilitate the staff so retrenched.?
(6) Their plan for distribution of essentials? Rationing?
(9) Can they agree on a small, efficient and capable cabinet? Let not the country have too many Ministers and or Officials telling the country different versions, confusing the people as to which is correct, and that too hoping that at least one will be correct.
(10) How will they source the revenue? Are they prepared to increase the direct tax component to 60% or even 75 % for the present? The majority of the population have been badly affected due to the current crises. Their only crime being they misused their votes. They should not be burdened further with indirect taxes. To reduce their burden indirect taxes have to be the lesser component of the revenue, at least for the present.
(11) Can they do away with duty free cars, and all other special privileges given to some sections of the society. All Laws must be equally applicable to all. Other than the First citizen of the country, all others (be it state employees or Parliamentarians) must be taxed on the same basis as others.
All Parties joining must undertake that they will no longer do politics with these issues, nor will they withdraw from the interim govt when it undertakes unpopular decisions on above issues. They must all commit to swim or sink together.
None of those who served as Ministers in failed Governments, or who were Ministers in MR’s Govts which decided on vanity projects, should not be given Ministerial positions. Same should apply to those Parliamentarians who voted for the 17 ,18,19 and 20th amendments should be excluded, as it shows they neither have principles, nor care for the country. Corrupt and convicts too should be kept out. KNOWLEDGE AND CAPABILITY should be the criteria in the selection of the Ministers. Those who are unable to deliver within 3 months must be made to stand down.
To the party leaders who want to form the government, may I say, first divulge your plan to the country.
Please, do not tell the country that you have a better plan. You can afford to fail but not the country or its people at large!
Fuel tokens, a big farce
The Minister of Power and Energy who covers a very responsible Ministry, was selected by the President probably due to his membership of the ‘Viyath Maga’, has undoubtedly proved to be a very inefficient Power and Energy Minister, and a complete failure without any doubt.
He is very capable of giving false hopes always of fuel and gas laden ships arriving on Sri Lanka shores, which have proved to be absolutely wrong. One wonders whether it is a gimmick to keep the fuel and gas starved motorists happy, and avoid the unending queues at fuel stations. This has proved to be a wrong system.
In order to control the daily queues, and knowing there will be no fuel ships for some time, he introduced the fuel token system out of the blues, and with no proper organizational effort. The policy announced regarding the token system, was to enable vehicle drivers to enter the fuel stations on a pre-selected day of the week, allocated to him/her, and dependent on the last digit of the vehicle number plate. This was again to avoid the long queues, according to the Power and Energy Minister.
With the latest innovative fuel token system announced, I visited the petrol station, in close proximity to my home on Monday 27th June, with much hope, and was among the first hundred with the details of my address, profession, NIC Number and contact mobile number. The relevant officer, who recorded the details, informed me that this was a pilot project, from Ratmalana to Moratuwa, and that when the fuel arrives at the petrol station, I will receive an SMS requesting me to report at the petrol station, at the allocated time, once again to avoid queues. But I did not receive the fuel token as it was not available. I was told that there was no necessity to have the token, as I will receive the SMS on my mobile phone.
The following day I received news that the fuel tokens are being issued. When I visited the fuel station, to obtain the token, there were four different long queues, along the road registering three-wheelers, motorcycles, vehicles needing diesel, and cars needing petrol. I met the S LAF officer, registering the cars queued up on the Galle Road, and told him that I am already registered in the book he was entering details and requested the token, which was denied to me. As the queues were there during the next two days, I visited the fuel shed on day four (30th June) when the officer was registering a few people. When my turn came, I showed the serial number and my name registered therein. I was told to wait until the SMS was received. He said that my registration will be cancelled if the token was given at a later date! Then I met the SL Air Force official and explained my position. He then approved the issue of the token. The delay in obtaining the token was nearly 15 minutes. By this incident it was evident that the advice given to Air Force officers to register and issue tokens was not properly given.
I was surprised to receive the token which was a slip of paper, with dimensions only 10cm x 6 cm. Inside it there were printed, Name of the Fuel Station, Type of fuel, Contact Number, Name, NIC Number, Vehicle No, , Date , Time, Signature of authorized Officer and Signature of vehicle Owner. With a microscopic piece of paper, it was with great difficulty that the necessary details were entered.
However, congratulations to the Minister of Power and Energy for drying up all the CEYPETCO FUEL STATIONS in The Island, without fuel for another three weeks or more, without queues, due to lack of fuel. Also causing unending long queues by supporting the LANKA IOC Fuel Stations, to issue your Fuel without Tokens at a higher price.
I politely ask you, Minister Kanchana, is not this another gimmick of yours to handover the CEYPETCO fuel stations to LANKA I O C?
So, we now know the reason for the latest gimmick of the Minister of Power and Energy to issue fuel tokens.
Do you now realise in your conscience, the problems created by you, especially to three-wheeler drivers, who are dependent on a daily living for their families by earning from hires, and now completely out of any earnings to feed their children, to give even a single meal?
Without creating further problems please resign from your post as the Minister of Power and Energy.
Eng. B.R.O FERNANDO
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