By Goolbai Gunasekara
If ever there was an emotion shared by everyone in this country it is that of an energy- sapping hopelessness. Every citizen eventually realizes that despite strikes, despite vociferous public protests, despite angry articles by journalists, despite a literacy rate that is among the highest in the world, despite a beautiful and fertile land, despite a kind, natural habitat compared to that of the rest of the world and despite an intelligent citizenry we are mired in hopelessness.
Each morning I read the papers with a sense of foreboding and I am not disappointed. The doings of politicians and even ordinary citizens reported in the Press are all geared to arousing not only my ire but also my sense of impending doom. Try as I may I can rarely find ANYTHING that is written which can make me say, “I am proud of my country”, or even better to be able to say, “I am so glad I live in Sri Lanka”. And yet I AM glad I live in Sri Lanka and not elsewhere.
That feeling is not shared by many of the villagers and farmers of our land. I heard with much sympathy a woman declaring bitterly on the TV three days ago, ” I hope that in my next life I am not born in this country.” That comment is a damning indictment on our Government for it represented the attitudes of thousands – perhaps millions – of our 22 million population. We are both hopeless and helpless in the face of a quarreling. Immature and often uneducated group of men and women who hold the destinies of our country in their inept, and often, greedy hands.
Added to the feeling of hopelessness there is that of HELPLESSNESS. There is nothing the ordinary citizenry can do about this. I include myself and others like me in this feeling of helplessness although some of us can at least express themselves in the Press ( as I am now doing) but otherwise are doomed to suffer the ‘stings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ to quote Shakespeare.
This state of the country is unforgiveable given that this country DOES have some fine people with excellent brains who should be able to bring some surcease to the citizens of Sri Lanka. We are probably one of the few Asian countries that has an incorruptible President and PM at the moment. Alas, the same cannot be said of the majority of men and women who, we are told, have not even passed the OL exam. How do they dare to enter politics? Why do leaders of political parties allow such educationally unqualified men and women to join the political bandwagon? Why is there not a minimum educational qualification needed for those who seek votes and desire to presumably lead the country to economic stability?
Let’s face it. Do those uneducated representatives in Parliament even understand the economic situation facing the country. Surely not because if they did would they be demanding the import of luxury vehicles despite the fact that there are probably dozens of such vehicles imported by the last government that should be available to the present government? As a taxpayer I want to know.
Then I feel hopeless about system of Justice in this country. Simple cases take years to settle. It is well known that the wheels of justice barely move and yet the British left us with a well operating system of Law. Judges in the early days of our Independence were known to be above reproach. Remember the likes of Justice Soertz, Justice Sansoni and Justice Gratiaen? As someone said a little while ago – we all felt SAFE in their hands. Their Supreme Court was made up of men of such integrity they were careful even in their social life. Nothing irregular in either behaviour or ethical misconduct could be laid at their door.
This high moral standard filtered down to the lowest ranks of our judiciary. We all trusted the system till recently. Certainly we do not do so any longer although there is STILL a Supreme Court comprised of men and women we can be proud of. But the same sense of trust in the Justice system is no longer felt by us common citizens.
The Police is another department in our government which is easily corrupted. It is appalling to read of the manner in which they shield criminals, cover up crimes of even murder, misuse their authority to browbeat those who have no defence and make it obvious they are being paid to behave thus. We learn of all this through the Press only a few years after it happens and the Police continue to be distrusted and disliked by most of us. Then suddenly one of these Police bigwigs is caught and interdicted. But it is always too little and too late to give the people a sense of trust in the Police.
We come to Doctors. The GMOA should not have the right to do what they are doing to helpless citizens who cannot afford private doctors. Again the question my taxes comes into play. My taxes help to educate these doctors free. Surely there should be a promise medical students should make in writing agreeing never to go on strike against helpless citizens of the country? You see what I mean about the sense of helplessness? Can anyone remedy all this mayhem ? Of course it can be done but our Parliament must get down to the business of just stopping its wrangling members and get down to the business of running the country.
Mr Premadasa did this. He PERSONALLY oversaw everything. He rounded up public servants at 5 in the morning and expected their departments to be functioning as he wanted. No one doubted his efficiency but he was assassinated for his pains. Are we destined to assassinate all our great minds? Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake, Laksman Kadiragamar et al so that we are doomed in perpetuity to mediocrity?
As for our educational systems I will say nothing since I have written much and futilely about its iniquities. The word ‘Reform’ is always trembling in the air but a cross section of educationists is never consulted so that the most modern and sensible suggestions can be put into operation to benefit students best. ‘Reform’ is always geared to what the pundits want and not necessarily what the people want. Chauvinism and religious opinions play an important part when mapping out educational reforms. What a tragedy this is.. And here lies Sri Lanka with one of the cleverest populations in the world.
Lest this statement be challenged let me give it a scientific basis by saying that sociologists have claimed that as we are an island, and therefore a fish eating nation, it follows we are smart. Populations known to be, or to have been, mainly fish eating populations (Keralites, Bengalis, Japanese and of course Sri Lankans) have excellent brain power because fish is good for the brain.
Sri Lankan’s attitudes of hopelessness and helplessness is a National Tragedy. 60 years ago Sri Lanka was a model nation, Lee Kuan Yew openly said he copied our government. We had the best Civil Service anywhere in the world where a group of highly trained and non- political men guarded the Social, Judicial and Political rights of our people without any bias whatsoever.
But now the Civil Service has been disbanded. There are no ‘Guardians’ to tell our politicians and corruptible public servants how to behave! Our Government seems helplessly caught up in a huge crowd of clamouring politicians each with his own agenda and most of them trying to make money in devious ways. Perhaps our leaders should stop thinking of the next vote and just do what is best for Sri Lanka NOW.
Actually this disinterestedness will be the best way to ensure popular vote and if the Government in power does not win it, they will have the gratitude of a country which benefitted by the selfless wisdom of a few good men.