The regrettable garbage deluge shows us up for what we really are! | Sunday Observer

The regrettable garbage deluge shows us up for what we really are!

Reading about the very unfortunate garbage slide in Meethotamulla, its aftermath and watching the entirety of it on several TV news channels, one was horrified and extremely sorry for those unfortunates who suffered not only loss of material possessions but family members. This cat avoided watching the funerals and all the loud weeping and wailing. Yet for all, she could not blame the government high-ups entirely. Of course, she agreed with her friends that without getting luxury cars for MPs and giving extra allowances, (idea mooted by the Prime Minister and permitted by the President), that money should have been diverted to solving or at least making a start to solve Colombo’s garbage problem. At least the PM visited Meethotamulla. Even if the diehard blamers were held at bay, it was dangerous. He braved it. His visit to Japan may earn dividends by Japan getting involved in solving this problem of ours. The President ordered generous compensation which included housing for the displaced.

National quirky characteristics to the fore

The first national characteristic that presented itself to this cat’s jaundiced eye and querying mind was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. Governments have been notorious for this except the earliest after 1948. Meethotamulla residents protested more than once; the garbage pile grew dangerously higher by the day; the courts passed a ruling to stop the pile in this location; and perhaps, there were voices more or less in the wilderness crying out about this hazard, not loud enough though. And, once the terrible happened, all down from the President got very busy doing this, that and the other, which efforts could have been expended earlier.

The main reason for this was money – earn something whatever the consequence may be. It is reported that certain persons backed by politicians continued transporting garbage to this site while authorities had been advocating alternate dumping locations. The Colombo Municipal Council and connected Pradeshiya Sabha are supposedly guilty here. Now the trend is to earn money, large money that can only be earned by fraudulent means , even if the disadvantaged suffer and ultimately pay with their lives for the unbridled greed of some.

This greed was manifest to this feline in even some of those survivors from Meethotamulla. TV News on Wednesday 19 April focused on red eyed men and ferocious looking women scoffing at the amounts offered as compensation by Presidential decree. Of course, sympathy is with those who suffered but this cat got the impression some were turning opportunistic, smelling a chance to get more.

The blame game was played vociferously, and continues. To some persons, mainly politicians, quick remedies and compensation were not considerations. Pointing accusing fingers and blaming their political enemies earned priority, and hence, the spate of press interviews. The JO was sharp in its accusation of neglect and what not on the Yahapalanaya crowd. Others said it was Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who beautified Colombo, and not caring a jot for people of the suburbs, had the garbage dumped in Meethotamulla. You may have not noticed it, but this sharp cat did: not once did the President play the blame game. He just got down to business ordering officials to take remedial measures. Neither did Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe lay blame.

The next quirky character exhibited is a new one, with the GMOA and university students making a ‘fine art’ of resorting to it at the slightest whim or fancy, seldom on a serious charge. This cat means protest marches; sit down strikes; blocking highways and displaying uncouthness to the extreme. She does not fault the Meethotamulla dwellers; they had undergone such trauma so their accumulated angry steam had to be let out. What this cat means is that merely on a supposition that a particular site may be used as a dumping ground has people of the area coming out in ugly protest. Okay, they have to protect their territory but they have to accept that this time around the government assures them that a site is selected that will not impinge on their backyard or pollute underground water or the environment. This instant reaction by dwellers of various places was rather uncivil. Garbage has to be deposited somewhere and if the government promises to act with caution with the interests of inhabitants at heart, they should not react instinctively. Wait and see. The government has to be cautious as the dire catastrophe was seen and commented on worldwide. Its reputation is at stake.

Selfishness was most evident. Certain politicians made capital of this tragedy and thought they gained brownie points by finger pointing and shouting out loud. They did not realize it was a time to shut the gab and get some work done, help the affected people or show cooperation with the government in facing the crisis and finding a solution.

A friend or two pointed out that the government had not apologized. Why should they apologise on one count: they did not start the mountain. Letting it grow larger and more dangerous was a fault of the CMC and connected bodies. You cannot expect the President, Prime Minister or Ministers overseeing other ministries worrying about garbage. Admitting laxity and apologising for a fault is not usually done by even those who feel they failed since the opposition does not accept such an admission as it should: graciously. It will go to town on this. So, instead of taking blame, which it is not called upon to do, the government went into action: seeing to the displaced and others affected. They should investigate the people who made money on this garbage business and punish them. That is a new characteristic perpetrated by the Yahapalanaya government: prolong investigations even on murder and stashing away Ali Baba amounts of currency and gold, and not terminate with due justice. Sweeping under the carpet is a malady seemingly practised by the government.

This catty feline feels sorry for the government, lurching from one crisis to another: drought, disease, dissent and a threat to bring it down. Meethotamulla was extra unfortunate as it was manmade and came at a time the government is beset by too many difficulties. We do hope things will improve. You have to phoenix rise after albatross plummeting.

- Menika 

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