The Stupid, the Bad, but mercifully the Good too | Sunday Observer

The Stupid, the Bad, but mercifully the Good too

This cat’s mind has been turbulent like the flood waters of the Gin Ganga. She stopped short and asked herself why the Gin Ganga and not any other river that has spewed its swollen way through villages and towns, across bridges and over highways. Yes, why Gin Ganga? It was a voluntary and totally unpremeditated choice of river. Perhaps, maybe it’s because of its relevance to this feline’s present thoughts set on fire within her – ginigena.

And why pray is the feline’s cat-fur ruffled, the mind distraught, whereas it is usually full of spite and venom? Because, as some noted, the disaster of the South West Monsoon’s sudden and terrific onslaught was to a certain extent man made. She chatted to one of her regular three wheel drivers who lives in Kelaniya. He said, they had no flood waters approaching anywhere near since their house is built lawfully, on legitimately owned land. Some people, he said, built houses on land left vacant beside rivers and by the sea. So, no wonder their houses get washed away. Landslides are natural disasters but precipitated in most instances by man’s reckless use of sloping land – building, clearing slopes and growing short rooted plants. And then of course most of these people, and others, blame the government.

Blame game

After the first shock of the disasters spread through much of the south and southern centre of Sri Lanka, and initial rushing of aid to the suffering, the blame game started: a favourite pastime in this island of ours. Inevitably and unfairly, the blame was placed on the government, the disaster Ministry and now on the meteorological observatory. I listened to a TV broadcast media interview with the Minister of Disaster Management, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, and the newly appointed sub-media spokesman, Jayasekera and some others. The media battered the meteorological official present.

This cat lays no absolute blame on the predictions of the meteorological station since it is very difficult to pin point winds, the amount of rain that will fall or even areas where it will fall. The person said, they did not have the necessary equipment to be absolutely accurate in their forecasts, which this feline does not ascribe to a bad workman blaming his tools. We are eternally caught napping, just as we were with the tsunami. Here the blame lies with the present and past government. Instead of luxury cars for Ministers and deputies, items such as new technologies for departments should be imported.

Then came blame on the government as being too slow in bringing aid to the devastated, and this after not warning people of the coming storm. Comparisons were made, unfairly, with private sector organizations that were quick in sending out help and goods. The Disaster Management Minister said warnings had been issued. To blame the government as being too slow cannot be justified.

The day after the capricious winds and torrential rain played havoc with us, the President himself convened meetings and made arrangements to assist people no sooner he landed from his official trip to Australia. It is very easy to blame others; the easiest, but one must consider the pros and cons before raising pointing fingers. In the same breath, the blamers cried out: Look at the TV Channels; the private sector, how they went to the aid of the affected people. This cat can only say compare a cheetah with an elephant. In the final run who can carry the bigger load? She won’t labour the point. It was admirable how TV organizations et al rushed drinking water and other goods to the destitute, but who rendered absolutely yeoman service? The three forces along with the police. And who gave the orders to unstintingly go to the flooded and landslide areas? Why, the Head of the government, Maithripala Sirisena.

He held many meetings not only in Colombo but in the outstations too, directing matters with knowhow and not one bit of blame even hinted at. Minister Sajith Premadasa explained matters succinctly at a meeting in Tangalle. In contrast, Minister John Amaratunge facetiously pronounced that met dept predictions are invariably incorrect. No joke this, Minister, especially at this time with over fifty children dead along with a larger number of adults.

Even minutiae were remembered like the Minister of Education asking children to go to school in everyday clothes, never mind uniforms. Wise move to close schools for a week.

Crisis to crisis but compensations too

This cat particularly is sorry that the yahapalanaya government is forced to move from one catastrophe to another, with the running nuisance of daily protests blocking highways by all sorts, the worst offenders being doctors who should know much better and be grateful for their entirely free education with bursaries to boot.

That homespun advice about every cloud having a silver lining has to be brought up here. The government should believe that after all the crises, a good time will appear. Signs are already visible and tangible. Just consider how quickly, how generously and with obvious goodwill the tri-forces and police, some risking their lives, helped save others. Note how countries sent goods, valuable items like tents included, and personnel.

The first Indian ship was in the Colombo port within 24 hours of the storm striking. More ships arrived from India and several other countries. That was a sure and certain sign that the efforts made by the government to steer clear of international political blocs and forge good international relations has paid dividends.

To this feline, among all the dismal news, was one of good cheer. Parliament or the Treasury is postponing the import of luxury vehicles for Ministers, deputies and high officials. Houses and offices of these will not be re-done. These two expenses must not be postponed but written off.

This cat spat venom when she heard over TV news, Minister Ass Bee Diss justifying the purchase of new vehicles at the cost of billions of rupees, in front of the Dalada Maligawa.”They are not for us Ministers” he said. “they are for Ministry officials.” Still reprehensible. Even this cat who sees good in this government and what it has done, and surely will in the future, was disgusted with the amount allocated for spending on new vehicles and refurbishment of offices. We hope the government will realize even now that those who voted it in are not satisfied with what has been achieved so far. Let the devastating deluge of a week ago, be a wake-up call to the government.

- Menika 

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