Letters to the editor | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Letters to the editor

Financial discipline needed for national development

Both, President and Prime Minister must work hard to see a glorious future for Sri Lanka.

Today, more than at any other time in Sri Lankan history, the friendly countries of the world are willing to help Sri Lanka in all aspects of development, as the President and the Prime Minister are hand in glove in taking decisions in all important matters pertaining to the general good of society.

When the 30-year-war was over the general public took for granted that the prosperity of the country would pervade because the money spent for war activities could be utilized for the development process, but, only the people in power and authority and their kith and kin enjoyed the comforts; and corruption and exploitation became their day to day sport and emptied the coffer in no time for their own pleasure and leisure.

Palatial houses were built by certain members. Even their father’s tomb was built with the money taken from the general coffer. Later it was paid back to the government.

The father guided his sons to become politicians. They became politicians but without the qualities of sincerity and honesty.

Lack of financial discipline caused the previous government’s downfall. If we see the palatial houses and luxurious cars in which our parliamentarians travel, one would not think that Sri Lanka is a third world country.

So financial discipline is a paramount need for national development. Financial discipline generally refers to some form of control or order in the management of finance, eg. receipt and payment of funds, income and expenditure. If the people in power and their kith and kin have been proved to have engaged in nefarious activities like corruption, mass-scale exploitation and looting people’s money, we have to act quickly if we are to save the country from the evils of continuing such activities further.

Economic problems of any country arise due to unlimited demands on the limited resources. If we’re to achieve our objectives in future we have to handle our resources carefully.

Both, our physical resources and skilled man-power have to be blended and used properly to achieve the final target.

The present government has laid the foundation to achieve development in all spheres.

Dharma Kaviraj

Irresponsible and unaccountable urban projects

I was shocked to read in the print media about the Cabinet approving US $300 million towards a project to roll back the sea from Kollupitiya to Dehiwela and create a luxury beach resort.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz has described such public-private partnerships as ventures in which “the public shoulders all the risk and the private walks off with the profits.” We have experienced several such skewed public-private partnerships: the CEB, SriLankan Airlines, and the suspended Hyatt Hotel come immediately to mind. We have also discovered recently the way, under both, the previous and current regimes, collusion between some Central Bank officials and private rogue traders has robbed the public of billions of rupees.

What are the costs that the residents of Colombo will bear in this latest grandiose project?

(1) The sea is what keeps temperatures in Colombo relatively mild compared with many other South Asian cities. Rolling back the sea 100 metres and erecting structures along the beach front will block the sea breeze and cause dire consequences for health (e.g. greater incidence of mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue).

(2) The therapeutic value of gazing out to sea, especially, for the elderly cannot be assessed financially. It is what makes life in a seaside or lakeside city more pleasant than in a landlocked city. Witness the number of people who flock to Galle Face Green on a weekend or sit on the rocks along the Marine Drive to enjoy the sight of waves crashing on the shore or enjoy a sunset. On a Sunday, some even bring their fishing poles to catch their Sunday lunch. Are these simple pleasures of the ordinary folk to be sacrificed in order to court rich foreigners and locals who can find plenty of beaches elsewhere?

Colombo is quickly turning into a ‘ghost city’, with low-occupancy luxury hotels and empty condominiums arising everywhere.

(3) The sea and beaches around the island are part of the ‘commons’ for all to enjoy. Yet, private hotel developers are in the habit of cordoning off sections of our beaches and excluding the general public from walking on them or swimming. It seems, wealthy foreigners and the Sri Lankan upper-middle-class are taking over the ‘commons’. The same will be true for the proposed luxury resort in Colombo.

We are not like Singapore, a tiny city-state, which has had a desperate need to reclaim land from the sea. Unlike in Singapore, the authorities are indifferent to the real developmental needs in the city. For instance, our roads are badly maintained and traffic lights often not functioning. Colombo residents cannot use the Marine Drive at night because its streetlights are usually switched off; and heaps of garbage lie strewn for days alongside the railway tracks. Do we really need a state-of-the art Aquarium, as proposed in the beach resort project, more than proper roads, functioning traffic lights and better housing for the large numbers of urban poor?

Is this the kind of lopsided development the government is promoting: diverting funds that should be used to improve the living conditions of people to meaningless luxury projects in Colombo?

When I consulted the Colombo Municipal Council, I was told that the CMC was powerless to do anything about this as it is the UDA that makes the decisions about what structures are permitted in the city, the RDA is responsible for the Marine Drive road and lighting, and the Megapolis Ministry is behind the proposed luxury beach resort.

This is indeed a strange state of affairs. We, the residents of Colombo, voted for a new Municipal Council at the February local government elections, on the understanding that it was this body that made the decisions that affected life in the city. To whom are these other bodies accountable?

Do we as socially responsible citizens of Colombo have any say in the decisions being made on what kind of city we want to live in?

Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra
Colombo 3

Illegal TV Ads

There are TV Ads by persons calling themselves “Maeniyas” and “Sanis” announcing that they could ensure the winning of court cases, help barren ladies to produce children, sell lands that cannot be sold, unite broken families, etc.etc. Such type of TV Ads need investigation and punishment.

Advertisements of this nature should be disallowed.

Upali S. Jayasekera

Is Mahinda to contest again at the next presidential poll?

Sri Lanka is a democratic country. It has a system of electing members to Parliament through the ballot which is the choice of each voter. It is the accepted norm in a democracy.

It is my perception when a proposed candidate is not elected by the people to be an MP he is disqualified or inefficient. We have to honour the people’s verdict and refrain from entering into politics.

But in Sri Lanka, always the defeated candidate tries to come back to power by various tactics either through the national list or contesting again at an election which I feel is unethical.

Undoubtedly, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was a popular leader but he has been defeated by the people at the last presidential election on January 8, 2015. He has already served twice as President, in terms of the 1978 Constitution. Subsequently, he brought the 18th Amendment to the Constitution which enabled him to stand for the third time at the presidential fray and lost. Mostly, the minorities lost faith in him and voted against him. Especially, communal disharmony was unleashed against the Muslims during his tenure and he did nothing to curb it. That scar in their minds still remain.

Could Mahinda Rajapaksa expect the Muslim votes if he appears as a presidential candidate in 2019?. Moreover, the people in the majority community remember his autocratic and dictatorial rule during the past 10 years. There was nepotism and discrimination during his rule where only a segment of people benefitted.

There is strong speculation that Mahinda Rajapaksa could contest again at the next presidential election. I wonder how ethical it is for him to contest again, being a rejected leader.