By Walter Samarasinghe
Is there a fear psychosis which is quietly gripping this country even after the war? There is surely no reason for this for we can travel by road or rail without fear or go about our business without fearing bombs; but most people are scared to open their mouths and criticise the government, leave alone write to protest, and the politicians have been having a field day.
For instance even your paper which has been writing fearless articles does not seem to have the guts to raise the issue of the President taking a hundred of his friends and ‘hangers-on’ at our expense, to give them a good time; let’s hope that your paper will open the door for us, the public, to act as watchdogs and expose this ‘carnival business’. Let a new chapter open.
Having ‘daanes’ (alms-givings) in village style, to even hundreds is tolerable, but certainly not taking friends to roam 42nd Street in NY or to Soho in London at our expense, surely the President must realise this? We who celebrated his electoral victory and are grateful to him for having ended terrorism and saved this country from being divided did not expect this. Is this not a supreme let down? As one correspondent has stated, Parliament has failed the people for it has failed to act as our watchdogs, we are therefore compelled to take on the responsibility with the assistance of the media of course; please insist on a question in Parliament so that we could have the names of the persons who went on these jaunts and the reasons for them being included in the delegations and the cost incurred; but let the government not give us the crap that it was a business delegation, China style.
Do we not have a right, a moral right, to know the truth? It would be better and good for our country if we were invested with a legal right to have such information, but would the government, nay our politicians of all hues, agree because of the fear that transparency would expose them? Transparency is only the means to achieve our second objective, namely good accountable governance which means, corruption free, transparent, accountable governments which are truly democratic in every sense of that concept. In this regard we would like to know from the Deputy Leader of the UNP, Karu Jayasuriya why he withdrew the Private Members’ Motion he tabled to give us the people the Right to Information? Is it that he and his Party have had second thoughts on transparency and clean government? We await an answer.
Wasteful expenditure, extravagance is the particular curse that this government has visited on us the people. To take another instance (besides the jaunts) from the many, the bringing of second rate actors and actresses from India and spending millions of our money on them – what has this country gained from this silly show? What was the publicity we received in India? Did it change the attitude of the cinema loving people of Tamil Nadu towards this country? All it did was to expose India’s double game when it prevented the ‘success’ of the film festival by dissuading its top stars such as Amithab Bachchan from coming for the festival. What a waste of public money that was. This profligacy is at a time when we the ordinary people of this country are struggling to make ends meet.
President, please do not think that those who are critical of some of your actions are your enemies — we have both admiration and affection for you because of what you have achieved, saving this country from being divided; we wish to be of help and this is the reason for informing you of how we see the situation, please understand and do a course correction. I am giving this advice in good faith as a very senior citizen who likes and admires you. Please stop the wasteful profligacy, the poor and even the middle class are having a hard time to make ends meet; you have in recent days mentioned this yourself so you must set the example, for your political enemies may unfairly and cruelly compare you to Marie Antoinette who responded when told that the people did not have bread to, “let them eat cake”!