Kings and development
Posted on January 24th, 2016

Editorial The Island

Political leaders, on ego trips, under successive governments have made vital decisions on the country’s development projects according to their whims and fancies. They have even built ‘political dams’ and ‘political tunnels’ against expert advice.

In the late 1980s, a pithy slogan was used by the JVP to mobilise the resentful youth in its subversive campaign. It meant that Colombo was getting ‘milk’ or the best of everything and the villages had to settle for the common vegetable, ‘kekiri’—kolombata kiri, gamata kekiri. The second JVP uprising jolted the then government to concentrate more on rural development.

However, political leaders have not abandoned the practice of subjugating the country’s development needs to their personal agenda. The Rajapaksas were blamed for being maniacally focused on developing Hambantota, which was derisively dubbed the capital of their kingdom; it got an inland port, an international airport, an international cricket stadium and an international conference hall besides a modern road network complete with flyovers which are conspicuous by their absence in other areas where they are needed most. The Rajapaksas also wanted all expressways and railways to lead to that part of the country.

Sycophants, under the previous government as well as the current dispensation, have sought to make the Presidents out to be the reincarnations of ancient kings like Dutu Gemunu and Vijayabahu the Great. Their sickeningly panegyric, cringeworthy songs replete with visuals of ancient warriors and the works of great kings are telecast to boost the egos of their leaders. The clash of kings, as it were, has taken its toll on not only national politics but also the country’s development strategy.

Now, we are told that the extension of rail tracks from Matara to Kataragama, a pet project of the Rajapaksas, has been stopped halfway through in favour of a second line to Polonnaruwa, which is President Maithripala Sirisena’s home district. Of the two ancient kingdoms of Magama (where Hambantota is located) and Polonnaruwa the latter is now getting right royal treatment!

President Sirisena has publicly declared that his arch rival, Rajapaksa, had hundreds of peacocks killed to make the Mattala flight path safe. The peacock is popularly believed to be the vehicle of God Kataragama. The present-day government propagandists have claimed that Rajapaksa lost the last presidential election mainly because he incurred the wrath of that fierce and revengeful god who is not to be trifled with. If so, it will be interesting to see how God Kataragama reacts to the termination of a railway project which was to facilitate, more than anything else, the movement of devotees to and from his main shrine.

The need for additional rail tracks is felt in the western province more than anywhere else. Colombo and its suburbs are experiencing heavy congestion which is worsening by the day with people taking as long as about two hours to travel 10 or 15 km. The only solution is to develop the railway to cater to the ever increasing demand for mass transit.

Instead of concentrating on railway development where it is needed most politicians have been busy expanding rail tracks to link their electorates. Kandy is chock-a-block with vehicles mainly due to the closure of a road by the Dalada Maligawa. Some prominent Buddhist monks do not want it reopened. Politicians are wary of antagonising the prelates for obvious reasons. There has been no alternative to the closed road for want of funds. There is only much talk about proposals to build a tunnel under the Udawatte forest or a bridge across the Kandy Lake. But, the government seems to have enough and more funds for not-so-urgent projects elsewhere.

When will our political leaders get their developmental priorities right without wasting public funds on creating chocolate-box kingdoms? Their infantile streak and massive egos have cost the country dear.

2 Responses to “Kings and development”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “The need for additional rail tracks is felt in the western province more than anywhere else.”

    MR did NOT do the MATARA – KATARAGAMA railway track. Instead he did the MOST USELESS VAVUNIYA – JAFFNA railway track!!

    What it did was it made the ANURADHAPURA – COLOMBO (and all stations in between) transport DIFFICULT for Singhalese.

    YARL DEVI, DEYETA GIRULA and another train started from JAFFNA. By the time the train came to Medawachchi or Anuradhapura, it was packed with Tamils who REFUSED to let any Singhalese into the train.

    This was why MR lost SO MANY VOTES along the YARL DEVI track down to Colombo.

    Had MR NOT extended the YARL DEVI track to Jaffna and instead extended the MATARA track to KATARAGAMA he would have WON the election.

    Or had he put more short distance trains NEGOMBO TO COLOMBO and KALUTARA TO COLOMBO and PANNIPITIYA TO COLOMBO he would have WON.

    I don’t blame My3 for extending the train link to POLONNARUWA in another track. GOOD MOVE. MR FAILED to actually extend the track to KATARAGAMA despite talk.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Pipe water was given to EVERYWHERE in JAFFNA by MR (even islets) where it was NOT needed. People were OK drinking WELL WATER despite salinity. It was no health hazard.

    Pipe water was NEEDED for RATHUPASWALA where water was UNDRINKABLE. But instead of pipe water RATHUPASWALA got bullets.

    LOST both Jaffna and Gampaha districts.

    Instead MR should have put pipe water to RATHUPASWALA the first time the problem arose. NO NEED to CLOSE the factory. NO NEED for shooting. Then Gampaha would have been WON.

    For Jaffna DO NOT give pipe water. Instead DISTRIBUTE FREE water bottles ON THE ELECTION DAY. MR could have WON more votes from Jaffna.

    KNOW your voters and LOOK AFTER your voters the way they RESPOND. Give tigers meat. Give cows grass. You can win ANY election.

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