FRUSTRATION
Posted on December 22nd, 2017

by Goolbai Gunasekara Courtesy The Island

I have a theory (totally un-researched except by me) that frustration is the first emotional human experiences. Think about it. That first wail of protest from a new born is one of frustration at having been ejected from a warm, comfortable womb into an area of noise, an intrusive bustle of checking, cleaning up and wiping off before, finally, being transferred to a soft blanket and made comfortable. And I am not talking of the millions of births where there is no such tolerable entry Into this challenging life.

So welcome to the world where fustration reigns supreme. If one is fortunate enough to live in a country with a stable economy and a functioning public service system along with a caring and efficient Government then one is lucky indeed. The people of most Western countries, where such a happy state normally exists grumble of course, but their grumbles are not usually based on the basics of life which any any tax paying population has a right to expect.

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In Sri Lanka our grumbles are not mere grumbles. They are a desperate cries for help concerning our daily existence …. Unusable roads, lack of water, floods and landslides, a type of education we do not necessarily want, a GMOA that should really be ashamed of itself, a system of justice that does our country no credit, a local government under dozens of Ministers , Deputy Ministers and State Ministers that has to be one of the numerically largest governments of one of the smallest and least efficient governments in the world. These are some of our frustrations.

I was reading of a new Dance step titled “the Politician”. It seems to suit Sri Lankan politics as if tailormade for it. One takes two steps forward, one step backward, and then a sidestep. Describes most of our politicians doings doesn’t it?

I can make an endless lists that lead to hair- tearing but for now let me stick to those that beset me, and others, each morning as we open the morning papers. There is no cheering news. “The first thing every morning when we get out of bed we look in the newspaper to see if the world is still there,” said an American wit. Indeed, we do and depression deepens instantly. Let’s start with our Airlines since it has just caught my eye in today’s doom and gloom reporting. Each day we are told of the tremendous losses our National Air Lines have incurred but we are never told how the problem is going to be solved. Is it going to be solved at all may I ask? What is really frustrating is that no one seems to take responsibility for the fraud that has taken place and whether the government intends to recover the losses that run into millions? Who takes the blame? If no one is blamed then the Minister himself must shoulder the responsibility and resign instantly.

We have Srilankan, Mihin Air and Sajin de Vaas’s shenanigans to contend with and so far the laughable sum recovered from that major wheeler dealer has been a mere Rs. 1000/ for not declaring his assets. This from a man who has been suspected of mishandling enormous sums and running MIHIN AIR to the ground.. So were his assets finally declared and may we know what they were?

The judgment of a Rs 1000/ fine was ridiculous in extreme and the frustration felt by the public is great. Why has de Vaas not been brought to book and punished for the massive losses he managed to run up? He should have been one of the first to be questioned within a year of the new Govt. coming to power? As far as we can see he has got away with it. WHY is this? Someone has made a lot of money. WHO is it?

The right people involved in local scandals are never punished. Igniting public wrath recently two of the most respected public servants, Lalith Weeratunga and Saliya Wickremesuriya were publicly humiliated and remanded for merely carrying out orders, for which they shouldered the blame–– and everyone knew it.

The recent petrol shortage inconvenienced the entire country. Again who took the blame? No one of course. Arjuna Ranatunga acted as if he was above criticism. His inefficiency deserved instant dismissal as a Minister. Certainly the public is still furious at the great difficulties it faced during those three days. What really enraged us was that ministers were sweeping past us in air conditioned comfort using three or four MORE cars as security while queues of irate drivers were sweltering inside stationery cars waiting for a just little gas to get by on.

What we want to know is why even ONE security car is necessary for anyone other than the President and the Prime Minister? There is no threat to the men who occupy ministerial positions these days. There is no one worth actually killing anyway. Ministers want to look important at the expense of the taxpayer and demand all sorts of security gimmicks. In one of the earlier Governments even the young son of a Minister of Justice was flaunting three security men round him. It was maddening and the young man’s airs amused us mightily. In the UK, by contrast, even MPs and sometimes Ministers use the bus to get to Parliament if necessary. There is no status loss because of it.

In my mind’s eye I visualise the impossible scenario of our MPs and even Ministers using public transport up to the gates of the House and then being transported thereafter by cars belonging to the Parliament complex. One hopes they have to wait their turn, in the rain, for the cars to turn up and give them a lift. It will give them some idea of what the public goes through each day.Our parliamentarians are not an educated bunch we hear. It is rumoured that most of them do not have their ALevels.how can they run a country? We cannot govern with just a few highly qualified men like Dr. Amunugama, Mr. Swaminathan, Dr. Peiris, and a few others who often belong to different parties and are of no use to the country as an educated bloc.

Hopefully, albeit foolishly, we watch the TV news each day and view the pathetic scene of Parliamentarians debating. Debate is hardly the operative word here. They yell a lot. They do not say anything remotely interesting or of any value to us. How is the country benefitting, we ask ourselves in dismay, when all we hear are quarrels over trivia and personal matters aired among themselves.

We are not reassured after hearing Parliamentary debates. Where are the answers we want? We want to know WHEN the Bond Scam will end. WHEN those accused of financial fraud will be brought to book and those billions recovered. WHEN the Golden Key matter is settled to the satisfaction of those so egregiously treated by the Kotelawelas. WHEN the Thajudeen case will be brought to some acceptable conclusion and WHEN dozens of other highly publicized and questionable matters are to be settled. Crooks are getting away with massive sums and openly say that nothing will happen to them. Our blood pressure rises higher by the day. Mine is going through the roof.

I now get to the Electricity supply. Sri Lankan electricity costs are among the highest in the world. We are told that here too millions are owed in back payments to the Govt. by the power providers but we are not told how that money is going to be recovered. In the meantime electricity bills are rising and we gnash our teeth in fury when we are told that Ministers are spending lakhs on their own comfort. Why does the Govt. yield to these greedy and arrogant MPs who demand better cars, better housing and better salaries for doing NOTHING except in piecemeal fashion with no clear objective to work toward.

Our Power system must be so badly maintained that after heavy storms the electricity in the suburbs is cut for a full day at a time to effect repairs. What happens in the outstations is anyone’s guess. Nobody cares and the men on the spot blame a far away grid. Frantic telephone calls to the electricity centres are of no use. The phone has been taken off the hook and is constantly engaged. Repairs to electricity lines out of the main cities can take days I am told. On a hot April day one can but imagine the feelings ( if not the actual health) of those living in an enforced heated atmosphere. Is it any wonder the murder rate rises! I feel quite murderous myself.

But if those rising electricity bills are not paid the power is cut. How does the Govt. dare to face us when it does not give us the basic comfort of a continual power supply?

Fertiliser – or rather the lack of it is my next frustration on behalf of the farmers. Each night this past week I have listened on the news to the desperation of the farmers who angrily blame an uncaring Ministry ( and of course Minister) for the lack of fertilizer. In one district they had experienced FOUR years of drought but at last, this year, the rains came. They planted their paddy full of hope but when they tried to buy fertilizer they were actually told there were no stocks. NO STOCKS. This seems unbelievable. The anger and indeed anguish of the farmers came through clearly in the TV interviews with them. They were infuriated with the Government and said so openly.

They had hoped to recoup their losses yet here was an uncaring and inefficient Govt. telling them it was not prepared with fertilizer to sell. Yesterday (after it was probably too late) the TV News showed bags of fertiliser being finally unloaded at depots but which was being RATIONED out to the farmers. The Govt, still did not have enough fertilizer for the incensed farmers. As I write this the papers have just reported that there are no stocks of Urea either. Can this be really happening to the farmers of an agricultural country like Sri Lanka? Surely the Minister or at least the head of the Fertiliser Corporation should resign in shame. But no one takes the blame and shame is unknown to most politicians and Heads of Govt. Corporations depts. in our island.

Rivers of words have been written about Education and yet it is on a downslide I regret to say. There is really no Free Education. The tuition fiasco is far more expensive than a fee paying system would have been. Syllabuses are regularly altered, changed, added to, subtracted from, and sometimes totally newly organized. New requirements are added and each successive Minister of Education thinks he has the answer to all ills. He doesn’t.

The first formidable problem is a lack of good teachers. Graduates are often quite unknowledgeable in anything but their own subject. They do not have an all round education and their reading is nonexistent. How can they teach students to look up to them as they are basically poorly educated and do not have any social and people skills? Nor can they adapt their education to anything other than merely reproducing what they were taught.

Education is knowing what you want, knowing where to get it and knowing what to do with it afterwards. Our students do not have that choice. They get an education depending on the area rule. They do not really have a choice in what they want and they have not got the faintest idea what to do with it. They wait for the Govt. to handle that part of their life too. Education means developing the mind not stuffing the memory, which is all our undergraduates do.

University students are an ungrateful and undeserving bunch on the whole and thanks to the quota system many of the University undergraduates have no business in a University. What is still unbelievable to many of us is that the Govt. continues to lavish money on these quota system students who then turn round and have the audacity to keep asking for more. In short they bite the hand that feeds them.

A headline in one of our papers recently said “University graduates DEMAND jobs as promised.” How dare students who have had a free run in education all their lives ask for further favours. Let them find their own jobs. University students in the USA take any job they are lucky to find in order to pay off their loans. They know the value of what they have had to pay for. Nothing is more infuriating than seeing these ungrateful young men and women in Sri Lanka expecting to be looked after from womb to tomb without any system of payback in place. We see the Govt. trying to placate them to earn future votes. “Stop trying” we feel like screaming at the Govt.. Get tough with those worthless youngsters. Never mind your votes.

The system of education will never improve until we find good teachers. There is no point “upgrading’ schools to higher categories when the same old teachers and the same dreary methods continue to operate. The public is outraged by the hundreds of tales in the Daily Press telling us of the appalling sexual behavior of Principals and teachers towards their pupils. By the way how was the Principal who treated a non- pregnant girl so atrociously, punished? As usual we have not got a feed back.

As for our system of Justice the less said the better. As some one said Justice is for all but it doesn’t seem to be equally distributed. It certainly isn’t. The public is truly disgruntled at the manner in which certain former VIPs are whisked in and out of remand for the same offence. If they are guilty why has Justice taken over two years to come to a decision.. Either pronounce guilt or else free them and stop wasting our money.

Justice delayed is justice denied and we all know we cannot expect justice. I have a driver who needs to take a day off every four months or so to settle a land dispute which has gone on for TWENTY SIX years. Judges must be pretty stupid if they cannot understand a land dispute and settle it within a month. The Americans brought the Madoff Ponzi Scheme to a conclusion in record time. By the time land cases are settled in Sri Lanka the plaintiffs have died.

It is the same story with almost every litigant. No wonder people prefer to settle affairs themselves with violence or even murder. The few highly respected names we could mention like those of former Supreme Court Judge Shiranee Tilakawardena or present Supreme Court Judge Prasanna Jayawardene and of course some others, are few and far between. “Four things are required of a Judge –” To hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly and to decide impartially,” runs a well known adage. Added to that should be this clause, “And finally to decide with reasonable speed which allows justice to be done.”

I have just received an appeal from an environmentalist regarding the deforestation and starting of settlements in one of our most loved National Parks – namely the Wilpattu Game Sanctuary. Why should such a petition be even necessary. Is the Minister in charge not aware of such goings on in a place of such importance? Why do we have to point out to him what he should be taking care of anyway? He must either act or resign if he cannot handle his Ministerial work.

The goings on of the Buddhist priests is another outrageous situation. I realize Priests are not under any one person’s authority but only that of yet another priest but the Govt. can stop asking for advice from a group of people clearly not educated in the business of modern political governance in the world. Why are we giving them an importance they do not deserve.

I hope no devout Buddhist is going to tell me that during “our glorious past, priests advised kings, That was in the past. World politics are quite another matter. Buddhist priests who should be in their temples meditating and teaching the religion to the young, etc., now hold positions of registered tourist guides, politicians, heads of unions and believe it or not, the Governor of the Rotary Clubs of Sri Lanka at the moment is a Buddhist priest.

Can we expect any surcease from the present Govt.? I have merely scratched the surface of our discontent. Businessmen openly say they are appalled by the lack of an all-round progress in the economy. There is no co-hesion amongst the Ministries and no co-operation among the Ministers. There is no concerted plan of action for the upliftment of the country. We would give anything to read, “Sri Lanka is now on the rise of concerning food production,” and other such like cheerful headlines. Even Cricket seems to reflect the malaise affecting the country.

Ministers – please forget your next voting numbers and think rather of what you can do NOW. Remember the average man will not stay merely angry for much longer. As fury increases the Govt. would do well to placate the citizens living out of Colombo. The succinct saying, ” Many people see their duty in time to dodge it,” and this describes most of our Parliamentary incumbents. Those in power may bitterly regret they do not act sensibly now.

It is my simplistic view that we do not need more than 10 hard working Ministers with all government Departments securely under them and with responsibility totally theirs. Let salaries be very high so that temptation to be corrupt is not necessary. Let there be a strong civil service who can say ‘no’ to a Minister if need be. Insist that Ministers have acceptable Degrees of at least some qualification which ensures they understand world politics and how Sri Lanka is affected. Let security guards be at a minimum and let these 10 Ministers get nothing more than a standard car plus a reasonable house in which to live. We may soon be in the happy position of very few wanting to enter politics since it is no longer a money-making opportunity and perhaps we may have men like Dudley Senanayake, C,P. de Silva, and others of their ilk at the helm of affairs again. Dreams DO come true, don’t they?

2 Responses to “FRUSTRATION”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Only a SANGHA-MILITARY takeover can save SL.

    Old cooks become new anti-corruption warriors. When crooks-1 become too corrupt we bring in crooks-2. When crooks-2 become too corrupt we bring in crooks-1. It continues.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    FULLY AGREE WITH YOU LORENZO. WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR A LONG TIME.

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