Whereby does public dissent begin?

Sri Lanka is never without some crisis or dull moment and last week’s demonstration  by the FTZ workers against the private sector pension scheme which was being imposed without any reference to the people, the shooting of a youth who had just been four months in employment and any sensible person would have known that such a new worker would not have had even a proper inkling of what such a pension scheme would entail.

He apparently had not really been involved in the demonstration and the inability for anyone to take him to hospital for a few hours due to the gates being  closed is yet another situation in the rather confused state the country is in.

Paying compensation for the death to the family of the youth or the resignation of the IGP will not in any way bring an iota of comfort to a grieving family over the loss of a beloved child. In fact in recent times it appears that a peculiar system seems to be encroaching into the realms of law and order in the country. Recently we heard of persons protesting on the inaction of law enforcing officers placing the coffins of the dead on the road. A few months ago we  saw news headlines proclaimed the tragic death of a little boy travelling with his parents killed accidentally by law enforcing officers playing cowboy games of robbers and rogues on a main highway in Beruwala town.

We hear and read in news reports of certain politicians in government ranks stating that they too can form suicide squads and extending their power to request traders to close shops even when government instructs otherwise. Some others seem to use thugs to stop peaceful demonstrations! And all this in a country that has celebrated with immense and expensive pageantry the end of the war against terrorism and who seems determined to have such annual celebration!

Other sectors in government ranks blame opposition political parties for the demonstration unruly or otherwise that prevails in the country stating that they are inciting the people by giving wrong information to protest. Rather it would be of greater value if instead of passing the buck to some other groups or political parties the government members ask themselves whether they have been true to their election pledges. After all one remembers that election pledges were given to provide workers especially fixed income workers with an increase in salaries to enable them to at least have some type  of a sustainable livelihood but what the voters  hear and read in various news reports is that Corporation Chairmen have got increased salaries of Rs, 90,000  whereas  they who voted this government in and gave them the ability of obtaining a mandate of a three fourths membership in Parliament have yet to get any recognition of their problems in the face of the escalating cost of living. Most FTZ workers and those taken in as apprentices receive a pittance as they struggle hard to face a future that seems to get bleaker daily.

Plantation workers have   now been promised by their Minister that they would receive a higher daily wage but chances are that till they receive it the reality is far removed from the promise.

Soon the price of transport will rise and though the government sector now boasts about the reduction of the price of coconuts once again one wonders how long that euphoria will remain. And how will the transport cost increase impact on the cost of living?

Politicians continue to justify their various programmes. In fact the Minster who advocated leadership training for the new entrants to the university assumes to believe that entrants from affluent homes and those from rural homes using squatting pans for their toilet requirements is a plus mark in equalizing their social status. 

One wonders what benefit it will provide for leadership training!

Perhaps it is time that while a coterie of those who benefit from all the perks, salary increases and privileges they receive  and their function more often than not as a cheering squad the government should pause for a while and take to mind what was said. ‘Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.’

(Edmund Burke)

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