Dear Sri Lanka,
By Dilshani Palugaswewa
After almost two years of not attending school, when they finally got to pick up their books and bags to make it into a classroom, they were met with an entirely preventable tragedy that only survived their belongings.
What’s sad is that when other parts of the country are experiencing rapid development with buildings like sky-high lotuses that serve as nothing more than a white elephant to our economy, new leisure centres that perhaps shouldn’t fall under the priority list, more roads and highways over enough roads and highways, more jogging tracks, gymnasiums and a long list of other ‘important projects’ in the pipeline, places in dire need of development, fall through the cracks until the worst happens.
The unfortunate incident in Kinniya has brought to light yet again the fate of the public when incompetent people have only their own agendas to serve when given important roles they don’t deserve.
To think that because there still isn’t a bridge or another solution to facilitate the movement of the people in the area from one side of the Kurinchenkerni Lagoon to the other, they were forced to resort to the only mode of transport – an under-maintained ferry which ultimately capsized in its waters with irreversible damage to the lives of many.
Condolences poured in from all over the country, including the Parliament, but what good are these empty words of sympathy if they had all the power to follow through to ensure that the people of this area were afforded a safe mode of transport long before such a tragedy occurred and still did nothing.
Passing the ball really doesn’t cut it when this issue was red flagged before. Proper coordination with lower levels of Government institutions and appointing officials fit for such decision-making jobs could have made a world of difference because they sure wouldn’t be endangering others by giving permits to provide such a service when experts had already refused the same request of operation, on the basis of it being unsafe. Plus, if the Road Development Authority already had plans to introduce a ferry service of their own with all safety measures, why did the Chairman of the Kinniya Urban Council feel the need to beat them to it and grant permission to a businessman for unsafe services, when he wasn’t even authorised to give such permission in the first place?
Apart from monitoring its operation, the least they could have done when commencing this ride is ensuring that operators of the service put the safety of their passengers first – either by giving them lifesaving skills in case of an accident like this or by having the bare minimum requirement arranged for this kind of service such as life jackets for everyone on board.
As for Ministers taking to Twitter to address the issue and offer condolences, a little reminder to them – these families don’t use social media and what they need is not the heartfelt words that a PR team construct and approve for posting on these platforms but rather meaningful action taken from here on out to guarantee that such incidents don’t occur ever again. And taking care of other areas they need assistance with before another kind of catastrophic event occurs, perhaps might be more valuable of a message than trying to depict a picture of unity through limited characters on a social media platform.
Bridging the gap does not just mean building bridges on exorbitant budgets in cities already equipped with necessary facilities for further advancement, but also assuring that the underdeveloped areas in the island are developed at least to the point where people are not put in the position of losing their lives out of no fault of their own. Especially, not when all they are trying to do is getting about their usual day and because people in power could care less about their needs and more about their own wants.
Instructing relevant authorities in the aftermath to build a bridge in record time now, means the same decision could have been taken before and it didn’t.
Bridged the wrong gap