A Glimmer of Hope
There is a glimmer of hope today after nearly two years of the Coronavirus disease ravaging the country with varying intensity, the Government trying its level best to bring it under control, despite attempts by the Opposition, putting the proverbial spanner in the works, to bring it down by hook or by crook.
There is reason for being optimistic vis-à-vis the current situation in the country above all with saner counsel prevailing at last regarding the fertliser issue, Coronavirus disease afflicted patient numbers settling at a fairly safe level and a lull in anti-government agitations that had a deleterious effect on it judging by the number of patients increasing to 1,500 less one on 23 November 2021 seven days after the 16 November SJB rally in Colombo, decreasing to 745 which is five less than half that number the following day, 24 November.
In this context it does not bode well for the UNP either to go ahead with their planned anti-Government meetings to be held countrywide. A responsible Opposition has to have the welfare of the people at heart, not their political future!
In 1971 in dealing with the JVP insurrection J.R. Jayewardene supported Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike to the hilt and threw his weight behind her to nip it in the bud.
In the United Kingdom the Opposition Labour Party supported the Conservative Party Government in the House of Commons during the Second World War as well as when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared war against the Falkland Islands.
The democratic system of Government practised in our country allows for dissent, and the Opposition in Parliament has every right to criticise the activities of the Government: pointing out its mistakes and most importantly preventing it from being corrupt.
Yet what has been witnessed, especially in recent times, is that while the Opposition is very articulate in finding fault when out of power it does not follow up by bringing the culprits to book when they come to power. So, the people at large have little confidence in those of the Opposition who accuse those of the Government of being corrupt.
There have been only two instances in the history of parliamentary democracy in this country when those in political authority were punished for bribery or corruption. That was Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike taking away the civic rights of some Members of Parliament of his own party for bribery and President J.R. Jayewardene punishing Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and some others for abuse and misuse of power.
So, according to what this country’s experience has been those who promise the sun and the moon being out of power and to boot not longer than hardly a couple of years having passed after a President or a Government has been elected to office by a conspicuous majority vote have to be given a wide berth.
We have a history of two well-meaning leaders S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and J.R. Jayewardene, who would have taken the country forward in their own way: one restoring it to the pre-colonial status and the other ridding it of LTTE terrorism over too decades earlier, being stopped in their tracks – the former by being physically annihilated and the latter not having been allowed to be elected to office for a third term.
In a very wise move, Venerable Muruththettuwe Ananda Nayake Thera leading the Public Service United Nurses’ Union (PSUNU) deciding not to launch strikes in the midst of the current health crisis is laudable. The Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) of which the Venerable Muruththettuwe Ananda Nayake Thera is an adviser has as one its basic principles that doctors should not engage in strikes according to its President Dr. Rukshan Bellana.
Government doctors are allowed to engage in private practice and specialist doctors earn a fortune through channel practice and therefore have no moral right to go on strike especially in view of the fact that they still take the Hippocratic Oath!
However, other health worker trade unions, such as the one led by a UNP politician, announcing the continuation of their trade union action despite the health crisis, is most unfortunate. The nurses and other paramedical staff going on strike putting the lives of the patients in danger cannot be condoned as striking is the last resort only after all other avenues of winning rights have been blocked.
The case in point was the recent teacher – principal trade union action that was a shame on the entire teaching profession which could have been settled by discussion as finally happened. Teaching it is said is the noblest and the most impecunious profession. Today the Government teachers have been given the opportunity of conducting private tuition classes. How about teachers having to set an example to the students in their actions and speech?
Now that most of the issues that gave rise to protests have been settled, it is left for the Opposition to extend its fullest support to the Government to deal with the health crisis with the sole purpose of seeing to the welfare of the people and not for political mileage.
The price of goods escalating and scarcity of some items is the result of the global economic crisis affecting us also. However, had Governments past and present had acted with more circumspection in managing the economy and had there been stringent financial control without being extravagant and wasteful in any respect the country would have been in better shape!