Law is for People’s Well-being
There are instances where the law has to be enforced to the letter just as it has to be implemented selectively in other contexts: both for the people’s well-being. While in the case of the buses and trains not running on time the law has to be strictly enforced,it has to be relaxed to allow for priority needs for instance when making State lands available to the public.
In Sri Lanka from its historical beginnings even though the people used land all land was owned by the king until 1815. The king did not transfer the ownership of land to the people. The people cultivated the king’s land.This system was like the collective farm system practised in Soviet Russia. So, the grandeur of ancient Sri Lanka was achieved under an efficient socialist State!
The British changed it in 1815, abolished rajakariya in 1833 and passed the Land Settlement Ordinance No. 20 of 1931 to enable even squatter-farmers to claim land at Land Kachcheries. Today farmers who have cultivated State lands are given title to such lands at the annual Land Kachcheries held by the Government Agent but environmental concerns sometimes are a bar to grant such claims. So, there has to be a balance struck between environmental considerations and development requirements.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said: “The Government cannot remain silent when it recognises the problems that torment the people. In order to develop the local dairy industry, grasslands have to be established. If farmers are disowned of their lands used for cultivation for generations, providing them with a practical solution cannot be considered as destruction of the environment”.
It is known too well that environmentalists are purely dictated by environmental dogma and are not mindful of the fact that it is the limited amount of land available that also has to be used to produce the food that is essential to feed an increasing population and for that reason there has to be a compromise, between environment and development.
However it is necessary for laws to be strictly enforced when giving large extents of virgin land to both locals and international conglomerates for large scale cultivation of commercial crops in view of the fact that such projects not only make human robots of village labourers and make them die early of agro-chemical poisoning but also deplete ground water fountains.
Following COVID-19 health guidelines and enforcing regulations such as wearing face masks and keeping the social distance to the letter is sine qua non. Those breaking the rules disregarding the health guidelines have to be brought to book by the authorities concerned – mainly the Police. It is not for nothing that a fine of Rs 6,500 and a term of imprisonment of six months are attached to the offence of not wearing a face mask properly.
Another area where the regulations need to be enforced to the letter is the public transport sector in which buses have to be run on time and passengers should be given full protection. There was time when explanation was called for from railway locomotive engine drivers for running a train late even by two or three minutes.
A pre-school child dying being thrown-off by the school van door opening shows that an adult must always be seated at the exit and regulations ensuring children’s safety must be strictly enforced.
The fact, that going after filthy lucre is most often the cause of bus delay,has been demonstrated in a bus route, where commuters from a suburban town about 25 km away have been travelling to Colombo and back, during about the last quarter century. A large number of private buses and a few Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses plied on this route one in every 15 minutes either way from 1994 to 2015 provding a very good service: the last SLTB bus leaving the Pettah Bus Stand at 10 p.m.
Come 2015 political opponents were removed from bus operations and buses began to be run one in 30 minutes and SLTB buses other than the two school buses were not permitted to run. This alone amply exemplifies the evils of unbridled capitalism. Today, all busmen irrespective of politics are allowed to run and there is a bus every 15 minutes once again. Now a commuter can come to the bus halt at a particular time and is sure to get his bus. A time keeper was seen warning a driver recently for being late by 48 seconds!