|Tuesday, 27 April 2004|
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Bringing good governance
Abiding by the time-honoured principle that example is better than precept, President Kumaratunga is leading from the front in the task of putting Sri Lanka on the path to progress and prosperity. It is urgent that her example is zealously emulated by her Cabinet colleagues, many of whom have shouldered their responsibilities manfully.
Hardly have a few days elapsed since a Government was formed than the President has exemplified through her actions and labours that the need of the moment is commitment to work. She has been working on a number of fronts simultaneously, round-the-clock, with undiminished courage and conviction. Some of these are refugee rehabilitation, secondary and higher education, peace, law and order and political developments. The speed with which these diverse spheres are handled proves that they do not present her with any daunting challenges.
The peaceful atmosphere in which the North Western Provincial Council election was held, establishes the President's ability to enforce the law.
We urge that the President's Cabinet colleagues take the cue from their leader and forge ahead with the sacred responsibility of bringing development to the masses. Some of them have already made an impression.
We note that Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama, besides ushering in the relief in fertilizer prices is planning to rejuvenate the Cooperative system which would be a great boon to the ordinary people and has reduced the fertilizer subsidy by Rs. 200.
Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar too is readying for some undertakings which impinge very closely on his field. Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle is planning to bring purse-easy consumer goods back to the shelves of the numerous CWE outlets, whose cupboards were bare although they were reportedly open 24 hours a day.
The Minister has also lost no time in probing the numerous irregularities at the CWE which embroiled it in controversy. Media Minister Reginald Cooray has risen to the occasion of ushering in a socially-responsible local media. Under his stewardship the media would be greatly sensitized to the needs of the people, besides keeping track of the activities of the numerous ministries.
This is just a handful of names which come to mind. The need of the hour is a work ethic among Ministers. No time should be lost in wasteful politicking. The totality of the Cabinet should follow their leader in bringing relief to the masses.
A failure to do this could prove problematic for the UPFA Government, for it will open itself to criticism. The ideal is clean and efficient governance. What is left to be done is to prove that this could be real.
Taking one's own life is considered as the ultimate crime and most countries punish those found guilty of attempting to do so. But most suicidal people do not live to go to jail or even to reach medical help. The high suicide rate is a major problem confronting much of Asia, including Sri Lanka. A World Health Organization survey found there were an estimated 815,000 deaths in 2000 attributed to suicide worldwide.
The media's role in the suicide phenomenon has been widely debated. Reports from Hong Kong, where three people commit suicide every day, say that "Six Strong Guys," a comedy movie about a group of six friends who pledge to commit suicide together is likely to touch a raw nerve in the former British colony. Counsellors say they can do without the glorification of such tragedy.
A Hong Kong suicide researcher says that newspapers sometimes report suicides in such a detailed manner that they result in a lot of copycat attempts and make suicide appear more appealing. The city's Chinese media splashes news of each suicide across several pages, often accompanied by gory pictures.
The vernacular press in Sri Lanka (one suicide every hour, more than 20 suicides per day) too extensively covers suicides and suicide attempts. These reports have sensational headlines, painstaking details of the suicide method (pesticide, train, poison, hanging etc) and even interviews with the neighbours. No thoughts are spared for the victims' families.
On the other hand, hardly any publicity is given to institutions which provide advice to suicidal people. No analysis is made of the factors that directly or indirectly lead people to commit suicide. Suicide is not generally treated as a serious issue - punny headlines and intros characterise these news reports. This is a pathetic situation in a country that has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
Several journalists' organisations have developed guidelines for covering suicides. Consideration for the feelings of relatives, avoiding detailed descriptions of suicide methods, acknowledging the complexities of suicidal behaviour and providing information about where help and advice can be found are among them.
The media must strive to follow these guidelines. They must also probe and analyse the reasons for suicides, which are highest among youths and teenagers, with a view to educating their young readers. The media would have played a positive role if it can help reduce the number of suicides.
Produced by Lake House