|Thursday, 10 June 2004|
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Woeful trend accelerates
The maniacal scenes which erupted in Parliament on Tuesday have brought shame, disappointment and sadness to many a Sri Lankan heart. While the widespread expectation was that peace would reign in the House after those initial stormy setbacks when Parliament first met, this hope was dashed to pieces by the unruly scenes on Tuesday.
The continuing disagreements among the main parties in Parliament point to the fact that a concerted effort is yet to be made among them to ensure the smooth conduct of the business of the House. This lack of consensus is currently assuming serious proportions and unless there is determination on the part of all parties to strictly adhere to the Standing Orders and the hallowed traditions of governance, we would only have commotion and unruliness when Parliament meets.
While there is no denying the fact that the conduct of some parliamentarians has degenerated, these sad, negative trends drew new life from the bestial behaviour of some UNP politicians in Parliament in the latter half of the year 2000 when President Kumaratunga presented the draft constitution in the House for debate.
However, what greeted the President's initiative was not a useful exchange of ideas on the suitability of the draft constitution but a bizarre protest by some sections of the UNP. Wild, degenerate behaviour arose in reaction to the President's ground-breaking efforts to end the ethnic conflict. The President's voice was not only drowned by raucous heckling and jeering but the constitutional draft was set ablaze by some members of the then opposition in violation of everything that is held sacred by the traditions of democratic governance.
These incidents could be considered the trigger which ignited the violent behaviour among some parliamentarians which was to intermittently follow. The trend setter - in other words - were the ignominious scenes of late 2000.
It need hardly be said that the norms of democracy should be protected and perpetuated, come what may. The main political parties need to stop looking at things from the narrow, distorting prism of power politics. They need to realise that selfless service to the people is the path to leadership. Principles should take precedence over power. However, what is unfolding today is a wild scramble for power and power only.
These attitudes are likely to take us into a quagmire of contradictory pulls and pressures from where there would be no easy escape. We call for a quick consensus among the principal political parties for trouble - free, conciliatory governance, which is the wish of the people.
A novel initiative
Plastic is everywhere. The grocer puts our purchases in a plastic bag and fast-food joints serve drinks in styrofoam cups. They are disposable, but sadly not degradable.
Some countries have plastic recycling programmes, though we have not seen such an effort in this country.
Despite a much-heralded ban on polythene in certain public places, plastic and its derivatives are very much in evidence throughout the country. It will not be easy to end an ingrained habit overnight, but India has begun a programme that can show us the way.
Plastics have reached the end of the line with the 11,000 trains-a-day Indian Railways, which used to rely heavily on plastic cups for quenching travellers' thirst. They will now be served water, tea and other beverages on trains and platforms in traditional earthenware mugs made by potters - giving hope of a new lease of life for a trade under threat from the rampant use of plastic. The orders for a "clean and green" railway have come directly from the new minister in charge, Laloo Prasad Yadav.
Indian authorities have achieved two goals by adopting this novel measure - preserving the environment by stopping plastics and boosting a traditional cottage industry. According to agency reports, the new plan could create new jobs for around 300,000 poor potters in India.
The earthenware cups, called "kulhars", are produced by small-scale regional cottage industries out of local materials, sold to small-scale tea sellers and are thrown away when the tea has been drunk.
The advantages are clear - the earthenware is cheaper, easily disposable and bio-degradable. Needless to say, environmentalists are thrilled by the move.
Sri Lankan environmental authorities should study this programme closely, with a view to adopting it. Sri Lanka's pottery industry too is struggling as even rural households have switched to plastics, aluminium and other materials.
Sending some of the leading potters in Sri Lanka to gain an insight to this move would be a prudent idea. If they succeed, the millions of disposable plastic cups and containers used around the country every single day could be a thing of the past.
Similarly, the authorities should encourage the use of cloth and wicker bags in place of plastic bags. A gradual shift to home grown, environment-friendly technologies should eliminate the need for plastics.
Produced by Lake House