|Wednesday, 21 July 2004|
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In face of the strengthening forces of the people's power with the sweeping victory of the UPFA, the UNF seems to be smarting under its humiliating defeat. This can clearly be seen in the nonsensical and half-baked remarks made by famous Tie-Coat clad theoreticians of the slowly sliding Front. Time has ripen enough for us to reflect on the decline of the UNF paying our attention to its recent development.
The major party of the UNF is the UNP which has given birth to a number of illustrious leaders. However, the present leadership of the UNP appears to be at a loss even to think of a vision that can take roots in our own soil whereas the political vision of the leadership of the Alliance is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the general masses and their own sky and earth. The closer the UPFA is to the people of the country, the further the UNF goes away from them.
One of the reasons for the ignominious defeat of the UNF Government was the fact that the leadership let the wind coming from the west, particularly the World Bank, IMF and other plundering NGOs drag the country into a fathomless abyss.
But for the national forces spearheaded by the UPFA under the leadership of Mrs. Kumarathunga, the country would have already been torn into smithereens. What the UNF was doing for those ill-fated two year period was to fumble in the dark with no clear vision or goals where should the country be taken.
During the two year period of its rule, the UNF did not embarked on any viable, productive or comprehensive development project that could enhance the production of the country.
Instead, some of the newly appointed ministers swindled the Government coffer importing luxurious vehicles for their personal comfort and even brought regulations to sell the lands belonging to the people to the foreigners. While the prices of the essential goods sky-rocketed, the Government burdened the people further by letting the behaviour of the world market tighten the belts of the poor.
This situation pushed the poor of the country below the poverty line. It is advisable for those ministers of the previous regime who only struggled with the figures and numbers to observe how the present Government controls the international forces for the welfare of the people.
They (politicians of the UNF regime) seemed to be highly worried about the growth rate. Anyone who has a smattering of simple arithmetic knows the fact that when a Government does not spend money for any purpose, the growth rate artificially rises. But can we consider this situation as development?
The most dangerous thing carried out by the UNF regime with much pomposity was to give in to whatever conditions brought by the LTTE under the patronage of the foreign mediators.
They very shrewdly used the media to draw a rosy picture of the peace process while letting the LTTE pile up weapons and strengthen its forces by recruiting more carders to their army. On the other hand, the Government set a favourable environment for the rebel leader to bolster his image even in the international arena.
The attempts made by UNF politicians to legitimize the setting up of the courts and police stations of the LTTE in the Northern and Eastern provinces, levying taxes on the goods sent to the north and east made a conducive environment for the LTTE to establish itself.
Though the leadership was of the opinion that people were happy simply because of the fact that bombs did not explode in the south he had not understood that people were against his laissez-faire stance taken towards the LTTE until the elections were held in April.
The leaders of the minor political parties of the UNF became so aloof from the masses that they gradually lost the confidence in them. These leaders too sought to revel in the comfort of the ministerial posts offered to them.
They too overtly or covertly helped the exploitation of their own innocent people by both local and foreign forces. The scandal connected to one leader, which was given much publicity over the media, is one such example to understand how these politicians mishandled their political power.
ANIL PAGODA ARACHCHI,
It is reported that China has intensified a campaign to control the Tibetan monasteries in the Himalayan region. Tibet is slowly dying since 1951 when the Chinese invaded it, killing and destroying all that stood in its way.
Neither the UN nor any leader of a country had enough integrity to denounce the Chinese robbery of a full-fledged sovereign state in full view of a shameless world.
Surely all who call themselves Buddhists should stand by the Tibetan victims? Not surprisingly, our own pathetic 'leaders' are said to be shivering in fear of ruffling the Chinese tempers, which is why they refuse to allow the Dalai Lama to come here to worship at his Master's shrine. True, countries should show gratitude for support given but nobody expects this at the expense of self-respect and territorial sovereignty.
As it goes against the grain of Buddhism to live without courage, self-respect and dignity, at least our Buddhist organisations should unite to show solidarity by whatever means with the beleaguered Buddhists in Tibet.
For starters, if only to show that Sri Lanka is not all stuffed with spineless lackeys, they should persuade those responsible to invite the Dalai Lama to make his long-awaited pilgrimage, ensuring that he is received with the welcome befitting the most revered figure worldwide today.
This has reference to a letter published on July 8 regarding the plight of foreign qualified doctors in Sri Lanka. The ideas and suggestions put forward by the writer would solve to a great extent the problems faced by the medical sector in Sri Lanka. One is the ill effects of the constant strikes by medical personnel and the acute shortage of medical personnel especially in rural areas.
At present foreign qualified doctors are being pushed to the status of quacks, considering the fact that many of them have obtained medical degrees from prestigious institutions recognised by the World Health Organisation at great personal expense. This is great travesty of justice.
Being a developing country Sri Lanka has a great dearth of doctors. Many specialists have left Sri Lanka for greener pastures. The crying need for doctors especially in rural areas could be alleviated by employing foreign qualified doctors.
During times of crises the government employs doctors from India, Korea, Cuba and many others. The Sri Lanka Medical Council gives them temporary registration without questioning their qualifications and competency.
Ninety per cent of doctors employed by BoI approved hospitals are foreigners with foreign qualifications. However Sri Lankan doctors with the same qualifications are discriminated against.
Being a Sri Lankan seems to be a disqualification in being employed as doctors in their own country.
In the name of justice, fairplay and as a service to the public and the nation at large, foreign qualified Sri Lankan doctors should be allowed to do private practice until they are given the opportunity to do internship in Government hospitals.
If Sri Lanka Medical Council and Ministry of Health could give priority to the needs of the people above vested self-serving interests and implement the above suggestions it would be greatly appreciated.
E. C. SIROMANI,
A common cause of some administrative irregularities in the Sri Lanka Army is often partly the non-conversancy of certain officers with the basic administrative mechanism and partly the attempts by certain unscrupulous officers to take advantage of the heavily structured one way command administrative system.
Victimized officers joined the Sri Lanka Army in different years and have completed almost twelve to nineteen years of service in the Army.
However, these officers have temporary lapses in their service due to inhuman treatments and mental harassments in the Army. Getting absent is not an uncommon problem for armed services. Therefore, this is termed in Army Act of October 10, 1949 in Section 106 as 'absent without leave'.
Punishments, which could be offered to Absentees, appear in Section 133 of the same Act. If the writer is not mistaken in the latter part of the year 1995, The Supreme Commander of Armed Services declared a series of General Amnesties to those who were absent from the Army, report back.
The main aim of these amnesties was to strengthen the Army with trained people in order to repulse LTTE attacks that took place all over the country. If deserters were to receive the benefits of the General Amnesty, they were required to report for duty on or before the dates mentioned which were given wide publicity over the television, radio and daily newspapers.
In response to an Amnesty, some 25,000 odd soldiers including officers reported back to their regiments and thereafter, they were charged for the offence of being absent without leave.
Consequent to this, there were deployed in the war torn North and East. Later depending on performance, they were awarded with various training abroad and in Sri Lanka.
In other words, after having been subjected to the punishment for 'Absent without leave,' the life in the Army had become normal routine for all those, who signed up in compliance with the General Amnesty.
This is still the practice in the whole Army except in the Corps of Engineers, where a decision had been taken at a meeting of the Regimental Council held on December 10, 2001 that the 'Officers', who have reported back in compliance with the General Amnesty, are not to be considered for promotions and training abroad.
The facts of this case, now stands as follows:
a) The Corps of Engineers is a body in Sri Lanka Army comprising about 1/40th of the total strength of the Sri Lanka Army, and the Regimental Council of the 'Sri Lanka Engineers' (SLE) is a body meant to sit in judgements on matters connected to the SLE only. Could a Council that is expected to take administrative decisions of one regiment, issue directives that may effectively nullify the policy decisions taken by the High Command of the Army?
b) Those who joined other regiments in response to the Amnesty are spared from such adverse administrative decisions, and therefore, in that context, there is discrimination against the officers in the Engineering Regiment only.
c) This decision whilst contravening the conditions of the amnesty, is made effective with retrospective effect.
Bona fides of such decisions are being increasingly questioned because, if such decisions are meant for improved performance within the Army, the entailing punishments should apply only to future offences and not with retrospective effect, thereby leaving little room for victimisation.
d) There is no law, local or universal to the best of the writer's knowledge, that could punish an offender twice for the same offence. In this case, the Commander of the Army charges these officers by his directive, and thereafter, the regiment decides to punish them again for the same offence, the Commander of the Army, is considered to have dealt with in the first instance.
The writer understands that such Administrative Anomalies are not the exception but rather the rule with the Sri Lanka Army.
However such issues often go unchallenged as, 'the accepted rule in the Army' is that the 'Authority should not be questioned'. Such practices at best could be confined to the Battle Field only, as there is little time to carryout the crucial orders in battle.
On the other hand, a reasonable and transparent administrative structure, should be a pre-requisite to maintain the morale within the Army.
I felt ashamed and greatly shocked when I saw the scene of Norman Berg being beheaded and Kim Sun crying out loud in vain to beg for his life. As usual in this world of heartless executions, nothing could stop their inevitable deaths.
The heads of the Super Powers didn't care for thousands of Norman Bergs and Johnsons when they waged the war and the Koreans too did nothing but being deaf and blind when Kim screamed for his life. Their excuse was that they would not negotiate with the 'terrorists'.
I wonder, whether they could do the same if the kiths and kin of the Heads of Super Power had been captured in place of Berg or Kim.
Fortunately, the Philippine Government shows a better example to save the heads of the innocent.
I feel sorry that our civilization is not mature enough to create a better world full of humane values and compassion. The ruthless creatures that behead human beings do not know that by beheading innocent men they are beheading one of the core principles in Islam, and that is 'Respect for humanity'.
A. ABDUL AZIZ,
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