It is time, Mr. Mayor

It was really a sad account to learn about the deaths that occurred on Thursday due to the flash floods that affected most parts of the country in the spate of torrential monsoon rains.
The city of Colombo, which was severely affected, recorded two deaths when an office worker who fell into a pit by the side of a road, drowned, and another died of electrocution.
The roads in the city of Colombo, once dubbed ‘The Garden City’ due to its beauty, are no more safe, even for pedestrians.
The cause of the death of the office worker is an unprotected man-hole, which was left open. This is not an isolated incident. In Colombo, we find many more death traps along the roads, to which the municipal authorities have paid scant attention, so far.
It is a pathetic scene to witness Colombo, especially being the capital city, with unsafe road contraptions all over the city, which would bring disastrous consequences to pedestrians as well as motorists.
Additional city coroner Ashraf Rumy had, quite rightly, apportioned the blame on the municipal authorities – he ruled that the Colombo municipal council should be held responsible for these deaths and urged authorities concerned to take swift action to remedy the situation before more lives were lost.
If the main city council has no respect for human lives, a very appropriate question to ask is, where we are heading to? It is, undoubtedly, from bad to worse, and it is time for the governmental authorities to think twice and take action against this pathetic council that conducts itself to the utter dissatisfaction of the citizenry.
If the government of the day is civic conscious, then, it would swing into action and pay proper compensation to the kith and kin of the deceased, who died due to the sheer negligence of the city council.
The law makers should take prompt action to legislate the necessary law, under which any city council could be brought to justice, if they do not perform to the satisfaction of the tax-payer. The absence of such municipal laws or the little knowledge of the citizenry, of the responsibilities of the city councils, have left enough room for the municipal authorities to conduct themselves in haphazard manner.
Mr. Mayor it is time to put your act together or quit for the sake of the people.


Country on ‘Nowhere Lane’

The question where we are heading to, has to be posed once again, after examining the proposals put forward by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to the All Party Representative Committee for the resolution of the ethnic crisis.
These proposals no doubt fall short of the aspirations of all minorities, including Tamils and Muslims.
Most of the minority parties and the opposition United National Party have pooh-poohed the proposals as something going backwards from the existing provincial council system, which was set up under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution as a sequel to the Indo-Lanka Agreement signed between the governments of India and Sri Lanka in 1987.
In fact, some of the constituent parties within the government had objected to the proposals put forward by the SLFP, including Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) and People’s Liberation Organisation of the Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC).
In a statement issued with the signatures of government allies in this group – TULF, EPRLF and PLOTE, it was stated that the powers to be devolved under the SLFP proposals are not even coming close to the powers vested in the provincial councils formed, under the 13th Amendment.
It also said that 50 years of agitation by the Tamil speaking people to win their rights has brought them back to square one. They have also emphasised that Tamils would not accept anything less than a federal solution.
Not only the Tamil parties, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), too find it difficult to fathom the objective behind these proposals.
The district council system proposed by the SLFP had been tested and failed as far back in 1981 and a similar system was proposed by Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, under the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact in 1958, which however, did not see light of day.
However, a paradoxical stand is taken by the two other constituent parties of the government, the JVP and the JHU. The two parties have opposed the district council on the pretext that it impinges on the Mahinda Chinthana concept, promulgated by the SLFP during the election.
No doubt the government is utterly confused over its stand, as it has now come out with another statement saying the SLFP proposals are not essentially the proposals of the government.
It is a known fact, that the government made it a point to come up with district councils in a bid to appease the more hardliners, the JVP and the JHU, however now it appears, the government has a difficulty in swallowing this bitter pill.
While the Tamil parties who are supportive of the government are up in arms stating that the proposals do not meet the aspirations of the minorities, the more hardliners such as the JVP and the JHU are taking an entirely different line.
Which way will the government go? Can the government sustain its proposals and solve the ethnic crisis, based on the proposed district council? These are the pertinent questions that should be answered. It looks like a distant dream for the government, which tries to rely on the strength of the JVP and the JHU, to maintain a parliamentary majority.
In the absence of the UNP proper, we hope the UNP reformists would come up with something more practical to resolve the problem, though they are a part of the government. By far, the more practical move is to rely on the 2000 August proposed constitutional amendments and discuss this as a working paper by the APRC, which even goes beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.