|Up, up and away!
Yes this is another editorial on the cost of living. Yes most
probably nothing much will come out of it, and most definitely
this editorial too will be ignored by the powers that be. Yet it
remains the duty of the media to highlight the plight of the
masses who struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, hope
that at least their children will have a better deal in life,
and silently endure the many hardships that have been strewn
across their path through no fault of their own.
If this was a practical joke, this would have been about the
time that someone in government would say “gotcha”. For it is
impossible to imagine that it is anything less than a big joke
that electricity rates are to be raised by 40 percent for the
average citizen, petrol prices rising at a dizzying pace and
overall inflation remains above 20 percent for many a month. LP
Gas, a near vital necessity to about 30 percent of all
households in the country, has also not been spared by the never
ending price hikes. Last week, prices increased by Rs. 260
overnight. Rail fares have doubled, and bus fares are on the
constant up and up, thanks to the fuel price hikes.
This blasphemous badgering of the average citizen is taking
place while those who are responsible for this pathetic state of
affairs, are happily indulging themselves along with their
extended families, in the luxuries afforded by the tax payer.
Many of these woes of the masses are not the result of the world
market prices, or the result of the many “uncontrollable
factors” that are said to affect our daily existence. If that is
the case countries like India should be showing similar symptoms
of a bad economy. Yet that country maintains its inflation at
around four to five percent, and the Indian rupee has been
continuously strengthening against the dollar in the recent
Contrary to the manthra that is being chanted that global price
hikes are affecting the Sri Lankan consumer, the ironic truth is
that the weak dollar is making global commodities cheaper, at
least for the rest of the world.
The war has become a good selling point for this administration,
not only to maintain popular support even though little has been
achieved on any other front, but also to provide an excuse for a
spectrum of issues from rising gasoline prices to the increase
in the price of coconuts. President Rajapaksa has repeatedly
asked for the general public to tighten their belts, promising
that the final victory against the terrorists is nigh, and the
Utopia we are all dreaming of is not too far away.
The time for excuses and eloquent speeches are long past. If the
government does not realise the dire straits the people of this
country have fallen into, just to make a decent living with
three square meals per day, then the day that there will be mass
unrest is not be too far away. That day will need not be
politically motivated or require political leadership. The
inability of this country’s opposition to rally a soul will not
stand in the way of the stampede of the masses driven by the
hunger in their stomachs. If not acted upon now to ease the
suffering of the people, that day of mass unrest will be nearer
than we think.
Even the likes of those who rule our country, with their limited
knowledge should know with a little bit of common sense that if
wastage is minimised, corruption is reduced, and this country
lives within its means, then the conditions for the man on the
street can be infinitely better.
While asking the public to tighten their belts, has the
government taken any measures to reduce the colossal waste it
incurs in maintaining a mammoth cabinet? Has a single political
figure, even as a token shown that they are willing to minimise
the wastage that has resulted from their extravagant lifestyles?
After repeated cries of corruption, has a single minister or
public official been held accountable for their actions?
The Chief Justice recently said that those who pilfer public
money are cursed. In a country where justice to be served
against those pilfering takes far too long in coming, let us
hope that at least the curses of the masses will encourage those
in power to open their eyes to the plight of those they claim to
Leave the scribes alone
Incongruously, the Rajapaksa administration has
got together a ‘media policy aimed at creating a responsible
media culture’ in the country. Media Minister Anura
Priyadharshana Yapa announced the government’s grand plans for
the establishment of a responsible media at the cabinet press
briefing on Friday.
Of all recent governments that have reigned in Sri Lanka in the
recent past, the Rajapaksa administration has one of the worst
track records with regard to guaranteeing the media is allowed
to function freely and without interference in the country.
Scribes have been killed, beaten and harassed in the last two
years that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been in office. So
bad has the situation become that the government Minister who
stormed the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation with his pet thug
in tow to ‘thrash’ the News Director of the station, has not
even been admonished. He continues to hold a ministerial post.
He was made to beat it by the staff members of SLRC, who braved
the wrath of this regime to ensure justice was done by their
colleague, and no doubt he rues the day he stepped in. But the
fact remains that Mervyn Silva has not only got off scotfree,
but is also at liberty to continue to harass and abuse SLRC
staff members and have them assaulted on the way home at night.
Their children are being sliced up in their sleep. If all that
was not bad enough, the powers that be have also set the CID
upon them to ‘investigate’ this grave wrong done to their
precious Minister Mervyn Silva.
Under circumstances, we can do nothing but scoff at this latest
media policy. The best media policy any government can come up
with right now would be to leave the scribes well and truly
alone. Nothing further will be necessary. We do not need
policies to teach us to be responsible: nor guidelines within
which to practice our profession. What we require is for
government tentacles to be removed from the realm of news
reporting in Sri Lanka once and for all.