A people like no other in a land like no other



Sanath Nishantha

Take that first part of the title in the most derogatory sense; with an insulting innuendo; but justified. The second part retains the message intended by the Tourist Board, which coined the blurb to advertise this marvellously serendipitous island. Yes, those who represent the people of the land, the MPs, are like no other in this land and in other lands. Of course, governments, legislators and VIPs are notorious for corruption, stupidity, vanity, selfishness all over the world, but it seems that many of our representatives voted in by us are the most despicable.

All this was demonstrated so clearly on 02 Oct., by MP Sanath Nishanta from Puttalam. In his personal capacity, he is a money maker from fish and so wealthy that he can put down cash to the tune of millions in one go. Boastfully, he announced to a posse of media persons after emerging from the CEB head office: “Today, I paid the total electricity bill of Rs 2,682,246.57 to the Electricity Board on behalf of Mr Namal Rajapaksa.” This was a long unpaid bill for lighting up Medamulana home to celebrate son and heir Namal R’s wedding.

Sanath Nishanta went further to explain the matter; “When I talked to MP Namal Rajapaksa, he said that he or his father had not requested additional electricity supply for his wedding. But there was a rumour spreading about this electricity bill.” The reason for his two million plus rupee generosity was that the father of the bridegroom of the much-illuminated wedding: “Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the leader who ended the war and engaged in massive developments in the country. I cannot let him hear blame from anyone.” He also said he was grateful to him for having helped him – maybe to become a MP and also a multimillionaire.

A booklet can be written in comment of that paragraph and what emerges from it as regards people like no other and events like no other.

Have you ever heard of such generosity to people who appear to be stinking rich themselves? Thus, the Good Samaritan act makes this land like no other and the people concerned unique. Hosts of people are living in the dark having had their electricity supply disconnected due to non-payment of bills, which surely are not even a thousand rupees.

Mahinda R and his brother Gotabaya did not save the country, unaided. The country was saved by brave armed forces personnel who sacrificed life and limb. It was they who won the war, given the lead by the two brothers Rajapaksa who were safe and heavily guarded in Colombo. Post war did the two R brothers save Sri Lanka? No! They sent the country reeling to bankruptcy through, among other things, heavy borrowing and banning agrochemicals.

However, does one spend 2.6 million on illumination at one function? Impossible to imagine. The absolutely sharp contrast between them who wielded power and made money, and still do so now, against the toiling masses of now and then when the brilliantly illuminated wedding took place, has to be like no other. The colossal amount spent on lighting up the venue could have kept an entire village of many families fed for a year. How did the other wedding expenses go? Who generously footed the bills?

How was an electricity bill unpaid for so many years: four years to be exact since the all-important marriage was in September 2019? Is there a difference in billing and collecting dues from VIP’s and the ordinary you and me?

The contrast between the rich and the poor in SL is like in no other country. See how India and China, weighted down with vast populations sunk in poverty, have risen to be economic giants. Sri Lanka, so small, so manageable, with intelligent people, was driven to bankruptcy by its leaders like no other.

In conclusion, Cassandra opines that while Sanath Nishanta got himself publicity, cheap, Cass adds, he has opened a can of worms. But our land is overrun by suckers and lunatics and who knows Namal and Sanath may well be returned to Parliament if elections are ever held.

Another event that made this country a land like no other was a TV interview in Germany, where the President went ballistic. He lost his cool completely, used hoi polloi expressions like ‘bunkum’ and took offence which was not made: “You think we are bad!”

Leading from this is another supposition. Not many countries considered democratic and having intelligent people have a Prez who is so focused on returning as an elected Prez. Otherwise why the display of pyrotechnics with Deutsche Welle and adopting the trend of many anti-West Sri Lankan nationals. Was he appealing to national pride? The fringe lunatics approved.

Except Japan, has the Far East genuinely helped us overcome our economic conundrum? In fact, the rising giant of the East, China, led the most powerful Brother R to build massive white elephants in Hambantota and the Lotus uselessness in Colombo, incurring huge debts.

IMF and SL

Please, someone let Cass know whether any other country receiving IMF funding to overcome financial crises has acted so lackadaisically as Sri Lanka in fulfilling conditions laid down by them – the IMF. To Cass the government’s nonchalant manner of ensuring receiving the second tranche of their aid package is unique – like no other bankrupt country. The IMF visited, assessed progress, and did not appear satisfied. Its report mentioned 16 areas of concern which have not received enough attention, and were corrected. To mention but a few: “widespread corruption; vulnerabilities and governance weaknesses arising and ad hoc policy decisions; half-baked approaches to anti-money laundering; lack of robust legal framework; ad hoc tax policy.”

Even a novice like Cass sees that many of those areas mentioned could have been given strict attention to, and corrected or at least seen to be attempting correction. No. Instead, taxes were increased. Going all out to find tax evaders has not been attempted. Has the tax exemption decreed by Prez Gotabaya R of certain wealthy persons been rescinded?

At least widespread corruption could have been curtailed – import of poor-quality medicines stopped and the guilty punished. No! Politics to the fore in this area of obvious and mass corruption. The no confidence motion against the Health Minister was defeated by SLPP MPs merely on party allegiance and saving their positions and perks. Set a thief to help and save a thief! The health sector does not hold hope for the sick but promises death for even the healthy.

Falling roadside trees

Sure, Sri Lanka is like no other country, except the most backward and environmentally non-caring, to not examine and be warned of unsteady trees. We have grown lots of trees during British colonial times which make some of our Colombo roads marvels of tree beauty. Anyone with a modicum of sense knows they have to be regularly checked as being centurions and likely to be weak in root and bole. Cass was told the CMC bought a very expensive detecting ‘machine’ for gauging the stability of trees.

Where is it? Why not use it? Cass was also told 25 Municipal persons are delegated the job of inspecting roadside trees for their firmness. Like many employees of the CMC, the informer noted, they must be punctilious in punching/ signing in and out, but no inspections carried out. And, so, the totally unnecessary loss of precious lives. The CMC might now go on a rampage of felling trees. What are the Mayoress and Commissioner doing? Feathering nests?

The brighter side, yet like no other

Tharushi Dilsara Karunaratne bagged gold for herself and brought golden honour to Sri Lanka by winning the Women’s 800 min the 2023 Asian Athletics Championship, competing against bigger made stalwarts and broke the 25-year-old Asian record in the event, as well. All praise to her school – Rathnayake Central in Walala, her coach Susantha Fernando, and her brother, also an athlete, who won silver in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championship in the same event; and her parents.

Most praise for her determination and supreme effort put in. The tag ‘country like no other’ in the negative sense fits in her case too. A mere security guard of a sports ground, assuming power, refused entry to her. This is because she did not have the Rs 30 entry fee that day. Also, Cass believes she was not given all the encouragement and perks that most other countries bestow on their athletes and medal aspirers. Also not done is not publicly giving her coach his due. He must be generously acknowledged.

All of Sri Lanka congratulate Tharushi and wish her many more successes both in the sports field and academically.