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We are the best and greatest through conning!

By Gamini Weerakoon

(June 28, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) For more than two years we have been wondering whether the Mahinda Chinthanaya (Mahinda’s Philosophy), has been more successful than that of great philosophers and founders of great religions to stop people from drinking. It was presumably the heavy consumption of liquor that induced Mahinda Rajapakse to inaugurate the ‘Mathata Titha’ (Full stop to intoxication) campaign soon after taking office, much to the delight of the pious Buddhists, particularly the monks and his propagandists who are now claiming that their leader’s Chinthanaya has been a tremendous success

Some cynics however predicted that soon it will be Tithata Matha (Intoxication of the full stop) that will follow but government pronouncements and announcements in the pro- government media said that an effective brake on intoxication has been put in place so much so that last week a monk was reported saying that just as ‘President Rajapakse won the war against terrorism, the war on alcohol and drugs will triumph by 2010.’

Sobering statistics

However, last week too, the Minister of State Revenue and Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya threw a bucket of cold water on this glowing and growing euphoria on his boss’s Chinthanaya when he announced in parliament that since 2005 consumption of booze in Sri Lanka had gone through the roof.

Compared with production of local liquor in 2005 it has increased by leaps and bounds: 16.9 per cent in 2006; 30.2 per cent in 2007; 19.4 per cent in 2008. Local arrack production which stood at 38.4 million litres in 2005 rose to 44.9 million in 2006; 50.08 million in 2007 and 45.9 in 2008. The Minister was answering a question asked by a JVP member.

Import of foreign liquor and local production of beer had shown similar patterns of increase.

Battles on bottles

Increased consumption of liquor is not a cause for celebration — even to the non believers of the Mahinda Chinthanaya — but a matter of serious concern. Even of greater concern should be the tom-tom beating on the success in presidential campaigns by state media propagandists on this Chinthanaya. The Buddhist clergy too have been misled as indicated by their fulsome praise of the success of President Rajapakse’s temperance policies.

With all successful claims now dumped on the President’s Mahinda Chinthanaya bandwagon — from success in terrorist battles to war on bottles — it would be indeed a difficult task for the public to discern what is true or not. With speculation of a general election in the air and even the possibility of a presidential election, the public should be made aware of the possibility of them being taken for a ride on this Chinthanaya bandwagon.

Temperance through conning

If the desire to make Sri Lankans kick the drinking habit is genuine, conning the public through the press, radio, TV and on public platforms is not the way. The question why many Sri Lankans are heavy drinkers should be examined in depth. Some would go into knee-jerk reactions: colonialism, neo-colonialism, pernicious Western influence etc. Certainly Western influence on Sri Lankan society is apparent but that is no reason why they should be hitting the bottle hard. Most Sri Lankans don’t.

But why do so many drink? Some will point out the break in the link between the temple, and people that had held on for centuries. This is true particularly in urbanised areas. The people are migrants to these areas and the temples are of recent origin.

The religious fervour of the people particularly of men are today far less than what it was. This is apparent on attendance at temples on Poya days. While women and children pack temples on such days, the men are noticeably much less in numbers. Probably they are keeping company with the bottle.

Just telling people that under the now famous Chinthanaya people don’t drink will not work. What forms of entertainment do they have? They don’t need night clubs and casinos but do they even have parks in their neighbourhoods to spend their spare time?

Education charade

In retrospect it is apparent that Sri Lankans have been conned by politicians down the

years on how well we are progressing. For example, we boast to the world about our great education system — free education from the nursery to post-graduate degrees. But all that had crumbled up during the past two decades. Recently we read an article by an economist of international repute, Dr. Usvatte Aratchi, a village boy who had risen to the top on his own merits. The title of this article was: "Education in our country. Mostly charade and a fraud."

Having visited a national school he had found that after five years of schooling some 20 students had scored zero in their Grade 5 examination and couldn’t write in their first language. Now these students who can’t write have been passed on to secondary school and teachers are expected to teach these people who can’t write!

On also visiting some institutes of high education he concludes: ‘I am now convinced that this whole picture of good education in our country is a charade, fraud elaborately put up by politicians, by the education bureaucracy, by the teachers, trade unions and our universities and their teachers. They teach students and give them certificates that the students have reached certain levels of excellence. Teachers don’t teach, students don’t learn and certificates are lies as students don’t do not possess that level of excellence.

‘To protect themselves teachers both at school and university sing and dance around politicians. Nobody cares to point out the consequences of the dangerous behaviour patterns of politicians. The whole thing is a massive fraud.’

The education system is a charade and a fraud — that’s the opinion of a well known Sri Lankan who has written many articles quite critical about Sri Lankan education. This is no secret although it is not discussed in public.

Charades all round

What of the police? A motorist will tell you that the great majority of licensed drivers do not know the Highway Code. Nor do most traffic policemen! The law that prevails in police stations is not the law of the land but quite often the law of the jungle.

The Health Department is enacting laws to prosecute the public from breeding mosquitoes but they are the biggest breeders of mosquitoes — local government bodies with their garbage dumps and stagnant drains.

The Wild Life Protection Department exists but the endangered Sri Lankan elephants are being killed daily, being even knocked by state owned trains. And so we can continue with the endless list of state charades and frauds conducted by the government.

We are the greatest

But listen all ye Sri Lankans: We are the Greatest. We have defeated the most ruthless band of terrorists militarily which the pundits said was impossible. They now want to learn from us; We have won this battle against terrorism defying the orders of mighty Western powers; We have the best health system in the world, with our man as the president of the World Heath Organisation — never mind this talk of dengue by UNP saboteurs; We have defied the collapse of the international monetary crisis — thanks to the governor of our Central Bank, never mind if power keeps failing and sending us into long periods of darkness. We are now working towards nuclear power. Who wants oil at world market prices? All this and much more in the rosy future ahead under the great Mahinda Chinthanaya, we are told.

We are the best and the greatest, thanks to the art of governance through conning!
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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