The V-Day rehearsals were washed out and the main parade has been put off. Weather gods residing 'above' this resplendent isle do not seem to be patriotic. (We hope the government will not brand them traitors for their unkind act of unleashing lashing rains in Colombo!)
Yesterday, our front page had a nice picture of two soldiers taking shelter from a downpour, under a military vehicle. They were hugging a huge wheel. That photo was very poignantly symbolic in that most armed forces personnel are without a roof over their heads, a fact that should prick everyone's conscience. Together they powered the giant wheels of the State military machine with their blood, tears and sweat, to crush the scourge of terrorism. Ironically, they who liberated thousands of square kilometres from terrorists risking life and limb so that others would be able to live in peace do not possess a single square inch of land!
While the war was raging and the troops were forging ahead, there was many a circus to keep the flag flying and to prevent the combatants' morale from flagging. Funds were pouring in for their welfare. At the height of war, the Api Venuven Api programme the government launched to meet the housing needs of the security forces personnel received millions of rupees monthly. But, one year on, funds for that noble project have dwindled to a mere 30,000 rupees per month! Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at a recent meeting with media heads lamented that the men and women who saved the country had been forgotten so fast.
The security forces, the police and the Civil Defence Force have lost thousands of their cadres in war. Tens of thousands of others are disabled or maimed for life. It is imperative that those who are living free from terrorism spare a thought for those who made their freedom possible. But for the selfless sacrifices of the brave men and women who defended the country on land, in the air and in the sea day and night, people would still have been standing guard outside schools and shivering in trains and buses not knowing when terrorists might strike.
It is the business community that has benefited most from the sacrifices of war heroes. Some of them opposed the war on terror tooth and nail and went so far as to stage protests against military operations but ironically today they are busy expanding their business empires in all parts of the country and going on safari tours without fear of being blown to bits. What Api Venuven Api receives a month at present must be a minute's earning for most of them. They are duty bound to thank the families of the fallen war heroes, the disabled and the serving members of the military, the police and the auxiliary forces in a tangible manner. We venture to suggest that President Mahinda Rajapaksa invite the business tycoons flaunting their wealth to a fund raising dinner in aid of Api Venuven Api instead of treating them to free food and beverages at the Temple Trees dansel on taxpayers' account.
With a fraction of the colossal amount of money that politicians busted on their election campaigns a few weeks ago, thousands of houses could have been built for the war heroes and their families. Let the political potentates of all hues be asked to support that worthy cause.
This, however, does not mean that others are justified in not contributing towards the war heroes' welfare. Everybody must make a donation according to his or her ability as the benefits of war victory have accrued to one and all. The ordinary masses will have to be mobilised for this purpose the way they were during the war.
Most of all, if the government cared to reduce its wasteful expenditure to a bare minimum, it would be able to construct thousands of houses every month for the war heroes.