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Reality of Hopelessness



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The resultant shock at the way in which the last Local Government election went, apparently galvanized the Government into action. Whichever way this may be analyzed, there is no doubt that the unexpected results (unexpected by the Government that is) was a clear message that all was not well in the country.


Sri Lankans are generally a hopeful lot. Hope springs eternal in their breasts in spite of continuous disappointments and so, true to our usual insouciance, we Sri Lankans, expected a miraculous Governmental volte-face, and hoped for a sudden shift in the policies, which had so far yielded nothing much.


We hoped in vain. Here is what we saw instead. Politicians in luxury cars were busily conferring with each other while Ministers played musical chairs with their portfolios, reminiscent of the game we played as children. They stopped their luxury cars long enough to chat to journalists gathered at the gates of Temple Trees and annoyed us even further by their lordly manner and stupid pronouncements.


Of course, what can we expect? We are told that 80 percent of the politicians in the House do not have even their O-Levels. Is this actually true? Or is this ‘disinformation’ – the latest word bandied about by those who cannot answer to probing questions.


I am beginning to think that all the accusations of enormous sums being spirited away by the last Govt. must be disinformation after all. Here we are – half way to the next elections – and not one past politician of importance has been actually asked to return the billions they are supposed to have taken. So did they take these vast amounts? One must really wonder. I am beginning to think that they did not, and that sums have been greatly exaggerated. Remember when Gamini Dissanayake was said to own an apple orchard in Australia? Well THAT was disinformation of the highest order but the poor man had to be assassinated before it was disproved.


Take the Malaysian Prime Minister who was speedily brought to book. He was obviously guilty and the new Govt. took immediate action. If there really was any truth to all the corruption of the last Govt. what is the delay in bringing them to book? We must assume there was no corruption on the scale that has been trumpeted around ad nauseam. Certainly, there are no repercussions. So what are we to believe?


Days pass by and the newspapers have ceased to be eagerly read. Just this morning (July 11) I, see that two more new State Ministers have been sworn in. The futility of all this ceremony and new appointments angers us more than I can say. How are these new appointees actually going to help us may I ask?


I often think of Thajudeen’s parents. Can their frustration even be measured on a normal scale? Accusatory fingers have been pointed at many. Apparently, there is enough evidence to convict or at least seriously charge some persons, but we seem to be pussyfooting around the whole thing. This and other such like matters fester in the minds of ordinary citizens like me who have no political loyalties and only want a sensible Govt. to look after us.


We want efficiency, concern for the average man, honesty, simple living, un-ostentatiousness, hard work, availability, openness in financial dealings and most of all good education from our elected and nominated candidates. We are appalled at the sheer stupidity of our politicians who do not even have their O-Levels. HOW were they allowed to run for office? What were our leaders thinking of when they gave them the go-ahead to stand for election under the party banner? HOW can such men even begin to understand the complexities of running a country to say nothing of world affairs?


Let us take Education. It is an area in which I was involved (indeed, AM involved) and my disbelief in the declining standards of knowledge cannot be stated strongly enough. Has the Minister of Education ever consulted persons outside the Govt. Educational System who maybe well able to suggest how improvements can be made? And I do not mean improvements to Labs or Computers or Sports. I mean improvements to Teachers.


How can any system improve when the teachers of Sri Lanka (except for those with very good Degrees and /or access to reading in English) cannot read in English or are unable to access anything outside their limited education in Sinhala? There are absolutely no translations on an adequate scale. They do not do any research on their own, since most information is in English. I have interviewed teachers (Graduates of Sri Lankan Universities) for jobs when I was Principal of Asian International School, and I can relate some horror stories concerning the general and basic knowledge of some of these graduates.


The Minister of Education giving Tabs to kids does not help matters either. It was a political stunt and does not strike at the root of the problem. We need good teachers! We do not have them! We are not working towards training them as all-rounders able to guide children in every way possible.


Instead, it is quite common to have Principals of Govt. Schools arrested for abuse, teachers charged with molestation, Educational Institutions and Heads charged with corruption, text books printed and then recalled at enormous financial loss to the Govt. and all sorts of other egregious crimes. Is this EDUCATION in Sri Lanka? (I am obviously not including the many good Private Schools in many cities, which have a hold on Teaching standards and can guide their Staff.)


The failure of our Education to provide a good moral background is clearly shown by the two examples I am just about to give. Our children are given 9 years or more of compulsory religious education but it has had NO effect on the children’s minds. This is proved by two recent horrendous crimes.


1. A girl of 17 and her boyfriend of 18 killed her grandmother by pushing her over a cliff because she had objected to their romance.


2. A Buddhist monk reported today (11th July) strangled a Police Officer who had come to the temple with a warrant.


I must ask what possible influence did the teaching of religion have on three people who committed horrible murders? Is it not a clear indication that religion has become a boring syllabus to complete, by equally bored teachers in schools? We should stop teaching religion as a subject and begin teaching ‘Value Education’ instead. I did it at AIS with great effect for over 4 years and had to stop when, in their infinite folly, the Govt. insisted that International Schools also begin to teach religion.


Are we hopeless about the present scenario in Sri Lanka? Yes we are. We daily listen to the News and to educated panels of men and women giving their views over the air. It should be made compulsory for our non-educated politicians to listen to them. They might learn something.


In the meantime, people speculate on the next election. We are all groping in the dark however. Can anyone really prophecy with any certainty how it will go? I think a truly sincere party comprising a few believable men can actually win the day. Voters will respond well to honesty and credibility. So politicians! Stop shouting at huge political rallies and in Parliament and halt all financial skullduggery. Begin to quietly show us sincerity and genuine ability to run a country. You will be surprised by the result. Why not trust us voters to do the right thing for ourselves?


"The very spring and root of honesty and virtue is good education," said Plutarch. Let is listen to the philosophers of the past. I can name about ten excellent men at the moment but they are all in different parties, with different political agendas. So are we doomed to despair forever – at least in the near foreseeable future? How tragic for a proud nation.


GOOLBAI GUNASEKARA


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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