We do not know whether Minister Mervyn Silva, we decline to call him doctor, broke a leg or fractured a toe in a recent accident near the Sandagalatenne bridge on the Dehiattakandiya Aralaganwila Road. Reports differ on this score as they do on whether he was on his way to campaign in the Eastern Province or to organize his party s May Day rally in the area. Whatever he was doing and wherever he was headed, reports are consistent that the injuries he suffered were not serious but a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft were laid on to get him to hospital. We do not need to labour the point that Silva is not the most popular politician active in his field as evidenced by the number of preferential votes he received when he last stood for election and the many scrapes he has got into while holding elected office. No wonder then that nasty SMS messages flew around, saying he needed blood and that anybody with a dog or donkey should take their animals to the nearest blood bank!
Admittedly it is in bad taste to laugh over somebody else s misfortune. But human nature being what it is, there will be inevitable chuckles when barbs are directed at the likes of the non-cabinet labour minister, foisted on parliament and the country by both the SLFP and UNP during different times in his career. But the question that bothers most people is why public resources are heaped on politicians on a scale that soldiers fighting the war, risking their lives and limbs, can seldom hope for. Would a soldier who broke a leg or fractured a toe on the battlefield get a helicopter to ferry him to the nearest airbase so that he can be flown to Colombo for urgent medical attention? War wounded with amputated legs and other serious injuries are in ordinary wards while a fractured toe gets ICU treatment! Silva, riding what The Island described as an unregistered ``super luxury vehicle, driven at breakneck speed by one of his buddies got privileged treatment both in his mode of conveyance to hospital as well as the treatment rendered there. This naturally infuriates ordinary people.
We are sorry that the driver of the vehicle that turned turtle lost his life. We are equally sorry that Minister Silva was hurt. Despite his aberrations, he does sometimes provide light relief to the people by his antics and utterances.. We are told that the wrecked vehicle had been leased and it did not belong to the government. That certainly is a saving grace. Although no driver, unlike the mudalali who once famously said ``my car, my petrol, mata oney vidiyata, parey yanda beri ei? (my car, my petrol, so why can t I go on the road the way I wish?), can be allowed to career madly along public roads. Doing that in your own vehicle rather than one belonging to the taxpayer, is a shade better, some might say. People riding official vehicles, particularly, must remember that they bear responsibility for how such vehicles are driven and by whom. That of course would also apply to owners of private vehicles too as they risk not only their own lives and vehicles, but also those of other road users and, for that matter, their own passengers. Remember that two police bodyguards assigned to Silva were injured in the accident. The poor fellows would hardly have been in a position to demand that the vehicle be driven safely.
As we all know, politicians and particularly those in power are a special breed on whom lavish privileges are heaped at the taxpayer s expense. When a terrorist kills a minister, their families are compensated at levels far beyond what soldiers, sailors and airmen receive for laying down their lives on the battlefield. While it is true that Sri Lanka, in terms of its resources, takes better care of its war dead and injured than some more affluent countries, politicians dead or alive do considerably better. As Dr. A.C. Viswalingam, the President of the Citizens Movement for Good Governance, in a statement published in yesterday s The Island said, ``naming and shaming does not work in this country. He is amazed, and rightly so, that given what the JVP did in 1971 and 1988-90 that Rohana Wijeweera s life continues to be commemorated with pomp and pageantry by his party which had today grown to be the third biggest political force in the country at least in terms of the parliamentary seats it won at the last election. As Viswalingam has noted ``there has been little condemnation of those who persist in acclaiming him (Wijeweera) as a great leader.
On one hand, politicians and their acolytes who are exposed in the media, can choose, as they too often do, to ignore the criticism and carry on brazenly attacking the messenger and ignoring the message. All of us Lankans, with our notoriously short memory, remember miscreants and what they have done for only a few days or weeks. Very often we vote them back into office. It is often said that a bribe taker who delivers is a valued partner in all manner of chicanery we see around us today. It is only he that takes the bribe and does not render the service who becomes a hate figure. It must be stated in this context that the parliamentary opposition has fallen woefully short in its duty of keeping the government on its toes. Time was when a matter raised, whether by way of an oral question printed on the order paper or an adjournment motion in the House, caused waves. These are now virtually non-existent today. A Sunday newspaper ran a front page lead last week saying that military brass found guilty of corruption by the Shirani Tilakawardene Commission remain untouched. The report of this commission has not been published and government has offered no credible explanation of why this is so. Is there no MP in the legislature who can get up and ask whether the report is in? Will it be published and if so, when and if not, why?