This country has too many political cooks whose forte is spoiling the broth. The education sector has so many ministers and bureaucratic bigwigs drawing fat salaries from public funds, but not even an ordinary school term test gets held without some controversy. The same is true of all other spheres of government activity. We have a Nation Building Minister behind every bush but the Sri Lankan nation is unfortunately far from built. Nor are there any signs of that feat being achieved in the foreseeable future. Hospitals are affected by a severe dearth of drugs and equipment, which has put the lives of heart and kidney patients in danger.
Parliamentarians are full of complaints they are tilting at windmills to guard their turf. Everyone else is an intruder in their eyes and they want more and more power. So do provincial councillors and the whole caboodle of other politicians. On Thursday, lawmakers in a rare moment of unity, decided to amend the parliamentary Standing Orders to empower themselves to probe institutions which obtain funds from Parliament but do not come under the supervision of the Auditor General, such as Mihin Lanka, Maga Neguma and Lankaputhra.
Parliament is responsible for controlling public finance and it must not compromise its fiduciary duties. It should therefore prevent the erosion of its authority and assert itself, no doubt. A country needs a strong Parliament.
It is understandable why the House wanted to enable the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) to supervise the accounts of the aforesaid institutions. This move, one may argue, smacks of partisan politics and an ulterior motive as it is the JVP`s brainchild readily adopted by the UNP. However, the fact remains that it had the blessings of the government top guns in the House some of them, like Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, even waxed eloquent in favour of it. They all said `Aye` with one voice. Whether some of them said `Aiyo` under their breath, we do not know, but the House is now in a position to amend the Standing Orders concerned.
It is salutary that the jurisdiction of COPE has thus been expanded but, first of all, we believe, action must be taken against those named in the damning reports the watchdog committee has already released. The COPE report issued under MP Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa`s chairmanship has revealed many instances of the plunder of public assets. But, those who were responsible for them are still at large in spite of Supreme Court orders that the Bribery Commission conduct separate investigations. Probes have been initiated, we are told but given their slow pace, they are likely to be concluded when the hell freezes over! The government has audaciously said no action could be taken against anyone on the basis of COPE findings. It has conveniently washed its hands of the matter. So much for COPE findings!
Therefore, the question is whether it is not an exercise in futility for COPE to go on probing irregularities and scandals in public enterprises. And, does it serve any purpose to bring more and more institutions under its purview?
Explosive food for thought
If anyone has doubts about the danger of landmines in the Vanni, the recovery of nearly 27,000 mines from the Omanthai-Welioya road by the Special Task Force (STF) serves as proof the ubiquity of those killer devices. It took nearly four months for the elite commando outfit to clear a 30-kilometre road. And how dangerous the other parts of the Vanni owing to LTTE mines is, goes without saying.
What we have just witnessed is only the tip of the iceberg. Fleeing Tigers sowed mines haphazardly to thwart the army`s onslaught towards the latter stages of war. Earlier the terrorists may have planted mines systematically but the LTTE leaders who were responsible for mine laying operations are long dead and the only way to obviate the threat is to comb the areas inch by inch, which is a time consuming risky affair.
Sri Lanka is coming under huge international pressure to release IDPs urgently in view of monsoon rains etc. But, those who are making that ill-conceived demand ought to realise they are only trying to endanger tens of thousands of lives by calling for their resettlement before mine clearing operations are properly concluded.
Let the huge heap of mines unearthed by the STF serve as food for thought for those who are clamouring for the immediate release of IDPs.