Power deafens and blinds politicians, especially after their re-election. Only an electoral shock could make them hear and see again but, in most cases, that happens too late in the day they find themselves in the Opposition by that time.
The UNP is lambasting the government for the rejection of its request that Opposition MPs be appointed chairmen of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and for the appointment of deputy ministers and ministers as members of those watchdog committees. From 2001 to 2004 under the UNP-led UNF government, Chief Opposition Whip and UNP MP John Amaratunga has said, the COPE and the PAC chairmen were appointed from the SLFP-led Opposition. This is an irrefutable fact.
Amaratunga says the government has, by turning down the Opposition`s request, demonstrated that it does not give two hoots about good governance. We could not agree with him more! Similarly, let`s not dupe ourselves into believing that it is to promote good governance that the UNP wants its MPs at the helm of the COPE and the PAC. Its motive is purely political it wants to use those offices to dig out something to be used against the government. Nothing more, nothing less! However, that exactly is what the people expect of the Opposition.
Instead of pontificating about good governance, which we have never had in this country during the past several decades, the UNP must do its damnedest to bring to light the UPFA`s corruption the way the latter exposed the UNP-led UNF`s in the COPE reports under Wijedasa Rajapakshe`s chairmanship. The best way to catch a thief, as we said in a previous column on this subject, is to set a thief. Therefore, the thieves turned guards at present deserve public support!
The government may seem to have gone on the offensive by railroading the Opposition into submission but, in fact, it is on the defensive. Its rejection of the Opposition`s request at issue has betrayed the fact that it lacks confidence. If the government had had nothing to hide, it should have been able to let the Opposition head the COPE and PAC.
It is obviously the fear of being exposed that has made the government appoint its MPs COPE and PAC chairmen. Nothing explains the present situation of the COPE and PAC better than the pithy local saying: naduth hamuduruwange, baduth hamuduruwange (the accused hearing his own case)!
Floods and politics
Government propagandists are letting out howls of protest against their opponents `making political capital out of floods`. The Opposition is fishing in troubled waters but that is the name of the game in politics. What would the UPFA have been doing by now if it had been in the Opposition? Never mind floods. Didn`t the SLFP seek to dismiss the Accelerated Mahaweli Project under the JRJ government as an `exaggerated` river diversion scheme? Is there anything that has escaped partisan politics and politicians in this country? Nothing! Not even public lavatories!
True, governments can hardly stop floods in most cases. But, they can certainly prevent many places like the capital city from being flooded during showers. The CMC has over 7,000 workers on its payroll maintained with public funds but only 60 of them have been assigned to clear drains, we are told! Others are idling or moonlighting and prisoners are being used to do their job! Canopies of green giants lining the city streets cannot be pruned to prevent their collapse for want of CMC personnel and equipment. It is these shameless freeloaders, their crooked supervisors and political bosses who should be behind bars!
Arteries that lead to Colombo through low-lying areas remain prone to floods. All that needs to be done to prevent them from being submerged is to raise them by a few feet. These are surely matters that a government can tackle without much difficulty if it really cares to. So, it is only natural that the present government which has been in power for over six years has drawn severe flak for floods in some places, though it cannot be blamed for the flooding of all low-lying areas.
Interestingly, when some people claimed a few years ago that they saw rays emanating from Buddha statues, the very propagandists who are hauling the Opposition over the coals for trying to make political capital out of floods claimed that the `miracle` was attributable to the Rajapaksa government`s righteousness! Howzaaat?