Present day Body Politic in Sri Lanka is suffering from an acute dearth of Professionals Intellectuals and well meaning individuals. Politics could be the only sphere where there is no pre-qualification to enter and hold high public offices. As a result, the political firmament that has witnessed personalities of eminence, scholarly learning and selfless disposition to serving common interests during the days gone by has constantly undergone decadence and deterioration of ethical standards. Sum total of this phenomenon has been the causation of almost all the socio economic and cultural ills faced by this country.
It is well known that politicians are predominantly driven by self serving agendas. Despite being the enactors of laws, rules, procedures and formalities politicos are adept at artfully circumventing the very laws etc, that are of their own making. They break them much faster than they are made. Whilst being responsible for transgressions of far reaching implications politicos enjoy the luxury of remaining exonerated and unscathed for wrongdoings, a privilege no common man without affiliation to the who’s who of the elite power base could ever imagine.
The information that keeps unravelling shows Uma-oya fiasco as one of the monumentally disastrous political moves made in the recent history by the ruling political apparatus through myopic actions aimed at aggrandizement of the powers that be callously disregarding professional and expert advice offered based on scientific grounds. Politicians of the day who are responsible for initiating the mega project irrespective of its catastrophic environmental fallout are engaged in futile face saving measures to escape public opprobrium conveniently ignoring the measures taken to bulldoze the way through to secure green light under dubious circumstances.
Mammoth financial investment involved in Uma-oya Project that seems to have far outweighed original estimates has failed to brought in a penny’s worth for the common man in return. It has led to a colossal destruction of priceless natural water resources once abundantly found making the environs attractive for tourists and holiday makers. Well, streams and fountainheads rich in gushing pristine pure waters have gone dry turning in to pieces of parched lands and monstrous dry holes. People are fast losing livelihoods as there is hardly any water for farming. Scores of houses have suffered cracks due to vibrations caused by heavy duty tunnel boring machinery. People who hitherto enjoyed the god given riches of pristine pure water available in abundance are compelled to wait for bowser loads to collect water for drinking and sanitary needs.
Misguided moves designed to execute grandiose schemes of self aggrandizement has today turned out a colossal environmental catastrophe threatening irreversible consequences. Hapless people who had no role whatsoever in the Project nor having control over what is happening or would eventually ensue in the aftermath are compelled to take the brunt of an unpardonable crime perpetrated against by the political masters of their own choice. And those of office seem to cry foul over what has happened but to date have failed to work out a viable way out for the suffering masses.
Similarly measures were taken in extremely short-sighted manner to give priority to construction of huge road networks and other infrastructure particularly in the southern province incurring colossal public expenditure, although priority should have been given to build road networks etc in and around Colombo and other busy townships where there is crying need urgent action due to painful and costly traffic congestions that entail multiplicity of losses in terms of loss of productive man power, excessive fuel consumption and heightened adverse effects on the environment caused by rapidly proliferating automobiles.
This writer has personal experience in driving up to MRIA without meeting a single oncoming vehicle. Most of the roads and adjacent areas of Hambantota become practical ghost towns after nightfall with roads remaining deserted and hardly any living soul being seen around. Whilst colossal amount of money was reported to have been spent on such idling infrastructure based on inflated estimates may have gone to provide vital economic statistics for central bank reports to churn out GDP figures they have to date failed to result in tangible economic returns worthy of the colossal investments made out of borrowed funds.
Said expenditure has no doubt created vast arteries with hardly any traffic to operate whilst Colombo and other metropolises continuing to go through multiplicity of hardships problems and hassles caused by clogged roads and long lines of slow moving noisy traffic.
Funds, should in fact, have been spent on improving the arteries and infrastructure in Colombo, suburbs and other busy townships to address rapidly growing problems associated with proliferating vehicular traffic which would no doubt have accrued faster economic gains and qualitative benefits such as cleaner environs, better manpower efficiency, and productivity as well reduced
‘Outer Circular Highway’ designed to reduce the burden of traffic in the Colombo city should have been the starting point in a systematic approach to elevate public road network and build highways in Sri Lanka. Had it been done in that meaner it could have resulted in faster economic gains and greater conveniences to people struggling with busy lives and prevented colossal waste of public funds on investments ranking low priorities that continue to carry the burden of snowballing debt in
Projects undertaken by the private sector entrepreneurship are generally based on financial considerations such as realistic cost benefit and feasibility criteria. Private sector strives to justify the outlay of every single rupee or dollar and employs rigid checks and balances to ensure conformance of actual performance with what has been planned. Conversely, projects of mega scale undertaken by the state sector very often smack of financial irregularities and vested interests and become subjects public debate. Many such ones often receive fast tracked approval due to wheeler dealing and influence peddling by vested interests. Sri Lanka nowadays is witnessing the rise of landmark lotus tower devouring a big chuck of the public purse although how and what it is intended to serve common man interests is vague and ambiguous. There are many instances such as this and space constraints prevent elaboration. This has been the case with successive regimes including the so-called Yahapalanaya currently in the midstream with a scorecard replete with bungles and unfulfilled promises.
What is sorely needed is to establish independent apolitical mechanisms with necessary clout manned by competent, qualified and experienced personnel from a wide spectrum of disciplines to study evaluate and sanction state sector projects involving large scale investments of public money. Such mechanisms should have adequate teeth in enforcement and recourse to law with the ability seek the intervention of apex courts should a need arises to prevent whatever contravenes public interest as action should be dictated by socio economic needs and not driven by political considerations. Constitutional safeguards should be available for such personnel to perform fearlessly to safeguard public interests without having to face repercussions, reprisals or politically motivated victimization. What is at stake is common man’s interests, as it is the unsuspecting & uninformed common man who struggles hard to keep home fire burning and is eternally kept in the dark about calculating behind door machinations has to eventually take the brunt of loan repayments as most of the projects are funded by exorbitantly priced borrowings. With Global warming threatening to wipe out mankind from the face of planet earth, preservation of environment assumes overriding significance and environmental considerations should thus take precedence of everything else. In this country accusing fingers in respect of large scale frauds or financial crimes are predominantly directed at those occupying seats of the august assembly or their sycophant and cohorts. It is a damning indictment on the law makers who often wax eloquent on lofty principles and public spirited intentions to craftily grab votes.
If the so-called Yahapalanaya and the ‘Mr. Cleans’ who head it intend walking the talk, they should without further delay, take apolitical measures to establish effective independent mechanisms, oversight bodies, well defined schemes of checks and balances, enforcement and investigative processes to ensure that every rupee of public money would be spent for the benefit of public in the most prudent and transparent manner whilst safeguarding the priceless God-given treasures of nature.
That is the way to save people from state-sponsored financial sins and crimes against humanity.