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Editorial : Enlightened, undiluted patriotism

29 August 2013 06:14 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Electricity and water are among the crucial issues that have hit the headlines and provoked widespread public protests in recent months.
On the electricity issue, millions of people – struggling for survival because of the soaring cost of living - were given a blackout blow in April when the bankrupt and corrupt Ceylon Electricity Board announced that electricity rates would be almost doubled from May 1. Cynically if not sadistically, the announcement was made just before the National New Year when millions of families were worried whether they would have enough money for kiribath kavum and kokis or to buy new cloths for the family. Even more cynicism was seen on the date of the hike – May1, which is the workers’ day.
Opposition parties and civic action groups carried out countrywide protests while the independent media also hit out hard at what they saw as the Government’s move to force the people to pay heavily for the corruption, mismanagement and negligence of the CEB.
Under intense pressure President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced at the ruling UPFA’s May Day rally that he was giving orders to the CEB to revise the hike in electricity rates and that families using less than 90 units a month would not have to pay a higher rate. 
The announcement was received with wide applause from the crowd and wide publicity especially in the Government media.
The undercurrents of this crisis are that we are surviving in a decadent era of third-rate politics and politicians who are mighty promise-givers and promise-breakers instead of being virtuous promise-keepers. Add to this deception or double games, and we have a devilish nightmare.
As if to show that the President’s order was being switched on, the CEB did not increase the rate in the bills for May. The people thought they had got some relief from an enlightened leader, but in a strange twist of nature, the dawn came before the darkness. When the electricity bills for June came; millions of people literally got a shock when they found that the electricity rates had been doubled and there was little or no relief for anyone. Who got whose wires crossed, or who was telling lies to whom is not clear, but the lesson to the people is that we cannot depend on politicians and we need to find a way of solving this crisis. The best way is for the people to reduce the use of electricity. We could switch off bulbs when they are not necessary, use Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) or Light Emitting Diode (LED), reduce the use of TV, radio and fans, get the whole family to use the electric iron at the same time instead of heating it several times a day, use water heaters or hot water showers only when essential and reduce electricity usage in other ways. Hoping for an example from politicians is like expecting a light at the end of the tunnel, when often we are confronted with another tunnel at the end of one.
As for water, the August 1 attack at Weliweriya where people got bullets when they asked for clean water also has important lessons for the people.
Trans-national and other companies are polluting even our ground water through the unregulated discharge of toxic waste and the promotion of the excessive use of imported chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides. Sri Lanka has been blessed with several major rivers, canals and wewas. Again, instead of looking for examples or right policies from politicians, we ourselves could help save our water resources. The pollution of ground water could be reduced if more people take to organic farming. In our homes we need to use less water by not fully opening taps when washing or for other purposes, using less water for shower baths, recycling water from the shower bath to the cisterns and not using purified tap water to wash vehicles or water the plants. In these and many other ways the people could act in a manner that is enlightened and undiluted patriotism unlike the bluff of our Mervyn Silvas. 

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