Tens of thousands of people in the North Central Province are known to be suffering from a Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology (CKDU), with most medical specialists believing that polluted groundwater is one of the causes.
Kidney patients in Padaviya face the agony of travelling up to 20 kms to reach the Anuradhapura hospital for dialysis and they have to do this once or twice a week because the Padaviya hospital does not have the equipment. Many rural hospitals in the NCP lack basic facilities.
It was in such a crisis of poverty, ill-health and other struggles of hundreds of thousands of people, that some 31 members of the PC and about 19 officials had planned to go on a so-called study tour of South Korea and Thailand later this month at a cost of about Rs. 30 million in public funds. Members of the ruling UPFA and the main opposition UNP were scheduled to go on this tour with apparently deaf ears to their conscience while the JVP’s only member Wasantha Samarasinghe was to boycott what he called a reprehensible and shameful pleasure tour and jaunt at the expense of poor people. NWP Chief Mininster S. B. Bandara Samarakoon reacting to this report first claimed that the media had blown up the figure and the number going on the tour would be around 30. Whether it was to be 30 or 50,the Daily Mirror and millions of right-thinking people are grateful to President Mahinda Rajapaksa for suspending this tour, jaunt, pleasure trip or whatever it was to be. The NCP council members and officials apparently frustrated by the President’s intervention to stop the tour are now giving various reasons or excuses. But the abortive tour is an indication that most politicians at central, provincial and village level are suffering from a heartless disease and are ready to plunder even more money from the people at a time when the cost of living is soaring and millions of people are suffering from the shock of their electricity bills for June.
Earlier this year members of the Western Provincial Council also went on a similar jaunt at public expense. PC members have been going on such pleasure trips for several years and we hope the President’s intervention to suspend the tour by the NCP council members would be a full stop to all such jaunts by provincial and government politicians. But we also wish to stress that orders alone are not enough and not acceptable. Example is essential. With Sri Lanka’s economy feared to be heading for a crash-landing despite all the lies and bogus statistics of top officials, austerity is needed and it must come from the top with the President and Government leaders setting the example. Non-essential foreign tours by ministers, MPs and top officials need to be cancelled and the President would be setting a good example if he cancels his non-essential foreign tours where he often takes a huge contingent including politicians or officials who enjoy five-star luxury and extravagance at public expense.
It is a simple and humble lifestyle or Alpechchthawaya — a hallowed Sri Lankan principle from the time of our ancient civilization — that can help turn the country around to a path of sustainable development. The people will enter into such a simple and humble life style if the leaders set the example.
This important editorial draws attention to an absolutely appalling, intolerable, unacceptable situation. Surely this is a major health crisis that calls for emergency attention and, if sufficient funding isn't available under the relevant budgetary subhead, a diversion of monies that will be blown in various massive tamashas, foreign jaunts, extravagant lighting of religious edifices and other displays of conspicuous consumption?
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