Colombo, Human Rights

Why are we wasting our lives in traffic jams for corrupt politicians?

“You should not let these men (politicians) to come out. Their presence in public places itself threatens the common men. I do not know why it has become a matter of prestige for them to move with 10-15 uniform security personnel carrying lethal weapons” a High Court in New Delhi observed in October 2007 during a Court hearing into inconveniences caused to the public by politicians in that country. Observing they were not a “national asset”, the two judges who made the observation, Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Veena Birbal also told politicians to remain in the confines of their homes and offices if they feel threatened by citizens.

The judges could well have been speaking for us Sri Lankans given the unbearable situation that has arisen of late in the country, where for the convenience of a handful of politicians, roads are sealed off entirely leaving large numbers of people stranded in the scorching sun and the pouring rain. Pregnant woman who are a stones throw from a maternity homes are shoved inside shops so that VIPs traveling at breakneck speeds can pass by while schools children exhausted and hungry after their long day in schools suffer inside buses, vans and even trains.

One would think that in a democracy, it would be the people who should enjoy their legitimate rights and not the politicians who get themselves elected by making false promises and pretending to be the servants of the masses.  Constitutionality, sovereignty is vested in the people and we elect the Executive and the Legislature to exercise that Sovereignty on our behalf. But what do we get in return instead.

Citizens elect politicians to office. Yet politicians enjoy the rights of all citizens as their private privilege. Citizens are forced to grin and bear. Which gives rise to another pertinent question. Why do people in democracy put up this kind of harassment and suppression of their constitutionally enshrined right to freedom of movement?

The now common sight of armed military men standing in front of huge steel barricades  with people standing behind  them  for up to an hour at times  is more befitting of a  dictatorial regime  and not  that of a country that boasts of having had  democratically  elected government since 1947 and has enjoyed universal l franchise for even longer.

What has happened to the spirit of us Sri Lankans that we put up with the most atrocious injustices against us without a whimper? Have the politicians managed to get the better of the people and break their spirit to such an extent that now, people are prepared to take anything that is handed out to them and forget that they are infact the ones who have all the rights in this country?

“The more people (security men) surrounds these people (politicians) the more prestigious they feel. It is obnoxious that common men are forced to stay on the sidelines and are prevented to walk on the pavements when the politicians pass through”, the New Delhi Judges said.

It is time that the people of Sri Lanka too said the same thing and acted to put the politicians in their place.

  • Susith

    People who cannot unserstand a simple thing write long and big! People who cannot understand reads it and think it is the truth! What a world.

    • So true! I'm not saying all the politicians need this protection. But Sri Lanka does have probably the highest rate (guesstimate) of political assasinations! Yet people wonder why they take such precaution. Quite a few lives were saved thanks to the motorcades recently.
      I'd understand if these mortorcades went by spraying bullets all around the place. Or run people over frequently. But this complaining is just ridiculous.
      I honestly think private buses are more of a nuicance than politicains entourages.

  • CheeLanka

    When the writer says that "we put up with the most atrocious injustices against us without a whimper", it's indeed true. And tragically, some of us are even defending this as seen from the above comments! Can we sink any lower as a nation?

    A few months ago at the Horton Place – Kynsey Road junction, I witnessed something that I hope would gain momentum. Horton Place was suddenly closed for all traffic so that some tinpot official could pass through. Motorists waited patiently for a few minutes and then one in the growing line started hooting its horn incessantly. Others soon joined and there was a loud din. The traffic policemen and army soldiers looked on haplessly — they couldn't just shoot a whole line of vehicles, could they? That includes some large, expensive vehicles such as Pajeros and Monteros. Good for them to join the protest! And yes, I joined them and hooted for several minutes letting off my own fury.

    We should emulate this example. It may not solve the problem immediately but at least the men in khaki who do the politicians' dirty bidding would realise that not everyone is willing to take this gross harassment quietly and obediently.

    • You will be counting your blessings one day when you are licking only a small wound because when the suicide bomber blew itself up you were kept away from the actual target by security forces personnel who “helplessly” listened to your pompous honking – but still had the courtesy to overlook that and patiently engage in his duty showing true wisdom. But this is what they get from the ungrateful public.

      If you remember the 90s when VIP targets were taken out a lot of collateral went with it. Just in the last 2 years statistically collateral have been quite low and the targets actually being saved. It shows that the security detail arrangements are achieving something positive. But you know what, there is always a bunch of people who are too “posh” to be stopped at the road for their own safety for few minutes because they live in a liberal utopia.

  • punitham

    What has been going on in Northeast in the last few decades is a lot worse than these and the grumbling here shows they have not been aware of it all. Leave alone the aerial bombing and intense shelling. The number of check points and queues and identity cards and embargoes and et al.
    In Jaffna people are held up daily for hours for army vehicles to pass by.

  • Sri Lankans are frogs in the well. They consider the politicians as "Deviyo" and guys will even go to war and either get killed or run away when the heat is upon them.

    Politicians have become corrupt to the core, not doing what they were elected to do, they are in crime, murder of Tamils, bloodshed, war and Tamil genocide. They are therefore afraid of the people and have become a threat through their "Security actions".

    This war will never end till Tamil Eelam is formed. Should people continue to suffer because of the lack of foresight of politicos? No

    Though Politicos try all methods of security, they get killed. Why? people still do not like them. They want them out of sight. So why waste money ?

    The judges in India and Sri Lanka should be more harsher on this matter !!

  • S Sivanandan

    Politicians with the common touch!

    On Friday the eleventh of December 2008 i.e. yesterday, the time was around 10.00 AM. I entered the Sydney, Central Railway station, Inner west platform though the Devonshire tunnel to catch a train to Strathfield, an express train approached the virtually crowd free station and came to a halt. I boarded the train as it was off peak hour there were no commuters in the train except for a lady in the bogey, I sat opposite her in the longitudinal seat, just before the train started a gentleman well attired impeccably clad in full suit with another young lady apparently looking like his secretary boarded the train and sat in front of me.

    The gentleman's™ face appeared to be very familiar, he was none other than the leader of opposition Mr. Malcolm Turnbull, however being a visitor from Sri-Lanka I couldn’t believe my eyes, I never expected Australia'€™s richest politician to travel by public transport. Till such time I reached Red fern station I had a doubt, he was scrutinizing some charts with the secretary a young pleasant girl promptly and politely attending to his needs, and thereafter sending messages in his mobile phone focusing his attention to it.

    Passing Redfern, he finally when he raised his eyes from his mobile and I struck a conversation with him. I got up from my seat and apprehensively asked him "Sir are you the leader of the opposition?" He replied "œYes indeed, I am Malcolm Turnbull". €œl continued "Sir, you are reputedly the richest Australian politician, former Environment Minister, present leader of opposition, and you are traveling like an ordinary person!"€ He said "€œI love and like to travel with public by public transport".€ I told him in Sri Lanka if a politician has to travel there will be a pilot vehicle, a back up vehicle and adequate security precautions are taken prior to travel. He reciprocated with a smile and didn'€™t want to comment.

    I sat and continued my journey pondering the state of our mother land, in a few minutes I reached my destination, he shook my hands and said bye I waved my hand and alighted from the train. On reaching home I told my wife about the encounter she didn'€™t believe it. Thereafter my imagination criss-crossed pacific to my resplendent Isle. As a nation of assassination, our politicians are over protected and virtually isolated from the local masses. They are in ivory towers solely dependent on their henchmen for feed backs and take it for granted whatever they say as gospel and gullibly swallow their pill. I need not say about the henchmen and stooges of politicos, in some instances they are more powerful than their ministers and are not easily accessible themselves.

    The extensive excessive security extended to the politicians annoys the city dwellers and brings life to standstill when politicians attend parliament sessions certain sectors cleared and sealed off for security reasons, such operations are an annoyance and nuisance to the public. They have to bear and grin for security'€™s sake. Social cost of political assassination is comparatively lesser than its private cost to the politician; State coffers will have to cough out considerable sum for same. Politicians power hungry, at any cost want to protect them and continue to be in power , that is the scenario in developing countries, The authoritarian rulers are more vulnerable than democratic politicians while if the latter is assassinated it is the policy that is impacted.

    It is only when the security is reduced it would bring the politicians closer to the populace, if the question is paused to any body everyone will chorus only when terrorism is exterminated the security can be reduced both are relative terms.

    The security breach when George Bush visited Australia by is a clear proof highest surveillance and vigilance have to be maintained to avert possible security breaches, hence it is inevitable Sri-Lanka more vulnerable to such attacks cannot be slack in providing security to key personnel.

    Contd…

  • S Sivanandan

    Contd from above…

    In late sixties and early seventies the politicians were easily accessible, they mingled with public parliamentarians opted to remain in their electorates and went to Colombo for parliament sessions stayed at €œSravasti;€ they were not given fat rent allowances, and returned to nurse their seats by attending to the grievances of voters and worked for the development of their seats. Most of them were well educated from affluent families they forked out their personal money for the welfare of their constituency. They had the common touch and even helped families of the poor who were supporters of their opponents on a humanitarian point of view. That was their caliber.

    To mention a few, MPs from the northern peninsula traveled by the night mail train there was a standing reservation by the CGR, It is more appropriate to mention at this juncture the Locomotives during GMR Rampala'€™s days were running with full steam on time precisely to the dot, one can set their clocks on the arrival of trains, their solitary secretary. Who accompanies them travels by third class with the olden days type writer and other paraphernalia at Fort Railway Station they get down catch the bus reach €œSravasti, attend parliament and return, so simple and humble as that. Dr. W. Dahanayake travels from Galle by CTB bus gets down at Galleface after a plain cup of tea at the local kiosk walks the stairs of the Parliament in his national costume.

    Outlandish outsized Australia with outstretched hands welcomes magnanimously migrants, to contribute towards the development of the multi cultural communities, and shines as a model country not only in the western hemisphere in the entire world.

    When will all the races in Sri-Lanka interact and live in harmony in unity without enmity with entity??