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Wednesday, January 28, 2015


When blunders boomerang

 The law which made plastic crates compulsory for the transport of fruits and vegetables will be re-implemented from 15 January. When plastic crates were made mandatory last month, the farmers vehemently protested, turning the marketplace into an inferno and sending vegetable prices soaringg
By Upali Tennakoon
 The law which made plastic crates compulsory for the transport of fruits and vegetables will be re-implemented from 15 January. When plastic crates were made mandatory last month, the farmers vehemently protested, turning the marketplace into an inferno and sending vegetable prices soaring. The re-implementation of this law will certainly trigger more problems, for plastic crates are not the solution to the many problems faced by farmers in the country.  On the contrary, the government will only succeed in exacerbating their plight by smothering them with strict laws.
Plastic crates aside, there are more important problems in the country which need to be addressed immediately. The issue of stray dogs, for instance, can be termed as one. It was reported in media that there is a move to cull thee million stray dogs. Animal lovers, animal rights activists, and civil organizations have roundly castigated the Health Ministry for initiating the move. 
 According to the Health Ministry, 2,000 dog bites are reported every day and this has now become a serious health issue. As a solution, sterilization of dogs is taking place at an annual cost of Rs. 1,000 million. More than 45 people had died due to rabies last year and this number is expected to increase. Even at the weekly Cabinet meeting two weeks ago, this matter, reportedly, was raised but the ministers could not formulate a solid and sustainable solution. 
This problem is entirely different from the plastic crates issue, as this has a direct impact on the health of hundreds and thousands of people. If 2,000 people are victimized by dog bites on a daily basis, it is not so difficult to calculate the monthly and yearly statistics. This problem has already burdened the health sector to a large extent.
This problem has many indirect adverse impacts too. Several months ago, a Sinhala newspaper reported that stray dogs are rampant in tourist and cultural zones such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa and that it has become a great problem, especially for foreign travellers who visit those areas. One might think this is a negligible issue; but, if too many foreign tourists are bitten by stray dogs, this can in the long run become very detrimental.
In the past there was a mechanism to provide licences for dogs. That can be termed as a better option to curtail the number of stray dogs, than simply killing them.  That mechanism does not exist anymore and it can be the reason for the unprecedented increase in the number of stray dogs.
How should we solve the problem?  No one can approve the move to cull stray dogs because it cannot be justified on any ground. Even though stray dogs are a menace to our day to day lives, they also have a right to live just like all the other creatures on earth.
In the US, the dog population is 78 million. But stray dogs cannot be seen on the streets. There is a robust mechanism to register domestic dogs and electronic chips are placed in their ears. Those electronic chips contain details of their owners and locations. This system was introduced to Sri Lanka too; but did not produce desired results. Needless to say that Sri Lanka cannot afford to implement the electronic chip system due to the cost factor.
But it is essential to find a sustainable solution to the stray dogs’ problem. Instead of re-implementing the plastic crates law, the government should take necessary measures to re-implement the licence system for dogs. If need be, the old licence system can be modified and re-implemented through the administrative bodies and health sector institutions.  And at the same time, a mechanism should be introduced to sterilize the stray dogs and curb the growth of their population in a responsible manner. It will free the country from the so called ‘rabies fear’ and on the other hand it will also reduce the massive amounts of money the Health Ministry has to spend on a yearly basis to prevent rabies.  
Undergrads compared to stray dogs
According to some ministers of the present government, university students are also like stray dogs. If my memory serves me right, once Minister S.B. Dissanayake said that university students who are overly excited about the ‘revolution’ should also be vaccinated.
One cannot deny the fact that the entire university sector is also in turmoil now, thanks to the policies of the present government.  The University of Sri Jayewardenepura has been closed down indefinitely and the medical faculty of the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka also faces the same destiny. The students of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura demand to remove the Vice Chancellor claiming he is a political stooge.
At the same time, there is a heated battle between university students and the government over the Private Universities Bill. In addition to the students, the university teachers are also up in arms against the government. Their major demand is a substantial salary hike for university teachers, which ensures the dignity of their profession. They have also criticized the new Bill pertaining to private universities and have threatened that they will resort to trade union action if the Bill is presented to Parliament.
But the government does not have a plan to address the problems faced by university students. Instead of solving their problems, the government is now attempting to repress their protest campaigns and this has aggravated the university crises. Higher Education Minister, S.B. Dissanayaka recently made a startling remark that a group of university students backed by the JVP rebel group are planning to launch an armed struggle.
A/L results fiasco

The manner in which the government handled the A/L results fiasco has also intensified the tension between the students and the government.
The students vociferously demand that the Education Minister should resign from his position. But the Minister mockingly says that there is no reason for him to resign.   This is not a problem pertaining to his resignation. But it is quite apparent that the Education Minister does not take this deadly blunder seriously.  May be he is of the view that the people might forget that problem after two or three weeks. But that is, I must say, a fatal miscalculation, for it will certainly be something for the Education Minister and the relevant authorities to regret when such blunders boomerang on the government. 
Meryvin, another embarrassment
Minister Mervyn Silva’s issue also surfaced in the wake of the A/L results fiasco. That also embarrassed the government to a great extent and the top echelons of the government became speechless when the Kelaniya PS members revealed the corruption charges levelled against him. Those Kelaniya PS members, who are now at loggerheads with Minister Silva, were considered as his close associates a few months ago.  But now they have locked horns causing a conundrum to the government.
These kinds of problems cannot be solved by repression and intimidation. The more you try to suppress dissenting voices by force, the more powerful will they become. The slain Libyan Leader Gaddafi kept immense faith in intimidation and suppression. And finally he embraced a tragic death inside a ditch near the capital city of Libya.
We can see isolated uprisings all over the country. If the government does not address the root causes of these uprisings, they will intensify and coalesce. Then protesters will not demand a solution for their problems; but will call for a regime change. That is completely the fault on the part of the government. The best example is there in the ‘Arab Spring’.  
When power is in your hand, you might believe that the entire world revolves around you. It is a serious misconception. That highhandedness will generate far reaching consequences. Therefore, the leaders of the country should realize that the turmoil which has arisen in the university sector and in the ruling coalition is a wakeup call for the   government. If the top echelons of the government disregard this message, they will not have a second chance to rectify their faults. 
 The re-implementation of this law will certainly trigger more problems, for plastic crates are not the solution to the many problems faced by farmers in the country.  On the contrary, the government will only succeed in exacerbating their plight by smothering them with strict laws.
Plastic crates aside, there are more important problems in the country which need to be addressed immediately. The issue of stray dogs, for instance, can be termed as one. It was reported in media that there is a move to cull thee million stray dogs. Animal lovers, animal rights activists, and civil organizations have roundly castigated the Health Ministry for initiating the move. 
 According to the Health Ministry, 2,000 dog bites are reported every day and this has now become a serious health issue. As a solution, sterilization of dogs is taking place at an annual cost of Rs. 1,000 million. More than 45 people had died due to rabies last year and this number is expected to increase. Even at the weekly Cabinet meeting two weeks ago, this matter, reportedly, was raised but the ministers could not formulate a solid and sustainable solution. 
This problem is entirely different from the plastic crates issue, as this has a direct impact on the health of hundreds and thousands of people. If 2,000 people are victimized by dog bites on a daily basis, it is not so difficult to calculate the monthly and yearly statistics. This problem has already burdened the health sector to a large extent.
This problem has many indirect adverse impacts too. Several months ago, a Sinhala newspaper reported that stray dogs are rampant in tourist and cultural zones such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa and that it has become a great problem, especially for foreign travellers who visit those areas. One might think this is a negligible issue; but, if too many foreign tourists are bitten by stray dogs, this can in the long run become very detrimental.
In the past there was a mechanism to provide licences for dogs. That can be termed as a better option to curtail the number of stray dogs, than simply killing them.  That mechanism does not exist anymore and it can be the reason for the unprecedented increase in the number of stray dogs.
How should we solve the problem?  No one can approve the move to cull stray dogs because it cannot be justified on any ground. Even though stray dogs are a menace to our day to day lives, they also have a right to live just like all the other creatures on earth.
In the US, the dog population is 78 million. But stray dogs cannot be seen on the streets. There is a robust mechanism to register domestic dogs and electronic chips are placed in their ears. Those electronic chips contain details of their owners and locations. This system was introduced to Sri Lanka too; but did not produce desired results. Needless to say that Sri Lanka cannot afford to implement the electronic chip system due to the cost factor.
But it is essential to find a sustainable solution to the stray dogs’ problem. Instead of re-implementing the plastic crates law, the government should take necessary measures to re-implement the licence system for dogs. If need be, the old licence system can be modified and re-implemented through the administrative bodies and health sector institutions.  And at the same time, a mechanism should be introduced to sterilize the stray dogs and curb the growth of their population in a responsible manner. It will free the country from the so called ‘rabies fear’ and on the other hand it will also reduce the massive amounts of money the Health Ministry has to spend on a yearly basis to prevent rabies.  
Undergrads compared to stray dogs
According to some ministers of the present government, university students are also like stray dogs. If my memory serves me right, once Minister S.B. Dissanayake said that university students who are overly excited about the ‘revolution’ should also be vaccinated.
One cannot deny the fact that the entire university sector is also in turmoil now, thanks to the policies of the present government.  The University of Sri Jayewardenepura has been closed down indefinitely and the medical faculty of the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka also faces the same destiny. The students of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura demand to remove the Vice Chancellor claiming he is a political stooge.
At the same time, there is a heated battle between university students and the government over the Private Universities Bill. In addition to the students, the university teachers are also up in arms against the government. Their major demand is a substantial salary hike for university teachers, which ensures the dignity of their profession. They have also criticized the new Bill pertaining to private universities and have threatened that they will resort to trade union action if the Bill is presented to Parliament.
But the government does not have a plan to address the problems faced by university students. Instead of solving their problems, the government is now attempting to repress their protest campaigns and this has aggravated the university crises. Higher Education Minister, S.B. Dissanayaka recently made a startling remark that a group of university students backed by the JVP rebel group are planning to launch an armed struggle.
A/L results fiasco

The manner in which the government handled the A/L results fiasco has also intensified the tension between the students and the government.
The students vociferously demand that the Education Minister should resign from his position. But the Minister mockingly says that there is no reason for him to resign.   This is not a problem pertaining to his resignation. But it is quite apparent that the Education Minister does not take this deadly blunder seriously.  May be he is of the view that the people might forget that problem after two or three weeks. But that is, I must say, a fatal miscalculation, for it will certainly be something for the Education Minister and the relevant authorities to regret when such blunders boomerang on the government. 
Meryvin, another embarrassment
Minister Mervyn Silva’s issue also surfaced in the wake of the A/L results fiasco. That also embarrassed the government to a great extent and the top echelons of the government became speechless when the Kelaniya PS members revealed the corruption charges levelled against him. Those Kelaniya PS members, who are now at loggerheads with Minister Silva, were considered as his close associates a few months ago.  But now they have locked horns causing a conundrum to the government.
These kinds of problems cannot be solved by repression and intimidation. The more you try to suppress dissenting voices by force, the more powerful will they become. The slain Libyan Leader Gaddafi kept immense faith in intimidation and suppression. And finally he embraced a tragic death inside a ditch near the capital city of Libya.
We can see isolated uprisings all over the country. If the government does not address the root causes of these uprisings, they will intensify and coalesce. Then protesters will not demand a solution for their problems; but will call for a regime change. That is completely the fault on the part of the government. The best example is there in the ‘Arab Spring’.  
When power is in your hand, you might believe that the entire world revolves around you. It is a serious misconception. That highhandedness will generate far reaching consequences. Therefore, the leaders of the country should realize that the turmoil which has arisen in the university sector and in the ruling coalition is a wakeup call for the   government. If the top echelons of the government disregard this message, they will not have a second chance to rectify their faults. 

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