Dangerous dormancy of Met vigils
Daily Mirror Editorial
Nov 28, 2011

Who would have thought that Sri Lankans would have to depend on the weather forecast of the Chennai Meteorological Centre when the country has a fully-fledged Meteorological Department in the heart of the capital city?

The gale that swept over the southern coastal belt that caused 17 deaths, more than 30 disappearances and colossal damages to both state and private properties, came without a warning. Yet, the question remains as to why the officials of the Met. Department could not foresee the danger looming over the horizon or issue a formal warning even if they were unable to estimate fully the magnitude of the disaster.

Generally, the people have shown lenience towards the department and its predictions. They have come to grips with the fact that weather constantly changes and even if one has the world’s best machinery to calculate environmental factors, it does not guarantee hundredpercent accuracy when it comes to predictions. But the lenience on the part of the public, had been taken for granted throughout. Instead of making it an inspiration to work more efficiently, the officials have resorted to take it as an inspiration to be dormant.

In fact, this is not the first time the people had to pay dearly for the officials’ indolence. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that accounted for 30,196 deaths while leaving many destitute, was the height of their lethargy. However, due to the newness of the nature of the calamity and the fact that Sri Lanka had never been a victim of such a disaster, the allegations against them were gradually toned down. Friday’s incident which went on to become an extension of their heedlessness exhibited on the fateful Boxing day made one question whether they had any idea of the value of human life.

Minister of Disaster Management, Mahinda Amaraweera, talking to a television channel said, people should be more vigilant and be more on alert for possible dangers. Perhaps, the minister could not realize the degree of damage caused by the tsunami that not only took many lives but also permanently scarred the lives of those who survived the catastrophe. Instead of helping them out of the trauma, requesting them to count for the signs of danger is way too much to ask for. As it is always the case, the people have learnt their lessons the hard way, now it is high time the Met. Officials learnt theirs. The Minister’s statement also begs the question as to what will be left in the duty lists of the officials specially appointed to look into such situations, once the public is compelled to develop a sixth sense.

For them, the incident on Saturday will be just another one of those winds that came sweeping the sub continent. They will even come up with hundred different explanations; each one more complicated than the other; yet, it is the end of life for the families that lost their breadwinners. Sri Lanka has tasted enough death for the last four decades that its people deserve to taste life now; a privilege they were being long deprived of.

In the post-war Sri Lanka that boasts of the right to live after the suicide bombers have become the villains of the past, deaths caused by natural disasters should not be a way of life.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka