Government's extravagance inconveniences public
Daily Mirror Editorial
Dec 12, 2011

Firstly, it was the Hambantota port that couldn’t draw the expected number of ships. Then there was the talk to construct an airport in the hill capital. Losing the bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games was a blessing in disguise; yet the southern expressway was declared open with much pomp and heraldry. A few weekend papers predicted a possible price hike in the essential consumer goods when the Colombo Stock Exchange is struggling to find a foothold due to the devaluation of the rupee. For those who thought the government they voted into power would take them to an oasis at the end of the thirty-year war , waking up from the slumbers to the bitter realities is not as easy as placing the cross-marks in the ballot paper. For them, Christmas and New Year have become two events in another country, a terrain where they no longer belong.

It is against this backdrop, the government’s plan to build a sports village in Hambantota was revealed by the opposition in Parliament last week; a revelation neither denied nor challenged by the Sports Minister or any other responsible authority. It is said the proposed sports village will pervade in an area of 1400 acres while the required land for the project will be provided by filling up six tanks that currently provide water for agricultural purposes. The argument that resettling people due to development projects had not been a new thing and that it is being done for their benefit, does not seem to be valid anymore.

It may be true that, when the Mahaweli project was implemented, there were hundreds of houses, schools and many villages that had to be relocated. Despite many objections, the relocating had to be done for the common benefit of the country. Despite the initial outcries, that might even seem quite unfair now, Mahaweli thrived and those who were benefited by it thrived along with it. Apart from many a criticism, it was one or perhaps the only mega project that got its priorities right. The Mahaweli, came into existence to enhance public produce, generate electricity and encourage people to be self-sufficient. Thus, it became the modern continuation of the traditional symbol of prosperity.

However, if the government is looking forward to draw parallels from the Mahaweli projects to justify their shortsightedness and extravagance, they should think twice about it; because a sports village does not provide water for their paddy fields, neither does it contribute to the country’s electricity grid.

Perhaps, the government has already forgotten that the people in the South were the major contributors to their record mandate, and to render them homeless for another one of their fancy projects, is sheer ungratefulness. Ideally, in a democracy, those who elect their representatives into power have the supremacy to call them back, if they are unable to live up to people’s expectations. Instead, in Sri Lanka, the political irony is that once the people vote a government into power, the voters are thrown out of the houses by the newly elected people’s representatives.

The lifespan of this extravagance does not seem to be a short one. However, next time when a mandate is called, it will be the people’s chance to say ‘No’ to the incongruities and stupidities of its rulers. No doubt, there will be a margin; only it will not be favourable to those who misused and abused the power people entrusted on them.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka