S. Jegan Prakash
In a democratic country it is commonly believed that politicians elected by people are bound to ensure the wellbeing of the public. We know that Sri Lanka is identified as a democratic nation in the world. And in our country too we can see the democratic procedure of electing political leaders to represent the people in the parliament. The parliament is the place where the law of the country ruled is made.
There are two main factors which forced me to write this article on this particular topic. The first reason is the fact that the government was recently considering to introduce a new law according to which the national anthem should be sung only in Sinhala language, the mother tongue of the majority of Sri Lankans. Had this law been passed, the national anthem could not have been sung in Tamil or any other language. It is a well known fact that in 1977 with the great constitutional changes, the Sinhala version of national anthem created by late Ananda Samarakoon was directly translated to Tamil without a single change in the meaning. Since then until today singing the national anthem in Tamil has been practiced by Tamil and Muslim people for about thirty years.
It is a matter of concern that now some political leaders who have contributed largely to sabotage the nation’s economy are pretending to be people who love our nation more than their life. Their argument is that singing the national anthem in several languages in one country can create an ethnic conflict between the majority and the minorities. According to my point of view even considering to introduce a law which says that the national anthem should be sung only in Sinhala, is a childish activity of our shortsighted politicians. One thing that must be understood by everyone is that abolishing the rights people have been enjoying for years could affect people’s minds adversely.
After the ruthless thirty years of war, now people in the north and south have begun to live a new life with new hopes and aspirations. In a situation like this, considering to introduce a law such as this is a wrong step by politicians. What I think is that they try to get some personal political benefits by introducing such a law. Indeed people have numerous economic and social problems. Politicians must take some immediate measures to address these problems instead of creating unwanted problems among people who have received a lease of life after the end of the merciless war.
At this moment in the country people and made to face serious problems due to the soaring price of essential goods. This critical situation has forced the people to reduce the number of meals they normally eat per day and to compromise on the basic needs of their children. Parents find it difficult to facilitate their children’s education. Although the government is playing its own trumpet by presenting false data that the resettlement process in the North and East has been completed, people displaced by the war are experiencing psychosocial problems in various ways. As a responsible group of people, parliamentarians should work to solve people’s problems. However, in Sri Lanka it is disappointing to say that politicians have failed to do so. As far as my knowledge is concerned, this national anthem matter is a kind of strategy of cunning, visionless politicians with the aim of making the minority of Sri Lanka to feel an inferiority complex within them.
The ridiculous thing is that some senior politicians endeavor to make people believe whatever the lie they tell in the parliament. One of the senior ministers recently said that since the national anthem in India was sung in the Hindi language only (the language of the majority in India), in Sri Lanka the national anthem should be sung only in Sinhala language. All the parliamentarians have nodded to this statement. In accordance with the knowledge I have accumulated the national anthem in India “Vande Madaram” is in Bengali, the mother tongue of a specific small group of people in India called Bengalis. One point is obvious – politicians repeatedly come up with false claims and expect people to believe them.
It is sad to say that politicians who have come to parliament with the immense support of Tamils and Muslims, the representatives of the minority of our country except the TNA parliamentarians were in a grave silence while this special discussion was taking place in the parliament. As most of the parliamentarians were silent, one of the senior ministers who does not have a single educational qualifications to represent the parliament was expressing his own ideas over this national anthem matter as he wished. It is not an easy task to avoid incidents as this when wrong people are in the wrong places. When the basic rights of their people are severely violated, sabotaged and ridiculed, they were silent. However, people bring politicians to power sacrificing and dedicating their life, only to see how the politicians lead luxurious lives afterwards. This brings me to the question ‘Are politicians for people or are people for politicians?’
The next disappointing fact that pushed me to write this article is the silence of upcountry politicians on the occasion when the price of wheat flour was increased suddenly by a big amount. It is apparent that the consumption of wheat flour is very high among estate workers. For the estate Tamil people wheat flour is the substance by which they can make rotty or something else in shorter period of time that it takes to cook rice. Using wheat flour is convenient for them since women leave their home for work early in the morning.
Recently I got an opportunity, (given by an INGO called Mercy Corps) to work as a researcher in the plantation areas. I worked in three districts Nuwara Eliya, Badulla and Ratnapura where the cash crops such as tea and rubber are widely cultivated. During the research I found out that people in estates consume food made out of wheat flour since it reduces the hunger they feel when they are engaged in hard work in the estates. The present government is not concerned about the estate sector people. That is why the president forgot to talk about the people in estate sector when he presented the budget for 2011 in the parliament.
It is important to note that upcountry politicians have been calm and quite in the face of burning problems of estate people. Because of this, the government is also taking the maximum opportunities to marginalize this poverty-ridden, backward, and illiterate community. It is certain that politicians from plantations will never discuss the problems of estate people in the parliament, as they know very well that as long as these problems are prevailing they can do their money making business of politics. Finally, I can say that the problems of estate sector people provide immense opportunities for politicians to improve their own lives.