Legend has it that the Roman emperor, Nero, played the lyre while a great fire enveloped Rome in AD 64. Centuries later, the “fiddling while Rome burns” charges is popularly directed at people who preoccupy themselves with trivial matters while ignoring potential crises. Today in Sri Lanka it could be said that its legislators in parliament are fiddling while the country faces many burning issues. Because in spite of the two main contending parties in parliament forming the National Government to address the burning issues, a defiant chunk of legislators have polarized together in opposition and have backed many deceit acts both inside and outside the parliament. The nation witnessed the worst of these antics in parliament following the May Day that resulted in a punch-up in the well of the House of Parliament.
In the country eighth of the population enjoy life of luxuries sharing half the wealth generated annually by the nation leaving rest of the population to share the other half. It causes a “dog fight” among them, which denies the weaker sections of the population of their share that cause them to lose their basic rights and in the process making them poorer. The plight of the weaker workers was highlighted in an earlier posting in Northern Breeze and it is appropriate to recall what Nelson Mandela has said “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”. While the powerful and strong that includes the legislators in parliament are taking more than that is due to them violating basic human values in the process is dragging the nation towards failure status. This takes place with the full knowledge of the legislators, who as the guardian of the people have failed in their duty to make meaningful contributions including many appointed through the National List, negating the rationale of the National List in Parliament.
There are millions of Lord Buddha followers in Sri Lanka who hold majority in Parliament and have headed every government since the country gained independence in 1947. Load Buddha said “In the sky, there is no distinction of east, west, north and south; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true. There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills”. Seventy years after independence and the country is yet to witness any proof that these teachings of Load Buddha have being followed by the mainly Buddhists legislators in parliament. They created distinctions in their own mind and reacted accordingly based on their thinking marinated in ‘old’ history and have failed to go forward in pursuit of ethnic and economic equilibrium. In parliament where each sitting day cost millions to the tax payer, last week when a vote was called saw bulk of the legislators failing to be present. With only a quarter of the legislators voting resulted in a tie never witnessed in the history of parliament and the mess caused an investigation. Incidentally the vote was for an Appropriation Bill that was to benefit few legislators in the cabinet at a time tax burden on the people was increased by the Budget. It must be said the proposed indirect tax system increase in the budget was flawed and would hurt the poor section of the working population, while the present low direct tax system that favors the wealthy was left unchanged. Therefore it was not surprising to see many expressing disgust that has forced the government to make amendments to reduce the impact. It is the direct and not the indirect tax system that needs to be increased and implemented properly as done in the neighbouring countries. For revenue earned by direct tax in the country is very low causing the government to take the easy route out by increasing the indirect tax that scuffles the poor to make them poorer.
Unfortunately, these everyday occurrences in the country validate the absence of love and compassion, a situation fueled by extremist of all colour and shade from every part of the country. As another Buddhist of repute Dalai Lama has said “Love and compassion are necessities and not luxuries in life for the survival of Humanity” it is now up to every Sri Lankan to work to sustain humanity in the country. We have had three youth uprisings and a bloody civil war that lasted thirty years. Many pessimists have said that Sri Lanka is a failed state, but optimists do not support this view. Their opinion is that the nation has not failed yet and that humanity does exist in Sri Lanka, as they accept Mahatma Gandhi’s saying “Do not lose faith in humanity for it is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty”. The proof was seen with the resurgence of the civil society led by a Buddhist Monk that brought a wind of change. In this aspect it is hoped most of the ills in the country will be resolved by the National Government with the introduction of the proposed New Constitution, in particular the long standing ethnic issue discussed in a previous posting in Northern Breeze. Therefore the silent majority in the country must be alert and help to eradicate all activities that have caused the situation to occur and not expect other nations to do it for us. Not all ills can be resolved by just changing the constitution, but a lot could be achieved as Martin Luther King, Jr. has said “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity”.