Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! It is the word used around the world to make a distress call via radio communications. Mayday signals a life-threatening emergency, usually on a ship or a plane, although it may be used in a variety of other situations.
Procedure calls for the mayday distress signal to be said three times in a row — Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! That is because it won’t be mistaken for another word or phrase that sounds similar under adverse or noisy conditions. A typical distress call will start with Mayday repeated three times, followed by all the possible relevant information that potential rescuers would need, including type and identity of craft involved, nature of the emergency, location or last known location, current weather, fuel remaining, what type of help is needed and the number of people in danger.
The last couple of Labour Day celebrations certainly had all the components of a crisis call that no airplane pilot or ship’s captain ever wants to have to make. Why? The reason is that it simply means trouble. Really big trouble!
All thinking Sri Lankans are aware that our ship of state has every reason to turn to prayer these days. So would you if you were at the controls of an administration that seems to be in floundering on the rocks or in a tailspin and staring disaster in the face. Oh sure, they usurped the event that is a day of special significance for the labour movement to make an extravaganza of their own petty political strengths.
No surprise there because our two big parties have been doing so for ad infinitum since independence appropriating the one day reserved for workers to demonstrate their solidarity. In a larger sense some of the blame has to be apportioned to us for encouraging such a virulent malaise by sitting in senile dementia. By their very acquiescence many trade unions have set the stage for politicians – many of who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives – to expropriate workers’ rights.
Everyone is aware of the wrangling among the hastily cobbled administration and the insider horse trading taking place. The grossly corpulent Cabinets of late of both our big parties who have alternately been riding this nation’s so-called democratic see-saw since independence have soundly reinforced this pathetic state of affairs.
So what does a beleaguered and desperate administration do when the ship of state they are piloting is being tossed around on the stormy waves of a political and economic ocean and careering dangerously out of control?
Take the easiest way out by way of throwing a tamasha with a bottle of arrack and a ‘buth’ packet thrown in as an incentive to rally round their tub-thumping bandwagons. The hackneyed Sinhala saying, ‘Nava Gilunath Band Choon,’ that might well have been inspired by the ill-fated musical ensemble aboard the foundering Titanic as they resolutely played on to the last regardless of their predicament. It all sounds ironically apt in the case of the tottering government luxury liner as well.
Whether these exercises underline sinful waste or are intended to enhance the population’s waist-lines is a moot question. In fact, it appears that such absurdities and arrogant pretensions reinforce the wilder thinking and perhaps utter desperation of any punch-drunk administration staggering against the ropes.
All the Government’s razzmatazz and superficial trappings to take advantage of Labour Day can’t hide the fact that the country is in a sorry mess both politically and economically. The much-hyped political May Day rallies are being viewed as a pathetic cosmetic reaction of a Government in trouble, attempting to subterfuge many unaddressed burning issues.
The new hard times are much more in evidence than ever before, affecting the lives of millions of ordinary people. There have been no measures aimed at cushioning the impact of inflation on the hard-pressed public who have suffered increasingly intolerable financial burdens.
During both the last Presidential and General Elections a slew of many big promised changes had been pencilled in for the future. The pledges included reforms such as the abolishment of the Executive Presidency and various other amendments to re-establish democratic rights.
Against this depressing background, one would wonder what chances are there for reforming anything at all in Sri Lanka? Organised crime has become a feature of everyday life and has turned our justice system on its head. Has life improved for the people of Sri Lanka in the past five decades or more since independence? Of course, say the politicians, while playing the old blame game and casting rhetorical stones at their opponents.
Problems are creeping up everywhere. The cost of living is soaring as never before. The public health sector is ailing and its symptoms are being made chronically worse by mutinous medical personnel. The education and welfare systems need to be completely overhauled. Life in general is dangerous, tiresome, humiliating, smelly and unhygienic.
What really worries people now and should be of considerable concern to the Government is the breakdown in public services and utilities. Of late the piped water supply has often been interrupted several times a day. Power supplies are equally erratic. People have to scurry to store water.
Electricity and water are too essential to be left in hands of dithering idiots. They are both critical, life-giving resources, not simply commodities.
All these reforms are vital but none will be accomplished soon. One reason is the sheer complexity of it all. But the more obvious one is the lack of political will. The Government has other things on its mind, besides concentrating on its own survival and that is chiefly to stay in power.
Our big parties still dream of the overall majority in parliament that has eluded them both for some time. The people have many grievances about the way the country is being governed. Most of them are rooted in a dislike for the excessive influence that many governing-party legislators are seen to exert on the economic and political life of the country.
What we have had up to now have been all governments of contradictions and controversies. They have often manifested that politics always prevails over justice. It is not a beneficial legacy for anyone to follow. It can boomerang. All politicians take note!