Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the winter of discontent

In a far off country a vegetable vendor, an unemployed university graduate, frustrated that the police would not allow him to trade set himself ablaze and unwittingly set off a chain of events that rocked the Near East.

There have been subterranean rumblings for a while. The mysterious phenomenon of the 'Grease Yaka' seems to capture the tone of many incidents, before and after.

The latest is vegetable traders and farmers who have taken to the streets. A rather troubling pattern seems to be forming. Once again, the imposition of laws and regulations with little consultation or foresight. Once again, the people have taken to the streets in protest.

The imposition of rules or laws that are seem to be unjust, creates anger that spills over to the streets. Some may call this attitude, high handed or arrogant while others would use stronger terms.

There have been many such instances of late, but to examine just a few, a year ago, the 18th amendment to the constitution, which had far reaching ramifications was rushed through as an "urgent bill". The average man in the street could make no sense of the complex constitutional questions and no one could explain its significance properly, so it passed unremarked. A certain minister who had been removed following mass protests earlier was then promptly reappointed.

Two months ago, the so-called expropriation bill was smuggled through, as an "urgent" bill. The business community was aghast but it was beyond the comprehension of the man in the street so it passed.

In both instances there was criticism but it could easily be shouted down and safely ignored.

The proposed pensions bill in May this year did however affect the workers directly and they understood its significance. They took to the streets in mass protest. The Government eventually backed down, but not before a worker was killed. Now it is the vegetable traders who are on the roads.

It is not the plastic crates that are the problem, it is the way in which it is imposed on the people that breeds this anger. I think reducing losses in transport is important and reducing waste will contribute to better income for farmers and traders while bringing lower prices to consumers. However the way to approach this is through education. If people see it is to their benefit, they will quickly adopt it. If the high cost of the plastic crate is the barrier then subsidising it, at least at the introductory stage would be a good idea, for it could bring long term benefits.

Employing the police to stop transport if the approved crate is not used should not even be contemplated. In a democracy, that is.


N said...

Have you heard what happened in Unawatuna with the hotels being demolished. If they were built illegally then it is fine demolishing them. The question is who approved them in the first place, why are the people in govt who approved them not reprimanded as well? The CCD who slept while this was happening.

The main issue as I see it is that the people at the top are insulated from law and order. The most blatant case is when you can allegedly shoot someone in the street and then get a flight to Singapore apparently with the President's approval. More small miracles.

Jack Point said...

Yes N, I heard about it but could not write.

A friend in Galle gave me an update last night. The situation is not as bad as we thought. As per his info:

1. They have not demolished everything, only anything that protrudes onto the beach itself. Eg, the front part of Kingfisher is gone, but not the entirety.

2. Due to the anticipated increase in arrivals, many of these places had expanded and encroached even more than previously.

Therefore there really was a problem of illegal construction and one that was threatening to spread further.

However, they could have timed it a lot better. They could also have implemented it better eg got the owners to dismatle and clear it, under police observation, rather than smashing it themselves-if such an arrangement was worked out it would have been less messy.

Now that the deed is done, they should also clean up the mess post-haste, Indi has posted some pics, the beach looks a real mess.

Vindi said...

Good post- however, I suppose the heart of the problem is that despite it being the season for protesting, no one's really doing anything about it are they?

Demise of democracy and big brother a-rising- oh if Orwell was still around..