Stop colossal waste, help save little hearts
Some politicians fancy erections. Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his wisdom, launched the Lotus Tower project, which is said to be nearing completion. With the funds spent on that structure many flyovers could have been built in the city and its suburbs to solve the problem of tailbacks and the attendant delays. Fuel and man hours worth billions of rupees could have been saved a month that way.
Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, too, embarked on an Ozymandian project while inveighing against the previous government for extravagance. He wanted to erect the world’s tallest Christmas tree, of all things. Perhaps, bereft of achievements after winning the ICC World Cup two decades ago, he may have sought to boost his XXL ego, of course, at the expense of the taxpaying public. Much hyped as it is, his project hasn’t impressed even the men of the cloth; they have, in unison, denounced it as an utter waste of money.
Outspoken Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, addressing the media on Tuesday, called for abandoning such useless projects and channelling the funds being spent thereon for a worthy cause.
More than one half of the people of Colombo are living in slums and shanties, which are fertile breeding grounds for the underworld. A meal is a luxury for them whereas food sufficient for 2,000 mouths are said to be discarded a month at Parliament. Malnutrition is rampant among the children living in the poor quarters of the city.
This is the seamy side of Colombo, where hell and heaven exist cheek by jowl. The situation is no better in the conurbation with people belonging to all ethnic and religious communities living on canal banks and in low-lying areas which become a vast billabong during heavy rains. The government is planning a Megapolis without solving the basic problems of the city poor!
It is against this background that the criminal waste of public funds should be viewed. The government has recently obtained more than Rs. 700 mn through a supplementary estimate for super luxury vehicles for ministers and granted MPs pocket money to the tune of Rs. 100,000 each a month. With the money so wasted to pamper politicians, enough soup kitchens, as it were, can be opened to feed the city dwellers living in abject poverty.
Meanwhile, we are informed that about ten out of 1,000 infants born in Sri Lanka, which is home to four great religions, die before they reach their first birthday owing to congenital hearts diseases, the main cause of infant deaths in this country. A campaign, Little Hearts, has mercifully got under way to raise funds for the construction of a cardiac and critical care complex to provide timely treatment to all children with heart diseases at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Colombo. The Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians has thrown its weight behind this noble campaign, the organisers of Little Hearts say. Infant mortality can be reduced significantly if the facilities needed for treating the tiny, weak hearts are made available, we are told. Parents of these unfortunate children are hopelessly poor and cannot afford private sector health care. They are left with no alternative but to seek public assistance to save their precious ones who are dying slowly. Newspapers are full of their heart-rending appeals. The President’s Fund dishes out only paltry sums to them while settling politicians’ medical bills in full!
It looks as if the Cardinal’s words of wisdom have sunk in. Ranatunga’s Christmas tree project is reported to have been suspended. It must be abandoned and the money saved can be donated to Little Hearts. The same goes for the mindless waste of funds during other religious festivals such as Vesak.