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Government Gazette

Water crisis - not a war

Over fifty thousand lives were in jeopardy due to the siege on an anicut, and that has not pricked the conscience of the collective world media? Is it a media that's tuned to the sounds of war to the extent it does not hear the cries of the hungry, the destitute and the vast unwashed? Bullets have to go off, and bombs need to detonate these days for the world media to take stock - and to open those vast sluice gates of media recognition. One real sluice gate in a backwater of a tiny Indian Ocean nation does not merit an honourable mention.

But, the sluice gate war has led to a standoff that seems to have threatened the peaceful coexistence between people of varying ethnic communities, at least in that part of the country in which this crisis plays out. But ''war is imminent' appears to be a cry of ecstasy on the part of the international media, even conceding that war lubricates the wire service ticker machines.

Now, the Mavilaru anicut affair had threatened to blow up into a conflagration that has spawned a quasi-genocidal situation in that part of the country. Muslims are under siege by the LTTE, and there are refugee camps that have been under threat from enemy fire, and crossfire.

The LTTE calculated that the forced closure of an anicut will have the propaganda advantage of precipitating a war without a bullet being fired on its part. To that extent the LTTE seemed to have calculated correct -- with the media nationally and internationally focused on a war, that in its collective reckoning, started without any apparent rhyme or reason. Its not the correct position. The battle started over water. But, that LTTE calculation has to be put down by the correct dissemination of information, and this is a battle that's almost harder than securing the anicut.

The loss of the water supply was a basic violation of rights and infliction of slow death upon a people. To that extent , the government's invocation of the Geneva convention - - reiterated yesterday by the President - was to say that water is a universally granted basic right, and what better than global covenants to underscore the point? In bizarre turning on the head of this position, the UNP led stand of unreason is that governments alone have to abide by the Geneva convention.

Its not as if anybody expected the baby-brigade holding LTTE to go by a Geneva convention - but the convention was cited for underscoring the fact that in international law, a water supply is a basic right that accrues to a community.

Taking that away is genocide by gradual-processes - - its akin to the slow gassing of the Jews, a Trincomalee turned Treblenika.

The characteristic of engagement with groups that do not abide by Geneva conventions, is that their actions when met by the recourse to arms, leads to a snowballing of conflict. Mavilaru had led to Muttur and beyond.

This has put Sri Lanka again in the conflict map, but if the correct information is let to percolate to the international community the conflict would be seen within the ambit of its current focus - - which is to free a lifegiving supply of water, which means that the government's armed thrust is a solution by surgical strike.

If the fighting continues the LTTE calculation would have been correct. The trick in Mavilaru, is for the state to retract, with the anicuit intact and in its hands. That may be easier said, but it's a situation that has to be seen as an achievable goal.

Examine these principals

School principals have now challenged the Education Ministry circulation, which decrees that children cannot be interviewed in school-recruitment.

This is a schoolmarmish approach, and is to be expected by those who haven't disposed of the adage 'spare the rod and spoil the child.' But, the process of producing automatons that run a system of economic production needs change. This may be the season for supply side economics, but it is certainly not the one for a conveyor belt production process.

Education has been dehumanizing to children the world over, and it's clear that rigorous examination demands have led to suicides in countries as far afield as Japan and South Korea. The political process can ameliorate some of the deficiencies of the economic process -- and mass production of graduates and the technically qualified, is essentially an economic process.

Political will has been manifest in the recent decision to stop interviewing children in the school recruitment process. Young minds have been spared the rigours of obscene competition. Let not some busybody pedants overrun this progress.


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