Kings and Queens – The Island
Friday, September 16, 2022
The Lotus Tower, one of the Ozymandian projects that the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration launched, plunging the country into debt, has been reopened! It was first opened by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government in September 2019. This time the public will be able to visit it, provided of course that they buy tickets. Why the tower remained closed for three long years after its grand opening is anyone’s guess.
In September 2019, who would have thought that the Lotus Tower would be reopened under a Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government? After the 2015 regime change, Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe pledged to bring the Rajapaksas to justice for theft of public funds, corruption and other serious crimes, and their Yahapalana government condemned the Lotus Tower as a total waste of public funds. Today, they are both in the Rajapaksa camp!
Sri Lankans are reeling from the impact of the fifth highest food inflation rate in the world; as many as 6.3 million of them face food insecurity, according to the UN, and malnutrition is endemic among children. Hospitals are experiencing drug shortages and many surgeries have been postponed indefinitely. There are no funds for printing textbooks. The prices of all basic necessities have soared into the stratosphere, but the government is asking people struggling to assuage the pangs of hunger to pay for a bird’s eye view of Colombo from the top of the Lotus Tower!
If the Rajapaksa administration had cared about streamlining state spending without securing foreign loans for projects such as Lotus Tower, Mattala Airport and Hambantota Port, the country would not have gone bankrupt. and people wouldn’t have had to starve.
In ancient Rome, the patricians used “bread and circus,” or cheap food and entertainment, to distract the plebeians from their problems and thus prevent popular uprisings. The commoners of Rome had at least some bread or paneme, but here, in this thrice-blessed land, bread has become a luxury for the hoi polloi, most of whom hit the sack on an empty stomach. The Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government will be able to further deceive the public, and even impose tariff and tax increases while all eyes are on the Lotus Tower!
There is a very serious problem regarding the Lotus Tower. It was built primarily to provide broadcast facilities for radio and television stations. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka, issuing a statement to the media, said the tower would be able to accommodate 50 television services and 35 FM radio services, as a Sri Lankan telecommunications expert pointed out , Shanthilal Nanayakkara, Retired Principal Engineer, Digital Transition Division, Australian Communications and Media Authority, Canberra. He pointed out some design flaws of the tower in an article, “Failures in Lotus Tower broadcast technologies”published by The Island August 15, 2016. In another article, ‘Lotus Tower: A Way Forward for Broadcasting’, published by this newspaper on September 12, he said that the tower has other attractions but that the means of dissemination and communication are absent! If the Lotus Tower is to fulfill its primary purpose of providing a consolidated multi-user broadcast and communications facility, considerable effort and capital will be required, he said. This means that more money will have to be spent thanks to the aforementioned design flaws.
Following the publication of the first article on the tower, in 2016, the government of the time ordered an investigation, which only proved its veracity. Curiously, no attempt was made to determine who was responsible for the design flaws. This is a very serious liability issue, we believe. A probe is required. It may be too embarrassing for the Rajapaksas, Wickremeisnghes, Sirisenas and other strange bedfellows of the current regime to order an investigation because they do not want to open a Pandora’s box, but the government must be pressured to what he does then. The people who paid for the construction of the tower have the right to know the truth. Will the opposition and others whip this issue hard enough and ensure an investigation is launched?