Logs are afalling sans taxes
The Sunday Times features section last week, and its news desk, a few weeks earlier, spalshed accounts of the rape of the southern forests, so that timber can be fed to the north, where the LTTE has placed a ban on the felling of ' their' trees. But, how many are bothered by the news?

Truckloads of satin, teak and palu, felled from Moneragala, Ampara, Badulla, Anuradhapura and Puttalam areas wend their way to the north.The timber merchants are no doubt, armed with 'permits'.

The logging mafia cannot operate without the knowledge of the authorities. The authorities include not just the forest officials, but the government officials and politicians who are behind the issue of permits, and the police, the security forces who do the checking of plying vehicles.

As the green cover of the country, or at least the 'south' of the country, is systematically destroyed, the timber lorries roll along the A-9 through Omanthai to the Wanni, or boats surreptitiously carry logs to the north along the coast. The LTTE -- knowingly exploits the craving of those who will do anything for a buck in the 'south'. They, while routinely imposing their own 'taxes' on anything and everything 'imported' from the 'south', have abolished the 'tax' on timber from the 'south'.

This unchecked, and unabated mass-scale deforestation has its own impressions on the country's eco-system. Deforestation causes floods, droughts, landslides and erosion, which in turn leave many people dead, injured, homeless and destitute. Rupees by the millions have to be spent on relief and reconstruction. The loss of life can never be compensated.

And all this, so that a few can make some money, at the expense of the many. The ban on timber felling in the 'north', and the demand for timber there has fuelled this massacre of our forests. While the smoke-screen debate is on whether it should be federalism or ISGA, or whatever, the woodcutters keep afelling, and the logs are afalling and the logs are afalling. Until one falls on our collective heads, it seems, we will not awaken to this disaster.

Good behaviour while abroad
In our front page last week, we reported a Presidential directive to Cabinet Ministers and Chief Ministers on how they must conduct themselves when dealing with foreign trips, foreign contracts and attending diplomatic receptions.This week, our front page photograph depicts how the directive has been brazenly flouted by some of her Cabinet Ministers.

Our Political Editor referred last week to a Cabinet Minister decamping from a hotel overseas without settling his bills. He had cooly told the reception that Sri Lanka's High Commission which made the booking would settle the bill. He was lucky to be let off, but only because the hotel does business with the High Commission. The High Commission later refused to pay saying they only made the booking. We still do not know how the matter was settled, if it was settled at all. That's how some of our Ministers behave overseas for you.

Often Ministers, past and present, when overseas borrow the Embassy car for an official function and only return it two days later after the wife has done her shopping with it. A ' my car; my petrol' approach to which they have got accustomed back home with Government vehicles.

However salutary the new directives are, though, the proof of their effectiveness is in the implementation. It was just after the April elections this year that the President issued a Code of Ethics for her new Ministers. Among the provisions of this code was the maximum number of trips overseas a Minister could make for a year - four.

There were to be no exceptions. But the rule has already been broken making a mockery of the code. No effort has been made to make any adjustments to the code, possibly for the fear that the code would become the subject of ridicule for its hasty drafting. Instead, there is this Presidential Code of Ethics which not only has been broken, but continues to be broken, with gay abandon by her Ministers making a mockery of it all.

Not much later comes this new Presidential directive. A welcome move as far as we see it. Clearly, by this week's conduct, it shows that the President's Ministers don't care a damn for her directives. The same fate of the Presidential Code of Ethics has befallen these directives - and so soon. This very week, close to half a dozen Cabinet Ministers were overseas. Many others are packing their bags and booking their tickets. Of course, all of them are on very important official business. And now, the JVP, which insisted on the original Code of Ethics, says that it doesn't matter how many ' private trips ', a Minister does overseas.

Good governance may start with Codes of Ethics and Presidential directives, but it obviously does not end there. It seems these Presidential Codes and directives are not even worth the paper they are written on.

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