Funerals in Sri Lanka, are very elaborate events, where many villages have a committee that springs into action to assist the bereaved bear the cost. Of course this is one communal activity that is organized well and one could cynically say that when one is down there are helpers, but when one is successful there are more than a fair share of people ready to pull them down a couple of pegs. In villages everyone attends and helps at funerals.
In my opinion, Sri Lanka has a tradition of expecting political leaders to attend funerals or funeral houses, which is onerous and wasteful. With the increase in death rates, this process can consume these peoples time and therefore detract from other important matters of state that need their attention.
A concerted effort to wean the public from this expectation is needed. It is not easy to get a consensus view, so one would have to make a statement or precedent coupled with a clear explanation of why it is not possible to attend funerals. It would be appropriate at the same breadth to decline invitations to attend weddings as well, as this too takes as much or more time.
Often a long journey is made from Colombo to a far flung post to attend a funeral and therefore they must be persons with means in order to attend especially if no allowance is paid for such attendance. People have told me that one big reason they don’t want to get into politics is because they must attend too many funerals, leaving them little time to do what is expected of them, or promised by them if elected.
Few attend funerals out of a sense of friendship with the family of the deceased, only as a requisite and treat it as a big chore. It is therefore only as a duty, and out of fear of being labeled uncaring. This behavior is then two faced and any plausible explanation that can be given to drop this practice could be accompanied by another more productive and tangible benefit to the electorate. Of course, I would lump the placing of foundation stones in the same light as that too is a useless exercise. A completed project that is declared open on the other hand is a different kettle of fish.
I think someone prominent must make a statement by breaking this habit, then it will be easier for others to follow, and all the world would be indebted for the sacrifice that could affect one’s political fortunes.
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