By Fr Augustine Fernando
The majority of the people clearly identified the abysmally low quality politicians who held power with the Rajapaksa government and decisively rejected them at the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015. The majority of the people had hopes of a new beginning. They believed in the possibility of overcoming the fear that prevailed and vanquishing the many forms of evil from rapes and disappearances to the misuse of the people’s money for the benefit of the Rajapaksa family and its kith and kin and for President Rajapaksa’s re-election campaign.
Had the old regime not been defeated, not only abuse of power and privileges, but revengeful vengeance and lawlessness too would have continued unabated. Thus the statement of President Maithripala Sirisena, who knew of that regime’s misbehaviour from the inside, that he would have been six feet underground had he been defeated, is reflective of what might have come to pass. This was the unbelievably malevolent situation that prevailed. In the new atmosphere that dawned with the empowerment of Sirisena-Wickremesinghe, and despite of the serious charges against the former president, he says during his administration everything was hunky dory and shamelessly dares to ask the people to hand over the government to him again. The majority of the people are wise enough to see that it does not happen.
RESURRECTING PERENNIAL VALUES
The people believed the promises held out by the winners. They seemed to be in accord with President Sirisena and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe who identified themselves with the sentiments of the majority to restore the values of democracy, human dignity, freedom and equality. The Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera had understood clearly and stated boldly what was in the minds of right-thinking people who rallied round his leadership to save Sri Lanka from self destruction and anarchy. He understood that the corrupt regime and its leader had to be decisively defeated by the ballot so that a newly-elected president could abolish that dictator-like position and rebuild this land by re-surfacing and enthroning the perennial values of truth, justice, law and order, reconciliation, solidarity, unity and peace.
“The two main parties joining hands seems to have compromised the application of the rule of law in certain instances “
It was indeed a herculean task to come to grips with the problems left over by the Rajapaksa regime.
The Government installed in power though it had a will and the determination to re-establish democracy, seemed unable to tackle without delay and concentrate efficiently on getting the organs of the State to proceed on the right course. What needed immediate attention and quick remedies seemed to be delayed by the euphoria of victory, entrenched back-sliding loyalists of the former regime, lethargy, indifference, inter-personal rivalry, inefficiency and lack of competence of some appointees of the new government. It was also hampered by the failure to communicate a clear vision of the new leadership. This disappointed Ven. Sobitha Thera, who having strained himself to end the executive presidency, was left heart-broken, and this is public knowledge. Now the defeated and the corrupt ones too wish to take refuge in the shade of his memory. The people who clearly rejected the corruption-ridden coterie and elected the new representatives feel somewhat let down by the slow pace, even though they would not for a moment wish to return to former times.
OPPORTUNISTIC POLITICAL ALLIANCE
Although the two main parties have joined hands to rule the Country, the blurred vision of national reconciliation and regeneration, have led many people to interpret the arrangements of the present coalition rule as a political arrangement contrived for survival and self-preservation and avoidance of trouble by accommodating the stinking political elements the people wanted to get rid of.
This arrangement seems to have compromised the application of the rule of law in certain instances even though the judiciary has been left independent. While there are courageous and brave judges who uphold the law, the disgraceful taint and blemishes left by certain former senior judicial members take time to be erased.
The elections have not changed the nature of politicians, many of whom do not attend to the primary duty of attending Parliament. The people note that the privileges and perks of elected politicians, who have got used to them, are hardly trimmed. Many MPs do not have the education, self-discipline and culture to listen, to understand, to courteously disagree and to constructively contribute to the debates that take place in Parliament. Far too many do not understand that Parliament is a place to talk things over and not a brawling alley of thugs where their basest instincts are displayed. Uneducated and uncultured as they are, their main concern is not the Country but themselves and their henchmen. That they wish to get the most for themselves is evident from the consensus they arrive at whenever their perks are concerned. Such consensus is not shown on the issues that the Country and its people face. They have privileges and perks changed into a ‘right’. The misuse of power gains prominence when the resources of the Country that are in short-supply are mismanaged in favour of politicians and public servants who lack a social conscience due to their defective upbringing and education.
ALIENATED FROM THE PEOPLE
There prevails a general madness among politicians and some public servants who consider themselves far above the people and not stewards serving them. They have become capable of threatening and blackmailing the Government to demand and get what they want. It is indeed reprehensible and pathetic that those who have benefited most from free education, with politicians among them, are devoid of any civic sense and social responsibility at a time when the people are undergoing hardships due to the cost of living, the economic situation, past mismanagement, waste and corruption, maintenance of an airport and a harbour which are unused. The education imparted to them has been evidently without sufficient ethical and moral content. The education system, that has produced today’s legislators, judges, public servants and others in authority, has failed to instill a social character and a conscience enabling students to discern right and wrong, good and evil and to make correct practical judgements taking into account truth and social justice, social sense and self-restraint. There is much that alienates the ‘representatives’ from the people.
NO PRAISE & PERKS FOR DUTY
Those elected are sufficiently paid and accorded privileges to attend to the work incumbent on them as people’s representatives. They should not be eligible for any further extra payments for doing their duty. They also don’t deserve thanks for doing their duty. Paradoxically some politicians do self-advertising expecting thanks from the public for years of political life even after having exploited their position and defrauding the State in various ways.
Politicians in government also should understand that larger than- life-cut-outs all over an electorate are symbols of a degenerate and corrupt political culture devoid of ‘brain power’ and intellectual calibre of those thus propagandized; such cut-outs, huge posters and publicity stunts cannot deceive the people anymore; making oneself a petty king is not a substitute for competence, efficiency and commitment to productive work. That President Sirisena, without any cut-outs, challenged and won against a president lacking even common sense who had cut-outs all over the Island and bribed his supporters with the resources that belonged to the State, should be for all an eye-opener to the fact that the people cannot be deceived or bought over.
SINCERE and TOTAL COMMITMENT
It is not enough for SLFP supporters of the Government to say, ‘We are concerning ourselves first with the Country, beyond the party’; People expect sincere and total commitment to the well-being of all the people; they should also show their sincerity by not creating divisive squabbles, internal disturbances and secretive sabotage; they should not pretend that their performance in the defeated government was above board; they should now without pretence work in unity for the common good leaving the moles of the last regime to stew in the soup they cooked for themselves and learn lessons yet to be learned. Nationwide reconciliation at all levels should be re-established and firmly grounded constitutionally and all should cooperate in that. There cannot be genuine and lasting progress without national solidarity.
The problems that people face can be solved by a Government whose ministers and back-benchers unstintingly and genuinely devote themselves to serve the well-being of all the people of Sri Lanka. For the first time after sixty years the Government is gaining the goodwill and confidence of the Tamil people and other minorities who do not expect privileges but equality and fairness of treatment as fully-fledged citizens of this Country.
REASSURE PEOPLE, FULFIL HOPES
There appears to be insufficient communication, glaring lack of coordination, cooperation and collaboration in the top rungs of the Government. In the desire to exert power and outshine others, not much thought or weight seems to be given to collective responsibility. The Government needs to face the challenges collectively. The past regime for all their braggadocio have irresponsibly burdened the people with huge debts and siphoned off huge sums of money to their private accounts in foreign banks. And the repayment of debts cannot be avoided. Ultimately the people will have to meet them sooner or later. It is up to the Government to explain to the people how it is going to tackle this problem