PLATO: One really must accept Plato’s remark that the penalty for not actively participating in politics is that we wind up being governed by our inferiors.
By Goolbai Gunasekara
In every house, in every village, in every town, at every gathering, meeting (public or otherwise) one topic dominates the conversation. Who will win the Presidential race! It has got so bad that one hostess recently greeted her guests with, “No talk on politics till AFTER dinner.”
I think it is fairly true to say that people have already made up their minds as to their choice. The floating vote is not doing much floating these days as far as I can see. What I find really upsetting is to witness the flurry of Governmental activity after four years of inertia. Doesn’t anyone realize the voters are not idiots. We recognize a vote-catching act immediately and with disdain.
It is generally accepted by the many political analysts I have been reading, that this Government has been ineffectual and inept. Sometimes Politicians can be frighteningly dim-witted and illogical. This makes us, the voting public, highly insecure. One really must accept Plato’s remark that the penalty for not actively participating in politics is that we wind up being governed by our inferiors.
Before the shouting begins, let me say that of course there were some bright spots during these last four years but they were piecemeal affairs. In the things that matter,…Education, Public Administration, Garbage, Corruption Control, Public Expenditure et al… the Government has proved woefully pathetic. But NOW the daily and patently vote-catching announcements and gimmicks make us really wonder if those at the helm are losing their minds. Examples are to be found in the Daily Press. For easy reading let me use headings
A Cable Car deal for FIFTY SIX billion rupees has just been signed. Do we have that kind of money for something that should have been done for tourism four years ago? Then we have the Minister of Education suddenly upgrading several schools. Dare we ask what new facilities were provided to justify that upgrading or what was spent to suddenly upgrade these schools as an election gimmick? The Minister has never properly explained why his photo in text books was necessary or why all that money was spent on laptops for kids already at the end of their exam years. His record is one of the most dismal.
To continue with all these expenses. Kiran Attapattu says he was pressured to make an illegal payment of RS. 546 BILLION to Liverpool Navigation in 2015. This exorbitant expense is surfacing only now. On the 8th of this month the Government had the gall to announce that RS.101 MILLION was being sought to pay the taxes on the Presidents luxury vehicles. Surely my figures must be wrong but I am quoting the Press. There are dozens of other examples of indefensible expenses.
Constant ‘ tiny’ frauds are being reported. For instance a million rupees was stolen from a rural bank on the 4th of Oct. That can be multiplied by dozens of similar thefts in the public sector. How dare Parliamentarians ask for (and are granted) all kinds of perks which they just do not deserve.
Again, how dare our President and others go on all these unnecessary trips to foreign climes? On the whole they are very poor speakers. (Our present two candidates are so much better than what we have been used to these past four years.) What good can these jaunting parliamentarians possibly do for the country other than cost the poor taxpayers a lot of money. And they have the gall to take relatives along with them too. Truly we need a STRONG President who will stand up to these money-grabbing politicians who do no work and hardly ever seem to attend Parliament.
Within the last four years I can recall two massive hauls of heroin being discovered. Much publicity was given to the cleverness of those making the catch. But what we want to know is WHAT HAPPENED TO THE HEROIN afterwards? By rights it should have been burnt publicly so that we, the voters, were satisfied it was not resold in the country. Surely we have a right to know who was behind the import? So tell me even at this late date. What proof do we have that the heroin catch was destroyed?
PROBES AND COMMISSIONS
These two words are about the most popular in Parliament and the silliest as far as the population goes. Whenever the PM or a Minister is asked an inconvenient question he replies saying he has instituted a probe or appointed a commission to go into the matter. In heaven’s name WHY? Surely they can answer a simple question? Don’t they know what is happening in the country?
Actually they don’t. They are too busy with the trivialities of keeping their jobs and ensuring they have them for as long as possible. They are too busy wheeler-dealing to be able to govern us well. They have so far done an appalling job. This may be expected of that uneducated 90% in the House. So the next President has to make sure that those who are trying to hitch their wagons to his star should be educationally qualified for the job.
Better still, tie them down with legal contracts. Is this possible? Get their resignations early so that if they step out of line they can be banished to oblivion forthwith. And of course stop the Probes and Commissions. Settle affairs yourself please Mr. President.
NAME, BLAME. SHAME.
In a recent article Rajeewa Jayaweera spoke of the necessity of the above three. Names of wrong doers are never given, so who is protecting whom? Naturally this promotes great distrust. Gibbon speaks of the diminutive stature of mankind daily sinking below the old standards” … and he was speaking of this in his classic, ‘the Rise and Fall of Roman Empire.’ Relevant today is it not?
So let our new President lay blame openly and justly, – kowtowing to no one. He will have the country’s grateful and steadfast support.
The blame for the Bond Scam must fall squarely on Mahendran or the PM. Neither takes the blame. No one resigns except under pressure. The Easter Sunday bombing should have seen the man in charge of Security take the blame – namely the President. Instead he has cheerfully palmed the failure of the country’s security system off on two underlings. Both issues have been shameful examples of the lack of governmental integrity.
WHO WON THE WAR?
I am constantly amazed at the lack of knowledge about this matter. History always gives credit for winning ANY war to the person at the Head of the Government of the time. Take Napoleon. He won many wars which made him the terror of Europe… Jena and Austerlitz to name two of many. Who remembers the names of his Generals at the time? HE gets the credit although undoubtedly he had the ability to choose superb men.
I am told, by those in the know, that it was the IT skills of the Defence Secretary at the time that was able to co-ordinate the whole operation with such success. He has a Master’s Degree in IT which helped enormously as did his regular weekly meetings which coordinated defence and attacks.
This requires an article of its own. I will not even attempt to start writing about it here. Suffice to quote Mark Twain who said, ” I wonder if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles.” Our education system could not be worse. I have no doubt that the new President will halt the vote-catching gimmicks now in place and rehaul the whole sorry scheme of things in the world of education.
WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT HOPED FOR PRESIDENTIAL DUTIES
Let me summarise Dr. Upatissa’s suggestions made recently.
a. Scrap duty free vehicles.
b. No extra allowances to parliamentarians now given for housing , petrol, medical, electricity, security etc.
c. No abuse of normal laws.
d. A fleet of cars to be available to members of the House but no individual luxury ones. Even if the cars are hacked, replacement is cheaper than giving individual MPs their own ones.
Summary of D. Weeratunga’s comments in the Daily Mirror of 20th Oct.
a. If Commissions ARE set up then publish the result.
b. Do not go out the way to support any religious group.
c Avoid ceremonies and functions. Be careful with public funds
d. Avoid nepotism.
Excellent guidelines are they not?
And to end… what we MUST somehow strive for is someone who will show public courage which is nourished by a love of right and a sense of National Honour. What we need wrapped, up in one person, is a Diplomat, a Psychologist, an Educationist, a World Class Economist, a Strategist in World Politics, a Visionary and above all a STATESMAN. In short we need a SAINT.