The People’s woes, the people’s demands, but a surfeit of Ministers
Posted on January 30th, 2020

Dr. Mervyn D. De Silva Former Director, Plan Implementation Ministry and Ex SLFP National List MP

A few weeks ago a select group of opposition academics sought a frank, analytical, constructively critical, discussion with the author on the prevailing threats to democracy and its tradition, the creaking edifices of our hallowed institutions, and the rapid erosion of time honored codes and practices that ensures a vibrant democracy and good governance.

Called upon to enlighten them with a broad overview of the issues facing the country that have serious consequences for the future and, the present as well, the focus got directed towards the multiplicity of acts of omission and commission ever since the country attained independence 65 years ago. Most of what was explained verbally is incorporated into the content of this article, expanded, in the sincere hope that it will throw some light and, will be of some use, in stimulating the minds and hearts of politicians and the public in general.

Unmistakably, there is an urgent need to look at the problems that have risen in practically every sector of government and society clinically, and bring in a whole raft of reformatory changes that are honest, rational, sincere, and radical in the politico-socio-economic arena. Since the word radical” is used very much in the rhetorical outburst, freely and loosely in fact, from many a political platform, the need to define its context in which it is advocated and used throughout this article, becomes necessary. The word ‘radical’ as both a noun and an adjective, the derivative of which are radicalization, radicality, and radicalise are relatively recent words. The word ‘radical’ itself is derived from the word ‘radix’ which means the root, whose initial sense pertains to the roots of a thing or a being.

Accepting this definition and slant of the word, it is abundantly clear that our country, 65 years independent requires radical reform and changes by approaching all the created problems, and the issues, and the inconsistencies at their very source, making a clean sweep of all skewed interpretations and irrational practices built into the system. There has to be concurrently, a clean sweep of worn out strategies and prejudices, habits, view points, and opinions in our programmed collective minds and institutions. But, most importantly, attention must be focused on the state of our democracy and, the three arms, the executive, the legislature, and judiciary that jointly have been ordained to ensure that there is good, just, and fair governance for the benefit of all the people.

Any keen student of social-economics and politics who takes the troubles to feel the pulse of the masses particularly, that of the skeptical and restless younger generation, can’t escape admitting the fact that people have many unhealed wounds and woes and that it is reaching the point where they can’t tolerate it any longer. They are fed up with politicians, their arrogance, their life styles and indeed, how they manage the government. As the task of putting into paper the whole gamut of what transpired during the discussion and the litany of all the people’s woes, demands, and frustrations, the author settled to put it down in a summarized form as given below:

  1. They, the people, are disillusioned or disaffected, by the old styled politics where political power is just what money can buy, and thus, the quality and calibre of those who come forward as candidates at every election is questionable.
  • They are fed up and suspicious of the manifestoes they offer and, the policies there in, of the two major parties. They detest the manner in which they relegate such manifestoes and promises to the limbo of forgotten things in no time.
  • They are angry that the major parties have demonstrated an abysmal lack of political morality and never attempted to control corruption at higher echelons and of politicians.
  • They feel they have no control over their lives or, the laws passed that affect them, and are applied selectively.
  • They have realized that politics is not working as promised in a just manner, responding to the deeper needs of the majority of the lower segment of the population.
  • They are alarmed and feel helpless at the almost complete breakdown in discipline, law and order and that the principle that ‘might is right’ has come to stay in all levels of the society today.
  • They are shocked how politics has become criminalized, the public service politicized, and how politicians have usurped executive, administrative and judicial power, steering the county to a state of chaos and disorder.

What do they want, and what do they plead for

  1. They want the politician, the silent majority, the intellectuals, the professionals, the businessmen, the scientists, the university professors, the legal fraternity and of course the heads of religious organizations to wake up, speak up, stand up and be counted. 
  • They want them to pioneer a completely radical and rational change in the political outlook and culture that has bedeviled our motherland for too long.
  • They want a sea change in the style of governance that stimulates a vibrant democratic society where all religious and ethnic communities live in peace and harmony.
  • They want the sacred principle of public morality recognized and, that power is neither a right nor, an entitlement but, a trust to be strictly observed.
  • They want the whole management of government overhauled and a comprehensive plan crafted and designed to steer the country toward a state of balance economic development, social development and the development of civic society.
  • They want absolutely free and fair elections at all times, at all levels because, it is the corner stone of democracy. They fail to understand why a foolproof system for elections with absolutely no room for rigging can’t be implemented in this technologically advanced era.
  • They long for a socially responsible media which is completely unfettered,, exposes corruptions, public mismanagement and, does not act as a crude propaganda arm for any government.
  • They want a government that is honest, transparent, truthful, dedicated, and that presents a vision that inspires people especially, the youth.

This is not all, the woes and demands of the people is an unending list and only some have been extracted out from my mind. However, it has been written in the fervent hope that what appears in this article will not fall on deaf ears or blind eyes of those concern, especially, of those in the opposition. Whether, these changes for the better can be brought out is difficult to guess because, we live in a world of spiritual and moral crises, where extreme individualism is glorified, altruism scorned, and the so called ‘rational self interest’ is propagated.

Nevertheless, hopes springs externally in the human hearts. 

Dr. Mervyn D. De Silva – 

Former Director, Plan Implementation Ministry and Ex SLFP National List MP

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