Posted on November 7th, 2009

By Dr. Mervyn D. De Silva

No sensible and discerning Sri Lankan voter will dispute the contention that this country has been governed for quite sometime without any sense of direction, patriotism, and dedication to the needs and aspirations of the general populace. The country’s economy has had a perilous passage with the strength of its development, natural resource, and human-resources bases being persistently eroded.

 Fire sales of the nation’s assets built over a period of decades with the sacrifices, sweat, and toil of the people, to politically influential local and foreign oligarchs, on the dictates of International Institutions that have been entrusted to take the market in its most unbridled architecture to the far corners of the world, were hastily embarked on.

 Strong, carefully targeted, government intervention to de-politicize state enterprises, free them from direct political control, place them under qualified and competent professional management, and convert them into profitable and competitive undertakings like Singapore’s state-owned Singapore Air Lines, never received even the fleeting attention of the so-called servants of this nation. Perhaps, if that sensible and prudent path was chosen, the question that would immediately arise is, from where else will the commissions and kick backs arrive for the secret bank accounts in local and foreign banks, luxury houses and villas here and abroad, funds for children’s education in British and American Universities, and all the other closely linked lucre the new rich will die to possess?

 Next, the high rate of crime; the rapes, the abductions and disappearances, the brutal murders, the assassinations, both as private agendas and state instigated , the gang robberies and thefts, the swindles, the politically motivated violence, and the blatant cheating at elections to gain power fraudulently. This is more than the required quota of evidence to show that the fabric of our society is being torn apart, pessimistically beyond the point of no return. Fundamental democratic, moral, social, traditional, and religious values are being trampled upon with impunity by individuals and cliques who yield political, money, and underworld-mafia power. They have placed themselves above the laws of the country because they enjoy unlimited political patronage.

 Are we, the people, who have for so long been piously and vociferously proclaiming our love for the motherland as respectful keepers of the sacred trust bequeath to us by those who have come before us, and those who are in their thousands sacrificing their lives for the preservation of the territorial integrity of this same country them, going to live in the selfish comfort of continuing to remain disinterested and complacent? Or are we not going to come out of out torpor and confront ourselves with the facts that Sri Lanka is facing its greatest threat at the hands of the internationally proclaimed terrorists and, a degraded and despicable polity? And, should the people not forcefully demand from those notorious time servers who will be calling at their door steps to beg them for their vote that they must put an end to the era of political irresponsibility, immorality, indecency, and even behaviour bordering on rank animality?

 Politicians should clearly understand that the county’s economic and social problems cannot be solved by burying them and all other misdeeds of past governments under the carpet, expecting the rest of the nation to listen to the homilies of their leaders, who like themselves can pretend to be paragons of virtue. The record of the last government is well known and still fresh in the minds of the people. The record of the PA government which was given a mandate by the people to clean sweep the political Augean stable of 17 years, but which followed the same policies and style of governance of the UNP and dared to go even beyond, despite solemn promises, is before the people to be seen today.

 The time has therefore dawned for the people of Sri Lanka to forcefully demand that all contesting parties present their policies in clear crisply stated point form and not in vague, verbose, language that merely confuse the people and, be honest and truthful about it.

 Even, the most crudely designed statistical survey of what is currently in the minds of the majority of people who constitute the national electorate, will show that their woes are many and, so are their demands as stated in what follows:

 (1)    The people are fed-up, disillusioned, and disaffected with the old style politics and policies of the UNP and the SLFP led PA that have demonstrated an abysmal lack of political morality and sincerity, whether in government or opposition.

 (2)    The people feel they have no control over their lives, or laws and constitutions, passed that effect them and have realized that politics is not working for the good of all the people of this country; only for the usual few who have the means to lawfully or, unlawfully usurp power, anyhow, somehow.

 (3)    The people are alarmed at the complete breakdown in law and order, the criminalized politics, politicized criminals and the metamorphosis of the “servants of the people” at a lighting rate into demigods.

 (4)    They are shocked  at the rate at which this country’s constitution is changed, then gloated over by one party and condemned by the other. And, the preoccupation with frequent, distracting, elections.

 (5)    And, they are confounded when political parties come into power, renege on promises made in their manifestos, adopt new anti-people policies, and claim that they were given a mandate to do just that “”…” even to set the country ablaze!

 It is quite clear now that the people have become the helpless victims of the destructive politics of our corrupt self-seeking political leaders and the global economic disorder presided over by the G-8 countries.

 As a developing country we see our independent policy-making capacity being eroded and we adopt policies made by other entities which on balance are detrimental to us. Global Institutions have become major makers of an increasingly wide range of policies that were traditionally under the jurisdiction of national governments. To meet these challenges and defend our interests we need patriotic, hawk-eyed, qualified, competent, and experienced, legislators who can understand the intricacies of modern scientific and technological subjects and the language of geo-politics.

 Today, the emphasis that has been placed on privatization, foreignisation, and export oriented industrialization, is seen as a justification for over looking all our social concerns and authentic development itself. Look at the near collapse of the administrative/management machinery of government and the law and order authorities that have become paralysed on account of politicization. Look at the confusion in the field of Education, our universities and our schools, state hospitals, and the transport sector. Yet, while the people grind their teeth fighting the ever increasing cost of living, large sums of state funds are doled out to the “anointed” and spent on frequent unproductive globe trotting jaunts by politicians and the politicised administrative vassals.

 Feeding the hungry and helpless, caring for the sick and disabled, providing employment for the younger generation, taking the lead in ensuring a sound education, recreation for the young, providing efficient and affordable transport, removing the barriers to make accessibility to resources on behalf of the poor and marginalized, and giving dignity and security to the senior citizens: these are the very purposes of economic activity, not some policy options that can be tossed aside.

 The people, the majority of them, from all accounts would rally round candidates and parties that stand for:-

 (1)   A nation that will reach a state of balanced development through sustainable economic development that respects the ecological environment, social development, and the development of civic society.

 (2)   A socially oriented market economy that is consonant with the dictates of economic and social justice and which would be intrinsically Sri Lankan in character and mounded by the imperatives of national development objectives in all its forms.

 (3)   The management of the economy is such a manner that article 25(1) of the Universal declaration of Human Right s which reads:

“Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control” is achieved.

(Incidentally this declaration was adopted and proclaimed on the 10th December 1948 by the general assembly of the United nations which is all but forgotten in the context of the increasing suffering half of humanity endures because of an absolute shortage of will and morals nationally and internationally and especially the G-8 countries.)

 Readers’ time and space does not permit a more in-depth treatment but, being merely a guide a few of the other demands can be summarized as follows highlighting the more important ones.

(1)   The people want the preservation of the unitary state, unity and the national identity of Sri Lanka.

 (2)   The people want  absolutely clean elections to ensure the return of people’s representatives through free and fair elections by the exercise of Universal Franchise which is the cornerstone of democracy.

 (3)   The people want an absolutely independent Judiciary, Public Service, Bribery and Corruption commission, Auditor General, and Police and Security Services.

 (4)   The people want an unfettered media with the blatant abuse of the state owned media stopped forthwith.

 (5)   The people want and yearn for an exemplary form of governance that is knowledgeable, intelligent, skillful, accountable, transparent, disciplined, that spends wisely and has a certain spiritual and moral vision of life.

 Finally, over all, there has to be renewed study and search for an alternative political system that will bring politics within a controllable frame work which will not only ensure true participatory democracy within a unitary state but which will provide true devolution and sharing of power at the centre. In such a participatory political structure the role of the politician, the public service, and the judiciary, are clearly defined and as required in any authentic democratic governance, the opposition too becomes part of the government vide, draft by W. B. Wewegama, (1996) “A participatory democracy within a unitary state”.

 As the elections draw closer all patriotic citizens are duty bound to realize the mighty power of their vote and use it wisely by casting it for men and women of integrity, even crossing the political divide, considering the depths to which parliament and the polity has been dragged down. Then, perhaps, there could be some hopes for building a politically stable, economically strong, socially just, united and peaceful nation with a value system that regards all our identities, all our cultures, and our common heritage with pride. Human life in the small individual slice that is mine happens to have subsisted on a great diversity of sources and in acknowledgement of my plural indebtedness. I truly hope that a beginning can be made on these lines, after the general election concludes.

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