Posted on August 12th, 2015

Dr.Tilak S.Fernando

 The present unpredictable scenario in world politics is certainly conveying an important message universally to the entire world population.  The recent general election results in the UK were astonishing, unexpected and amazing! David Camerons sweeping victory shattered all predictions of politicians, political pundits and media analysts and managed to send the main opposition rival Labour Party into a frenzy and its leader to elegantly back out; Liberal Party leader and the leader of the UK Independent Party  (UKIP) also honourably resigned from their positions by conveying a message to the world at large that ‘ hanging on to power once defeated is not their style!

After David Cameron’s return to No. 10 Downing Street, London’s Daily Telegraph came up with a headline with a pronouncement: A fresh era of British Politics dawns”; The Times added: Cameron would need every ounce of statesmanship to surmount the challenges facing him with a slim majority, which would not be easy but his real work starts now”.

 A similar situation arose in Sri Lanka on the 8th of January 2015 when Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was sworn in for a six-year term initially, with full Executive Powers as the President of the Country on 19 November 2005, was replaced by peoples’ majority decision in a poll   held two year’s prior to its next due date.  The result being, the present incumbent President, Maithripala Sirisena’s promise during his election campaign to bring about a ‘yaha palanaya  (honorable governance) and to eradicate all ‘corruption and bribery that had been ingrained into the existed system which acted as a parasite on the society as a whole’, appealed to the masses.  The general consensus of the people when Maithripala Sirisena surfaced as the winner made many to believe in a ‘divine intervention’ to save this sacred Island nation at the nick of time.

The Difference

The vast difference between Sri Lankan and British politics, which is ‘poles apart’, is that the British have always enjoyed the reputation of maintaining a high standard in public life when it came to represent the very people elected them to public office. Occasionally, of course, as in any scenario, there have been instances where a Member of Her Majesty’s Government was caught with his pants down by being ignominious at which point the politician, whether it was a member of parliament or a government minister, always resigned from office with dignity.

During the past six months what people have seen on TV and read in newspapers was an unprecedented situation of various big wigs of the old regime, including that of senior executives and administrative staff, being summoned to the Bribery Commission and Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) almost on a daily basis, which in certain opposition politicians’ eyes were seen as ‘ political vendetta’!  Certainly, there is no fire without smoke!

However, the new temporary administration insisted that what was taking place was giving every ‘ accused’ a fair chance of presenting and defending oneself before a court of justice, as opposed to decisions taken in the past according to the whims and fancies of a single high-powered individual or in kangaroo style court! In this regard, when the ousted Mahinda Rajapaksa made an appeal to President Maitreepala Sirisena, during a couple of meetings some of the UPFA members organised, made an appeal to the President ‘ to refrain from political vitimisationon members of his UPFA (coalition), the simple answer from the President was quoted as saying: ‘ let them take refuge in the Courts, which many endorsed as ‘ yaha palanaya’ true to its meaning!

Nolan Committee

Sometime ago the British government appointed a team called The Nolan Committee to bring about a code of conduct to British Ministers. Subsequently, the Commission came up with three principles, the very essential element of which being the British Constitution – The Cabinet Responsibility. This meant that the Ministers were required to uphold collective responsibility and decisions to arrive at by becoming obligatory and mandatory on all members of the government.

It also highlighted cabinet ministers’ accountability to the parliament on policies, decisions and actions on their departments and agencies and expected ministers to be open and transparent and not to misinform, deceive or hoodwink the parliament and the public.

The other most relevant recommendation of the Nolan Committee was to avoid any conflict situations between public and the private interests; non acceptance of gifts or hospitality which might appear to be compromised, as such to keep ministerial and constitutional interests separate.

Responsibility and Accountability

It is pertinent to quote here what President Maithripala Sirisena had to state recently when he addressed an audience of Nurses from the Presidential Secretariat how he had delegated full authority and responsibility to the outgoing Minister of Health Rajitha Senaratne, as well as to all the other ministers in his cabinet to discharge their responsibilities effectively and independently (Konda Panathiyagana Weda Karanna) without out any hindrance or interference from him.

Although Sri Lanka has adopted most of the British parliamentary practices, many today question after seeing ministers, politicians and administrators, and once senior powerful figures of the past regime parading in front of TV cameras coming out of the Bribery Commission offices or at the threshold of the FCID and pretending to be relishing with pride by raising their cuffed hands with broad smiles to their supporters and pretending to be quite happy about it when actually they are being escorted by prison guards and police officers to the Black Maria after shameful interrogations.  This made one wonder whether those contemporary representatives of the people who had entered Sri Lankan politics recently were even aware of the elements of parliamentary conduct and practices in the first instance!

In Sri Lanka various professional bodies have adopted copious codes of conduct to represent their industrial woes and to seek justice to their assertions. Public has not forgotten when doctors’ went on strike, the call that came from the general public for doctors to abide by the Hippocratic oath.  Shouldn’t a code of conduct for politicians also in a similar manner be introduced in the future?  Perhaps, after forthcoming elections to be held on 17 August 2015, a completely diverse and a distinctive   national government expected to be formed under the agis of President Maithripala Sirisena, a behavioral program similar to the code of conduct introduced in the UK parliament can only cement a justifiable administration and help make it work effectively by extending its tentacles equally to administrators, the police, security forces as well as to the judiciary to exemplify their duties to the general public, especially by uprooting all inclement elements and getting rid of the rotten residue from the old system and replenishing with new ideas and new patriotic set of officials  who are sincere, hardworking  and inclined to work for the betterment of the people and  to maintain a just society.

Lessons from past.

The late Wijeyananda Dahanayake, who was a popular member of parliament from Galle, and a short, lived Prime Minister in Sri Lanka, set the divine example by commuting always between Galle and Colombo by train.  In doing so, he always chose to travel inside a third class compartment intermingling with the general commuters. When a journalist once asked him the reasons behind his decision, his answer was apt: Because there is no 4th class in the train”!

Sri Lanka could be classified as the only country where the modern politician abuses privileges exceedingly. Britain is a classic example to prove this point where politicians commute by British Rail, the Underground railway and some even riding bicycles to their offices! The thought process between the British and Sri Lankan politician seems to be evidently different, for, the British think they are representatives of the people, whereas our elected lot in Sri Lanka seem to get the wrong idea that they are of a different breed altogether and many seem to dwell in cloud nine!

An extraordinary feature of the majority of our Sri Lankan bygone politicians was that many entered the political arena out of their sheer patriotism and the yearning to work for the people. Besides, many of them were icons of wealthy families who died after spending all their fortunes on politics.

It’s very sad to note that modern politics in Sri Lanka have diluted to become a thriving industry where thoughts of many hinge on possessing duty free vehicles, official residences and bodyguards only. The reason for this could be ascribed to the fact that only a handful of them have such attributes of their ‘ancestors’, from local government members, Provincial Councilors or Members of Parliament, a degree of vulgar affluence seems to affect them. Perhaps on the day and with the elimination of the ‘proportional representation system,’ mother Lanka will be able to wean a new breed of sober, efficient, clean, educated and uncorrupt politicians in the future.

According to this prognostication the future of the Nation Island will be influenced by the novel idea of maître yaha palanaya with virtuous politicians and rulers only surviving and rotten tyrants getting completely eradicated.



  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    I agree with Dr Fernando that Law & Order and Discipline are vital for a Moral Society.

    However, I disagree with him that it is fair to compare Lanka with Britain on this matter. Lanka was a Colony of Britain and so was India. Both countries were left with false values of ‘boru shoak’ (false show off-ism) after Independence from Britain, from the NEW rich among the colonised. The odd part is that in Lanka, if one were an aspiring politico and rides in public buses or trains, one would be looked at by the public as not being a successful person ! Old “Daha” was looked upon as a decent but eccentric man.

    Such values as we admire must come from all leaders of society, priests of all religious bodies, parents, elders, teachers, politicos too, and the armed forces, etc. Today Politicians all over the world are given too much prominence because the media have made it so. Media are mostly bought by the new rich of the world.

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