Time for political change of a higher order

4 April 2018 10:09 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The backbiting and enduring state of chaos over the past three months within our corridors of power points to what should be a watershed year for Sri Lankan voters and even business. Our country’s multifaceted leadership has been entirely immersed in ensuring their political permanence that the country and its economy have come to a protracted standstill.


The actions of our leaders and the state of anarchy that followed in the immediate aftermath of the local government polls brought shame to our country and just when we thought it was over the crisis evolved into a different form. 


As our nation’s Executive President, head of state, leader of the government and Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Maithripala Sirisena could and should have done much more to control the situation but his decisions are clouded by all that corrupts. 

 

Sri Lankans have long grown indifferent to our customary brand of politics and are accustomed to disenchantment


Sri Lankans have long grown indifferent to our customary brand of politics and are accustomed to disenchantment. But that degree of disenchantment may have reached a tipping point given the level of apathy displayed by this parliament to nearly every aspect of governance. 


Burden on people 


The government has done little or nothing to alleviate the troubles of its people and have instead heaped further burden onto their shoulders. The overall leadership seems disconnected from reality. 


Last month, the president declared a nationwide state of emergency to control unrest in Kandy. The diplomatic and economic fallout of that action is best detailed by our tourism industry, which lost thousands of room nights due to hurried cancellations by concerned visitors as many countries responded with travel advisories.
This not only impacts large hotel chains and resorts but even the micro businesses that support and survive within the industry. This was alongside the protracted clampdown on social media, which for good measure could have been handled differently if the authorities – as they say – were aware beforehand of some of the perpetrators. 


As espoused already by many, what is required it to enact the existing laws – across all counts – and that will help control flagging disciplines rather than waste time and money on further commissions and draft policies. 


Two years ago, we faced the Volkswagen debacle of Kuliyapitiya followed by the controversy surrounding the tyre factory in Horana – two projects that were billed to be shining lights for our economy and employment that then disintegrated. 


Our national carrier has been besieged with issues for close to two decades and this week yet another management committee takes seat to try fix it as flight delays, technical issues and strikes at the airport make further mockery of Sri Lanka as a destination.


Amidst the unfolding chaos of the no-confidence motion, a government minster announced last week that it would ban the sale of loose cigarette sticks in the country. Over 90 percent of cigarette sales and the poor man’s puff, beedi, constitute of stick sales and such a ban will add further burden to an already exhausted public and traders. 


Furthermore, this would impact the Rs.110 billion the government earns from tobacco annually, the cost of which would then again have to be borne by the entire public through added tax – for smokers and non-smokers alike. 


Besides GSP Plus and somewhat enhanced international opinion – which is once again in doubt – this government has done little for Sri Lanka and its economic prospects. 


It has become expensive to be Sri Lankan, with hardly any return. Citizens are forced to fund and pay for the corruption of politicians on both sides of the divide who have no respect or regard for the public they promised to serve. 

 

Regardless of the outcome of the no-confidence motion against the prime minister, this country needs change, be it with this government or any other. Business must ‘wait and see’, the public must ‘wait and see’ for development and change that will be coming for an eternity.


Wait and see mode


Regardless of the outcome of the no-confidence motion against the prime minister, this country needs change, be it with this government or any other. Business must ‘wait and see’, the public must ‘wait and see’ for development and change that will be coming for an eternity. 


This current band and brand of Sri Lankan politicians need to be wiped out for the sake of our future and the only foreseeable way out is for the emergence of an entirely new political order and personalities – statesmen. But besides the systematic political challenges such a front would face, the mass Sri Lankan voter base too could prove a problem as – in all honesty – it lacks the political maturity to discern what’s good and not. 


Our Southeast Asian counterparts had it easier as they are blessed with people and cultures that follow the rule of law and unite as a people to do what is best for them. Some say Sri Lanka needs a benevolent dictator to steer the ship, as was witnessed with the tiger economies – but as we have seen with ‘Yahapalanya’, in Sri Lanka even benevolence can become corrupt. 


Whatever be the outcome of today, if the current government continues to hold power for the next two years, we hope that it will do everything within its power to bring Sri Lanka back on track. Many of us believed and still believe that a national government is the best way out for this country. 


Do it for the country and cement your legacy for generations to come. If it’s time to make way for a new government, we can only that voters will be wise and that we will close some doors and open door for others who will serve Sri Lanka over themselves. The post-independence dream that was Sri Lanka has not and will not come true during my generation, I only hope it will at least ring true for the next. 


(Ajith Perera is a retired administration, shipping and maritime security consultant in Sri Lanka and the Middle East) 

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