‘International Community’ should let us be

13 November 2018 12:10 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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One must hope that the standard of candidates selected to stand for election must be raised. Picture shows a set of Sri Lankan law makers at a discussion
 (Pic AFP)

 

  • I am not taking sides in this whole sorry Constitutional affair, but I feel that only Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans alone should handle it
  • The Prime Minister must have his ministers on some sort of leash as far as expenditure goes

 

The news of the dissolution of Parliament is bound to bring a tremendous outpouring of views from the ‘International Community’ to say nothing of what the local population has to say.  


But it has always intrigued me (usually irritated me) when this phrase ‘International Community’ is used because to start with what does this phrase exactly mean? Who or what comprises the International Community (IC) and what possible interest do most countries have in little Sri Lanka?  


I assume we mean the UK and the USA among a few others when we blithely ring in the ‘I.C.’ and their views on the politics and politicians of Sri Lanka. The UK I suppose, is interested since we are part of the Commonwealth although their views are usually unwelcome. One remembers with recurring anger British Prime Minister David Cameron’s uncouth behaviour towards our then PM during his visit to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Conference.   


The USA may have a geopolitical interest in us other than being it’s naturally interfering self. India and China are world powers which are close to us historically culturally and trade wise, so I suppose they have a right to comment. Of course Japan and Pakistan have their own trade and aid interests as well.   


But what does the EU care? Are we to assume that countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Iceland, Sweden Denmark and the like spare even a fleeting thought as to what goes on in Sri Lanka? (You notice I have left out meddling Norway!)  


Unless there is a vociferous immigrant population from Sri Lanka in those countries why should our political crises worry them a whit?  


So when the media and various politicians talk of the ‘International Community’ they are referring to a mere handful of countries – which are not making helpful suggestions other than being critical of things that are not their business.  


Sovereign nation


I am not taking sides in this whole sorry Constitutional affair, but I feel that only Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans alone should handle it. In any case where are the opinions of Governments much closer to home like Myanmar, Vietnam? Cambodia, Afghanistan, Laos and others? They have no hidden agendas in Sri Lanka and so behave with commendable restraint. A world power like Russia has been conspicuously and tactfully silent as indeed all countries should be.  
 We are a sovereign nation and don’t need foreign opinions to justify actions we take. We have the right to make our own mistakes (and of course we make many), but so what? 


We will carry on regardless of what some British parliamentarian said to an almost empty British House of Parliament a few days ago. With considerable effrontery he had the nerve to say that Britain was concerned with the ‘safety’ of certain politicians. As far as I know only the President’s safety has been thus threatened – and that threat took place long before this crisis blew up.  


Unfortunately we have had an extremely poorly educated group of parliamentarians in our last Government. One must hope that a new election raises the standard of candidates selected to stand for election.  


In Kenya one must have a University Degree to be able to ask for election to the House. Can we not do likewise? We have plenty of nice young graduates who would certainly be better able to comprehend the nuances of our Constitution and should be able to properly understand the problems of the country and the various intricacies of policies usually hidden from public view. They will react with more maturity to vexing decisions that confront us. Hopefully they would be less open to the blatant corruption that we see on all sides today. The Leaders of all parties might bear in mind that they should support a better type of candidate. We may then hope for mature politicians among the rank and file of those in the House right now.  


Let us totally endorse what Minister Eran Wickremaratne said recently namely that ‘never’ will we able to expect politicians to change the country. We must change ‘ourselves’ first. Surely all patriotic Sri Lankans – there is quite a number of them despite they being invisible – must agree with this. The Sri Lankan psyche must undergo a vast transformation. We should stop being a nation of sycophants for one thing. Loyalty should not be mistaken for toadyism. Telling a politician the truth about himself, which may sometimes come across as being critical, should not result in disfavor of the person making it. But it does. 


Those at the top often cannot bear criticism. ( Take a look at President Trump as a case in point! ) If top leaders could take adverse comments about themselves they would be far better off for doing so.  


Ours seems to be a dysfunctional system with no change in sight. The game of politics has become a game for the greedy. According to the yellow pages one politico’s wife berated her husband for not taking the bribe that was offered for a cross-over. It was the chance of a lifetime to make such big money in her opinion. Ethics is not something with which she has even a nodding acquaintance. Bribes, commissions, cut-backs, money laundering is the order of the day. Spending Government money with no thought of the taxpayer has been common to all regimes.  


According to a recent item in the daily papers, one minister spent Rs.10 million to have his picture printed on vouchers which were issued by his office. The sheer vanity of the whole exercise is beyond belief! In the days just after we gained Independence, impartial Civil Servants would have blocked such lunacy, but now, alas, there is apparently no authority to curtail this kind of free spending. The Prime Minister must have his ministers on some sort of leash as far as expenditure goes. Actually it would be a good idea to keep them on a permanent leash, so that we do not have the sad spectacle of each minister with a personal agenda making a fool of himself.  I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln holding a cabinet Meeting. Voting took place and after he counted the votes he said “Five Noes and one Aye. The Ayes have it.” But then his Cabinet was not an elected one as it is in the Parliamentary system where Prime Ministers must remember they are considered first among EQUALS . The American President can override his Cabinet. Can we?  


Pre-dated letters of resignation  


Remember when J.R. Jayawardena got a pre-dated letter of resignation from every Minister which he could use the minute one of them stepped out of line? Not too democratic I suppose, but an excellent idea don’t you think? Recalcitrant Ministers and MPs will mind their P’s and Q’s if they do not want to feel the heavy hand of a controlling authority falling heavily on their shoulders.  Gossip and rumour are having a field day at this moment. To differentiate ‘Fake News’ from ‘Real News’ is no easy task. At a recent Ladies’ lunch we were greeted by the hostess with, “Please do not talk politics this afternoon”. Everyone had a perfectly boring time discussing the servant problem, the latest romantic goings on, fashions, children et al, but one and all were dying to get to the forbidden subject of politics. Surreptitiously we did so.  


Politics is part of the fabric of Colombo life. We are a small island and all of us have some connection with politicians and Parliament. What happens in the House touches citizens of big cities in the island closely. Not so in countries with large populations where politicians are more distanced from people and the seat of power is a far away entity from the average voter.  

 

Politics is part of the fabric of Colombo life. We are a small island and all of us have some connection with politicians and Parliament. What happens in the House touches citizens of big cities in the island closely


This can be an advantage or not. Personally I enjoy political a chit chat so long as no one gets offended in the process of discussion. At this time can we be blamed for letting the current state of governmental affairs take precedence in all conversations? Of course we listen to the words of experts like Savitri Gonesekera and Radhika Coomaraswamy without question. Not that they are particularly comforting at the moment but we heed them.  


All that most of us want is a comfortably stable Government with a predictable agenda and an incorruptible (and educated) set of ministers. Of course are we hoping for Utopia?   

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