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Sri Lanka: Are we doing politics right?

1 December 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Let the clearest and the most straightforward answer be: NO, not at all! The series of recent shocking incidents that put the entire country in dismay and tarnished further the international image of this precious pearl of the Indies are most unfortunate and disgusting. The fact that this pandemonium finally raged in the very sanctuary of democracy, the Parliament of people’s representatives, is indeed cause for greater worry and anxiety. There had been many a faulty step taken by those in governing authority which ignited this national drama of chaos and disorder never seen before in the history of this beloved country. We are in plain language made into the scum of the earth and a country that has lost all self-respect whatever the great, unmatched and noble traditions may have been in our glorious past. An almost unbeatable challenge faces us as we struggle hopelessly to rise from the dust and dirt of this political scenario and national calamity.   

 


WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY? 
At whose feet should we lay this national tragedy that has overtaken and tsunamied us in total inundation? It is of course national politics but one which involves both the politicians who have mismanaged the national affairs and made themselves unworthy of people’s trust but also the masses and the citizens who due to their immaturity and shortsightedness in many ways have in their fool-hardiness allowed themselves to be deceived and duped by politicians who were crafty and most noted for greed for power and self-aggrandisement. National politics is no more a noble profession of public service to the people but a wild arena where dishonest politicians look for prey and amass wealth and position. Why should people allow politics to degrade into such miserable depths and allow themselves at the same time to become purely passive pawns in this dirty game of warring factions? When will the masses have leaders who can speak the truth, take care of the people’s urgent needs and govern with honesty, integrity filled with love and compassion for the people, especially for the most vulnerable and poor – those without food, clothing and shelter, the farmers, the fishermen, the daily labourers, the rural folk in the distant villages and the lower-middle class? Do they genuinely open their ears to the desperate cries of the people? Instead of feeding them, are they feeding on them, wasting the taxpayers’ money in banquets, travel and bankrupting the Parliament? In which case, they are brigands and pirates and not true servants of the people! 

 

One should not allow this pearl of the Indies to fall from the frying pan into the fire or from the brink of political anarchy into a pariah state. Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans deserve better. Our country must be forthwith redeemed from being a battleground for political greed and pursuit of power, making it instead, into an oasis of healthy and clean politics with statesman-like politicians, wise in their ways and serving the people with integrity and honesty

 

Unfortunately, politics continue even today in this country to provide the battleground for those vying for power and no more a hallowed space to engage in work for progress and prosperity of the people. For the last seventy years -- since the historical breakaway orchestrated by the SWRD movement -- there had been sifting sands of politics swinging from the UNP to the SLFP till the free-economy time of JRJ. Intermingling with the powers that be intruded the leftist and Marxist elements in the arena with MEP coming into the fray. The period of Dudley Senanayake was very unstable. After the economics of Free Trade and being open to foreign investment policies, we witnessed the booming through FT zones. Then came the emergence of political violence that continued into the eighties and political thuggery and marketing of politicians in the national scene. All these negative trends seriously weakened the democratic way of elections and life for the people. With the eruption of the ethnic war that lasted three long decades in Sri  Lanka’s history, more problems and challenges were added to the country’s life. The war did a lot of damage to the country, economically, socially and internationally. Had the war not taken place, perhaps the millions that were dumped on armaments, maintaining the armed forces, their security and other needs, could have been fruitfully invested on making the economy grow in terms of uplifting the standards of living, ameliorating national health and transport and winning foreign direct investments, thus enriching the national economy, strengthening foreign reserves and raising the quality of life for the ordinary citizens. On many of these occasions, education policies could not be maintained in a consistent manner. There were also disruptions in the universities which continue almost daily, even today. Enough of blunders were made in the education sector. Skill training was at a minimum. Hundreds of university graduates were stranded in the streets in frustration owing to the lack of job opportunities. Student unions continuously agitated, thus disrupting universities and their academic programmes. 

 


HISTORICAL  ANTECEDENTS 
Into the decade of nineteen-nineties intruded all the many imaginable political forms of bribery and corruption. Many politicians failed the people who elected them to their offices. There had been brazen lack of accountability, transparency, honesty and truthfulness in the way ministers went about handling their respective jobs. Although leftist and radically Marxist trends weakened, a polarization clearly marked the elections and the way governments swinged between the two major parties -- the UNP and the SLFP. Losing a two-thirds majority, which sometimes governments in power abused, major parties began entering into coalitions that proved to be very fragile. While this instability debilitated national politics, economic stagnation and war-crime charges began sending shockwaves across the nation. These two same problems are posing serious threats to the country’s future even at the moment. There is a political impasse that seems to defy any possible solution and national politics is embroiled in a huge mess that gets complicated by the hour. 

 

The recent repeated scenes of pandemonium in the most hallowed sanctuary of democracy, the national Parliament, are symptomatic of the depth of confusion that bewilders every concerned citizen. Everyone blames the other for chaos that has tsunamied national politics. Our international image is getting further tarnished in the manner democracy is being wounded and despicably-violated by our representatives

 

The recent repeated scenes of pandemonium in the most hallowed sanctuary of democracy, the national Parliament, are symptomatic of the depth of confusion that bewilders every concerned citizen. Everyone blames the other for chaos that has tsunamied national politics. Our international image is getting further tarnished in the manner democracy is being wounded and despicably-violated by our representatives. There had been mayhem that held all right-thinking citizens at dismay and in a state of severe shock and utter despair. This status quo cannot continue any longer and must end immediately with right political action in accordance with parliamentary procedure and ethics. Flouting the standing orders and parliamentary procedures within these hallowed walls is a shame that has to be lamented and to be condemned unconditionally. Surely, there are other decent, gentlemanly, reasonable and democratic ways and means of resolving this crisis, clearing misunderstandings, mending differences and easing tensions than just being unruly, violent, disruptive and boorish in behaviour. Is this ethically and morally acceptable at all? The answer is a clear NO, not at all! 

 


THE WAY OUT 
Proactive dialogue and goodwill require readiness to give up something of one’s comfort-zones. While there is a deadlock in the arguments brought forward by both sides of the divide, there should be enough political maturity and insight to work hard together with the common interest of the good of the people of the country. No one admits of dictatorial or hegemonic actions and shortsightedness in decisions that can adversely affect the present and future of the country. What transpired last few days is by far the worst that had happened in our history, never seen before and without precedent. A calamity and a tragedy overtook us that scarred our nation defacing her of her lustre and made us the laughing-stock of the entire world. The world watches as this drama is being unfolded: politics in disarray, economy in tatters and a country in a mess. The entire episode is not fair by the people, of whom politicians are delegated representatives, thought to be trustworthy and dependable, with each one knowing what it means to represent the people and act as its servant. Politicians do not own this country and their despicably-erratic behaviour should not spoil its good name and the benevolence of its innocent and noble people. They should be responsible stewards exercising their responsibility consciously. 

 

Unfortunately, politics continue even today in this country to provide the battleground for those vying for power and no more a hallowed space to engage in work for progress and prosperity of the people. For the last seventy years there had been sifting sands of politics swinging from the UNP to the SLFP till the free-economy time of JRJ

 

CONCLUSION 
While the present status quo has to be cleaned up and those responsible for it humbly accept their mistakes, the citizens must learn their duty of electing with good judgment that their representatives should be in the seats of authority. Their imprudent and immature choices will be necessarily another unfortunate cause of ruin in national politics. It is a pity, despite decades of franchise, that our people are still so poor in their political judgment and are easily swayed emotionally and en masse by political trickery and manoeuvering. People of Sri Lanka must by now realise that they should not allow themselves to be hoodwinked into rosy political agendas of party politics. The country by now should know who rules well and for how long, the short and long term benefits they have accrued under consecutive governments. The citizens alone bear the ultimate responsibility of electing to office those who are of even-temperament, educated, upright, honest, ethically-sound and morally beyond reproach, whom they can depend on for serving the interests of their dear motherland. 


One should not allow this pearl of the Indies to fall from the frying pan into the fire or from the brink of political anarchy into a pariah state. Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans deserve better. Our country must be forthwith redeemed from being a battleground for political greed and pursuit of power, making it instead, into an oasis of healthy and clean politics with statesman-like politicians, wise in their ways and serving the people with integrity and honesty. May we soon have a stable government built on the rule of law, demands of democracy and Constitutionally-established, that will augur well for the country’s peace, stability and prosperity. This is the ideal that politicians and the people at large to whom this country belongs, must strive to work for and the dream they must try to pursue. 
Rev. Fr. Leopold Ratnasekera OMI Ph.D., Th.D. 

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