The dust is slowly settling down from the ‘lie infested’ political battles and the election frenzy is gradually moving out of flavour. Voting time is over and now begins the hoping time for you, me and the masses. We have only heard sugar-coated promises for the past months - all shapes and sizes from every mouth of every colour that got on a platform. TV screens screamed in argument among candidates ridiculing opponents and newspapers became ‘promise’ bulletins to all parties. Haven’t we heard them all before? If things go right and the new ‘powers that be’ rule wisely and honestly, Mother Lanka will prosper and her much battered children will breathe a sigh of relief. If things go wrong, once again our hopes will become hopeless and we will all slide down from the modern microwave to the old frying pan and onto the smouldering fire of corruption and get barbecued again. And for five more years we will suffer fraudulent rulers’ Baila dancing to ‘here’s the robbers passing by’.
In 2010 the war was over. The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won 144 seats and set up government. Prosperity in peace time was anticipated in the fast lane and that too moving on ‘overdrive’. Things started happening. Mega projects sprang up to make Lanka prosperous again. Lakes got floodlit running tracks and paved walkways. Highways linked distant places on cardinal points and roads became a pleasure to drive on. Colombo was breathtakingly beautified and tourist hoards started arriving to occupy new hotels that shot to the skyline as architectural marvels. Shopping complexes opened like mushrooms. Hambantota itself laid foundations to a future southern metropolis with a new harbour, a new airport and a new cricket stadium. People had money, SUVs and condominiums entered the menu cards. People did have money but unfortunately, some people only.
Then with all this progress, how did the dominos fall in the August elections? From 144 seats and five years of pronounced progress the UPFA slid to 96 seats. It was just one word that slaughtered the golden egg-laying goose -corruption. Who did what and who is guilty or not guilty is history as far as the elections are concerned. Innocent till proven guilty too is true. But this wasn’t a listless wind that was taking the details of bad governance around the country but a full-fledged monsoon blowing from all directions. At such a magnitude of visibility, proof of the pudding is not in the eating but more so in the baking.
Proven or not, it was clear to anyone that a lot of people got away a lot of times minting money by illegal means and taking the law into their own hands.
Corruption is the one word that tilted the scales against a powerful government to lose the elections. The average man on the street got fed up and wanted a change. He did not vote for the ‘GREEN’ promises, certainly not. He and she voted for the change. They were fed up, maybe you and me too.
All talk and no action
So the melon is now in the hands of the ‘New Brooms’. They have a clear picture of how the mighty fell. The choice is theirs, follow suit and ruin us for another five years or start with one sterling commitment ‘say no to corruption’. Somebody needs to clean sweep the parliamentary stable and separate the race horses from the ‘donkey-serenade’. All the pre-election promises are useless unless Ranil Wickramasinghe makes one firm effort to eradicate corruption and abolish the two-rule system of one for the proletariat and one for the politicians and their kith and kin. That is what people voted for and that is all what Mother Lanka needs, justice and fair play.
Yes! The accusations were many against the former regime. It started with none other than the Foreign Minister himself trumpeting on January 9 about an alleged coup and quoting two top ranking service heads as the sources of information. What happened? These are very serious allegations. Either someone is guilty or someone else is just shooting his mouth off. The truth needs to be found as the matter is of paramount importance for national security and not a Tombola game. If leaders from responsible positions are accusing the former regime on any mismanagement then the accusers must be able to back their words. This is where we always missed the bus, all talk and no action and the man on the street had to gulp everything down in frustrated silence. I think now the tide is turning. People have had enough. They will not be voiceless anymore and see their beloved motherland go from bad to worse for no other reason than corrupted leadership.
There were many other accusations against the former ruling party. Nothing has been proven so far. It is up to Ranil Wickramasinghe to administer justice. Either prove them and punish the guilty or clear them and let them go free. If things are swept under the carpet that will only mean ‘we will scratch your back now and you do the same for us when you get into the driving seat’. The political itch will be conveniently taken care of by whoever sits aloft at the expense of the ever suffering ordinary voter and of course the perpetually battered Mother Lanka.
The latest parable doing the rounds now is the National List. I will be the first to admit that I know very little of these parliamentary procedures and democratic methods of selecting leaders. Candidates contest the elections and the people vote and some win and some lose; it is all a matter of what choice the people make. I thought that is what democracy is all about? Win the vote and go to Parliament, lose the vote and go home.
Now we have candidates who have been discarded democratically by the people re-harnessed to draw the political cart. They are gifted seats to enter Parliament from the National Lists. Some losers are even lofted to ministerial pedestals. I never knew that Coubertin’s Olympic slogan ‘not to win but to take part’ applied to politics. Of course the excuse is they are great party supporters. Then why not pick our lovable flag waving Percy, the one man cheering squad and make him go and bat when the Great Sanga retires? Percy too is a great supporter, perhaps much more sincere than some who lost in the election.
The rumour is around that Rosy Senanayake is flying to London on a diplomatic posting. Good for you Rosy, you deserve it and no one should question the wisdom of that appointment. At least you’ve savoured the sense not to walk on water across the Diyawanna Oya.
Changing corruption culture
It is time now for the leaders to ensure the winners don’t abuse the melon. We cannot suffer another five years feeding on promises and again getting bashed by corruption. Somebody has to stop this wanton waste of public funds and navigate the country to calmer waters. We need impartial justice, three meals to the stomach, a roof over our heads and a hope of equality for all Sri Lankans, minor and major alike.
There are a lot of honourable Sri Lankans in our motherland who are capable of ‘Yahapalana’ if such can be clearly defined. There are stalwarts like Sobitha Thera who will make sure the path is corrected if it falters and speak up strong and vociferous against corruption and mismanagement. The two-year trial period of national governance looks promising, if they all can puts their heads together and for once think of the nation instead of their insatiable hunger for personal power. We have no war, we have no natural disasters. We as a country have no major problems except the dishonesty of some leaders. As for blessings, we certainly are blessed and ours is a God-gifted country like no other. Sri Lankans are an intelligent people. Let us strive to be Sri Lankans sans the man-made dividing labels that have been exploited by shameless politicians. All that needs to be changed is our leadership’s culture of corruption.
And we have the People’s President. He never claimed to be king, nor emperor, none other than a simple farmer’s son from Polonnaruwa. He’s played his chess pieces confusing everybody around and bringing down a dynasty that was firmly rooted to rule the land.
Excellency - you sure have all the credentials, the qualifications and the plain and humble charisma. And you swore publicly to be honest. Just get us once and for all out of this corrupted political quagmire.
(Capt. Elmo Jayawardena can be contacted at Elmojay1@gmail.com)