The Opposition is ideally positioned to engineer a change in the culture of engagement.
What do Oppositions do? They oppose. Why do they ‘oppose’ in the first place? Well, they are supposed to keep governments on their toes, help keep things in line, point out flaws etc. In a nutshell, offer constructive criticism and, in the event that parliamentary majority and executive authority is abused, mobilize the people to mitigate.
In an ideal world, that is.
What happens, typically, is that the Opposition or rather the major player(s) in the Opposition allow the intention to capture power governs word and deed. Mountains are made of molehills, sand is thrown in the wheels, typically. Such has been the bread and butter of oppositional politics. Such has evolved into being the crux of oppositional culture.
It could be different of course but this would call for a complete rethink on the part of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition and the party he/she represents are ideally positioned to engineer a change in the culture of engagement but we haven’t seen anything of the sort from parties and politicians who have been in the opposition.
Not in a very long time.
This is why a proposal by Rasika Jayakody warrants comment. Now Rasika is not an MP. He is a young and fresh entrant into the rough and tumble of party politics. He is affiliated with the youth wing of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). He is, then, on the fringe. Therefore it would not be surprising if the so-called ‘seasoned’ seniors of the party pay little or no attention to what he has to say. Of course this is not a situation that’s uncommon and neither is it the preserve of political parties.
Juniors are expected to say little and listen more. They have to wait their turn. They have to work their way up the ranks before they are taken notice of. They have to put in the yards, so to speak. I would strongly urge the big boys and girls not just in the SJB but in the rest of the Opposition and the Government (who knows when one finds him/herself in the Opposition?) To take note.
Rasika Jayakody believes there are some non-negotiable tasks that need to be accomplished for the general betterment of the country and in particular the transformation of overall political culture. He calls the effort or rather the drivers of the effort ‘Sammuthiya Janatha Vyaparaya’ (The Covenant People’s Movement?).
There are six broad areas that he has identified in a recent Facebook post. First, he believes (as many others do) that the massive expenses that have to be incurred in running any election campaign is the root of the seemingly limitless corruption that has pervaded politics. The Movement advocates full disclosure of money spent on election campaigns.
This is why a proposal by Rasika Jayakody warrants comment. Now Rasika is not an MP. He is a young and fresh entrant into the rough and tumble of party politics. He is affiliated with the youth wing of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB)
The second element is related. A declaration of assets prior to the launch of any election campaign should be mandatory, they believe. Makes sense. Such declarations should take the form of an open document accessible by anyone and everyone. A political culture which has space for anyone to question the particular politician on such declarations should be created, they add. An end-of-term declaration of assets could also be made mandatory.
Thirdly, the Movement calls for an absolute stop to attaching anything that enhances a politician’s public profile to any development project publicly funded. This cannot be just a call from an enlightened party leader, President or Prime Minister. Such moves help, but insistence on the part of the public can cement the issue. Laws can also be passed.
The fourth article in this document refers to a change in the way politics is done. The Movement envisages a future where intervention originates in and is driven by social movements instead of a system where party machinery that essentially serves big money and the ‘need’ to profit. It would be a tall order to revolutionize a party machinery to mainstream such an idea. Rasika correctly calls on civil society activists and professionals to take the lead. One hopes he is not thinking of the NGO racketeers dressed up as activists but are really just members of fronts designed to back certain political parties or agendas that have little to do with the national interest or the betterment of the entire population.
That’s how things begin. Great things too. A fillip could come in the form of mainstreaming these ideas by the Opposition. The SJB can do it. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna could do it. In fact if the party in power takes the lead, it could add to the massive edge it already enjoys
The fifth is about honorable citizenship. It is a take from Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s recent call for ‘inclusive nationalism.’ That’s not very ‘UNP’ or ‘I/NGO’ but it is certainly an idea that doesn’t jar with the kinds of positions that the SJB has taken. The priority, Rasika says, should be marginalized groups. A ‘class frame’ is often neglected in such analysis. Let’s hope it is not marginalised.
The final one is about decent, civilised engagement with political opponents. Nice words. Hard to enforce. However, a people’s movement could help create such an environment.
Rasika is a ‘marginal’ as of now. The ‘Movement’ is certainly not ‘mainstream.’ The power he wields and the movement he speaks for wields is, as of now, modest.
That’s how things begin. Great things too. A fillip could come in the form of mainstreaming these ideas by the Opposition. The SJB can do it. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) could do it. In fact if the party in power takes the lead, it could add to the massive edge it already enjoys. Obviously the compulsion would be less from that quarter but that again is something that could be seen as a lack that is best rectified.
In the end, it’s the people who have to underwrite such moves. This, then, is a small contribution. All power to Rasika Jayakody and his friends.