Mon, 26 Feb 2024 Today's Paper

The dismal state of politics in Sri Lanka

10 August 2019 02:09 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Where do we go from here?

Yahapalanaya regime ascended to power on the plank of eradicating corruption. It was widely alleged that a coterie of ruling elites of the last regime became law unto themselves. What happened in the aftermath under MS/RW regime despite highfalutin pronouncements made to establish good governance, leaves much to be desired. Track record of the present Government in that score is obviously dismal.   
Instead of tackling corruption, some Government high-ups got enmeshed in one of the gigantic financial scams in the history involving Government Bonds. Irresistible greed for filthy lucre would have ticked those involved. People’s sky high hopes for relief yearned for have fallen by the wayside. Good governance regime, the fait accompli has proven a costly political hodge-podge characterized by deep fissures, tug-o-war, acrimony and incoherence within Government ranks. Big guns at the highest echelons of power have become arch political foes.   

The country is facing numerous issues that remain unaddressed. There is accelerated deforestation. Large swathes of forest lands are mercilessly mowed down under the guise of development. Callous destruction of nature perpetrated by unscrupulous elements continues regardless of colossal detriment bound to ensue. Except for rhetoric there is notable lack of action to arrest the catastrophe. Erratic weather patterns indicate Sri Lanka is fast becoming warmer than before.   
A rising number of people are falling sick for a plethora of reasons. Hospitals are thronged by large numbers. The private medical sector has become a thriving enterprise charging exorbitant fees. The market place is flooded with eateries and a wide variety of goodies whilst the media is replete with spectacular promotions to persuade people to fill up plates with tasty junk. People scrambling with the melee of busy routines feed on junk for convenience. Many are afflicted by non-communicable diseases associated with unhealthy life styles. Soaring medical expenses are consuming bigger portion of earnings. There is no national scale endeavour to inculcate healthy living habits. By contrast greater emphasis is placed on a multitude of costly treatments rather than preventive measures. Responding to the rising incidence of Chronic Kidney Disease, the Health Sector is deploying more dialysis machines although dialysis per se is not a treatment. Viable indigenous treatment with unparalleled healing properties to cure many life-threatening conditions is sadly overlooked knowingly or otherwise. Instead, people are being herded in to hospitals in large numbers.   

There is an alarming incidence of brain drain. Professionals, technicians academics and those with distinct talents and skills are seeking greener pastures overseas. The future that rests on homegrown talent is under grave threat.   
The outlook of today’s generation who follow a multitude of avenues of academic/professional and skills development/advancement is drastically different compared to the counterparts of the days gone by, who were stereo-typically driven to become Doctors, Engineers Lawyers or Accountants. The globalised world is in a flux where socio-economic developments are unprecedentedly dynamic. Those skilled in a multitude of disciplines are attracted by overseas employment as the local market is unable to cater to their aspirations. The pathetic end result is the loss of vital human capital. It is a bleak prospect looming large.   

The Sri Lankan economy is badly ailing. Debt service commitment has snowballed. Export revenue as a percentage of GDP has consistently declined. The bulk of national income is consumed by the ballooning debt repayment cost which demands further infusion of borrowed money. Moreover, escalating unproductive recurrent state expenditure & state funded white elephants too have been gobbling tax payer money, depriving funds for development priorities. Besides, there has been a glaring lack of coherent strategy by successive regimes to grow exports to enhance forex inflows to extricate Sri Lanka out of an ever-tightening debt strangulation. What has been witnessed is alternation of economic strategies and development programmes under successive regimes, with every regime undoing what the former has done, disregarding whether such action is warranted or otherwise.   
Unremedied economic ills have heaped severe economic woes & unbearable tax burdens on the public. Prudence, accountability, integrity and transparency have been sorely lacking in the management of public funds. Whilst non-tax-paying legislators have relished plum perquisites including duty free vehicles colossally burdening state coffers, the poor have callously been made to tighten belts and face an endless vicious cycle of economic woes. It is ironic that tax payer funded non-taxpayers are able to relish huge tax benefits whilst, genuine tax payers are consistently made to pay more taxes only with no reciprocal benefits. 


"The country is facing numerous issues that remain unaddressed. There is  accelerated deforestation. Large swathes of forest lands are mercilessly  mowed down under the guise of development"


The suffering poor has been generously served with copious lip service whilst their predicaments have continued to exacerbate. There is no foolproof mechanism to ascertain if tax payer money is used prudently for public needs or mercilessly squandered? Although Sri Lanka is treated as a functional democracy for academic purposes, it sorely lacks a robust mechanism to ensure that elected representatives are truly accountable for their actions. This is imperative that statutes are brought in to bind politicos to the promises they make, so that the deceptive practice of hoodwinking masses for electoral gain could be tackled.   

Society is witnessing waning human ethics and spiritual values. Nothing appears to move without inducement, and money increasingly does the talking. What often happens before public eyes mostly smack of political undertones. One glaring example is, that no medic who resorts to protest at the drop of a hat crippling the public healthcare sector has to date been seen crying foul about how private medical institutions make killing out of miseries of sick although they publicly claim to champion the common man’s causes. Most of those who strike works in the public health sector have no qualms about burning midnight oil at private places. That is a sad reality where money justifies professional double standards.   
People are violently assertive and tend to rise in protests for the slightest reasons. This propensity has pervaded every social segment and manifests from time to time. Issues are exacerbated when phony politicos indulge in fishing in troubled waters, to derive mileage. Every calamity, bad fortune or even an act of god is grist for partisan political mills so long as they serve sinister political interests. The aftermath of Easter Sunday carnage that left masses shell-shocked revealed ulterior motives of different political camps vying to exploit the grave human tragedy to further their agendas, whilst those who bore the brunt of catastrophe had to silently stomach wails, travails and woes.   

The Buddhist clergy has been conspicuous by its involvement in many agitations. The approach of protesting monks often evinces barefaced audacity. It appears drastic deflection from the code of conduct enunciated in Buddhist discourse. Although agitations may stem from genuine concerns and burning issues, modes of expressing dissension & discontentment evidently lacks the decorum expected of clergy. Conduct of clergy even in the face worst adversity is expected to be exemplary and worthy of emulation. This attribute of spiritual leadership by example rather than precept is sorely lacking among monks hogging limelight nowadays. As a result their conduct often attracts public rebuke and aversion. This does not bode well for the well-being of society as well as sacred denomination, as there is growing propensity to ridicule aggressive public behaviour of monks which could tarnish their endeavours even when they are genuine and meant for justice and fair play.   
Gone are the days when the Buddhist clergy was revered as a beacon of guidance whose enlightened counsel was humbly sought by rulers to humble peasants alike. In contrast, making courtesy calls on religious dignitaries has become an indispensable element of political machinations today. With commercialism, religious tamashas and activities of political colour making inroads to temples, there is marked reduction in the emphasis on adherence to noble principles enunciated in Buddhist discourse. Some temples have become hotbeds of political activity espousing partisan agendas.   

Politicos have gone from rags to riches in the thriving enterprise of body politic, although the masses have fallen from frying pans to the fire. Pot-bellied politicos indulging in wanton extravagances mostly pay lip serve to burning issues with political arena witnessing the entry of unruly, uncultured & uneducated elements with questionable integrity and no regard for the rule of law. Parliamentary sessions often witness bickering & mud-slinging which sometimes culminate in fisticuffs, bringing the hallowed institution to public ridicule.   
Many Government and opposition politicos are accused of frauds, malpractices, abuse and misuse of public offices. Nevertheless, come election time, they still have the nerve to go before the public to seek re-election despite indelible black marks associated with track records. Blind loyalties of voters fiercely divided on party lines have enabled unscrupulous politicos to exploit it and retain power despite many unkept promises and failures on their part. Lack of discerning capability of the voting majority to make objective assessment on strategies, principles and policies enunciated by rivals in the electoral fray and the imperatives to navigate the country on a clear path to sustainable development has been the bane of this country, which at times reveals a failure of the universal franchise to achieve its intended goal.   

Top authorities and policy makers ruling the roost in post independent Sri Lanka have not succeeded to usher in prosperity that has been promised time and again to the voting public. Instead, the poor man’s lot has worsened over the years. Had measures been taken as articulated in party manifestos issued in the run up to elections, Sri Lanka by now would have joined the coterie of prestigious global economic power houses, which would have ticked Singapore to once again take a fresh look at Sri Lanka as a role model as done in 1964.   
Unfortunately there is no mechanism in Sri Lanka to bind politicians to what they promise to attract votes at elections. What has unfolded is the same old dismal story of unkept promises being heaped upon on the gullible public, as a vast majority of Sri Lankan voters are yet to come of age to comprehend the true nature of wheeling, dealing, politics practiced by their political masters.   

In this context whoever wins at the next Presidential Poll (PP), it is more or less certain that a large number in Parliament today will retain their seats again.   
If people think that the PP is panacea for all ills, or the game changer, they are sadly mistaken. If people want their lot to improve, there is no quick fix. It requires radical sweeping transformations of those who are to be considered as suitable to contest at elections as well as the outlook of the electorate. Such profound changes need time, unwavering commitment and unremitting efforts to achieve the desired goals.   
Current developments in the body politic indicate that nothing of such magnitude is in the offing. It is the case of same rotten apples, a fait accompli, once again.   
Where do we go from here, only time will reveal. People should wake up as damage control is the minimum that could be worked on, given the current situation. Undoubtedly that too is herculean.   

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