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Youth in politics and their frustrations

29 August 2019 02:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sri Lanka seems to be a nation which relates well to indiscipline. The country’s lawmakers promote indiscipline and its citizens haven’t been taught any other way of living by those who wield political power. We read in newspapers that the United National Party (UNP) is about to take disciplinary action against ministers Ajith P.Perera and Sujeewa Senasinghe for criticising the party, its policies and the leadership. We also see Deputy Leader of the Party Sajith Premadasa going about promoting himself as the party’s future presidential candidate when the ‘Greens’ are yet to name its elections candidate. Is Sajith promoting a culture of indiscipline within the UNP?

The UNP has had a history of having indisciplined lawmakers. Our own columnist KKS Perera in a recent piece penned under the headline ‘Need a JR?’ highlights the turbulent times the grand old party experienced because of members who had rebel attitudes. 

Right now a pertinent question needs to be asked from the UNP hierarchy; does the party need to instill discipline within its ranks before finding a candidate who can win this party an election?  

However dark the 1990s may have been Ranasinghe Premadasa was credited with having a plan for the country. He lifted the country’s economic profile by initiating the 200 garment factory programme and raised the living standards of the people with his pet programme, ‘Gam Udawa’. But there wer cases of indiscipline associated with Premadasa before he settled down and became a true party man. 

Sajith is considered a youth leader despite being 52 years old. Naturally youth politicians in the country are frustrated because of the ways of the old brigade. But it’s always wise for the youth to have patience

Like Sajith not seeing eye to eye with the present UNP Leader, Premadasa had his differences, but they were with two other top contenders for the party leadership: Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake. When Premadasa got the nod to be the new leader of the party, Athulathmudali and Dissanayake broke away and formed their own party: Democratic United National Front. Both Lalith and Gamini were termed young from a political perspective when they reached their peaks in politics. That new party gained momentum fast, but eventually Premadasa was able to restore order within the UNP and make it function under one leader. 

The UNP must understand that unity within the party is so vital at a time when rebel ideas are trendy. We also hear comments made by Gotabaya Rajapaksa loyalists that they would take to the streets if legal attempts are made to block his candidacy at the much looked forward to presidential elections. This is the mentality that’s being promoted among the citizens of the country; to hell with tradition and the law, the impulse of the people must reign. 

This mentality was promoted during the latter stages of the country’s war against terrorism. When the country’s security officials were accused of committing war crimes or being involved in forced disappearances, the state, without investigating into these incidents and clearing the names of these war heroes, started accusing powerful nations of causing turmoil in the country. 

Patience

That elbows out attitude that the Rajapaksas adopted sowed seeds of arrogance. But what was of concern was that their attitude got on the nerves of their opponents. The Rajapaksas promoted their loyalists up the ranks in most government institutions. One classic example was Gotabaya Rajapaksa being promoted as Defence Secretary and then giving that post more prominence and status over that of Army Commander. Before this change was made there was a tradition within the Army where the Defence Secretary had to address the Army Commander as ‘Sir’. The change of tradition made the Army Commander address the Defence Secretary as ‘Sir’. The country truly went off track during Rajapaksa’s second stint as president. We have read countless newspaper reports of how engineers and industrial experts were ordered what to do by the Rajapaksas; these commands often giving scant respect to the technical way of thinking. This is the culture now embedded in the society at large; politicians calling the shots at institutes construction sites and not professionals. 

Sajith is considered a youth leader despite being 52 years old. Naturally youth politicians in the country are frustrated because of the ways of the old brigade. But it’s always wise for the youth to have patience till their time comes. 

the old brigade shouldn’t frustrate the young politicians. Politicians like Namal will have to do more work at the grassroots level while Sajith will have to convince party seniors that he is the ‘man of the hour’

Though Mahinda Rajapaksa is credited for winning the war against terrorists, he is blamed for aiding and abetting indiscipline in the country. But despite the negatives associated with Mahinda, praise must be showered upon him for how the old man has coached young Namal to wait for his turn. It’s well-known that Namal has put in more years in politics compared to Gotabaya. Namal also knows that his uncle bid adieu to the country of his birth and had a better ticket to life in the United States of America when the war was raging here. Now he sees such a person being promoted ahead of him. Mahinda wishes to see his son become the head of state one day, but right now the Constitution blocks that because a certain clause terms Namal ‘underaged’; hence he can’t receive nomination for presidency. In this context of writing about the work of youth politicians in Sri Lanka and the frustrations they experience, one can’t miss out the name of Nalanda Ellawala, the People’s Alliance MP, who was slain 23 years ago. If Ellawala, who possessed fine oratory skills, lived today, he would have been considered for a top party post or nominated to contest even the presidency. 

What the old brigade must fathom is that they shouldn’t frustrate the young generation of politicians. Politicians like Namal will have to do more work at the grassroots level while Sajith will have to convince party seniors that he is the ‘man of the hour’ without breaching party discipline. The way Sajith is trying to promote himself ‘by hook or by crook’ opens a window for people to judge him as a frustrated man capable of doing anything bad. 

The dilemma faced by the country is that the good people in parliament are outnumbered by the bad. For a start Sajith must allow the good within him to prevail over the bad, which is popping up at this time of his career. It will take time for this change to take place and when that happens the time would be rife for him to receive nomination to be the grand old party’s elections candidate. 

Political analysts opine that right now Sajith is a little immature to be the head of the state of this country. 

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