Authority is institutionalised and legal power inherent in a particular job, function, or position that is meant to enable its holder to successfully carry out his or her responsibilities. Power is delegated formally and it includes a right to command a situation, commit resources, give orders and expect them to be obeyed, it is always accompanied by an equal responsibility for one’s actions or a failure to act. According to Ronald Reagan - “Politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first – prostitution.” In this context, I have no doubt President Regan meant that politicians too would sell their body and soul in order to earn money or anything that has real value for them.
A majority of politicians in Sri Lanka do not act or use authority and power as office holders in a legitimate, accountable, transparent and a futuristic manner. They have even resorted to mean, irregular and destructive levels as office seekers and have created unprecedented problems, such as economic, political, social, cultural, ethnic and dragged the people and the country to a despicable situation – the “Third World Country”.
Since the Independence, the status has not improved. Can this country, therefore, be developed unless we elect good, dedicated people with management expertise? No. Not at all.
There has been innumerable reports in the media with regard to abuse, misuse and excesses in the use of authority and power in this country in the past. Politicians and bureaucrats have jointly contributed to the negative growth. Owing to these inadequacies countries that were far behind us during the time of independence have reached the status -“developed countries”.
Our politicos are very clever in achieving their personal ends by using peoples’ needs, which no doubt amounts to double-dealing. They would also corrupt the public too by making them tamed and blind followers, who do not seem to understand the factual position, i.e. they are sitting on a volcano. The people who belong to this category represent both so called educated and uneducated.
Good leaders are capable of saving the people from fatal consequences. They do not commit short-sighted mistakes or propose policies irrationally, which could contribute to the destruction of the country and the systems.
Good leaders use authority and power for public good and possess courage and magnanimity to serve the people at the peril of their displeasure. Present politicians want cheap popularity. They do all cheap things. As the famous saying goes, it is unfortunate, our politicians think of the next elections; if we had statesmen, they think of the next generation.
It was, however, obvious that during the last few days the politicians and political parties in Sri Lanka were engaged in a mission to secure the principle of “political parties”. We need to protect the “national interest” and to give the foremost place for the benefit of the country. The voters, therefore, need to be aware that “politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians alone” – Charles de Gaulle. Since colonial days, Sri Lanka inherited a Westminster model democracy and an elected representative body since 1931. Ours is one of the oldest democracies in the world. However, after the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution, democratic rule had been replaced by an Executive President and a devalued Parliament. The rule of law, good governance slowly disappeared.
The 1978 Constitution, changed the systems that existed totally. Parliament enacted more and more laws when increased problems arose, but to no avail.
I must add the politicians used their powers to enact enough and more laws more than what the country needs. Politicians thought it was how the problems could be remedied. However, the laws enacted were not implemented or executed for their own benefit. They tampered with the law for personal gain and sabotaged the 20th Amendment to the Constitution shamelessly.
It is sad there have been more and more instances where people taking the law in to their own hands from 1970s onwards. Time has come now for the Parliament to debate the issues appropriately, make or amend laws suitably, bureaucrats to administer and carry out their responsibilities independently, with efficiency and effectiveness. The judiciary should also effect the laws equally to everybody without any interference. Justice must prevail all over.
I must quote what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said recently – “Good governance alone is not sufficient. That governance should be people oriented. All measures have to advance their cause”.
In a speech made by the TNA Leader R. Sampanthan in Parliament in 2012 said that instead of 9 Provinces the country could consider 4 or 5 Provincial Councils thereby save public funds.
He had in response to a query raised by a leading English daily, thereafter, added that his party was even ready to play a consequential role in the process if an agreement could be reached on an agenda to pave the way for a tangible action plan to achieve maximum possible devolution and the change of administrative structure which would ease the burden on the tax payers.
The TNA Chief had also emphasised that whatever the proposal, it would be suicidal even to envisage proposals which could entail additional burden on those struggling to make ends meet and said - “Let there be efficient, democratic and relatively inexpensive systems at national and regional levels to address grievances of the people. Democracy is best practised when people have direct access to their representatives at national, provincial or regional levels”.
We must never forget the fact that during the terror days of the LTTE, there were a large number of politicians who were killed. President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated, when he was taking part in the May Day celebrations. There were many others who were slaughtered by the JVP too. We must always remember that owing to the war and two insurgencies, the people and the country suffered untold hardships and inconveniences.
It is no doubt the next Parliament must use their authority and power more meaningfully and effectively to depoliticise and strengthen democratic rights of the people without contributing to the destruction of the country.
My concern is how best we could strengthen a weak State and prevent further failure. We should urge the policy makers to design methods to prevent failure and revive them to assist in the rebuilding process. Well known and respected Economist Prof. Indraratne had remarked that “If State revenue had not been lost due to corruption, they would have gone to reduce the burgeoning budget deficit.” Public must now urge and steps should be taken so that corrupt politicians will be compelled to empty their pockets for the benefit of the country!.