Sri Lankans, since Independence, have paid immensely for their fair share of absurdities – communalism, divisiveness, mistrust, antagonism, hatred, lack of mutual love and respect; affection, sincerity of purpose, and most importantly, our inability to stand up as a nation collectively to achieve political stability, sustainable economic growth and development. I would not hesitate to put the blame for this on petty communal-minded politicians, whether they be Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims.
The countrymen last week witnessed a few elected representatives making a wishy-washy attempt to berate their party line, fanning communalism. They found fault with regard to the appointment of veteran politician R. Sampanthan as the Leader of the Opposition by the newly-elected Speaker.
Udaya Gammanpila, while making his maiden speech after the election of the Speaker of Parliament – did he speak with both balance and moderation? Did he make use of his privileges in Parliament to voice the views beneficial to him? What did he do? The countrymen should realize that these weird opportunists are now trying to divide the masses ethnically once again. Their only intention is to reverse the reformist Government. They are all out to misdirect and misinform the easily gullible masses for their own benefit and survival.
Is this what the elected representatives should do? Should they be permitted to reverse the steps taken by the present Government considering the long-term benefits for the country and its people? As the saying goes: the people also get the legislators they deserve. However, a majority has elected a government for a CHANGE - with President Maithripala Sirisena at the top and Ranil Wickremesinghe as the PM, and they are now building bridges between all communities to live in peace and harmony in the future.
Gammanpila and several others cannot understand the value of principled politics. They do not seem to be respecting the civic virtues and other moral traits of a decent citizen. They should learn to cultivate these positive traits, virtues etc., most importantly, self-discipline. Sri Lankans, whether they are Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims have suffered untold hardships due to the 30-year war, whether it is in the North or South.
Gammanpila means the opposite of the word virtue. Let me now point out that virtue is a feature of character with a significant capacity to influence conduct. A virtue supplies its possessor both with normative reasons indicating what sorts of things should be done in a wide range of contexts and with motivation to do such things for the right kind of reason. Virtue is not a mere capacity for good deeds, but a settled tendency to do them for an appropriate reason.
I am aware good virtuous citizens in Sri Lanka fully endorse the appointment of veteran parliamentarian R. Sampanthan as the Leader of the Opposition. He has openly stated that they do not want separation and they will not fight for division of the country. He has even gone to the extent to say that the jumbo Cabinet is a burden to the country. He only wants devolution of power properly; within acceptable norms, which no doubt means involvement of people at the grassroots level. We have to learn to trust him. I do not think he would choose to drag the country to a devastating war again.
An elderly statesman is the best choice for the post of the Leader of the Opposition, being the Leader of the third largest party with 16 seats for them in the present Parliament. If Barack Obama can become the all-powerful President of America, may I ask Gammanpila and others, why cannot Sampanthan become Leader of the Opposition to begin with in a democracy? Above all in a country where we are trying to promote ethnic harmony and promotion of equal political rights and freedom.
Why did Gammanpila and others oppose this move then? They did so perhaps for a media show and to mislead the gullible public. They made use of the opportunity for their personal benefit. The Prime Minister in Parliament stopped both Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila when they were vociferously fanning communalism to achieve their own political ambitions. The Premier also immediately sent a strong message that “he will not tolerate nonsense.”
Lee Kuan Yew is one of the greatest political leaders in the 20th century. The readers would agree with me that we need an administrator similar to Lee Kuan Yew to take Sri Lanka forward. He made far-reaching changes to take Singapore from a small, poor port town to one of the best managed countries in the world – one of the countries with the highest per capita income at present.
Singapore’s success story is not an accident. Lee ruled Singapore as a benevolent dictator with enlightened despotism. Deng Xiaoping who transformed socialist China to a flourishing capitalist State with unprecedented growth, had been a good friend of Lee, implemented strategies to bring China to its present position.
The President too is a source of inspiration to the Premier. They are not power hungry. They are not self-serving. Both these leaders at present have shown strength of character to come out openly similar to Lee Kuan Yew that they will not permit corruption. They have ruled out political mishandling of the affairs of the country. They mean business to take the country forward. This is what the country needs.
The President, after the swearing-in of the Cabinet Ministers (comparatively larger than what was expected) announced that the appointment of Secretaries will be done through a committee appointed for the purpose. This is no doubt purely because of the need to be – meritocratic – and to keep dumb, political henchmen and incompetent people out. This will however require giving capable administrators far better incentives to run the State Institutions with efficiency and effectiveness. I would suggest contractual appointments too, which could be extended annually, so that the cream of the country could be employed to take the country forward.
The country now needs good competent administrators with integrity, who do not take bribes or commissions. We have had enough of rotten politicos and bureaucrats who had served themselves at the cost of the general public and the country and this culture should be changed without delay from now onwards.
It is my sincere feeling with long years of experience in the State Sector that most of the problems are due to lack of discipline, incompetence and negative attitudes. This can be seen from the top to the bottom, which should be reversed if we need to take the country ahead. The Public sector personnel do not think long-term and they continue to run the public sector institutions worse than one would a ‘grocery store’. The public servants do not find solutions or improvements because they simply thrive when it becomes a cancer.
In addition, it may be useful if an independent ‘SUPERVISORY BODY’ is established to oversee the operations. It may gradually become possible to allow intelligent people with good habits and nature, responsible, bureaucrats to run their own affairs on their own when the going is good. Lee Kuan Yew had once said “between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I AM MENINGLESS.”
I have no doubt the Premier in this context is the most ideal administrator/CEO the country needs. He is not the kind of person who is interested in being loved. He has proved beyond doubt that he has the ability, the capacity and the temperament to face enemies and the Opposition before they get the required strength to become a threat to him! It is also my view that the PM does not look forward or regard opinion polls or popularity polls. He knows through his long years of experience and maturity that “No news is good news” for him unless you make the citizens feel that the country is on the right track. In conclusion, it is the duty of all of us - whether we are Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims - to make our motherland the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” for the future generations again.