Sri Lanka’s two major political parties are likely to work together at least until 2020 or even until they achieve the goals of Vision 2025 though they will contest separately at the upcoming provincial and local council elections.
The two major parties working together for the first time since independence is itself a major achievement though there are regular public disputes and divisions between the two parties. Yet to consolidate the alliance and consensus Government, there is a need for a new political culture.
As President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have repeatedly stressed, if any person wants to do business, he or she should not come into politics. This should be the case at national, provincial and local council levels. To come into politics means a sincere desire to serve the people, especially the millions of oppressed people caught in a poverty trap imposed on them by a wicked and selfish society. Aspiring politicians need to be servant leaders of these and other people. They also need to practise the principle proclaimed by the Statesman Lakshman Kadirgamar. Taking ministerial office in 1994, he said, “My country has given so much to me - free health services and education and so many other blessings of a tropical paradise. I am accepting this post to give something back to the people and not to grab from them.”
Aspiring politicians should keep this enlightened principle in mind. If they wish to do business they could do it elsewhere but not in politics where one of their primary tasks is to bring about poverty alleviation by reducing the gap between the rich and impoverished people and bringing about a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources. This needs to happen mainly in the rural areas and therefore is more important for provincial and local government politicians who need to be guided by the principle of giving and self-giving, not grabbing the resources of the people and the country. The UNP and SLFP leadership therefore must ensure that for the upcoming provincial and local council elections, their nominees need to give a firm commitment, even a written commitment that they will not do business in politics or rob from the people’s funds though they may do it in subtle ways.
Our politicians also need to remember a hallowed principle of Buddhism -- hatred does not cease by hatred, violence does not cease by violence but by love, provided the person or persons concerned seek forgiveness, turn from their evil ways and return what they had plundered from the people.
This principle is vital because taking revenge or vengeance is also a wicked deed and wickedness added to wickedness may often lead to self-destruction.
The new Local Government Amendment Law brings in landmark changes such as the restoration of the ward system for 60% of the local council area with 40% being elected on the proportional representation system. The widely criticised and more widely abused preferential voting system has been scrapped hopefully helping to curb business in politics, corruption or fraud. Giving women 25% of the nominations may also help in the gradual process of reducing business or corruption in politics. We also hope there will be amendments to give the youth a bigger representation because it is mainly their responsibility to build a peaceful, just and all-inclusive society where there is gradual poverty alleviation, a full-scale battle against climate change and conflict resolution through peaceful dialogue instead of resorting to war or violence. As we said earlier, violence does not cease by violence, but by love, which means dialogue, goodwill, and accommodation on the middle path.