By W. Vishnu Gupta –
On the day of independence in 1948, Hon DS Senanayake, the father of our nation said “No longer can we lay the blame for defects and errors in our administration on others. It is, therefore, the duty of every citizen of Lanka to grasp this opportunity and to strive and toil willingly for advancing the happiness and prosperity of the country.” What do we have after seventy years? Isn’t it prosperity for a chosen few and misery for the majority? Insecurity in economic and social life is the norm of the day for many. One group of leaders blames the other everyday for the suffering of masses. Educated and liberated minds have been conditioned to accept avariciousness and they have been systematically desensitized to injustices and criminal activities by corrupt politicians. Power struggle between the members of oligarchy groups since 1948, has left little time or space to advance happiness and prosperity of the people. How it is possible, especially, when we were lead to believe that there is Democracy in Sri Lanka by every government since 1948.
Democracy or Oligarchy
Democracy, (from Greek: “δημοκρατία”) or “rule of the commoners”, according to Plato the first theoretician to make a system out of the distinctions between what he regarded as the main forms of the city-state three categories were identified: (1) Monarchy, the rule of one good man, and Tyranny was defined as the imprecise version of Monarchy; (2) Aristocracy, the rule of a few good men, and Oligarchy, its imprecise version; (3) Democracy, the rule of the many, and it did not have two versions. Judging by what has taken place in the post colonial period of Sri Lanka, Oligarchy structure appears to fit very well, because the country has been ruled by few selected men /women (or families). Interestingly, many Oligarchy run states have devised a formula using the basic parameters (elements) of democracy.
Also the political scientists are of the view that, democracy is built on four key elements: (a) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; (b) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; (c) Protection of the human rights of all citizens, and (d) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
There cannot be any argument about the existence of the above four elements in Sri Lanka’s distorted version of democracy, it appears they are perfectly in place, then why are we (majority) in misery all the time. Sir Karl Popper has explained this anomaly with the difference between theory of “Democracy” and theory of “Rule by the people”. In that sense, what successive governments since 1948 have attempted is to showcase the theory of “Democracy” but not “Rule by the people?” It conforms to the requirements of the fourth element of theory of “Democracy”, by proving the hypothesis, that the rule of law makes the bloodless dismissal of the government by majority vote is true. It explains how all failed governments of dominant political parties have survived many calamities, insurrections, large scale corruption scandals and ultimately leaving the rabble in misery. Replacing one corrupt political leadership with equally corrupt another political leadership is not democracy. It seems Sri Lankan voters have misunderstood democracy for Oligarchy run governments. It is known Oligarchy to be exclusionary; also this system of government is the breeding ground of tyrants or puppet leaders. It relies on either oppression or tightly controlled judiciary. It is a structure where the minority or a selected few, not the majority, is able to rule.
Masters of Making “Pie in the Sky”
Also, following the first principle of democracy, Sri Lankans have placed their trust on elected members of the parliament. Theoretically, parliament is one of the institutions that should pull our island nation out of misery, ethnic conflicts, instability, poverty and uncertainty. It is wishful thinking; this central national institution has been a hostage in the hands of oligarchic political groups. Its autonomy or sovereignty depends primarily in the autonomy and independence of its members, which is compromised by absence of democracy within the political parties. As the ruling oligarchy runs the parties as feudal cliques or political ‘business corporations’, the ‘parliamentarians’ prefer to align with the prospective winners, and stay with them to benefit through the political patronage with next elections in mind. A sensible interest in staying loyal to the one (leader of Oligarchy) in power keeps them quiet.
For the majority members of the parliament in Diyawanna, loyalty to the leader of their oligarchy has to be more important, as it pays off, than the truth or the conscience. “It is the other party’s fault” remains the old mantra of all corrupt political leaders and their paid defenders inside and outside of parliament. Politics of patronage and hiring minions with abusive tongues against the opponents has proved to be the best arsenal of politicians in Sri Lanka. Therefore the credibility of the parliament members is highly questionable.
People assumed finally, they got the chance to liberate themselves from the clutches of poverty, insecurity, social injustice, despair and the grip of possible tyrants in 2015. Unfortunately once again citizens were wrong. Under the rule of co-habitation government, the country seems to have lost stability, order and a sense of direction. The outcome of provincial election held in February 2018 has confirmed what the prevailing mood of the rabble is. – “Known devil is better than unknown angel”-
The members of the present co-habitation manage to borrow the concept of “good governance” from the words and actions of The Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero. This noble monk expected to establish a clean government based on the principle of “Rule by the People” not by an Oligarchy that flouts fundamental principles of democracy through deceits, tightly controlled judiciary and mastery of derogatory language. People listened to the advice of Sobhitha thero but as a result ended up installing a corrupt government of co-habitation. Was it a big blunder made by the voters or a devious move made by one branch of oligarchy to defeat another branch of oligarchy? Either way, this noble monk would have ended-up as a victim of political trickery used by the present regime.
2020 “Kiribath” and Misery
A funny story among those who live in the border region of Russia and Poland explains the naïveté of Sri Lankan voters aptly;
“There was a small town located along the frontier between Russia and Poland; no one was ever quite sure which side it belonged to. One day an official treaty was signed and not long after that surveyors arrived to draw the border. Some villagers approached them (surveyors) where they had set up their equipment on a nearby hill.“So where are we, Russia or Poland?” villagers queried, Surveyors replied, “according to our calculations, your village now begins exactly thirty-seven meters inside Poland.”
The villagers immediately began dancing and singing for joy.
“Why?” What difference does it make? It is only 30 meters” the surveyors asked. “Don’t you know what this means?” villagers replied. “It means we’ll never have to endure another one of those terrible Russian winters!”
It looks like majority of Sri Lankans love misery or they don’t understand what misery is. For seventy years we have been under oligarchies camouflaged as true democratic systems. When a new government is installed replacing the old, voters celebrate the event by lighting fire crackers and enjoy kiribath (milk rice), kavun (oil cakes) and dance on the streets just like those people live in the border region of Russia and Poland. The misery is still with them. More than one million Sri Lankans have gone to work in other countries to escape from misery, mostly as slaves under the slave trade sanctioned by the government; Most of them are employed in the Middle Eastern countries under bondage. Nearly, two third of the population live in rural areas without proper education facilities, health facilities or job opportunities, a large percentage of citizens depends on government hand-outs, even parents are unable to buy school uniforms or shoes for the kids, malnutrition is reported in certain areas, alcoholism and drug addiction is rampant, suicide rate (world’ highest) and murders have gone sky high. What a sorry state.
Despots and Wimpy vying for power
It appears former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family strongly believes that they should be the rulers of Sri Lanka. The people must be thankful for his services rendered to defeat LTTE as the Commander in Chief. His brother Gotabaya helped his brother as the Defense Secretary and they complimented each other. Job! Well done MARA and GOTA thank you guys and move away and let the citizen figure out what did go wrong since 1953 but it will not be the case.
The second despot is Ranil Wickremesinghe he too believe that his family must be the rulers of Sri Lanka as a part of their inheritance. A Christian by birth but portrays himself as a Buddhist following the footsteps of SWRD and JRJ with the blessings of couple of Buddhist monks. This Machiavellian had audacity to sign an agreement to stay in power and save his hide. After more than forty years in politics he has nothing to show his achievements or contribution to the well being of citizen of Sri Lanka. He should have bid farewell many years ago without polarizing the people of Sri Lanka further. This is als an unlikely scenario.
Third one is current President Maithripala Sirisena. This wimpy politician is making feeble attempts to survive from political manoeuvring of Despot Mara and Despot RW. Daily Mirror of 8th September 2018 reported how MS expressed his views about the two despots.
“the President further said that if SLPP and UNP overestimate their political power that is mistake and said that whatever value given by themselves to their parties no one could form a government without the support of the SLFP”.
His assessment is correct; citizenry is highly polarized along the lines of religion, language spoken and ethnicity. Underlying message is this wimpy president will be the kingmaker and consolidate his power base without leaving political arena.
In this background of misery and judging by current political events and contenders jockeying to be the next President, the people must not expect a government based on “Rule by the people” in 2020. Most likely, depending on which “Pie in the Sky” is more attractive, majority will elect a Despot or a Puppet President. However, irrespective of Despot or Puppet, what is clear is that the convergence of political views of leading Oligarchies that has marked recent months will continue, leaving the masses in misery for many years to come.