By Gamini Jayaweera –
As a schoolboy in Sri Lanka, I was a “socialist”. I supported the “Social Justice” ideology advocated by the Russian and Chinese Communist administrations without knowing exactly what was happening inside those countries. America and Britain were considered as countries governed by Democracy based on the ideologies of Capitalism and Imperialism. However, in the early 70s I migrated to the UK and for the last 47 years I have been working and residing in the UK and my experience has given me a broader picture about the “Socialist” and “Capitalist” models of government practiced by the countries in the “Western Block” and the “Eastern Block”. Although I have focused my attention primarily on American and Chinese administrations, I have decided to include a few comments about their allies too. Most occasions the allies give their unconditional support to these two camps depending on their allegiance, irrespective of violation of the basic principles of Democracy or Socialism. During my stay in Great Britain, I have witnessed from time to time, how these two camps have acted against their ideologies when it suits them. Is it fair and reasonable to assume that these violations highlight the “Hypocrisy” in American “Democracy” and the “Autocracy” in Chinese “Socialism”?
My motherland, Sri Lanka has been governed by two major political parties since independence. They have implemented contrasting economic and social policies emulating the economic policies of “Capitalism” and “Socialism”. During the last four decades, numerous “Visions for Development” have been introduced with eye catching titles such as “JR’s Just Society, Mahinda Chinthanaya, Sirisena-Ranil Yahapalanaya, and now Gotabaya’s “Sahubaggeye Dhakma”. None of these have worked but the country has borrowed a huge amount of money in the name of “development” without injecting required funds for developing our industrial base. Now the country is paying a high price for the corrupt, dishonest, and self-serving policies practised by these politicians.
These two political groups have dragged our country to a new low. The history has shown that neither party could provide solutions for the economic security and social harmony of our nation. Today our Economy is in danger of collapsing, Social Cohesion is in tatters, Cultural Values are being destroyed, Illegal Deforestation and Sand Mining are continuing, Green Environment is gradually disappearing, Rule of Law has been twisted to suit the ruling parties, Independent Justice system has been destroyed, Corruption and Nepotism are rising, Mismanagement of Covid Pandemic with mounting fatalities, “Democracy” is in danger following changes to the Constitution, Appointment of inexperienced personnel as Heads of State Corporations resulting loss making inefficient institutions, and the image of our State Administrative Service has been tarnished due to appointment of unsuitable retired personnel from the armed forces. Isn’t it “Lunacy” for us to continue with these failed policies which have no effective Transformation Strategy?
After the recently completed presidential election in the USA, the Republican Party supporters with blessings of their former President, organised direct actions during transition period to disrupt the handover of power to the newly elected President. This incident had raised alarm bells in many countries all over the World because they regarded USA as the champion of “Democracy” and the leader of the “Free World”.
American and most Western leaders lecture other countries (especially the third world countries) about the importance of the free speech, freedom of the journalism, freedom to oppose government policies, equal treatment to the minorities, independence of the Judiciary, maintenance of Law & Order, free & fair elections and so on. Accordingly, they use their economic and military power directly or indirectly against a less powerful nation which violates the above “values” if they are not friendly towards the USA. But some of the above democratic “values” have been either violated or eradicated by the USA and its allies for the benefit of the ruling class and a section of the society based on their political alliance, skin colour, and religious believes.
The outgoing President of the USA had issued several presidential pardons to mostly his supporters who were convicted for bribery, corruption, tax evasions, murder, lying to Russia investigation, and involvement in massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater Guards. Are these part and parcel of the democratic “values”? Are these any different to the actions taken by corrupt rulers in other third world countries?
A Partisan American President with his party’s Senate majority, could appoint judges to the highest court in the country who are strongly associated with the President and his Party with same ideologies and policies. If so, is it fair to assume that there is a reasonable doubt among the fair-minded people that the American Judiciary may not be independent? Is it any different to the way some of the third world countries appoint their Judges and members to their Justice departments? It appears that a major part of the American legal system is partisan and racially biased. If so, it is reasonable to assume that a large part of the American “Democracy” is corrupt, and social injustices and inequality in the society are apparent. Isn’t it Hypocrisy?
An academic study suggested that during the Iraq war 461,000 people were killed because of the American and British led military operation. According to the report they destroyed the fabric of that society and divided its people. This was a criminal act. But the United Nation ‘ignored’ calls to bring charges against the American and Western leaders, Military personnel, and others who participated in such an act to cause another ‘holocaust’ since the second World War.
The irony is that the other Western “democracies” do not vehemently oppose this criminal process because of the powerful economic and military position the USA is enjoying in the name of “Democracy”. But they are quite happy to impose economic sanctions against a third world country for violating “human rights”. The UNHRC also has no hesitations to bring charges against a third world country for the human right violations while condoning the acts committed by the USA and their allies in Iraq and Libya. Isn’t this Hypocrisy?
I strongly believe that killing innocent civilians by government forces, whether American, British, Sri Lankan, Israelis, Myanmar’s, Russian, Chinese, etc. should be investigated and taken actions against the perpetrators. The UNHRC should not pick and choose the countries as they like. The international law against the human rights violations should be equally applied to any nation irrespective of their position in the World.
Despite practicing Hypocrisy whenever it suits them, most Western countries’ record on leadership accountability, freedom of speech, freedom of the journalism, freedom to oppose government policies, independence of the Judiciary, maintenance of Law & Order, and conducting free & fair elections are far better than most other countries in the world. It is also true to say that majority of the leaders in these countries serve their people and conduct their public duties honestly and lawfully while maintaining their integrity intact as politicians.
USA’s and other Western countries’ approaches are more open and hostile. Socialist Republic China’s approach is a secretive long-term plan to establish their economic and military superiority over USA by investing heavily in poorer countries’ “development” projects. The Chinese and Russian “socialist systems” operate “one-party” system based on denigrating and suppressing the political opposition. It removes the Civil society, Independent Justice System, and Freedom of the Media.
Recently the ruling National People’s Congress in China passed legislation allowing the Chinese President Xi Jinping to remain in power for life. Meanwhile, in 2020, the Russian President, Mr Putin, obtained “popular votes” to stay as the President of Russia by closing the door on the opposition to oppose his policies until 2036. Isn’t this Autocracy?
Vast majority of people in Hon Kong recently upstaged their opposition to the introduction of controversial new laws by the Chinese Government. The protestors believe that the new laws will suppress and crush the “democracy and freedom” which they enjoyed during the last 156 years under the British Rule. The Hong Kong government with the blessings and instructions from the mainland Chinese Government have beaten the students and the public who had demonstrated against the inclusion of undemocratic conditions into their constitution.
The freedom of speech and the freedom to demonstrate against the governing party for introduction of undemocratic laws is the right of every citizen in a democratic or a socialist society. Chinese Autocracy which operates in the mainland is spreading fast into Hong Kong violating the international treaty signed by China and Britain.
Autocracy is not the solution to Hypocrisy.
Sri Lankans of all races of varying religions, and different social classes wanted an effective non-politician President to demonstrate the qualities acceptable to civilized society such as Humility, Honesty, Integrity, Efficiency, Cohesion, and without any political skeleton in the cupboard. So, I believe that 6.5m Sri Lankans voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the above reasons. Has the newly elected President put forward and implemented policies to live up to the expectations of the voters to create an economically successful, healthy, socially equitable, environmentally friendly, judicially independent, less fraudulent, and a law-abiding egalitarian society?
Just after two years in the office, unfortunately for the disappointment of vast number of voters, it appears that the new President has failed to grasp the enormous responsibilities which are being thrust upon him as the Leader of the nation to give a clear leadership direction to create an environment for all public and private sectors to operate without unnecessary illegal interference from the government. It seems that the promised “Sahubaggeye Dhakma” is not on the horizon.
Recently, the President has requested the people of Sri Lanka to submit “outside the box” constructive proposals for his attention to be scrutinised and implemented if they are suitable for the development strategies of the motherland. As such the following are some of the issues amongst others which I believe that are needed to be addressed prior to look into the “outside the box” proposals because these activities are neither suitable for the development strategies nor to the existence of our future generation.
MPs Discipline and Behaviour
Majority of Members in the Parliament (MPs) called themselves as Sinhala Buddhists. As a Buddhist, grew up in a Buddhist cultural environment, I can say that we have been taught from our childhood to control our thoughts, words, and deeds in the daily living. The politicians are like role models for our younger generation. Unfortunately, many of our MPs are behaving in the most disgusting manner in debates using filthy language to insult their opponents and resorting to physical violence inside the parliament. Most of them haven’t got a clue about the subject matter which they are debating. This appalling behaviour is going on for the last two decades, but no one has been punished yet. It appears that the Speaker of the House has lost his authority and the parliament has turned into a “Lunatic Asylum”. Senior MPs are either taking their unruly MPs’ side on party lines or they themselves are participating in the vexatious behaviour. Isn’t this Lunacy?
Newspapers, electronic media, and TV programmes have highlighted that a vast area of Forests, protected sites, Places of Archaeological interests, and Natural beauty spots have been gradually destroyed by organised gangs and big corporations with the support of ruling party big wigs. Valuable tree cuttings, Sand mining, and Deforestations are daily occurrences in many parts of the country in areas such as Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Muthurajawela, Anavilundava, and Rummassala to name a few. Some instances the Ven. Bhikkhus have challenged the Ministers in front of these devastations. Yet, the Government denies it contrary to the acceptance of these incidents by some of the Ministers and State Ministers. Why the President is turning a blind eye to the destruction of the environment is a mystery. Isn’t this “Lunacy”.
Quality of Consumer Goods
The new Director General of Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLIS), Dr. Siddhika Senaratne appointed by the new Govt., in a recent TV interview has made a claim that not only coconut oil but also several other food items which are currently in the marketplace contain harmful chemicals. She has also stated that the SLSI is not banning or taking any action against those companies because if she does those companies might go out of business. The primary duty of the SLSI is to follow the processes and procedures to ensure that the standard of quality of the consumer goods are fit for the purpose before they are released to the market. The Director General’s statement implies that they also have a duty to protect the Businessmen and Companies at the expense of the public. It appears that the government is approving the ugly side of Capitalism ie. giving a signal to the business community “Do whatever it takes to make a profit. It does not matter compromising human values to make a profit.” Isn’t this “Lunacy”?
Sudden Tax Changes
Recently, the Finance Ministry has acknowledged that the Government’s intention to provide relief to the people by drastically reducing the tariff on sugar had allowed a few businessmen to pocket Rs. 15.95bn which had been classified as lost revenue to the government. Didn’t the officials in the Finance Ministry realise that sudden tax changes will give the opportunity for a handful of Traders to make large profits? Where were the checks and balances when taking such drastic decisions? It demonstrates the ugly side of our rulers who are opening doors to their supporters to earn unbelievable profits at the expense of government revenue. Isn’t this Lunacy?
We all agree that the use of Chemical Fertilizer is harmful to the human beings. But the transition from Chemical Fertilizer to Organic Compost take a period of 5 to 10 years to ensure that the soil is ready to receive the organic fertilizer without damaging the production process resulting a food shortage in the coming years.
It appears that the Hon. President does not want to accept the reality as explained by the experts from the agricultural sector. I wonder whether the leadership is supporting this ill-advised overnight conversion to the organic compost is to become famous and popular. Self-centred selfish leadership thinking is dangerous. isn’t this Lunacy?
The organic compost imported from China by the Ministry of Agriculture found to be not suitable for the intended purpose as such it was rejected by the officials. It appears that either the Ministry has signed a contract without specifying exactly what is required or the supplier has sent a sub-standard goods ignoring the Specification. But Ministry’s recommendation to pay US$ 6.3m as compensation from the public funds without any investigation, exhibits the inadequate knowledge of the subject matter and incompetency of the Minister and the State Minister. A very Senior Minister in the government has stated that it is better to pay the money rather than making China an enemy. It implies that the Sri Lankan government must bend over backwards to please China irrespective of the truth of the dispute. What a fiasco? Isn’t this Lunacy?
Appointment of Retired Military Personnel
During the past two years, the Hon. President has appointed some of the retired members of Armed Forces without sufficient qualifications and experience, as Secretaries to the Ministries destroying the independent status of these positions. The calibre of these appointees is well below the standards maintained by the Civil Servants in the late 50s, 60s, & 70s. Will we ever see the calibre of previous respected Permanent Secretaries such as Mr. Bradman Weerakoon, Dr. Gamini Corea, Mr. DBIPS Siriwardhana, Dr. Jayantha Kelegama, and Dr. Leel Gunasekara, etc. to name a few? Isn’t it Lunacy not to produce and encourage the honest, independent, and efficient public servants to become Ministerial Secretaries through our Administrative Service?
Appointment of retired members of armed forces as Chairmen of State enterprises may not solve the deep rooted inefficient and non-economical administrations of these institutions. Most of these retired personnel have not got the required entrepreneurial experience to manage these institutions economically and efficiently.
The Hon. President may be genuinely believing that by appointing retired members of armed forces to top level Administrative Service positions and manage state Entrepreneurial Institutions, could increase the quality of products and services. I believe that it is a wrong policy for the following reasons.
Command and Control type Armed Forces Leadership is not suited for these institutions because it will destroy the innovative and creative contributions which could be offered by the workforce to enhance the high-quality products and services. It may work in the short run because the employees may work harder by instilling fear. But in the long run it will fail if the workforce is not motivated. What kind of “stimulus” packages have been offered to the employees to motivate them work harder?
One of the most important things in this process is how to motivate the workforce to change their mind-set to work together in a new environment. Changing the culture of an organisation is a difficult one but it can be achieved in the short/long run with a lot of determination, dedication, and bold decisions by the top of the Leadership. But unfortunately, most of the appointed leaders haven’t got the experience and qualifications to carry out this important task.
We have well educated and experienced professionals in the public sector. None of the governments for the last 4 decades had taken decisive actions to educate and motivate the public sector workforce to work efficiently and economically because most politicians main aim is to earn as much as they could while they are in power. Isn’t it Lunacy to ignore the capabilities of our well-educated and experienced professionals in the government sector to take up these important positions?
There is a reasonable doubt among the people in Sri Lanka that the country may be heading towards Dictatorship Rule because of the appointments of Retired Military personnel to top positions in most of the government institutions. A few individuals in the political arena have stated that “there is no other way” but to adopt dictatorship rule like in China to develop Sri Lanka.
One of my non-partisans and learned friends in the UK, about a year ago raised an important point. Referring to dictatorial powers for the President, he said, “Gamini, I wondered whether this approach by the powers that be is only a short-term measure to establish at least a semblance of normality……….”.
Sri Lankans who love the country, are looking for the ways of developing the motherland which is economically in grave danger of collapsing altogether. I believe that it is in the interest of all Sri Lankans to carefully analyse whether the emergence of the popular idea that “only way” to rescue the country from the mess we are in is to install a form of “Dictatorship Rule” headed by the Hon. President for a “short period” of time. Is it the right path to follow?
Can we genuinely trust that any person, either politician or a non-politician would give up his “Dictatorial Position” with all the comforts and unquestionable power and authority, after serving the country for a short a period? One might say, “Gamini, it is a risk that we have to take for the sake of saving our country from this mess.” Yes, I would like to take a risk, but the problem is if this particular risk is materialised the impact would be a disaster for a generation. I am pleased to say that my learned friend has changed his mind after experiencing the way the new President has mis-used his enormous powers.
I whole heartedly agree that we need a genuine leader who could employ educated, experienced, and honest individuals as Ministers, Judges, Leaders of Armed Forces, Administrators, etc. irrespective of their political allegiance to change the mind-set of the workforce and the public.
I passionately believe that suppressing the valuable contribution that the workforce can bring to the development of processes and procedures to enhance the quality of products and services in the government sector would be destroyed for a foreseeable future by placing a “Dictatorial” rule even for a “short period” of time. Isn’t it Lunacy to suggest that “there is no other way” but to appoint a “Dictator” to carry out this important task?
There are plenty of other examples of misbehaviour by our rulers during the last four decades and it is continuing. I sincerely believe that we do not have to “reinvent the Wheel” to lay the foundation to put our country on the right path.
Firstly, we must establish our economic security before we direct our thoughts on other things. Whichever the economic Model (Capitalism, Socialism, or a mixture of both to suit our requirements) chosen by the President and the Cabinet, must include economic justice that must be an integral part to maintain the social harmony and political stability. The government policies must not compromise human values to make profits by deliberately arousing desires and fears in the human mind. Slogans like “Whatever it takes to make a profit, it does not matter” must not be tolerated.
When the Great Recession hit the USA in 2008/09, a few businessmen started to practice “moral Capitalism” by ploughing profit back into the society and helping the government to recover from the great recession. Will our successful business leaders and super rich political leaders follow this path to support the nation at this crucial time? The Leaders must understand that when people are entangled in poverty, oppressed by hunger, and discriminated by race & religion inevitably they will turn to various crimes including theft, murder, looting, lawlessness, and eventually home-grown terrorism etc. Isn’t it “Lunacy” not to adopt a new Transformation Strategy to stop the rot?
Unless our leaders direct their Influence, Power, Strength and Skills in the honest and right way, it would be extremely difficult to come out from this “whirlpool” which has been created by our politicians and the voters. A huge culture change is necessary in the entire administration where the appointment of educated, experienced, broadminded, and courageous leaders/managers with honesty, integrity, and humane qualities is the need of the hour.