22 September, 2017

Can Sri Lanka Produce A Macron?

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

The recent TV Show ‘Face the Nation’, presented and moderated by Shameer Rasooldeen and broadcast over MTV discussed several current contentious issues.

Panelists associated with the program were former National List MP and State Minister Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Executive Director of Center for Policy Alternatives Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Senior Attorney-at-Law Gomin Dayasiri and Journalist and Political Commentator Malinda Seneviratne.

The discussion centered around politics, governance, corruption and role of the judiciary.

Commencing the discussion, Prof Wijesinha (RW) voiced his dissatisfaction with the current good governance government. He was one of its initial members. He was critical of the departure from President Sirisena’s election manifesto beginning with Ranil Wickremesinghe being sworn in as Prime Minister a few minutes after Maithripala Sirisena’s own swearing, with a sitting Prime Minister still in office. It also differed with what was previously agreed. He contends, thereafter, it has been a regular case of contradicting the good governance manifesto and broken promises. He opines, the Yahapalanaya administration has since lost all interest in structural reforms and was dishonest. RW concluded, in the event of a general election, he would vote for people opposed to the current government.

Dr Saravanamuttu (PS) pointed out, a lot has not been done in terms promises made and expectations raised of voters in 2015. The commitments made to those promises and reforms has been seriously diluted and even cast aside. He further stated, what currently holds the government together was their desire to cling to power and not relinquish it to someone else. While conceding of some progress made, he spoke of the need for the present government to regroup and come up with a minimum consensus and program of action for the remaining period in office. PS emphasized, failures of the two main political parties currently in government voluntarily, to deliver on promises and expectations they raised would bring into disrepute, the institutions of representative democracy. On the subject of those resigning from high office reappearing in various other government positions as witnessed recently, he opined, notwithstanding the concept of ‘presumed innocent till proven guilty’, the political consequences of what was currently happening was important and expressed the need for “wrong doers to realize what they have done and go rather than wait to be pushed.”

Gomin Dayasiri (GD), in response to the moderator’s question “do you think Sri Lanka right now needs a new constitution, do you think we need the 20th Amendment to the constitution, what are the priorities of Sri Lanka right now” stated “we have got all our priorities mixed up”. He spoke of 20th Amendment being necessary to change certain very important aspects such as return of police powers to the central government and the need to change the electoral system as it was the live wire for much of the corruption taking place. Electorates were too big and MPs need to look for money before and after elections. He expressed his doubts if current constitution making efforts include those very important aspects. He highlighted the eradication of terrorism as the one single major achievement during last ten years but criticized the lack of effort, especially by the Rajapaksa regime in the reconciliation process thereafter. GD opined, even though structural development had been addressed, ‘People Development’ in the North had been overlooked. He further stated, the government had held out very high expectations, but had failed to fulfill many of the promises made. President Sirisena was praised on two issues, for appointing the three-man Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Central Bank bond scam which had resulted in bringing out “a lot of dirt and filth” not uncovered till the appointment of the CoI and for his declaration, foreign judges would not be permitted in Sri Lanka.

Malinda Seneviratne (MS) commenced by praising Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Development Dr Harsha de Silva for his recent lament “the entire system is corrupt. I am sick of it”. While conceding to availability of “greater media freedom and breathing space” compared to pre-January 09, 2015 era, he stated “these are still early days” and referred to a senior government minister who had recently telephoned an editor of a newspaper and demanded “this column has to come off”. While praising some of the positive developments such as Right to Information act (RTI), 19th Amendment with independent commissions which corrected the faults of the 17th and repealed the 18th Amendments, he also highlighted the clauses in the 19th Amendment which permitted the government to “go around” the promise of limiting the number of ministers

52 year old Malinda Seneviratne declared his candidacy for 2020 Presidential elections.

GD also opined, corruption was prevalent among most politicians. Dishonest politicians “was one club and a dishonest club”, a view endorsed by MS.

The general consensus was, whereas the good governance government can be credited for delivering on a few promises made, a large number of promises remain unfulfilled leading to anger, frustration and disillusionment among the populace.  A further consensus was, bribery, corruption, nepotism and dishonesty was taking place in a massive scale. 

It would not be wrong to state, Sri Lanka since independence in 1948, in terms of governance (let us leave the good part aside) has moved only in one direction. Backward. We have had three constitutions, namely the Soulbury, First and Second Republican constitutions with numerous amendments.

Since independence, all types of politicians, some more corrupt and self-serving than others, have played the field of national politics. One of the earliest cases of nepotism would be DS Senanayake’s choice of his son Dudley as his successor, overlooking the more competent and party senior SWRD Bandaranaike which led to the later leaving the UNP. Appointing spouses as Private Secretaries of Ministers paid by the state gradually became the norm. During nationalization under land reforms, the first to be paid compensation was the then head of government whereas many others had to wait a decade or more. A senior minister and spouse, during days of exchange control restrictions, when less than Pounds Sterling 3.00 was permitted for overseas travel, obtained eye surgery in United Kingdom, instructed the High Commission to settle both bills and reimbursed the rupee value to the Treasury in Colombo, a facility not permitted to the common man (today, such bills are settled through the President’s Fund). A head of government demanded an invitation to a royal wedding (only head of state and spouse was invited) and the state paid the bill. A head of state, after leaving office, was found guilty by the Supreme Court of corruption over a transaction during the individual’s term of office and was fined Rs 3 mil. Another head of state turned the state machinery into a virtual family corporation. The present president who made noises of eradicating corruption and nepotism prior to being elected set the trend by appointing his brother to the chair of the nation’s telephone company, during his first week in office. This is but a sample of happenings at the very top. The setup is rotten to the core, top down.

A common lament within civil society is “all politicians are corrupt”. Gomin Dayasiri termed it a ‘dishonest club’. This writer whole heartedly endorses Dr Saravanamuttu’s theory “politicians are not a breed apart. They did not drop from the sky. They are us”. Corruption is a disease commonly found in our society. The disease worsens as opportunities increase.      

Issues that commonly impact lives of many citizens are; admission of children to preferred schools, employment and promotions / transfers of state sector employees. The state is the single largest employer in the country. In all these key issues, bribes and political patronage play a major role. Many parents who succeed in obtaining admission for their children to their preferred schools, would in most instances have paid bribes to politicians. Employment in state sector is not based on qualifications and skills but by doing the bidding of politicians. Once employed, such employees have a corrosive effect on staff morale and administration of institutions. Many such employees indulge in politics once employed. Unplanned promotions and transfers at the whim and fancy of political stooges and facilitated by politicians, cause disruptions. Shortage of doctors and teachers in rural areas is an example. 

There is a tendency to categorize corruption into petty and mega segments. An often raised question is, when politicians are fleecing the nation by the millions or billions, is it justified to prosecute a person fleecing a few thousand rupees or misusing a government vehicle. It need be highlighted, issue is not the quantum of money but the culture of financial impropriety and dishonesty. It is but natural, a person fleecing small amounts of money would graduate to larger amounts and increased abuse of state property with the improvement of his or her position.

Constitutions can only be as good or bad as its guardians, namely the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The 1978 Republican Constitution, notwithstanding the concentration of power in the office of the President, had many positive factors. The authority vested with the President was meant to be used judiciously for good governance and the benefit of the nation and its people. It also provided a certain degree of authority which was necessary to facilitate the newly introduced open economy and keep trade unions in check. It began to go wrong with the replacement of scheduled Parliamentary elections in 1982 with a referendum. There onwards, powers vested with the President was used (or misused) in order to consolidate his position and curb political dissent. Therefore, the problem lay not with the Constitution but with its custodians. There is no guarantee, a new Constitution with current leaders in government and opposition will achieve a different result. Constitutions can only provide guidelines and checks & balances for governance. It cannot address the lack of principled individuals with moral integrity and traits of honesty, integrity, decency, rectitude and financial probity ingrained in them.

The last Sunday Island carried a commemorative appreciation of veteran advertising guru, politician, former speaker and minister Anandatissa de Alwis by his nephew, of his uncle’s insistence, the family advertising company should not accept any advertising work from government institutions in view of his position in the government. Persons with such noble qualities are virtually non- existent in society today.

The need for a leader with a different mindset is often mooted at public and private gatherings. Names currently bandied are those of Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva and State Minister Eran Wickremaratne. Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva is known for his periodic outbursts against corruption. It must be stated, young politicians who think and act differently are needed to counter old school corrupt politicians. However, consistency in condemning and fighting corruption is vital and cannot be selective as observed during the COPE investigation of the Central Bank bond scam.

Same old political parties and politicians with a new Constitution would be similar to same old wine in same old bottles with a new label and will take this country nowhere. The need of the hour is for the emergence of an individual with the moral integrity and requisite traits to lead the nation by example and forge a new political culture. 

39 years old Emmanuel Macron was elected as the youngest elected President of the French Republic on May 14, 2017. Prior to holding ministerial office for two years from August 2014 to 2016 in former President François Hollande’s cabinet, he had been a civil servant and an investment banker. In November 2016, he declared he would run in the election under the banner of En Marche, a centrist political movement he founded in April 2016. He galvanized an electorate, sick of traditional political parties, high unemployment, a stagnant economy and rampant corruption among politicians which enabled him to win the presidential run off with a landslide 66.1% of the popular vote. A few weeks later, in the June 2017 legislative elections, Macron’s party, renamed “La République En Marche!”, together with its ally the Democratic Movement (MoDem), secured a comfortable majority, winning 350 seats out of 577, with his party alone winning an outright majority of 308 seats.

Can Sri Lanka produce a Macron?     

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    Sri Lanka does not need a “Macron”. Sri Lanka need to as a nation turn their backs on the known politicians. There is not ONE, no not one who is not corrupt. They have all come to power for their own selfish greedy reasons. Not one of them really and truly care and love their nation.

    But a day will come when one man or woman of integrity will be found and he/she will lead this nation out of the morass of hopelessness. So just pray for that day to come soon.

    • 0
      1

      What Sri Lanka needs is a Duterte.

  • 3
    1

    Can Sri Lanka produce a Macron?>>> Rajeewa Jayaweera>>>you are showing your stupidity again…by comparing tiny Sri Lanka to mighty France please limit yourself to taking reporting on Sri Lankan cabin crews crawling under barbed wire in Madurai. >>>>

    • 1
      0

      “Can Sri Lanka produce a Macron?”
      Well, let’s wait and see if Namal marries his kindergarten teacher , shall we?

  • 4
    1

    What a stupid question, born of ignorance and inability to think independently. Macron is a construct of the international Jewish cabal, hurriedly created following Brexit and Trump victory. Macon has a background with the Rockefeller Group. Idiots like this writer seem to think a creature like Macron can pull Sri Lanka out of its misery. We have had Ranil Wickremesinghe (though his wife is not 30 years older than him) for 40 years and that certainly has not helped. So the writer needs to get a brain before start crying out for a Macron. Stupid!!!

    • 2
      0

      Truth Seeker, talking of stupidity, you and minded need to take a look in the mirror. What the article implies is; if Macron could get elected to the French Presidency after being in politics for two short years, it can be replicated in Sri Lanka as well by a Sri Lankan with right attitude, qualities and traits. It is not about Macron’s politics which incidentally was acceptable to 66.1% of the French ho voted.

      • 1
        0

        Rajeeva, Macron HAD 66% popularity but he has lost, and continue to loose.

        1) Give me the name of ONE person, just ONE who you think has the stature (charisma, integrity, vision,) of a D.S.S., a Churchill,. Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy etc?

        2) Tell me ONE good thing that happened to Ceylon and later Sri Lanka in the hands of the three Bandaranayakes, and those that followed after 1977?

        We can say that MR decisively finished the war. Agree. But who or what was the cause and events that led to that terrible conflict? And who brought that about?!

        A country need a leader whose attributes and vision is clearly focused on the wellbeing and welfare of that country. Not those whose basic inclination is to skim off the cream of the land with luxury lifestyle and corrupt gains.

        As a matter of interest, I recall reading an article based on some study that the monetary cost to the country from the war, in terms of lost revenue, lost manpower, cost of weaponry, etc and the after effects of the LTTE uprising was app. USD 500 BILLION!! This figure may include the loss by way of “commissions” etc on purchases and connected costs.

        As I said, there IS a leader sitting in the “waiting” areas. Lets hope he/she will emerge soon.

  • 3
    0

    All the potential ‘Macrons’ have left Sri Lanka, because they were harassed by the ‘Robber Baron’ Politicians to perform their illegal Activities!

  • 1
    0

    Power corrupts and as all of you know and have seen all over the world, absolute power corrupts absolutely since none of us are above fallibility. The only way we could straighten this out is to change the constitution to a system similar to the Canton system of governance which could always get rid of a peoples ‘representative when he is wanting in his duties and till then we can just keep fishing at the wishing well of hope.

  • 3
    0

    Rajeewa Jayaweera pleads ~ “Can Sri Lanka Produce A Macron? “
    This question is spastic – the word ‘spastic’ is used here in the offensive slang sense.
    Emmanuel Macron, when asked in a press conference at the G20 summit in Hamburg why there was no Marshall plan for Africa, explained that Africa had “civilisational” problems………………..”.
    Nigeria had iron furnaces at the time when Europeans were in caves. Africa had produced Nobel laureates in Literature.
    Macron added ~ “………………that part of the challenge facing the continent was the countries that “still have seven to eight children per woman”.
    This man’s wife is several decades older than himself. Is he hinting that African women marry after menopause?
    No no no Rajeewa we do not need an extreme right winger to lead us.
    There was nothing new in the TV Show ‘Face the Nation’. Re-re-re-recycled stuff.
    Aptly put by Rajeewa himself ~ “A common lament within civil society is “all politicians are corrupt”.

    • 0
      0

      K. Pillai, please read my response to Truth Seeker.

      • 1
        0

        Rajeewa, I looked at a mirror. Surprice surprise. I saw myself!
        You must read my post.
        I thought that for some reason you did not mention Macron’s political persuasions. Now I know that you did not know anything about Macron except the name!
        Macron is a fumbler – hardly a day without Macron explaining/retracting/rewording his gaffes.

  • 2
    0

    what Sri Lanka needs is another Prabaharan minus the violence

    • 1
      0

      Rajeeva, Macron HAD 66% popularity but he has lost, and continue to loose.

      1) Give me the name of ONE person, just ONE who you think has the stature (charisma, integrity, vision,) of a D.S.S., a Churchill,. Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy etc?

      2) Tell me ONE good thing that happened to Ceylon and later Sri Lanka in the hands of the three Bandaranayakes, and those that followed after 1977?

      We can say that MR decisively finished the war. Agree. But who or what was the cause and events that led to that terrible conflict? And who brought that about?!

      A country need a leader whose attributes and vision is clearly focused on the wellbeing and welfare of that country. Not those whose basic inclination is to skim off the cream of the land with luxury lifestyle and corrupt gains.

      As a matter of interest, I recall reading an article based on some study that the monetary cost to the country from the war, in terms of lost revenue, lost manpower, cost of weaponry, etc and the after effects of the LTTE uprising was app. USD 500 BILLION!! This figure may include the loss by way of “commissions” etc on purchases and connected costs.

      As I said, there IS a leader sitting in the “waiting” areas. Lets hope he/she will emerge soon.

    • 2
      0

      Rajash, tell me ONE good thing he did for the Tamils. (He did nothing GOOD for the nation of Sri Lanka.)

      Let me tell you what bad he did for the Tamils.

      He knocked out the rail tracks leading to Mannar and Batticaloa, blasted the bridges at the approach to Mannar. No train travel for anyone including the Tamils.

      He blasted the water tank in Kilinochchi so that the people who got water from that tank, built by the GOSL and water supplied also by the GOSL was not available to them.

      Broke all culverts, damaged roads etc so that movements are hampered.

      Did not allow farmers and cultivators to do their work properly, depriving them and the populace of food.

      Deprived the young people of education and schools, as well as adequate nourishment.

      Assassinated all the moderate Tamil leaders, and targeted the Sinhala leaders, so that only HE is yet there finally.

      Other than the enormous cost of the “war”, these are some of his dubious achievements.

      Now I know there will be many “reds” against this comment but if you analyse this carefully and unemotionally, you will realize that it is so.

      You can have VPB as your leader but not for me!

      • 0
        0

        Kumaran : please read what I posted……I said>>>>>”Sr Lanka needs a Prbaharan minus the violence…”>>>>A Tamil or a Sinhala Prbaharan with the same ingenuity and motivation power to pull al Sri Lankans together>

        • 0
          0

          Rajash, only thing unique about Prabakaran was his VIOLENCE. He was able to impose FEAR in the area he captured. In North Korea we see utter, unimaginable FEAR in the eyes and expressions of the people and these poor men and women, utterly emaciated just live by day to day. Pol Pot, Idid Amin, were like that, and so was Saddam Hussein and Kaddafi but they allowed substantial liberty to the Private Sector. Hiitler was very good to the German Elite, moderately good to the ordinary Germans but terrible to others and eventually he was hated by all.

          Leadership that Praba had came from the end of a gun: without that he would never have cowed the Tamils in Jaffna and chased away the Sinhalese and Muslims.

          A leader can lead ONLY by his or her charismatic personality. The leader MUST set an example and two diverse men who did so were the late King George The V and the late President Eisonhower.

          During the war, the British War cabinet decided ona strict rationing system. This also included the household of the Monarchy and when the British Parliament and P.M Churchil realized that the Royal Family were also observing the strict austerity measures, the Parliament attempted to pass a special motion, retracting this law of rationing to the King, Queen and their two daughters. While the debate was going on the King heard of it and he marched into the House and reprimanede the Speaker and his Prime Minister of attempting to favour a family. He threatened to sack the whole lot and Chrchill as well as all others very docilely and much impressed agreed. And the Royal Family never looed for exemptions or “deals”.Now, to me that is leadership.

  • 1
    0

    Are you joking Mr.Jeyaweera? when 75% of the members in parliament do not have a basic qualification and are illiterate how do you expect anyone to become a Macron. There are learned men, academics in Sri Lanka who do not wish to enter politics and their voices are not heard .When corruption, bribery, favouritism is rampant in Sri Lanka how do you expect a Macron in Sri Lankan politics. The executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary are there only in words but not in practice. Does any Sri Lankan Citizen know the amount of debt Sri Lanka has and owes to China and depends on other foreign countries. Damn shame. When the Prime Minister himself is involved in the Bond scam , how do you expect a Macron in Sri Lankan Politics.

    Patriotism is not Nationalism and Nationalism is not patriotism.

  • 2
    1

    A dreamer! Sri Lanka can produce only macaroni polticos, even that bad ones.

  • 0
    0

    Can we produce a Macron ? Just how easy the question is ? And how
    difficult or even unimaginable the answer would be ? Macron is not
    a test tube product of France ! French is a great culture and an
    outstanding world power and one of the leaders of the EU . All thanks
    to the French men and women who understand the world and its
    contents and even know why their scientists strive to find if there’s
    any living condition on other planets ! Now , from where should we
    start about Srilanka and its people deciding or even thinking of such
    a sudden twist ? I was in Rome , Paris , Athens and London and also
    had been to Amsterdam , Brussels , Moscow and Belgrade in Europe
    and another few in Asia and Africa . Have seen people belonging to
    many cultures and colours . And we are one of them but wandering
    talking , longing and aspiring to become rich and developed one day
    WITHOUT DOING NOTHING FOR IT EXCEPT GOING ROUND
    BLABBERING AND WASTING ! IS THAT HOW COUNTRIES PROSPERED ?
    The Children of farmers don’t go to schools in Srilanka to improve
    their living conditions by doing the farming of their parents ! Because
    the job is labelled “low.” Masonry and Carpentry are “low” too ! More
    and more jobs that are nothing to do with a TABE AND CHAIR are
    becoming unacceptable and unsociable in MODERN SRILANKA .
    THOSE WHO BUILT GREAT NATIONS DID SO WITH VERY HARD WORK .
    WE FIND ENGLISH AND FRENCH MEN WILLING TO WORK HARD THAN
    WASTING TIME ON HIGHER EDUCATION , STILL WITH THE BEST OF
    WORLD UNIVERSITIES AT THEIR FEET . We are at the right moment to
    make a huge historic change today than ever before but not ready to
    do it due to our WEAK AND CHEAP ATTITUDES INFLUENCED BY
    UNREAL DREAMS AND MISLEADING SELFISH LEADERSHIPS.

  • 0
    0

    Yes definitely a Macron can be found among the junior professionally qualified UNP MPs’. They have proved this recently. Its time either peacefully or by force taking over the leadership of UNP lead the country forward. They are qualified, professional, honest and hardworking. Let one of them lead the country. Let the old politicians take the backbenches.

  • 0
    0

    “…………………….Dr Harsha de Silva for his recent lament “the entire system is corrupt. I am sick of it”…………………………”

    Yes. Harsha de S is one of the Foot Note gang of the COPE report on Bond scam

  • 0
    0

    even if Sri Lanka produce Macron; he still need to get the blessing of the Maha Sangas. That is why Sri Lanka will never produce Macron.

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