By W. Vishnu Gupta –
One of the reputed digital media organizations in the world; Ranker has recently come up with a list of most important characteristics of a politician. Accordingly, there are about 32 attributes ranked according to the number of votes received by a worldwide readership. Interestingly “Honesty” is ranked number one quality and “Experience” is the last and 32nd quality. Judging by the policies, actions and recent tongue-lashing given to the hierarchy of sleeping beauties of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka the above ranking fits very well with the Nation’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Among his traits honesty is number one policy and it is a foregone conclusion that the voters of Sri Lanka have confirmed political experience as an irrelevant factor in the Presidential election.
Desired qualities of politicians
Then what about the other qualities that a good politician must possess? The top five qualities expected by the average citizens are;
Ironically, none of our political leaders and their “manufactured” party representatives of the last parliament of Sri Lanka possesses any of the five qualities endorsed by a worldwide readership. Obviously, our politicians have the determination to remain in the parliament forever either by hook or by crook. Also the statutory laws collectively sanctioned by these men and women in politics have nurtured nepotism, corruption and highly lethargic civil administration service in the country.
Lack of honesty and integrity has been the basis of corruption but it is unfortunately the hallmark of overwhelming majority of Sri Lankan politicians vying to be the representatives of the next parliament. Apparently, the nation spends about Rs.44 million to elect one of these rogue elements; the total bill for 225 of them is estimated around Rs.10 billion, what a waist to produce a “manufactured” bunch of representatives claiming to be the members of parliament.
Gentleman of politics
Once Hon. Dudley Senanayake said; “I will not barter the rights of any community for the glory of political office”. What a beautiful statement of a real statesman who devoted his life to uplift the living standards of every citizen of the nation. Throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, he stood against public funds being utilized for the private use of a public official, residing at his private residence and financing all expenses incurred through his private funds.
Among all political leaders who occupied the highest seat of power in the past only D.S. Senananayake, Dudley Senanayake and John Kotalawela possessed the above virtues; Honesty, Integrity, Intelligence, Diplomacy and Determination.
Fortunately, after the demise of Dudley Senananayake, we are witnessing another gentleman with similar qualities occupying the seat of power; “Gotabaya Rajapaksa” has shown to posses the above five qualities and proven them with actions.
In contrast, certain political leaders including former Presidents/families, Prime Ministers and Opposition leaders have shamelessly become a major burden to the taxpayers; their maintenance bill along may be sufficient to maintain few hospitals or build a new University.
In the absence of credible parliament of virtuous representatives the implementation of people friendly policies of Gota will be constrained undoubtedly. Even the next parliament will be occupied by vile and corrupt parliamentarians driven by vested interests and greed. Furthermore, these politicians will be aided by equally corrupt and lethargic civil service and other senior officials in the government run institutions. Recent revelations of Avant Guard Chairman Nissanka Senadhpathi confirms the extent of corruption within political circles and related institutions in the country.
Yet, Gota has to deliver the promises he made to the people in the November elections. Tongue-lashing given to CB senior hierarchy produced some positive results within 12 hours and similar results can be expected from other government agencies but they surely lack commitment and they are not driven by empathy for the poverty stricken citizens of the country. The quick positive response can be interpreted as a survival tactic of a corrupt CB gang because these were the very same bunch that was on guard during bond scam, The Finance and ETI debacle.
Certain section of the citizenry argues that tongue-lashing session for the CB senior hierarchy has failed to invite Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as he is responsible for the financial affairs of the country.
Our nation’s affairs have been beleaguered by unholy traditional political forces since the death of Hon. D.S.Senanayake. Manufactured political representation in the parliament was carefully orchestrated and implemented by a few conniving individuals or godfathers controlling dynastic and/or patronage politics in the country. For example these godfathers are one hundred percent opposed to any electoral reform that would ensure the true people representation in the parliament. Two Third majority and national list concepts were introduced to prevent election of patriots of with above mentioned desired virtues of a politician and to undermine the application of principles of true democracy. It seems that voters have forgotten how scheming politicians successfully managed to outsmart Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero in 2015.
Moreover, the godfathers have no interest in reconciliation or making one nation and one law for every citizen irrespective of their ethnicity. Hence they do not subscribe to what Hon. Dudley Senanayake said; “I will not barter the rights of any community for the glory of political office”.
Godfathers of politics spent 70 years of mismanaging the nation’s economy and making every possible ploy including legislative measures to embed corruption in the administrative, judiciary and security apparatus of the country. Introduction of new constitution in 1972, subsequent replacement in 1978 and all other amendments have been designed to pay lip-service to the concept of sovereignty of the people. Those legislative instruments seem to have ensured the sustenance of hedonistic regimes dreamt by the godfathers of dynastic or/and patronage politics. What a shame? Not a single godfather has claimed responsibility for the lapses in security, loss of innocent lives, hunger/malnutrition, unabated crime, prevalence of narcotic drugs, sky rocketing unemployment, officially sanctioned slave trade and astronomically declined value of the currency. They have become masters of passing the buck in the world.
Emergence of a new alternative
Godfathers and their cohorts were totally engrossed in activities that make them very affluent and unbelievably rich, it is alleged that they have accumulated wealth through bribery and commission earnings to last many generations. Due to their preoccupation with self-interests, needs and values of common man were neglected. This vile bunch of men and women seem to have considered dynastic/patronage politics as an entitlement bestowed upon them by some unseen mystique universal force. Some have openly vilified religions and religious institutions in order to please minority voters.
Finally the preoccupation of godfathers on accumulating illegal wealth appears to have created a silver lining as result of the shaken foundation of the rotten political milieu due to the election of the current President Gotaabaya. Though “Political experience” is the mantra that the traditional politicians would love to recite, overwhelming majority does not concur with them any longer because Sri Lankan politicians do not command any noticeable respect among voters today.
Another significant change in the political base appears to have taken place since Gota came into power; Emergence of two powerful elite groups trusted by average citizens. They are the professionals and military. These two elite citizenry groups are the children of working class; farmers, teachers, fishermen, soldiers and others employed in the estates, banking, transportations, tourism /hotel etc. None of them were born with silver-spoons in their mouths. These elites consisting of Doctors, Engineers, Academics, Lawyers, Accountants, Senior Military officers are unique and they enjoy a considerable wealth and status. They demand change in the political, societal and economic systems of the nation. They cannot be marginalized any longer by the ploys (throwing bones strategy) of dynastic/patronage politics of the country. For example GMOA is willing to take more responsibilities in the decision making process of managing health and safety of our people, Similarly retired and incumbent military officers have come forward to ensure food security and to eliminate narcotic drug menace.
Interestingly these two elite circles have originated outside of Colombo and possess a common denominator; they have come mostly from the Sinhala Buddhist communities duped repeatedly by the traditional politicians. But it should not be a factor to make other ethnic groups to worry about. Because these men and women posses the virtues of honesty, integrity, intelligence, diplomacy and determination we must expect from every politician.
Emergence of these two circles is an unexpected outcome of the thirty year war and they have won the admiration and respect of the people of the country. Despite the bickering made by members representing a dead parliament, men/women of newly emerged elite circles have come together and implemented a very effective control/monitor/preventive strategy to stop the spread of covid-19 virus. It is remarkable and commendable and the nation owes them a big “THANK YOU”. It proves they love our nation and the people more than the politicians; they took care of every person affected by the pandemic irrespective of their ethnicity or religion.
Time has come for these two new elite classes to not get trapped by the “bones thrown’ by the traditional politicians and rally around the vision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to transform our nation from present economic malaise and misery to be a great place to live, work and raise our families. In this context, appointment of the Presidential Task Force to build Secure Country, Disciplined, Virtuous and Lawful Society is a momentous initiative and it addresses the need of the hour. Can we expect such an initiative from godfathers of traditional politics?
Despite various interpretations and criticism leveled against Gota by certain spin-doctors favoring traditional politicians, it is appropriate for the people to endorse this executive decision. Some media spin-doctors have interpreted this as an omen to an impending authoritarian rule. It is laughable, they seem to have conveniently forgotten “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”. Anyone who could read and analyze our political history of last 42 years will come to the conclusion that our dynastic political leaders have never followed norms and practices of true democracy.
Are we ready to accept these newly emerged elites as an alternative formidable political force wholeheartedly? It may not happen in the proposed general election of August 5th due to various constraints but there will be a real litmus test in Kilinochchi, Northern Province. Let’s wait and see whether our peace loving Sri Lankan brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and grand parents of Tamil origin are ready to elect Lt. Colonel Ratnapriya Bandu, a Sinhalese Buddhist as their representative in the next parliament.