By W. Vishnu Gupta –
If you follow a fly, you may most likely end-up in a toilet. On the other hand, if you follow a bumblebee, you may end up in a flower garden. By now Sri Lankans ought to understand whether they have been led by flies or bumble bees since the death of Don Stephen Senanayake, the first prime minister of the country.
A reputed digital media organization in the world; Ranker organization recently came up with a list of most important and desirable characteristics of a good 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. It is a foregone conclusion that the voters of Sri Lanka have confirmed political experience as an irrelevant factor in the presidential and the parliamentary elections because they voted for individuals such as Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sarath Weerasekera and Nalaka Godahewa. However, judging by the economic, political and threat paused by Covid-19 to the citizens of Sri Lanka, it is obvious neither 225 parliamentarians nor the president have all necessary qualities to be good politicians. Hence, the people must be thinking about what Late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero said; “We were cheated and swindled once again by the politicians” who promised us a ‘just and fair’ society in 2015. The same sentiments have been expressed in 2021 by some prominent Buddhist monks who worked tirelessly to bring the present government into power. The chiefs among them are Ven. Muruththetuwe Ananda Thero, Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka Thero, and Ven. Madille Pannaloka Thero.
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 current parliament of Sri Lanka possesses many of these 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 developed and sanctioned by these men and women in chicanery politics have nurtured nepotism, corruption, and a highly inept 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 in the current parliament. Apparently, the nation has spent 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 guardians of democratic institutions.
Bumblebees 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. What a contrast to the conduct of present political leadership which bartered the rights of Sinhala Buddhists community to gain political office.
Among all political leaders who occupied the highest seat of power in the past only D.S. Senananayake, Dudley Senanayake and John Kotelawela possessed the necessary virtues of good politicians: Honesty, Integrity, Intelligence, Diplomacy and Determination.
Nevertheless, the people were led to believe including myself that the present political leadership possess all these rare virtues in November 2019 and in August 2020. I and so many others were wrong. Unfortunately, it must be said that present government leaders including all 225 MPs have pulled the wool over our eyes very smoothly with the help of media barons and leading Buddhist clerics in the country. A majority of the voters assumed that Gotabaya has the potential to be a bumblebee and in the league of D.S.Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake and John Kotelawala.
In the absence of a credible parliament of virtuous representatives, the implementation of people centric policies of the nation will be constrained undoubtedly. The parliament seems to be occupied by vile and corrupt individuals driven by vested interests and greed. These unethical men and women know, they must ‘strike the iron while it is hot’ for example they have sought the approval to import of luxury vehicles for themselves. These politicians are aided by equally corrupt and lethargic civil service, retired incompetent civil servants and other senior officials in the state-owned institutions. Recent revelations about infamous sugar deal, import of substandard coconut oil and other foods, deforestation, illegal sand mining, extra judicial killings, confusion around X-press Pearl ship, Easter Sunday bombing investigation confirms the extent of corruption within political circles and related institutions in the country.
Certain section of the citizenry argues that Mahinda Rajapaksa would have done a better job if he was actively involved in the process of decision making. It is humbug and a mere misleading argument because the offices of the current President and Prime Minister are managed by the same gang who managed the affairs of the nation under Mahinda Rajapaksa from 2005 to 2014 when he was the President.
It is obvious, 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 reforms that would ensure the true people representation in the parliament. Two Third majority and national list concepts were introduced to prevent election of patriots with the above-mentioned good virtues of a politician and to undermine the application of principles of true democracy. It seems that voters have forgotten how scheming politicians managed to outsmart Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero in 2015 very tactfully.
Moreover, the godfathers have no interest in reconciliation or making one nation and one law for every citizen irrespective of their ethnicity or social status. Hence, they do not endorse what Hon. Dudley Senanayake said; “I will not barter the rights of any community for the glory of political office”.
The Sri Lankan godfathers of politics spent nearly 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. No one in the legislature has courage to question, why retirees are appointed to the plum jobs in the government institutions when the country is blessed with a plenty of educated, qualified, experienced men and women under 55 years. The 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? So far not a single godfather has claimed responsibility for the lapses in security, loss of innocent lives, hunger/malnutrition, unabated crime, prevalence of narcotic drugs, skyrocketing unemployment, officially sanctioned slave trade, astronomically declining value of the currency and failure to respond to the spread of Covid-19 effectively. Our political leaders have become the masters of passing ‘the buck’ in the world.
Furthermore, present political leaders and the defunct Presidents / Families, Prime Ministers and Opposition leaders have shamelessly become a main burden to the taxpayers; their maintenance bill along may be sufficient to maintain few hospitals, build a new university or to pay for half the Covid-19 vaccine bill.
Gloomy Future is Assured
The 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, illegal trading, and commission earnings to last many generations. Due to their preoccupation with self-interests, the needs and values of the common man have 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. When questioned about this unethical behavior, some have openly vilified religions and religious institutions to divert the attention of masses.
Finally, the preoccupation of godfathers on accumulating illegal wealth has ensured a very gloomy future for all of us including three or four generations to come.
The masses demanded change in the rotten political, societal, and economic systems of the nation in 2019/2020 but they got a bunch worst than those of the previous regimes. The welfare of the average citizens has been neglected, and further marginalized; cries of poor farmers, fisherman, health workers, daily wage earners, wailing of thousands of families affected by Covid-19 accompanied by the cries of hungry children, men, and women have become a common scene everyday.
Interestingly Sinhala Buddhist community which has been duped repeatedly by the politicians have failed to acknowledge the reality because they have been divided under different political shades and colours carefully implanted by the chicanery political leaders of both parties of the government and opposition. Other ethnic groups too have fallen into the same trap. During last 70 years, it is obvious the politicians have managed to pervade corruption into the minds of every man, woman, and child in the country very effectively. As a result, none of the voters think of the necessary virtues that the good politicians must posses: honesty, integrity, intelligence, diplomacy, and determination. They are fixated with the thoughts of survival in a society abandoned by the authorities and lawmakers.
Also, anyone who could read and analyze our political history of last 70 years will conclude that our dynastic political leaders and their cohorts of patronage politics have never followed norms, standards, and practices of true democracy. At this rate despite the media shows and the claims made by the politicians about the mega projects undertaken, Sri Lankans will never be able to see the promised flower garden because our politicians are a menacing horde of flies driven by pusillanimity, fragility, stupidity, tactlessness and above all dishonesty and certainly they are not the humble bumblebees expected by the innocent voters of the country.