By P. Soma Palan –
I refer to Mr. Kelum Bandara’s Interview with Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR), which appeared in the Daily Mirror of 10th April, prominently under large bold heading “People want Non-Traditional Politicians”. Although it covered diverse matters of interest, I was amused by his response to the question, “How would you fit into the shoes of a politician”. He answered by saying that “people want non- traditional Politicians”. His statement is reflective of his super ego to be the new Messiah to rescue the Nation; a self-claim to an uncommon, extraordinary, innovative and super-technocratic politician.
Traditional and Non-Traditional Politicians
GR’s reference to Non- traditional politicians obviously means that, there is a class of Traditional Politicians. But he has not stated or explained his concept of Non- Traditional or Traditional Politicians. This Classification of politicians into two types, in my view, is one based on historical and chronological sense. Those politicians of the pre-independence time of the State Council and early post-independence time of Parliamentary form of Government, can be classed as Traditional Politicians. A majority of the politicians from 1956 onwards, excluding the spillover of a limited number of traditional politicians from the former period, could be classified as Neo-Traditional politicians. But in my view, MR’s concept of the Non- Traditional politicians is of a different construction. I surmise, what is in MR’s mind is, that a person entering into politics from outside the established political system, is a non-Traditional Politician. In other words, a person from the Bureaucratic Administrative Service, becoming a Political Leader, is a non-traditional politician. GR states that the people want such non-Traditional Politicians to rule the country. On what evidential basis of a Gallop poll of the voters, GR ascertained the will of the people wanting such non-traditional politicians, is not made clear. If the people want non-traditional political leaders from the Bureaucratic Administration, we will soon not have an Administrative Service and Political Parties will be superfluous.
Peoples’ will, Wishes and wants
Democracy is a queer form of Government. It is religiously believed that Democracy is a Government of the People, by the People and for the People. Embedded in this definition is the concept of the supremacy of the Sovereignty of the people. In reality, is this true? In practical reality it is not true. The only power people have is to elect a Government. Once a Government is elected, it is the Government that rules the country and not the people. If the elected Government misrule the country, could the people remove that Government before its mandated period ends? People cannot do so. People could only overthrow the Government by a violent revolution. That is also a remote possibility, under the military might of the modern State. In the circumstances, people’s power, is a hoax, a sham. The truth is all decisions/ actions of a Government, is super-imposed on the people, as the expression of their wishes, wants and will. The politicians,parrot-like repeat ad-nauseam for everything, it is the wishes of the people. GR cannot help but accede to the cry that “people want non-traditional politicians”, is just the same recurring chant of the politicians. The actual truth is that all politicians mould and condition the people to accept their decisions, views and wants, and thereafter, project them as the wants, wishes and will of the people, which per force, they have to carry out. It is plainly political hypocrisy.
Classification of Politicians
My understanding of the category of Traditional Politicians and Non-Traditional Politicians is on the basis, whether one comes to power by long years of political apprenticeship through graduated levels of local, Municipal, Provincial and finally Parliamentary means, as in the former case, or one comes to power from completely outside the political process as mentioned above, but from bureaucratic or administrative institutions, which GR classify as the Non-Traditional Politicians. There are hardly any politicians or political leaders of non- Traditional variety in a Democracy anywhere in the world. Only examples that come into my mind, is Indira Ghandi of India and Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka. Both became Prime Ministers after the demise of the father, Jawarlal Nehru in the former case, and after the demise of the husband, in the latter case. They can be treated as non-traditional Politicians as per GR’s perception. But these are just aberrations rather than being the regular norm.
Traditional Politicians belong historically to an earlier chronological period. In Sri Lanka it covered the colonial period and the early post-colonial period up to about 1960’s. That is, Politicians during the State Council era and post- Independent, Soulbury Constitutional era. One can even describe this period as the classical period of Politicians. Traditional Politicians were an exceptional breed. They were gentlemen Politicians, men of education, moral integrity, non-corrupt and incorruptible. They were politicians of principles, wedded to secular ideals, cultured and refined, not only by western standards but also by oriental standards. It was the halcyon days of Parliament, with high standard of debates, scrupulous adherence to parliamentary conventions, procedures and practices and decorum and decency, within and without Parliament. The dignity and sanctity of the Parliament was maintained. Bribery and corruption of Politicians was unheard of. These traditional Politicians came to serve the people and the country, and not the country to serve them. They even used their private wealth for the public weal. They divested their wealth than enriched themselves by plundering the State coffers and public resources of the country. They were not given to criminal activity such as drug pedaling, murders and abductions, rape, which are common occurrences today, and use of violence and foul language in the floor of the Parliament. They were exemplary models to the people. Compared to the salaries, multiple allowances, perks, luxury vehicles, security detail, foreign travels at the drop of hat, enjoyed by the neo- Traditional Politicians from the post-1956 onwards, it would not be an over-statement to say that the Traditional politicians were economically an enfeebled lot.
The conservative traditional politicians were of unblemished character, worthy of respect and admiration. Their eloquent and analytical speeches on economics, Finance other important subjects were a class of a high order and source of knowledge for us as students and under-graduates, who read and digested them from the published Hanzards. I refer at random a few men of the caliber of D.S. Senanyake, D.B. Jayatilleke, Dudle Senanayake, Dr. N.M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R de Silva Pieter Keneumen, Philip Gunawardena, Leslie Gunawardena, J.R. Jayewardena, Stanley Tillekeratne, S.W.R.D. Badaranaike, W. Dahanayake, Bernard Soysa, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Ponnambalam Arunachalam, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, Dr. E.M.V. Naganathan, G.G.Ponnambalam, Amirthalingam, Sivasithamparam, from the inexhaustible list. They were Goliaths of stature, compared to the neo-traditional political dwarfs.
What the Informed People want
What the informed, intelligent and right thinking people want is not, either Neo-Traditional or non-Traditional politicians from the ex-military and/or from the bureaucratic, civil Administrative Service, but a reformed return and resurrection to the historic Traditional Politicians, with qualities and characteristics adverted to herein before. A cleansing and purification of the Politicians, who would rule to serve the people and the country than plunder it, and where the Rule of Law, Justice, Equality, non-discrimination non-violence against communal minorities will prevail and where State inspired abductions and murders of those inconvenient to the Politicians, Bribery, Corruption and Thieving of Country’s resources, will cease. Men with military proclivity are dangerous. Recent CID investigations are unraveling the connections between the former Secretary of Defence, MR and the murder of Journalist Lasantha Wikrematunge, disappearance of Prakeeth Ekneligoda, assault on Upali Tennekoon and Poddala Jayantha and abduction and torture of Keith Noyahr by the Military Intelligent Services. Further, political militarism was evidenced in the mooted and failed scheme to give military training to School Principals. Giving the opportunity and power to non-traditional politicians with a militaristic streak, in the garb of a civilian, could lead to militarization of the State and Government. One cannot rule out the possibility of Sri Lanka going the way of Pakistan to Military rule, as under Ayub Khan and Zia Ul Haque with military credentials.