Colombo Telegraph

Legitimacy Of The Government Requires The Consent Of The Governed

By Lacille de Silva

Lacille de Silva

As we know, during the reign of kings, beheading, hanging, mutilation of bodily parts (hands, foot, male organ etc.), and a wide variety of such punishments, had been prescribed by the rulers against those perpetrators of various crimes, such as misuse/abuse of power, violation of laws etc. Nevertheless, since 1978, due to concentration of excessive power to corrupt politicos, and particularly in the Executive President, successive governments have deliberately turned a blind eye and did not deal with the errant politicos and their thieving henchmen. Country has therefore deteriorated into a mobocracy, ruled by an assemblage of malefactors, which could lead to further serious underdevelopment, civil unrest and even state failure.

Why did YAHAPALANA leaders fail to create a clean, an unstained and a people-friendly political culture? They too, similar to the previous regime, did not respect civic virtues, morality, ethics, laws, procedures, rules and regulations. Nelson Mandela, Noble laureate and former President, SA, had said – “A political leader must be honest to himself”. It is sad our President, who is also the Head of State, the Executive, the Government and the Cabinet of Ministers, does not exercise his legitimate coercion to prevent the abuse of powers at the expense of the ruled. Prime Minister, appears to have towed the government, with a few of his close confidantes, in the Cabinet, in a different direction. As leaders, President and PM did not ensure that sound governance practices are instilled in numerous organizations including Central Bank in day to day governance. There had been proof that principles of public sector governance such as transparency, accountability, integrity, efficiency, effectiveness etc., had been conspicuously overlooked. Both did not ‘walk the talk’. And did not help the government to achieve GOOD GOVERNANCE they pledged during elections. There was no collective responsibility as members of the unity government . All these, finally had ended up with disastrous consequences. The citizens voted overwhelmingly, to a newly rustled up party, with unholy motives. President lacks the resolve, strong leadership to take tough decisions and presumably ineffectual. The Prime Minister too, allegedly so devious and ill-defined, a root cause of all ills, is being rated as the worst Prime Minister since independence. President lacks the nitty-gritties of delicate state craft and the assertiveness to deliver the political goods he had pledged to the countrymen.

The men who fought hard and founded the United States of America, namely, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and the others had armed themselves and fought a bloody civil war to build new USA. They were considered to be the best educated, most considerate and thoughtful people at the time. Having decided to take up arms and fought an extensive war, they had justified their intent that they could not have effectively defended their rights and established a democracy with institutions that uphold the rule of law and shared values. They had also been emphatic that the legitimacy of government required the consent of the governed.

Nevertheless, President repeatedly, with his excellent communication skills, has been trying to deflect attention, away from the countless burning issues confronted by them. President also made an attempt to give it a try to capitalise on Presidential Commission reports to impress the voters. President pledged vociferously in his campaign day in day out that the perpetrators would be brought to book and corruption eliminated. Citizens did not fall pray and refused to respect the move to conceal the truth for the sake of looking good.

It is therefore obvious the present government has failed. Voters are convinced that the two leaders do not represent the interests of the citizens and give preference to their individual interests, their party machinery and are greedy for power with personal agendas. They do not work with the intention of doing the utmost to the people. President had however said always that the Government should mean business for the benefit of people. It is therefore believed that a government is a necessary evil. All successive governments have hoodwinked the masses and were self-servers. They lacked the vision, the ability, the firmness to take timely and difficult decisions appropriately. They wasted golden opportunities due to indecisiveness.

Chinese government during the last several decades had successfully developed processes for assimilating public information, consultation, deliberation and decision making. China, Singapore and Malaysia have achieved astonishing economic growth over the last several decades purely due to proven capabilities of their leaders, their commitment to meritocracy, intertwined with a series of concepts. In France, the leaders of the French Revolution had believed and had said “They were for the poor, the homeless, the helpless, the needy and the abused”. They had however overlooked the need to restore “human dignity”. They had placed the society and the State above the individual.

In USA in 1776, the forefathers of USA had thought differently. They had agreed to give effect to human dignity, the foremost place. According to the teachings of the Buddha too, the king and the state are servants of man. The fifty-six signatories to the Declaration of Independence had unanimously placed the individual above the State. Signatories to the Independence Declaration had patriotically endorsed only free individuals in a truly free and democratic nation could achieve material welfare, human dignity and personnel fulfilment. By adhering to the principles of the Independent Declaration, in America, people have attained both material abundance and human dignity.

How did Sri Lanka ultimately degenerate to the present low level? Isn’t it because Sri Lankans too are complacently relaxed? Primarily, I am confident having served the supreme Institution for over three decades, Parliament has totally neglected its oversight functions. Numerous reports from PAC and COPE have been thrown into the dustbin. Opposition has paid little attention to their role and they do not do a careful analysis of matters taken up in Parliament. Costly opening ceremonies, waste of funds for luxury vehicles, tax concessions, loss of revenue, endless corruption and unplanned borrowings had seriously impacted the vulnerability of the poor: (i) from welfare structures to patronage structures (ii) from institutions to politics (iii) weakening of empowerment structures, particularly, education, health care, social service, transport etc..

In the Independent Declaration, it is stated that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. The early patriots of America had believed that government should protect their “unalienable rights” and that government had no right to interfere with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, other than that of prosecuting law-breakers and maintaining self-defence from foreign aggression.

Successive governments have failed to effectively enforce the law to deal with law breakers. Our rulers boasted that they were in possession of files and promoted the culture of impunity. We could however get back on track, if we start to act now. But, it will require leaders to begin making tough decisions. We should address the crucial issues without delay, if we need to bring the country back on track. Our leaders should not any longer ignore the challenges facing our nation. Let us first and foremost begin to rebuild peoples’ confidence in the elected government. All successive governments have not won the trust and confidence of the masses, because the leaders ran governance, while raking the country from crisis to crisis, only to come up with temporary solutions having made governments bigger and bigger for their benefit.

The Sri Lankan voter, I have no doubt had always done the best thing. President and the Prime Minister pledged that the corrupt will be dealt with and corruption eliminated. Yet, they failed to honour bulk of the promises. Unsustainable corrupt governing systems too have always frustrated the masses. In the words of an American politician – Norquist, they had preferred a “government small enough to be drowned in a bath tub. Why is that our political leaders disregard all that. Let me end my article quoting what had happened to George Washinton in his young days. GW’s father having noticed that young GW had destroyed a lovely cherry tree in the garden, questioned George if he knew what had happened and the prompt reply had been “I cannot tell a lie, Pa, I did cut it with my hatchet”. Father, who had embraced the child and had responded “Such an act of heroism is worth more than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver and their fruits of purest gold”. It was George Washington who established the precedent that a President should serve no more than two four year terms. GW established the title “Mr. President” or the President of the United States. We need a George Washington to put this country right.

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