Colombo Telegraph

Maithripala Sirisena: Birth Of A Statesman

By Thangamuthu Jayasingam

Dr. Thangamuthu Jayasingam

There had been always a complaint from many during my discussions in fora that we have political leaders abut not statesmen who rise above the politics in terms of national interest.

I have always had this question with me and I had argued with friends and at fora on this. How can a President be a party leader? How can a President canvass at elections for a party?

These seem conflict of interest to me though seemed normal to me. Irrespective of who voted for you or not you become the P[resident of the country to the 100% of the population and not only those who voted for you. The moment that is done then you cannot be a party leader e3ven if you were to that day you have to give it up, as it is always stated justice should not only be done but also seem to be done. Neutrality too is the same. I am happy to note that Maithripala Sirisena is considering transferring of the Presidency of the Party to Chandrika Kumaratunga which would be deeply appreciated by all who would like to see the President above the party. This does not mean that the President has not political affinity or interest in the party but just to state that he does not use his power of the President for the party. It is a step in the direction of statemenship.

President is the one who oversees the entire country and that is why there is a separate election for the position. He would be working with any party that wins given the laws of democracy and requesting that one particular party should win for him to effectively operate, without interference, is a myth. It is this notion that leads to politicization of the institutions and the country at large. Everyone wants to have with them those that support them rather than those that qualify for that position which leads the spiral of politicization and a false sense of security. Remember that with all that the last regime embedded with the same politicization process when it went beyond its boundaries. It is like the river that flows between the river banks serene and beautiful and when it crosses its borders it becomes flood and ugly. Everyone must learn to work with various personalities, qualified and professional in their own sense for the common good. This is the only way democracy and harmony could be maintained in any institution and the country at large, where individuals stand on their own merits in whatever position they hold and are not obliged to anyone for giving it to them. It is their rightful position and not a gifted donation.

The statement by the President that he would not be involved in the election adds to fair election process and also takes him another level of statesmanship.

I had the privilege to meet Mahinda Rajapaksa as the President with a friend of mine a well known peace journalist immediately after the release of the arrested security forces following the killing of 5 persons in Trincomalee. For a query raised by my friend, before he even formulated his question, I saw the president yell meaning, ‘You NGOs are al the same and want to cause trouble’. Though in seconds he settled down and asked my friend for the query, it had kept that image on me till this date. I told my friend at the end of the meeting ‘he will never make peace in this country’ which he never did. He could have, but it was not in him. He had the power not the will, greed and not the passion, glory and the humble. I see it different today, I see the will and humility and don’t see the power and arrogance. This will make a change in the country.

I see more in him day by day where he had taken the leadership and allowed others to work, which is devolution per se. It is also based on trust of the fellow workers and the need to spend your time on others than is of demand rather than trying to ‘spy’ into all affairs and also taking all on to your plate.

I recognize the moves to curtail crossover of parliament, which is essential. Peoples vote for a policy and the individual member should not have the right to sell it by crossing over. He/she could vote against a policy that affects his/her constituency which he represents. But he cannot cross over. It is in this context that a first to past the poll type of election may be of more valid which directly represents the constituency and the representative. The move to make changes in the electoral process is also welcome in this line.

The country would be pleased to see that the repositioning of the dual citizens in power whether it is political or administrative strata. While recognizing and welcoming the services of the expats we have to learn from the experiences of the past where those that had committed fraud and failed in governance had conveniently left the country using their other citizenship cheating our goodwill while the citizens of the country remain the affected. Let us not have duals to manage us but accept their services if offered for free or pay. Let us also ensure that we do not allow non citizens to be managing us in public service where they hold no responsibility to continue after the due dates. Let us grow on our own slowly but steadily.

The commitment to freedom of speech and information are fundamentals to the development of any society, which had been recognized by the President. It is rarely those in power that wish these freedom as they consider that it restricts their ‘freedom’ to misuse. No one who is free of guilt worries about the others freedom to comment or criticize as they are open to change. Transparency has become a word of the century with the development of commucation technology. Right to information also becomes a check in the system which is also a principle of democracy, check and balances of power. These in place would ensure that we do not drift to an autocratic rule as we were in the recent past. A leader who initiates these values should be considered as moving away from a mere political leadership to statesmanship which is of human values and morals beyond affiliation to any party or group.

I see the change in the mood of people and the air had become much lighter over everyone’s shoulders; an air of freedom and air of hope and air of breathing space after many years, which is a sign of hope among the people but not even knowing what to hope for. They asked for change and they have had it and they wish the change to be for better and that is what they hope. When they hear that 1500 million rupees were in shelves of the former President they blame themselves for the trust placed on him; when they see the powerful people leave the country they see how they have been hood winked by the cowards. They silently feel happy again for what they have done, voted for a change.

Harmony is not achieved by law but by the synchronization of different notes in to a theme, melody in the interest of all in the country. Each may play different instruments and notes but they blend as a country where pluralism thrives and acceptance of dignity of each other prevails.

Hope you could keep your head up and work for the harmonized country where justice and law prevails and peace flows with serenity. It is a hard path and you may have to take strong decisions even against those in power with you, but it is the need of the country and you could do it. It is my trust and the millions who voted for you across the country and many more who may have not voted but appreciate what you do, when you do.

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