By Helasingha Bandara –
In the brewing atmosphere of the presidential election, many writers and commentators have said that nothing is certain regarding the outcome. I look at it from a slightly different angle and say that one thing is absolutely certain; Sri Lanka will remain the same, if not be worse off.
This prediction is based on many factors. Firstly, none of the leading candidates seem to have a well thought-out development plan. A country’s development does not only depend on its economic growth. A country can be called developed and civilised only when its people are both emotionally intelligent, and materially wealthy. There is no plan proposed by any of the leading candidates to achieve this, and instead of looking at more simple mechanisms to achieve it, they seem to be speaking about the usual and hackneyed themes that do not make sense to the general public. Those obviously include the usual election promises: price cuts, tax cuts, amnesty to the forces, the abolishment of the executive presidency, more foreign direct investment, farmer subsidies, more houses, ethnic harmony etc.
Such promises are not explained further in terms of how they are to be achieved and sustained, and nor why such policies were not implemented while the candidate was in a position of power. For example, the UNP candidate has not explained how he is going to attract more FDI and how he is going to sustain it. He also fails to explain why he could not introduce this policy while he was the deputy leader of the UNP, the major constituent party of this government. Who did not talk about abolishing the executive presidency among those who aspired to be the president after Premadasa? Which government did not promise price cuts just before the elections and then repealed such policies through the use of various back door tactics within three months of coming to power. People may still vote for these promises, yet the situation of the country will remain unchanged.
None of the leading candidates has the relevant experience, education, or skills required to develop Sri Lanka. A well-rounded education cannot be characterised by the number of degrees a person holds; to be recognised as educated in this context, a person should have both academic qualifications, as well as and the knowledge of how efficiently the society around them operates, knowing its people and their real behaviour inside out. Relevant experience should not be limited to the number of years one has been a parliamentarian, but extend to what that person, living as an ordinary member of society, has experienced, not through living as a privileged person who operates within a large network of influential people. It also extends to experience gained through living abroad, or by learning the experience of other countries in the world. A person without such education and experience is unable to, empathise, sympathise or compare, and in turn would not have the vision to change Sri Lanka.
Can accelerated development be achieved while the workforce is slumbering? An enterprise of any nature is not recognised or encouraged by the relevant authorities in Sri Lanka due to a lack of understanding, foresight, and greed for personal gains. Efforts to initiate innovation that would positively contribute to the development of the country are invariably discouraged by the bureaucracy that not only pervades through the entire system but also holds on to the archaic administrative policies that the British introduced centuries ago. In Britain, such red tape has been eradicated long ago.
Can the people of a country be called civilised if they have the mind-set of a current Sri Lankan? The mind-set of a current Sri Lankan is that of “me, myself, and my family”, and not caring what happens to others. Judging by way of the thought processes the population has in terms of making money, how others are treated and corrupting themselves, it is not hard to conclude that Sri Lanka will remain the same for the foreseeable future, irrespective of whoever of the current leading candidates comes to power.
Someday, if a leader emerges with the vision of changing the mind-set of Sri Lankans so that they have some concern about their fellow countrymen while ensuring conscientious delivery of duty, we will then be able to hope for a change.