Colombo Telegraph

Our Strategy For The Future Is To Make Sure That There Is A Future 

By Lacille de Silva 

Lacille de Silva

What should we expect from a different type of leadership in a country totally devastated by corrupt politicos? We now need to elect a group of people, who honour principles of public sector governance such as transparency, accountability, integrity, efficiency, effectiveness etc., which had been conspicuously overlooked by successive governments to-date. Nelson Mandela, Noble Laureate and former President of South Africa had said – “A political leader must be honest to himself” to run governance. Politicians who have ruled this country for the last several decades did not “walk the talk”.  

During the first half of the twentieth century, Europe had been the most turbulent region in the whole world.  It was then trembled by war, economic crisis, and social and political conflict. What changed? Social democrats were people who have changed all that having chosen ballots over the bullets. They had realized that appeals to the “people”, the “community” and the common good were much superior. It was however only in Scandinavia, and in Sweden in particular, that a new party had embraced the newest approach wholeheartedly, at the very outset.

Swedish Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) had immediately initiated developing comprehensive economic programmes to harness the powers of the Swedish polity. During the 1932 election campaign, they had declared, I quote – “Humanity carries its destiny in its own hands….Where the bourgeoisie preach laxity and submission to ..fate, we appeal to people’s desire for creativity…. conscious that we both can and will succeed in shaping a social system in which the fruits of labour will go to the benefit of those who are willing to… participate in the common task”.  

The late Mr. Per Albin Hansson, the then Leader of SDP in Sweden, had popularized his theme “folkhemmet” or “people’s home”. He had prophesized and declared the theory – “the basis of the home is community and togetherness” and had also stressed that social democracy strove to “break down the barriers that ….separate citizens”. SDP had been a community of people who  have come together to ensure freedom and justice, to preserve them and live up to them. These policies had subsequently helped Swedish people to reap excellent political rewards from the unprecedented economic recovery that had eventually occurred. 

Our core belief too is that power democratically acquired should be directed to strengthen economic forces in the service of the collective good. We are committed to establish a political culture which is empathetic, clean, unstrained, and people-friendly. Nobel Prize-winning Economist Amartya Sen, whose work greatly influenced the conceptualization of human development, argues that development goals need to improve people’s ‘capabilities’ – their ability to act and reach their full human potential.  Human development therefore requires attention to both development processes and outcomes, towards the overall aim of human well-being.

The men who founded the United States of America, namely, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton were also considered to be the best educated, most considerate and thoughtful people at the time. They had justified their intent to take up arms and had added that they could never have effectively defended their rights and established a democracy with institutions that uphold the rule of law and shared values, unless they had fought the war.

People in this country have always been fooled by the rulers. Mostly, youth too had felt frustrated due to limited opportunities to advance economically, lack of employment prospects and to participate in political and social spheres. The rulers have thereby committed dreadful mistakes having paved the way for chaos and a total waste of public funds. Graft in public offices is therefore rife even after a massive anti-corruption campaign launched by the Yahapalana regime, which no doubt was largely rhetorical. 

Sri Lanka therefore is in a pitiful state in regard to all affairs. They have closed down nearly 1500 schools in numerous villages all over the Island. Ministry of Education, has divided all schools in to five categories based on their level of difficulty in terms of facilities and accessibility. According to this categorization, it is sad 49 percent of the schools fall in to the category of difficult or very difficult categories in the Island.  

Furthermore, primary healthcare institutions, such as a few rural hospitals have been shut down. Public transport system (CTB) that was managed by the government was totally mishandled, neglected and privatized. There are also other examples of malfunctioning schools, hospitals, bridges, culverts, numerous public sector organizations, such as courts, police etc., due to bad governance.

It is due to total neglect, destruction and disruption of governance system by the corrupt politicos that poor peasanty is made to go through endless difficulties.  Rulers have overlooked the need to put in place new measures to take the country forward by introducing new plans for execution. It must be stressed that the SDP of Sri Lanka will shoulder the burden of commencement of the process of rebuilding the Nation from the very beginning. 

We need leaders, who are visionaries at the top if our country has to go forward and develop its infrastructure and its health and its educational system. We lack visionaries of the calibre of the late C.W.W. Kannangara, the father of free education, in Sri Lankan Parliament at present. 

There is a dearth of rational, focussed decision makers. It is well worth doing out of the box thinking about ways by which gifted achievers, educationists, administrators, country-planners, renowned technocratic entrepreneurs, engineers could be introduced to shoulder the responsibility of governance for achieving economic growth and sustainable development.

Building economy, we believe, is building business. We believe business and investment will only succeed if there is good governance.   Every day we hear about grimmer news about the impoverishment, misrule, bad governance and degradation of what used to be one of most prosperous countries in Asia. Sadly, even United Nations seem to be much better in making goals than meeting them. UN has urged that governments should provide safe drinking water, health for all, universal primary schooling, make poverty history, and particularly helping those living below poverty line, which is gradually on the increase. 

Sri Lanka therefore lags behind purely because of bad leaders, who are corrupt. The numerical targets too that had been set by successive governments have failed. Hunger and malnutrition are rapidly on the increase. The institutional framework has been totally destroyed by endless politicisation. If a country is to prosper, it must enlist the efforts of all bureaucrats throughout the country including teachers, doctors, nurses, technocrats etc., who should exercise care, diligence and judgement.  

Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. It is unfortunate the much needed conscientiousness and integrity are also seriously lacking in our leaders. We need to pay greater attention to fisheries, agriculture, infrastructure development, mechanisation and irrigation without depending on aid in order to lift people out of poverty. Funds have been disbursed annually and the outcome is notoriously low and below expectations. 

SDP campaign proper in Sri Lanka has not started as yet. We are fully well aware that we do not have billions of ill-gotten money, unlike the other candidates backed by the two major parties. Nevertheless, SDP is backed by well known professionals in the country. We are aware that ours is a herculean task.  We shall use careful strategy to win over those who are biased towards two major parties. 

Much has been written about Rohan Pallewatta, Attorney-at-Law, as a leading entrepreneur. He is an exporter who had succeeded in bringing in much needed foreign exchange for the country. SDP has nominated Pallewatta as the Presidential Candidate, who pursues a path which is non-confrontational. Pallewatta, as an accomplished candidate, has other plentiful appealing qualities too. The most obvious is his competence. And his clean track record. Nearly everything he has done, I must add he has done all that extremely well.  He has employed several thousands. We have seen him as a capable administrator par excellence, with a hunger for detail. Beyond competence, I have no doubt Pallewatta portrays presidential. He is hard working, rational, charismatic,  energetic, resourceful and appealing. All the questions directed at him are answered crisply and intelligently with a touch of love, affection and sincerity. 

SDP no doubt will also leave no stone unturned to for international conglomerates to start businesses and invest more and more in Sri Lanka. Accordingly, Sri Lanka needs to be upgraded as a location for world market production. We also need to do everything possible to make our country one more hub for export goods by both local and international firms, using our own raw material. It is, however, sad unregulated economic policies and bad governance have destroyed our industries and business ventures for several decades.    

Lee Kuan Yew after he became the Prime Minister in Singapore in 1959 had said that corrupt governance destroy countries and that “They are not clean systems; we run clean systems. Their rule of law is wonky; We stick to it. We become reliable and credible investors”. He had added “Those with good minds to be scholars should also be inventors, innovators, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs; they must bring new products and services to the market to enrich the lives of people everywhere”. 

Lee Kuan Yew had furthermore argued that leadership should be able to convince the people that tough decisions are worth taking for the sake of the country’s development and progress.  It was, however, unfortunate in Sri Lanka massive industries such as Tyre Corporation, Plywoods Corporation, Steel Corporation, Pharmaceutical Corporation etc., had been mis-managed, privatized and shut down due to excessive politicisation.  Britishers during their rule had been totally committed to develop the plantation sector, which too had finally become a failure.

It must be mentioned that there was a period where we built carriages for trains, buses and lorries. We had also started manufacturing our own UPALI MAZDA cars thanks to the entrepreneur, the late Upali Wijewardena. Similarly, we collect cardboard, iron etc., and export them to India and import paper, steel, etc., after value addition in India. 

We need to encourage foreign investors to come and invest in our country.  

After opening up to foreign trade and investment and implementing free market reforms since 1979, China became one of the world’s fastest growing economies. It is now the world’s largest economy and has emerged as a major global economic power – a manufacturer, merchandiser, trader and the holder of large exchange reserves. Why did Sri Lanka fail having initiated economic reforms and trade liberalization since 1978, one year before China?  If you carefully analyse all that is because of greedy predatory politicos. 

Our elected representatives have proved beyond doubt that they have totally failed. Both major parties (UNP & SLFP) have destroyed this country. We therefore need a responsible government consisting of highly ethically and morally sound leaders. They should be able to ensure administration of justice to deal with the perpetrators.  

We need to overhaul the total system and replace truly honourable people to run governance. We need leaders with the ‘political will’ to effectively enforce the law to deal with the law breakers. We require leaders to begin taking tough decisions. The Social Democratic Party of Sri Lanka intends to promote to achieve economic development in order to extend people a stake so that they could live a better life in this country. We could get back on track if we start to act now, without further delay. 

We need to give human dignity the foremost place. All successive governments have failed to consider the promised economic revival, creation of employment, reduction of cost of living and ending the culture of impunity. Flood gates had been opened to the ruffians to enter politics and politics became a lucrative business. They have neglected their duties and failed to uplift the living standards of the citizens. 

Our leaders should not any longer ignore the challenges facing our nation.  

According to the teachings of the Buddha too, the kings and the state are servants of man. We need leaders who could win the trust and confidence of the masses. It is therefore important to understand that the Parliament itself has created a culture of impunity. Owing to all these, there is public cynicism towards the Parliament and the peoples’ representatives. There is no gainsaying the fact that in a society corrupt to the core, only few – the conniving and the powerful – continue to enrich themselves.  The poor become poorer. Shouldn’t we open our eyes and ears before it is too late!

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