By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –
There are three elections pending. They are The Presidential, Parliamentary and Provincial. They must mean that voters are given the opportunity to decide who the people are to ruin, (sorry,“ run”) the country. The air waves are naturally, all agog with expectation. Unfortunately, the current dialogue is heavily concerned with ponderous trivialities. Matters that are of real relevance are likely to escape the attention that they deserve. This note entertains a small hope that the electorate will pull back and refuse to be deceived by empty rhetoric, excuses and the usual “Blame Game”. A few random thoughts might be considered.
Current political discourse is heavily mired in obsessive matters of little concern. Will Sirisena contest? Will Ranil be replaced by Sajith, Karu, Welgama? Kamal, Gota, Basil (or a changed or ignored 19 A), to permit the third coming of Mahinda? Or even Shiranthi (there are precedents). What about Nagananda, Pallewatta, or even Malinda.S ? Who should own the party symbols – hands, flower buds, or elephant. Colours of blue, green, red, purple or any other hue. Such seemingly ponderous decisions await the voter – unless there is a resounding and loud “Who the Hell cares”.
Personally, I shall avoid such mental anguish by not voting at all! This is perhaps “Irresponsible” – but unavoidable. This is also out of concern for the upcoming generations who will bear this burden. Since it is they who would have to “carry the can” because of our poor judgment. Thus, the Senile “Us” – waiting in the Departure Lounge must hand the baton (or, the “Boarding Pass”) to them. Also, our experience of the vast financial expense, warrants a demand that exceptional rewards must be matched by exceptional performance. Unfortunately, our sad experience is that none of the six holders of even the most exalted Presidential Office, qualifies. Will the next one do? In a startling revelation in answer to a Parliamentary query, that the previous incumbent of this (superfluous?) office costs (with the attendant pomp, pageantry, security and other apportionments), costs some Rs 20,000,000 = a day! Yes, around Rs 3,000,000,000/= (three Billion) given a zero less or more, per annum! Perhaps, the Public Information Act should provide a more accurate figure (if an inquirer is lucky), as I merely rely on memory.
The Party System
Is this of over-riding importance? Seventy years of Independence suggest otherwise. When confronted, apologists hold that it is necessary because of the differences in “Policy”. This is the common, hollow or vacuous justification. I believe that most Parties are agreed on what really needs to be done. All promise goals such as Alleviation of Poverty, to assure effective provisions for improvement in the Health, Educational, Food, Transport, and Housing sectors, Security, Law and Order and many more “Goodies”. Only to be consistently defaulted or forgotten, once their political ends are achieved. Further, the fact that they do not differ in their goals, facilitates their easy and seamless hops across the aisle, when the price is right. Very recent proposals for enhanced salaries, pensions etc. etc. indicate that “Father Christmas” is on his way. Where these astronomical increases are to come from, is yet to be explained. Perhaps there have been other more “promising” Governments, when our need is really for an “Achieving” one. Are our voters so gullible as not to recognize these as mere “election gundus” that they have repetitively experienced?
The MPH Government System
I came across this interesting acronym, which provide s a good pledge for Yahapalanaya. “M” for Meritocracy (no nepotism, and presumptions of birthrights). “P” for pragmatism (Cheerio! Parties, Policies, conformity and doctrinaire nonsense). “H” is for honesty (The lack of which is an everyday experience for us).
There has been much lament on the utter ignorance, lack of discipline, illiteracy (!), corruption and profligacy of all our representatives in electoral office. Here is a suggestion. (1) Every candidate for electoral office should provide a proven history of Academic achievement. There have been noteworthy exceptions where persons of modest formal schooling have proved to be excellent politicians, and the reverse of persons of stellar qualifications, who have turned out to be memorable flops. Good education however should not an encumbrance for political excellence. (2) Each successful candidate should provide a list of previous employment and last salary drawn. Their emoluments will be determined accordingly. Those of proven talent will be rewarded accordingly. Naturally, not all will get equal emoluments, but provide a host of other benefits to the system. The multiplication factor could be determined, to provide a decent life but not to whet the appetite of potential fraudsters or wastrels or of their offspring. Actually, a factor of 5, 10 or even 100 times of the last salary drawn, will possibly be less expensive than the prevailing costs. (3) No extra Allowances, car permits, limitless foreign jaunts, no free electricity, rents, water, telephones, postage, petrol, subsidized buffet lunches, allowances for electoral work, Parliament (or other) attendance, medical expenses abroad – and may be others that we are not aware of. An all-inclusive and generous salary but no allowances whatsoever, have proved successful in some countries. Our representatives must get a very decent salary permitting maintenance of the best and reasonable quality of life (4) All elected persons must provide a declaration of Assets before the very first sitting and annually thereafter. If not, they would forfeit their seats forthwith. Incorrect numbers or attempted concealment would, without exception, lead to confiscation. The person/s unearthing such stashes should be rewarded with a percentage of the recoveries (officials involved – but on a smaller scale). Unless and unless this is done (with suitable modification) it is pointless pretending pristine purity, amidst a host of allegations of financial impropriety. Obviously, any sudden increases of assets or signs of an exceptional improvement of style should attract official notice.
It goes without saying that all future manifestos should set out their plans to fulfil these hopes, or to explain why they do not. Failing this, they should face the peril of electoral rejection.