Colombo Telegraph

President As The Upholder Of Values

By Sujata Gamage

Dr. Sujata Gamage

People have given the green light for a bold new step to do away with the executive presidency. The next 100 days are crucial as the form and shape of the new presidency emerge. The Maithri manifesto talked about a redefined presidency representing national unity and taking on other responsibilities as needed. Mr. Maithripala Sirisena has the ability to make it much more.

If executive presidential powers are given away as promised, it will give the new President a a moral authority like no other president will ever have. Going beyond the curbing of corruption, rule by family and friends and other ills, he can be the upholder of values of the nation to guide the new regime from that vantage point and, more importantly, help us rebuild our values as a people.

Ironically, Mr Mahinda Rajapakasha lost because he unwittingly gave the space for a consciousness about values to rekindle.

He ended the war and got infrastructure master plans rolling. Good roads, decent electricity and water supply we could rely on.He tried to control the the media, but social media thrived because we could still plug in our mobiles to talk, sms, tweet or email. Absence of war and the growth of infrastructure enabled us to talk and reflect. MR provided fodder for the talk. As he broke all rules that govern civilized behavior, some protested, some even applauded, and most stayed put as if anesthetized.

True, when MR started we were already at low base of a national sense of values. Years of war had done much damage. The nature of the second JVP uprising and the reaction to it was such that people learned to go about their business stepping over swollen dead bodies. People even resorted lighting fire-crackers when President Premadasa died. They may have reasons to hate him, but, you don’t light fire crackers when a leader is brutally killed. Prabhaharan’s ruthlessness raised the level of national meanness further.

MR arrived on the scene annihilating Prabhakaran, but, his governing too was a battle to annihilate opposition. He used power and money to turn parliamentarians into monkeys, the parliament to a house of monkey antics, and artists, university teachers and government officials into either thakkadiyas (rascals) or nivatayas (weasels), to borrow expressions from Dr. Sarath Wijesooriya. Ordinary people learned to go easy on violence, thieving, gross indecencies, untruths, drunkenness and unruly behavior. In other words, people learned to recite the Panch Sila and break or condone the breaking of all silas with no conscience. Essentially MR stripped the national conscientiousness bare naked.

Then he called an election two years of ahead of time. People got a chance to awake from their slumber. The brazen display of power, the naked desire to pass on power to progeny and the exposure of the idiocy of the intended heirs perhaps turned the tide in this election.

A new president is to be sworn in soon. May he have the strength to build on the momentum and help us be a better people.

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