By W. Vishnu Gupta –
The court jesters
Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda, is often quoted as saying that “if you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” Apparently, Nazis were masters at propaganda. Sri Lankan politicians most likely unwittingly have adopted the same tactic to deceive the people for a long time. Fortunately, thanks to the advent of social media, the people have come to realize our politicians have been twofaced all these years. There is no society run by Pancha Maha Balavegaya, there is no Dharmista society, there is no government without executive presidency, there is no Chinthana society, Neither Yahapalanaya society nor the sign of Saubagyamath society. All these were lies backed first by state run media and then by media barons sometimes carrying the Buddhist flag. The bottom line is, despite the denials orchestrated by various cabinet ministers, today we are a bankrupt beggar nation among the community of nations. Hence the government is showing the signs of desperation and policy decisions are made in haste.
Shooting from the hip is not expected from a stable government elected by the people for the people. However, this government since coming to power in November 2019 appears to be shooting from the hip when responding to national issues and policy matters hoping to score a success. The classic example is the tabling of the port city bill. Unfortunately, none of the policy implementations have worked satisfactorily, and the government cannot hide behind the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic forever because, the government’s response and the way it dealt with the pandemic has been disastrous and it has exposed all the naked experts, dorks alleged to have joined the party to make a quick buck out of misery, and the docile and flakey intelligence of the policy advisors. Some advisors remind us of the court jesters mentioned in our proud history. According to the reports, it is alleged that these court jesters have made the populous incredibly angry and some leading clerics, civil liberty campaigners and professional bodies have started to challenge the authority and viability of the government and her institutions. The court jesters should have remained in their cocoons made of books and the theoretical world filled with academic debates far removed from reality. The life of how majority of people live below poverty line, cries of mothers struggling to feed their children, and the daily struggles of those farmers responsible for feeding the nation are unfamiliar to these purported intellectuals. It was sickening to watch one of the leading minister’s justification of the decision to import 227 luxury vehicles from Japan for the use of the most detested and depraved lot in the parliament publicly. According to him there are MPs using public transport system mainly busses to attend the work in parliament. He was correct as there have been few alleged criminals, accused of murders, embezzlement and defaming the justice system transported from the prisons to the legislative building in prison busses in recent years. What a surprise, even these alleged criminals were included in the list for luxury cars. Furthermore, while the government ministers are begging donations from wealthy families to buy vaccines, a state-owned newspaper reported that the government sports authorities have taken the following actions to feed a selected few in Tokyo.
“The country is to dole out Rs. 2 million to each of the eight athletes taking part in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. In addition, they will also be paid Rs 8000 for each of the 14 days the Olympics takes place.
The coaches who accompany the players or athletes will receive Rs. 1 million plus the Rs. 8000 a day allowance. It will be the first time that Sri Lanka’s participants at the Olympic Games will be paid just for entering the event irrespective of winning a medal.”
Shooting the messenger is somewhat unwise now. If the above is true and considering the current precarious situation faced by the people, the person responsible for this decision does not understand national priorities, he/she must be suffering from an acute psychiatric disorder and should have been confined in a mental hospital.
Nevertheless, above actions are nothing but insults hurled at the 6,853,698 voters who believed the promise of a flourishing future (Saubagyamath) and brought this government into power because luxury cars for the MPs or doling out public money to the rugby players will not take us to the promised land of prosperity.
The clergies responsible for berating the previous “Yahapalanaya” have begun to search for an alternative solution. So far, not a single formidable foe has appeared to challenge the present regime filled with misfits claiming to be economic and financial connoisseurs. Noticeably, those who campaigned for a “Hitler-like” figure to rule Sri Lanka has gone into hiding, hiatus, or status of oblivion assuming that the voters will be gullible enough to forget and forgive their disingenuous campaign of 2019 when 2024 November arrives. Unfortunately, the opposition in parliament is inept mainly due to lack of cohesiveness in the upper ranks. Also, it is strange that they did not voice any opposition to import of 227 luxury vehicles. SJB has not been able to take the advantage of the weaknesses of the government policies due to lackluster performance of its leader. He has failed to nominate a shadow cabinet to deal with the governing party as seen in other democratically ruled countries in the world. Perhaps he does not understand the role of opposition in the parliament. Moreover, the word “delegation” seems to be missing from his vocabulary and it adds credence to media reports about an internal revolt in the party. The impending return of another depraved figure in Sri Lankan polity to the parliament as a national list MP seem to signal worst is yet to come. For some bizarre reasons, the Sri Lankans especially Sinhalese Buddhists appear to love misery more than any other ethnic group on earth.
Media has failed to grasp the situation
The grim spectacles are emerging out of the investigations into Easter Sunday attacks, Enactment of 20th Amendment, Ratification of port city bill, Sri Lankan “sugar-gate”, import of substandard foods, Colombo harbor East/West terminal deals, MV X-Press Pearl episode, oil price hike and above all disastrous response to containment of Covid-19 pandemic. All the above events among many others carry the hallmark of INCOMPETENCY. What troubles the people most is that the political leadership of the country has failed to recognize the difference between incompetency and loyalty. These sentiments have been expressed daily by some leading proponents responsible for installing the President and the current government. However, for those of us who understood the devious mentality of SWRDB and JRJ, the fathers of chicanery politics in Sri Lanka, the prevailing grim spectacle is little surprise. Because ‘the apple does not fall far from the tree.’
All private and government run media houses seem to promote the government agenda, they go the extra mile to spin the situation, for them hundreds of dead people due to covid-19 is a trivial number, in a true democracy even one dead person is too many. They have failed to grasp the gravity of lack of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic throughout the country. Innocent lives are at stake, many children have fallen as victims of the dreaded pandemic, even the animals confine to cages are not spared. Adding to the prevailing misfortunes, Sri Lanka is becoming increasingly an isolated and a pariah nation mainly due to the faults of every government since 1960s and misdeeds committed by a handful of politicians. If proposed withdrawal of GSP + concessions by the EU parliament is adopted, it will make many thousands jobless and hopeless. Also, the passage of Bill 104, Tamil Genocide Education Week Act, 2021 in the Ontario Legislature, Canada has inflicted an immeasurable damage to our national image and our children will be damned by many segments of the world community. The muted response of SL government and inactions of the diplomatic mission in Ottawa is questionable.
Yet, all leading media outlets in the country seem to think our national interests are well preserved and everything is honky dory.
Plea to rectify rigged democracy
Our democracy is rigged in favor of those who have amassed enormous wealth within a short span of time through alleged unsavory activities such as grand larceny, narcotic peddling, misappropriation of national assets and ethanol trade. Therefore, it is not a democracy based on WILL of the people. It is imperfect by design, willfully arranged by a few depraved politicians.
In an imperfect democracy, opportunistic politicians often will try to agitate the masses, urging them to vote out the “corrupt” elite and overturn their “rigged” institutions. The irony of this political scenario is that demagogues will then be able to use power to ride roughshod over deliberation, consensus building and civil liberties. It will be a dangerous game and that is exactly what happened in Sri Lanka since 1960s. Most recently nearly 6.9 million people got caught in the trap, they were expecting much-promised electoral reforms passed in the newly elected parliament of 2020. The 20th constitutional amendment should have been on electoral reforms not on strengthening the powers of the president. There is not much interest in the current parliament on electoral reforms because if any meaningful electoral reforms are adopted, none of the parliamentarians including those who aspire to replace fathers, uncles and grand uncles will be elected by the people in any future presidential, parliamentary, or provincial elections. It is sufficient to presume 225 + politicians do not fear Covid-19 but they certainly fear electoral reforms Act that reflect WILL of the people.
The most suitable method for parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka should be a mixed-method system. It is a combination of the FIRST PAST THE POST (or single member plurality) voting system and the PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION system keeping the total of MPs at 225 in the parliament. If WILL of the people is to prevail, the party leaders must take the initiative now, however until now they have been the main impediment, another perennial leader who has opposed and circumvented electoral reforms is slated to join the parliament very soon. Those who aspire to be the future political leaders must acknowledge in a democracy, the people (‘citizens’) are the sovereign and hence govern themselves. The imperfect democracy is the root cause of government policy failures, two civil uprisings, thirty years of war with LTTE, lethargic civil service, ill conceived development projects, bankrupt nation and overall dissatisfaction of the citizens that exists in the country.
The names of the politicians who will be courageous enough to bring the electoral reforms based on “WILL of the PEOPLE” will be remembered and written in gold in our history and the names of those who support, and nurture rigged democracy in Sri Lanka will be thrown into garbage. Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, it is not too late to rectify the rigged democracy in Sri Lanka.