By Neville Fernando –
It is revealing and informative to trace the evolution of the Sri Lankan politician.
Politicians are not born but made. They fashion and nurture themselves to fit a certain profile and assume a persona that has historically worked ‘well’ for them.
Such persons most often work their way upwards from local political party activism. Knowing the importance of political branding, all efforts are to gain coveted representation in one of the main political parties. In practical terms it is either the green or blue party.
To gain entry to this club the budding politician uses the age old ‘by hook or by crook’ methods. To be noted by the main political parties, the requirements are few. One does not need even a basic education or a decent character. But if you can talk well and give rousing speeches, it is a big plus. In other words the budding politician has to be a “big mouth”.
If you cow-tow to the organizers and leaders of the political parties, and receive the biggest prize, that is, nomination in the district system, you are halfway there. Next thing to do is to entice the rich, including the criminal types, into donating to your campaign. There is an unwritten quid- pro-quo hidden in this effort. Of course the party itself will give the politician campaign money. After succeeding at the provincial level, the politician moves on to the national scene, facing general elections.
Having secured a spot in the national election, the politician needs to stage a big district-wide visual advertising splash and mega rallies, replete with stirring speeches with false promises. The politician quickly learns to use for his advantage the blind party allegiance of the majority of the people. If the politician gets elected, he is “set for life”. Not only will he gain great wealth and power, his family and relatives too will benefit handsomely from his success.
But what about a genuine effort and dedication to uplift the lives of the people and to bring real economic and social development to the country? That question is not part of the thinking of our standard politician. This is a predicament related to the near illiteracy of the standard politician and his complete moral vacuum – such a person has no idea of what economic and social development is. But hypothetically, if the question were put to him, the probable answer is: “Well, the other politicians are not fretting to address the serious economic problems and to develop the country. Why should I even think about it?”
Such social and economic development requires genuine effort and dedicated work, which nevertheless may be seen as useless exercises, which may produce pain and ultimately backlash by the people. Hard work towards economic and social development needs getting your hands dirty, and asking your voters to get theirs dirty too, which can be a risk factor in re-election. Instead, why not choose the path of least resistance and be safe by choosing the proven methods to keep the masses tamed, namely, why not dig into the state coffers and distribute concessions and freebies to the people. Thus the politician uses Pavlovian conditioning psychology to create grateful and dependent masses to be hooked on state giveaways. With that, the politician is assured of immediate acclamation by the masses, which in turn assures re-election, the politician’s ultimate dream. He wants to be constantly reborn in the political samsara. All he needs to do is to fill a big war chest to contest and ensure a win in the coming election cycles.
Thus, the mechanism to achieve this is simple. Rob and misuse state money, get rich personally, and save some of that loot to be used at the next election campaign. This trickery is so effective, and is a formula that works to perfection. The result is that the same pea-brained but crafty politicians get elected each time and a dysfunctional parliament is born again and again.
What is the result?
For 71 years of democratic self-rule, we have failed to progress as a nation. We have, instead, regressed, and are at the bottom of even other Asian countries.
We are 14 trillion rupees in debt.
The country spends 80 percent of the earnings to pay for government debt.
State income is 5 billion rupees a day, but the expenses are 7 billion rupees a day. The shortfall is a whopping 2 billion rupees a day!
Almost all corporations and government enterprises are losing money.
Rampant waste, fraud, and abuse define government at all levels.
We have created a monster politician who is taking our country down a precipice. He is here to stay, because he is part of the system, or we might say, the political culture of our country. The only way we can be freed of him is by eradicating the system of which he is part. That system is the present system of national and local government, with an oversized parliament, equally oversized cabinet, and a system of provincial councils that’s completely unnecessary. It involves is a huge daily expense, in salaries, services, rents, vehicles and perks. This “system” will be on special display starting now, until November 16, to be re-displayed during the parliamentary elections within a few months.
A few small groups of activists are questioning this “system”. Unless that eventually becomes a mass movement, and this vicious system exorcised, its monster politicians will ensure that the country is pushed down the precipice.