By Fr Chryso Pieris –
Strange happenings are taking place in our country in the socio-political field at the national level. Behind the struggle between political parties for power and influence and behind the choice between the economic theories of socialism and capitalism we can clearly see another struggle taking place. It is the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, Virtue and Vice, Decency and Grossness, Beauty and Ugliness. The contention between good and evil takes place in the hearts of men and women. It could be often seen among individuals in court cases. But today it has come on to the national stage where all the citizens of the country will be challenged to choose between good and evil and be arrayed on opposite sides not according to political party affiliations, nor according to differing economic theories but according to good and honest governance against evil and venal governance.
I met a man, not very young, in his late thirties, educated, professional and working in a bank. We had a frank chat. He is discouraged with the situation in the country. He remembered the great difficulties his family underwent when both his parents were out of work due to the tragic general strike of 1980. He prefers to emigrate to Australia or Canada, where he says he may be a third class citizen but he is assured of law and order, justice and fair play. I was speechless; I had nothing to offer him to keep him in the country. Apart from the fact that losing men like him is a terrible loss to the country, the brain drain, what is more tragic is that the younger generation is losing all motivation to be loyal to the country, the nation where they were born. I should not generalize from just one example, though given a chance, I know, many will fall over one another to immigrate to a better country. They have lost faith in their country.
The above is only one symptom of a sickness in the country. And the sickness is that Evil is triumphing over Good, Vice over Virtue and Grossness over Decency. All are equal before the law only in theory. It is enough to read the “Unfinished Struggle” of Victor Ivan to realize the utter degradation our judiciary has descended to. Most of the Police were boot licking lackeys of the powerful. The financial and administrative regulations were thrown overboard and forgotten. Too many civil servants became partners of racketeers, commission grabbers and various illegal traffickers. There was no place for merit and fair play. Graft, nepotism and greed reigned supreme. Who wants to live in a country like this especially decent, good young people?
The majority citizens of this country who are, thank God, decent and good people could not stand the stinking rot any longer and in January made the country take a U-turn. This is the felt need for a virtuous ethos in the country. They wanted a definite consciousness in the country that virtue matters, that it is highly regarded and those who are law-abiding and honest are not considered fools but are respected citizens. It is to establish this trend that they voted for the Swan. Let the jackasses shout, scream, plot and plan their next political move but the good decent people of this country are biding their time to take this country on the right path towards law and order, justice and fair play. For only thus can we stop the brain drain and motivate the young to be loyal to their country.
In this matter the president is leading by example in his personal life style. We are genuinely grateful to our president, Maithripala Sirisena (MS), for the exemplary statement he made at a public meeting. He said that none of the members of his family or anyone of his siblings will be contesting at the next parliamentary election. This is an earful to many politicians who shamelessly pushed their kith and kin in to politics following the ugly example of the wholesale nepotism of the defeated president. MS is serious about establishing good governance and a clean political culture in many ways. There are no huge cut outs along our main roads cutting off the pretty scenery from our tired eyes. He takes the regular passenger planes to travel abroad and takes only the necessary officers and diplomats with him and of course the First Lady. Imagine, he even stops at the red traffic light! He has put a stop to ‘dansala’ at the Temple Trees and has stopped all presidential waste of national wealth in self glorifying ‘tamashas’. The president recently declared to businessmen that they are free to do business, start industries, and produce goods and services without any interference from him only paying taxes to the government and he emphasized that he personally does not need a single cent from them. We expect MS never to betray the country even to save the party or to betray good governance for political expediency.
As someone recently said we should not send law breakers to the parliament to become the law makers. That is the only way to turn this country inside out getting rid of vice and brining back decency to our society. Our shameless, spineless crooked politicians are licking their lips and salivating to have their ‘watalappan’ after having pitilessly robbed the people of this country for the last ten years. Keep in mind those who voted against the 19th Amendment who abstained from voting and absented themselves very conveniently. Such political scum must not reach Diyawanna waters this time around. The SLFP will have to do a lot of painful and drastic cutting and chopping, lopping and pruning to clean up the party if they want to face elections and go before the people without shame. The present UNP must do a self examination of what they have done during the hundred days, especially in the Central Bank. The UNP says that the CB chief is not guilty of any wrong doings. Anyway his son-in-law hit the jackpot no sooner the father-in-law took office. What a lucky and lucrative coincidence! It is good for the UNP to know that the masses are not asses always. The finance minister was acquitted by a judge who immediately retired! Poor chaps, they could not keep their hands clean for a mere hundred days; what will happen if we give them power for a few years? They must right their wrongs immediately before it is too late. Otherwise they can expect to go the same way they were going all these years; nowhere!
There are some pathetic clowns, the organizers of ‘bring Mahinda back’ movement. They are holding up the ‘goni billa’, the division of the country, and bogeys like western conspiracies etc. which are now passé. Nobody is frightened of them any longer. What they have not learned is that in the last thirty years, during the fearful, bitter struggle to overcome separatist terrorism, slowly but surely some political essentials sank deep in to our national psyche. Sri Lanka is a unitary state and it is a non-negotiable national policy. This is in our constitution and will always remain in our constitution. Secondly, the North and the East will not be merged. Finally, the 13th amendment must be ruminated on for some more time, discussed and a decision must be taken about them. The provincial councils are redundant and irrelevant nine white elephants. They are a total liability to the country. Either they must be made efficient and usefully workable or they must be forthwith abandoned. These facts are now taken for granted. They are part of our national ethos. The opportunistic patriotism of the ‘bring Mahinda back’ people clearly exposes them as scoundrels. Bogus patriotism is their last refuge. They can be ignored as they are only barnacles on a sinking ship.
Now it is our turn to chase away all these self serving, greedy crooks from public life and from politics in this country. It must be done and it can be done. We must realize that we have a grave responsibility to the future of our country. We cannot allow this historic moment to slip us by. Each of us and everybody has some work to do. We must propagate the message of electing only the deserving candidates and giving no chances at all to the evil ones to come back to power. The party is immaterial; it is persons that matter.
I shall summarize a method of choosing the deserving candidates in to five principles. They would be actually a pledge of citizens to bring about good governance. The first one is for the eradication of corruption. “I will vote only for a candidate who declares his assets and publishes the same in the national newspapers for the perusal of the public.”
Let us not send thieves to the parliament. Those known to be corrupt, connected to mega-deals, mentioned in the COPE reports and presently under investigation, must never go near Diyawanna waters. Those who were MPs in the previous regime and have visibly accumulated great wealth must not only declare their assets but show how they came around to own so much. It is not enough they show their assets only to the Elections Commissioner. Those who are reluctant to declare their assets to the public are simply not trustworthy.
The second one is about eradication of violence from public life. “I will not vote for a violent candidate who is known to have murdered people, has connections to the underworld of drugs, bootleg, arms, human trafficking and prostitution and though legal, deals in trades such as alcohol, gambling, casinos, timber and minerals.”
Those who cannot control their anger, who when in power take revenge from the political opponents, who take the law in to their hands, who intimidate and humiliate police officers, administrative officers and ordinary citizens of the country, who when they travel on our roads disregard traffic rules are simply not suitable to be the leaders of this country.
The third one is for the eradication of nepotism and favouratism. “I will not vote for a candidate who already has a relative or a family member in the presidency, the parliament, the provincial council or the pradeshiya sabha. If two or more of a family, even of an extended family, seek our votes in the same election I will not vote for any.”
Becoming a law maker in the parliament is a selfless service to the people of the country at personal cost. It is enough that from an extended family only one answers this difficult and sacrificing vocation. On the other hand the majority of politicians are mere mediocre, non-productive parasites. They are fattening themselves on our national wealth. And it is quite enough that there is one national parasite in the extended family. We, the voters, need not go and make them, a whole family of, a tribe of parasites. Also, we know from the recent past, it is dangerous for power to be concentrated in one clique or family.
The fourth principle is for the eradication of political opportunism. “I will not vote for a candidate who has crossed over from the losing party to the party in power.”
Changing sides for ministerial posts, to avoid corruption charges or for other perks is an indecent act. It is an ignoble betrayal of those poor voters who placed their trust in her/him. What is the purpose of electing the party or the man we want if he has the freedom to change the sides and choose the principles of one party for another? What is the value of our vote? It has no value. We, the citizens, have been reduced to mere ciphers of no consequence. Of course they will justify their actions. They will have hundred and one reasons to show how selfless and nationalistic their action was. But we know who they are, born liars who have sold their souls for a mess of pottage.
The last, the fifth one is for stopping apprentices, novices, fools and clowns from entering the parliament. “I will vote only for a candidate who has studied at least up to A/L in formal education or something equivalent to professionally, has experience in politics or in community service for a minimum of ten years and certainly not because of her/his popularity in sports or in cinema, or because of being somebody’s somebody.”
The Parliament is not a training school where novices go to learn politics. It is the supreme body of legislators who run the country and plan for its future. It is a profession of great responsibility that demands a high level intelligence and maturity; let us not make it a joke. They must be considered honourable in society for that’s what they will be called once they are MPs. One can also become a candidate in the pradeshiya sabha, move on to the provincial council and after at least ten years of solid learning through experience and honest commitment to the people seek people’s mandate to represent them in the parliament. One can add more qualifications for better service to the people. These five precepts are the minimum necessary.
Now let us promote and propagate these precepts whenever and wherever we get a chance. And those of us who savvy the internet, the face book, the twitter or whatever media is at hand make liberal use of them to broadcast these principles. Let us not be lazy. Let us not put this off for another day. Let us do this for the future of our children. Because of our involvement and activity today they will have a better country than we have.
Let us be big hearted and not sell our vote for bribes, for personal profit, advantage or favour either for myself or my family but for the Common Good, the good of the country and the people. Let us not be petty minded and choose candidates because of their race, language, gender, caste, religion, family and other such narrow, divisive qualities. As this great paradigm shift in the political culture in our country, the change from confrontational politics to consensual politics, from criminalized corrupt politics to law-abiding decent politics, as elucidated by our new president, requests us to look for the good of the country and not of a particular political party, let us put aside even our attachment to any political party and observe the candidates impartially. Let us vote for candidates because of their integrity, ability, dynamism and selfless service, their availability to the people and their courage to be just and impartial. (Take note political party leaders and selectors of candidates, there is a new political culture in the country; so accordingly you can follow the trend or get lost!)
May we protect the 8/1 victory of decency over grossness, goodness over evil and hand over to the next generation a truly beautiful Sri Lanka, a country like no other.