14 November, 2018

Blog

The Circus Is Back In Town – But You Can Change The Act!

By Ruvan Weerasinghe

Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe

Every few years, the politicians around us have been successful in getting us all excited to participate in a circus they put up on our behalf. And this February’s lowly Local Government polls is no exception – in fact it maybe even more of a success! They’d have us believe that the rest of our lives absolutely depended on it. In case this sounds frivolous and appearing to be discouraging voters, let me be clear and say at the outset that as citizens of this country, it is our duty to cast our vote at this and all future elections – else we in effect are abrogating our responsibility and permitting others to make decisions for us. However, this post is about NOT pinning all our hopes on the outcome of elections.

Signs of the circus

Many have been quick to point out that this election is different: it allocates a 25% quota for women. True, that is a remarkable achievement. More importantly it has the potential to be a game changer, since it would be the largest group of un-likeminded people in Sri Lankan politics, and far more potent than one or two honest male politicians in our broken system.

However, it has to also be taken together with the fact that to ‘accommodate’ this 25%, we have increased the total number of our representatives by almost 100% (from ~4500 in the whole country to ~8500)! And so, in effect, we’ve smuggled in a whopping 50% more of the same, largely rotten core of male representation, to appease the career politicians involved in drafting this ingenious new scheme.

Add to this the fact that many parties had a tough time finding female candidates, resulting in wives, sisters and other kith and kin of the same rogue male politicians being nominated by them. Anecdotal accounts from a ward in the Kotte area (along the Nugegoda railway line) shows that all the major parties’ nominees are drug peddlers well known in the area! Stories from some of the other wards and electorates indicate that this may not be an isolated case. A few of these have already appeared in the news.

The line up

Of course there are some honorable contestants in the lineup. The JVP’s candidates appear to be by far the most impressive: educated individuals capable of speaking up for issues on principle rather than expedience. Unfortunately, only a few of them are likely to be elected, and even then, would have the unenviable challenge of sparring with a bunch of opportunists who are unused to the application of logic, ethics or pure common sense in issues of governance (if they know that concept in the first place). As history has shown by the sad examples of those such as G. L. Peiris, the only ones who’d survive among these educated candidates even if elected, are the ones who in the end submit to the ways of the ‘career politicians’. More dangerously, they could then start espousing the agendas of whatever political party they eventually represent, with clever arguments and pseudo intellectualism as seen in these forums in those of the likes of Dayan Jayatilleka.

Clearly, the winner at the other end – that of fielding the worst kind of individuals for the LG polls is the ‘pohottuwa’ group, which is led by none other than the aforementioned, once excellent academic. In the best of cases, their candidates match up to the worst of those fielded by the two traditional parties in Sri Lankan politics, the SLFP/UPFA and the UNP.

The SLFP/UPFA consists of another caliber of opportunists. Those who have one foot with the incumbent leader and another with the former leader! Judging by the highly mixed signals that their current leader is sending out to the population (amounting to the greatest display of opportunism), they’d probably create history by allowing a ‘breakaway’ from a major party in Sri Lanka to defeat the parent party in a number of wards and electorates.

However, the saddest tale for Sri Lankan politics is that of the UNP. After waiting for years in the opposition, and fielding some very strong, able and rational candidates at the last election, it has let them and their voters down badly in the 3 years they’ve ruled the country. In their defense, they were hampered by having to work together with a bunch of the ‘corrupt old guard’ who the new leader of the SLFP had to bring back to important ministries even though being thoroughly rejected by the people at that election.

So what do we do?

Firstly, let’s call a spade a spade. These, and even the general and presidential elections are a ‘circus’ put on for the people once every few years. Unfortunately, we the people, get all excited and align ourselves to one or the other of the ‘clowns’ on show! We really don’t have to do this. Yes, there is an alternative.

Sri Lanka is slowly but surely maturing as a democracy (though that may seem to go against all I’ve stated above!). But that is not by the number and frequency of the elections we have (which should make us the most democratic country in the world) nor the sheer number of candidates we elect to represent us (a colossal waste of public funds). No, the maturing of our democracy is happening completely outside the realms of elected politicians.

Never in our history, has government decision making been influenced so much by normal citizens (not politicians) than in the past 3 years. This is not a wish, but a fact, and facts are stubborn. It is the civil society that has brought about this change, thanks largely to electronic media, citizens journalism and social apps. Even 4 years ago, this level of influence was absolutely unthinkable! However, our civil society still needs to be nurtured to become a strong force able to withstand governments which could use authoritarian powers to suppress it. Given another 5 years, we could potentially have a civil society voice that could ensure democracy in this country irrespective of which political party comes to power! That should be our goal – to become a true modern democracy in the region, where citizens’ true aspirations are highlighted without the need for paying obeisance to politicians. This of course is a highly dangerous situation for career politicians, who (fortunately) I’m quite sure, don’t have time these days to watch this space.

Conclusion

So, who should we be voting for? The writing is on the wall: those with the intent to bring back the past level of ‘control’ back to politicians are calling the shots. They have the highest motivation to regain power and will gladly provide transport to their supporters (and other hapless voters) to get to the polling stations. They are likely to win majorities in those areas where the lowest level needs of the Maslow hierarchy dominate. These are where the concepts of freedom and integrity take a back seat, but nationalism and mono-culturist rhetoric about a glorious past hold sway.

With all its flaws, the coalition government we currently have, has been the most responsive to citizens’ opinions and grievances. Since our political culture is beyond redemption, the best situation for our people is indeed to have a coalition government! Our caliber of politicians cannot be trusted with being ‘benevolent dictators’. It is indeed frustrating that things are slow when a coalition government is in power, but that’s exactly why it is not harmful. There’s a strong motivation for a coalition government to listen to all its partners. The current distancing of the President from the Prime Minister in this regard doesn’t bode well for our land. One hopes that this is but another act of opportunism to garner more votes, and that post LG elections, these two parties will continue to work together for the betterment of this country, albeit with a bitter lesson taught to them at the LG polls.

A coalition government also has to listen to the people of the country – not just to the people in their party. More importantly a coalition government is the best for nurturing our fledgling civil society at least for the next 3 – 5 years, in order that we may future-proof this country from possible future authoritarian regimes.

Finally then, do go to the polls and use your vote intelligently. Vote for any party that would ensure that your civic voice is heard for the years to come.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    Ruvan,

    25% for women is a start, but it would be better if we had our leading parties set an example and nurtured many of the capable and competent women who are put off by the unfriendly reception they would get from a majority of the entrenched members who fear their positions.

    One thing is for sure, developments over the last few years hold out hope for those who will serve the country rather than serve themselves. It is time for the present party leaders to clear the stables of their low-life hangers-on and change, or suffer.

    Decent people are getting fed up of being governed by scumbags.

    • 15
      0

      Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe, so far the JVP and the UPA (United Progressives Alliance) seem to be the only two parties avoiding nominating shady candidates…

      While the top 3 dominant parties are counting to nominate shady candidates!

    • 8
      0

      Yes People should not vote for the UNP, UPFA or SLPP if they continue to nominate the local gangsters…

    • 1
      1

      Ruvan

      Was happy not to see your name in the JVP list recently published. But not sure how you survive with these guys who had pledged support to JVP at Colombo Uni on a day to day basis. Not surprisingly most of them are Arts Faculty people who thrive on producing unemployable graduates.

      Naturally most of them who have been educated by the tax paying public have huge grudges against society at large and have no choice but express their frustration.

      Jagath

    • 2
      0

      R.
      The form of government in SL is dysfunctional; a culture of severe and rampant corruption on a mass scale, a culture of impunity, poor health care, rampant trade union action and to top it all the country is broke with increasing malnutrition and poverty and disease.
      Authoritarian regime is not the answer. Fixed term limits to political office to introduce young fresh blood and thinking into political office may be the way to go. Who is going to bell the cat is the question? A way has to be found!!

  • 3
    19

    You guys are gonna lose big and you can feel it , can’t you? :))

    • 11
      0

      Sounds like black money is being used to buy votes!?

      Hope #INTERPOL is monitoring all movement of cash flow during this Elections.

      Hope a lot will be exposed to the public soon…

      • 1
        2

        EE
        ‘Interpol’ is no match to “black money crooks” who really are brilliant at their game.
        I don’t know if it makes any difference; this is nothing new.

    • 10
      2

      Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

      If they don’t lose big, would you leave this island and go to Cuba or North Korea live their on self imposed exile, also promise never to type as fellow readers believe enough is enough. However as far as I am concerned you can continue with whatever garbage you want to churn on.

    • 0
      1

      A member of Namal’s Troll Army LOL

    • 1
      1

      Ruwan
      Dayan is challenging “Show me the money”.
      Surely you do not want him in you fold, do you?

    • 3
      1

      Yeah, the guy is extolling JVP and sneakily putting Ranil’s name with the coalition. Now this is disgraceful Ranil, mind you, who took the money of the hard-working Masses so it could sit on Singapore hedge-funds. Canes and ropes will come on the next ship from Singapore. JVP-Ranil coalition is salivating on whipping the Masses so Ranil’s futuristics can come to fruition. :'(

  • 6
    3

    Dayan please shut up,had enough of your analysis, Brother thank you for the eye opener, but when the public intentionally walk with their eyes closed they will keep falling and people like DJ will be euphoric not just to walk but drive his Merc/Audi over them, this is called good old Lankawe politics, you called it a circus, I call it as Tele Drama which people watch out of boredom but do not pay any attention, because you will never miss out, you tune it after several months and the characters and the plot would have not changed at all

  • 2
    3

    Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe: In the conclusion you said: “With all its flaws, the coalition Government we currently have has been the “Most responsive to citizens’ opinion and grievances” . Where and when did you observe this: “most responsive to citizens opinion and grievances”. If that happened, this Government would not have WASTED three years of its time period of Governing. The 6.2 million of voters decided to impose punishment on one day i.e. August 17, 2015 and DEPOSED the corrupted regime and entrusted this coalition Government to clean the stable. That was the “Opinion” and “Grievance” of the people. So what has been the “RESPONSE”? Of the life time of five years, three years gone by and still your coalition Government FAILED miserable and to say the least not even felt or cared to acknowledge the pulse of the citizens. The details are too many to explain that situation; but citizens have begun to feel. So please don’t pen these types of crap.

  • 2
    0

    Its a circus the monkeys want ,what can the clowns do ?

    All what The public have been doing is blindly change ,how can you build a nation who has a warped mindset filled with Prejudice , arrogance with no achievements .

    Not willing to accommodate ,share and promote love ,but hearts filled with hate , almost maximum of the population of all communities have it in them ,basically they don’t even want to help their own kin, …
    Before anyone accept any political party’s promise of developed and better life , after the local government elections each one should provide the people in black and white ,how they are going to do it in details, from finding the funds to what benefits the common mass ,who are the largest percentage ,that is the Middle class ,lower middle class and the day wage earner ,will they be able to travel in Comfort with plenty of aircon trains&buses !? Completely affordable health care (Not taxes even in private hospitals) , Enough funding for small&medium businesses and farmers? (Of all communities ),
    Laws to protect the minorities as much as the majority? 109% transparency in tenders and financial grants distribution .
    They need to have their next election manifesto available online for mass to access .
    So use your vote wisely don’t be in haste for change ,vote in the best of members ,changing parties will get us nowhere

    • 1
      0

      In straight language say, Do not vote SLFP, SLPP and UNP, Instead vote JVP and Indpependant groups.

  • 5
    1

    BTW Our PM can give the WiFi to the super rich children so they can play with their gadgets in comfort of their cars.

    We the commons don’t need free WiFi or hifi ,(nothing much can be done now that their pockets are filled with the common man’s dues)
    Just give us affordable and comfortable public transport , which is now a very casual access to public in most developing countries, if the doctors,Nurses and other trade union want the rights ,let JVP guarantee us the common that their demands and other tu’s ,won’t be at the cost of the common mass,we decide whom to vote in, things will change soon ,people will unite at least the young will ,

  • 0
    3

    You are one more who is talking CRAP. One more to go with Dayan Jayathilake. what the Horapalanay has doen for the last three years except thefts, incomptenacy and covering ups. ARe you going to get national list position ? Why don’t you talk about a party that can consolidate so many political views. Why do we need 62 or 63 three wheller parties. When are they going to establish their own govt. Is it just fraud to plunder the country. what is the difference between SLFP, U”NP and SLPP. Why do we need 225. I think you are another who wants to manipulatem exploite and earn your living.

  • 5
    0

    A commendable article.
    At the end of the day, the Voter needs to vote for a Party / Representative, who in his/her opinion will serve them the best. So, please desist from voting for those who in your opinion espouse division, anarchy, bigotry, nepotism etc. and engage in activities that are generally considered social ills (corruption, theft, bribery etc.). Let’s try to bring in some relatively ‘honest’ right thinking individuals to represent us at the council level who have the intent to co-ordinate with the Central Government and develop the country as a whole.

  • 2
    0

    Ruwan, excellent article.
    Please continue to share your thoughts via social media.
    You are brilliant. We need more people of your caliber in Politics.

  • 0
    0

    We need a constitution that provides a Senate of reputed men and women of wisdom of retired older folks who have the power to veto anything that will harm .the nation , but endorsed and elected purely by the people ,no more fake commissions to feed us grass by the politicians .

    Let’s see what manifesto they come up with after the local elections .

    (Some )Politicians must understand the majority are educated ,its only the uneducated who engage in dirty work as proxies to rob whom they have ,this nation will see a huge change soon .

  • 0
    0

    I kindly request HE ,The President to approach The Government of Singapore and inquire about. E – Governance and consider implementing same for Sri Lanka based on our Local needs

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