By Lacille de Silva –
“All men are my children. As for my own children I desire that they may be provided with all the welfare and the happiness of this world and the next, so do I desire for all men as well” -Emperor Asoka.
Emperor Asoka had embraced Buddhism after a gruesome war. He had undergone a change histrionically and had ruled the country thereafter while adhering to Buddhist principles, wisely and justly. He had encouraged all citizens to respect the freedom to follow their own beliefs and religions and to refrain from criticism of the viewpoints of others. He had also counselled that everyone should essentially increase the “inner worthiness”. He had adopted a paternalistic view on administration and had considered that it was his duty to serve for their greater good.
He had looked upon the citizens’ welfare and had used state resources for cultivation of medical herbs, digging of wells, rest houses, planting fruit trees along public roads etc. He had ensured as a ruler to guarantee respect for life of humans and flora and fauna. His only aim had been to treat all living beings including nature with compassion, love, understanding, kindness while ensuring peaceful co-existence. He had banned cruelty to animals and hunting certain species of animals. He had reformed the judicial system too, to ensure fairness, to prevent abuse and extremes. He had also established a Department separately to look after the interests of different religions and for the purpose of encouraging the practicing of religion.
Our leaders abuse political office for private gain. They think differently and act deviously because they are rotten apples with awful characteristics and preference towards criminal activity. PM a few months ago in Parliament said that his wife gets a higher salary than him and hence he would not hesitate to support the proposals to increase salaries of parliamentarians and provide vehicles to carry out their work in electorates. Media revealed countless examples of politicians with defective morals and penchant for criminal activity. And how they acted contrary to the pledges. They were voted in 2015 to run a responsible government.
In Japan, in 1976, the then PM Tanaka Kakuei had been involved in a corruption scandal. Tanaka was found guilty for accepting cash-stuffed boxes as kick-backs, which had been delivered to his private residence, for pushing through a deal to purchase a few aircrafts built by Lockheed. Kanaka thereafter was compelled to resign and he had been subsequently convicted. In late 1980s, Prime Minister Takeshita Noboru, who had accepted donations etc., was forced to resign and had been dealt with by the law.
In Sri Lankan context, due to the culture of impunity, politicos who have been accused of massive scandals, murder etc., have not been dealt with by law for decades. There are similar turncoats who have benefited having obtained even ministerial posts too. Such crooks hold on to position shamelessly, refuse to even stepdown unlike in other countries. They even safe-guard their political opponents. The judiciary, police, prosecutors have been rendered powerless. They therefore cannot effectively enforce laws to curb corruption. Politicos continue robbing the State mercilessly and is unstoppable.
They abuse politics, position etc., to remain in power. They have not spared the religion too. Religion has also been exploited, dragged in and injected deceitfully to divide the people craftily and venomously. They do so to remain in power because they need power at any cost. Religion does not cause any threat at all if they only use the guidelines of religious teachers for ethical and moral governance as in the case of Emperor Dharmashoka. Unscrupulous politicos drag ethnicity and religion to advance their personal political gain. Any religion that promotes murder, mayhem, hatred, violence, duplicity, thievery and harm is not a religion.
In politics too, there are directions that should be strictly observed by the rulers, according to the Buddha. Emperor Asoka unlike the present day politicos observed such rules with altruism. Similar rulers both in India and Sri Lanka have proved beyond doubt that if you have good rulers you could ensure religious peace, tolerance and love. Machiavellian type of Sri Lankan politicos have thrown the rules in to the deep blue sea. Present political culture therefore has been appallingly polluted by such lowly leaderships over the last few decades. They have miserably failed to honour social and moral obligations as politicians. PM Wickremesinghe is no exception. He had failed to run governance as an altruistic leader. He said in Parliament that 43% live below the poverty line (less than 2 US $ a day) and that bulk of our people live in misery. We need humane political leaders with an iron fist to run governance, who feel the pulses of the citizens.
In India, in 1905, the proposal to divide Bengal was vehemently opposed by the people irrespective of their race, religion etc. The campaign was led by Gurudev Rabindranath Thagore, a thinker, spiritual leader and a truth-seeker. He had spelt out eloquently the need of a UNITED COMMUNITY to achieve goals and prevent the divisions. Furthermore, during the reign of Akbar, peace was guaranteed largely owing to his liberal religious policy in India. He too had preached tolerance of all religions and had introduced a unique faith called Din-i-Ilahi – to bring all religious groups, particularly Muslims and Hindus, on a common platform. Akbar in his own harem had allowed the Hindu wives to practice Hinduism. It must also be mentioned that all great leaders have always stressed the need to strengthen unity by preserving the most vital ingredient – HUMANISM, the love for all human beings irrespective of the race, religion etc.
The 1978 Constitution, Executive Presidency and proportional representation introduced by the JR government paved the way for deal making coalition governments at national level. They created other endless complications too. They began disregarding accountability and transparency imperatives openly. They also craftily and selfishly introduced the religion into politics having formed parties on ethnic lines. Religion could not have posed any threat at all if selfish politicos did not use religion and ethnicity for petty political gain. It is unfortunate politics has been religionized and religion has been politicized. Modern politicos of all races and religions have replaced undemocratic biased manipulations, pressure and conflict in place of consensus.
Furthermore, ethnicity too has now been politicised. Time has come to bring in laws for banning political parties based on ethnic lines in the interest of the future generation. Our future depends on the quality of our politicians. They are the key players if we need to achieve greatness. It is time for the leaders to put their parties in order by democratizing the election of party leaders too. They should pave the way for young capable leaders to emerge in their parties. The system of electing their party leader democratically should be introduced, without any further delay. Electing the leader by an executive committee nominated by the leader is highly undemocratic in a so called democratic republican state. RW lost thirty elections and remains the party leader to-date. Party leaders should be selected by the general membership. And this should apply to the JVP too.
We, the citizens should understand that short-sighted, good-for-nothing politicians are hell-bent to achieve their wicked goals using religion as a tool. Owing to all these, the Nation is caught up in a communal inferno at present. A Singaporean MP, Christopher de Souza had said in Parliament that “political office is both a calling (and a passion). Those who want to serve must have the sense of duty and beyond that passion to the nation, as well as a desire to contribute to the public good of Singapore”. He had further elaborated – “For MPs, we are in this because we believe in the ethos of sacrifice that public servants entails, listening to them, caring for them, offering encouragement in times of difficulty and mapping out real ways of progress for them and their children – that is fulfilling, that is politics”. He had ended the debate, I quote – “Those who want to serve must have the sense of duty and, beyond that, passion to the Nation, as well as desire to contribute to the public good”. Politics without ethics and morality therefore will not pay good dividends. It could only destroy a Nation. We must therefore say “NO” to politicians who promote senseless communal divisions due to vested political interest for personal gain – CORRUPTION.
I have always maintained the position that our country is poor by choice and design. Our corrupt politicos have ultimately dragged this country to such a low level. They will not contribute towards eradication of the culture of impunity which has engulfed the whole country for their personal benefit. This applies to all the politicos whatever the race or religion. In Singapore, there is zero tolerance for corruption. They are among the highest paid for legislators. PM too had failed to create necessary avenues to uplift productivity and promote growth. They have failed to overcome financial stability due to excessive loans, corruption and top heavy government. They have indubitably jeopardised stability of the country. Nevertheless, he is lavish when it comes to legislators. The standards of politicos from all communities have come down and they should therefore be shown the way out if we need to take this country forward.
It must be stated that the values of citizens too are fast deteriorating. People also think that it is the order of the day for making hay while the sun is shining. The entire society has changed completely. Politicians knowingly or unknowingly causing irreparable damage and destroying this beautiful country. The government is clueless how to serve the country better. I am confident the present government is utterly incompetent and will not take necessary steps to prevent further erosion and destruction.
People too pay endless taxes to maintain a top-heavy government. Reforms in the public sector aimed at improving service delivery have not received due consideration of the President and the Prime Minister. The core objectives should be the delivery of the goods to meet the pledges made by the President and the PM, based on five key strategic enablers; (a) Understand your customer (customer-centricity) (b) Pull down the walls (Connected government) (c) Empower the institution(Build capacity) (d) Realise benefits through appropriate models (Deliver the promises) and (e) Continuously improve (Innovate). The PM does not simply understand the importance of deploying a client-centric approach in public services – a continuous change process.
It is necessary for the President, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Ministers to promote proactive “entrepreneurial governance” innovatively for the benefit of the country and citizens. Our leaders also have failed to respond in a free market economy to facilitate growth of the economy in an innovative and a proactive way to improve performance of the public sector. Sri Lanka needs an entrepreneurial leader who knows how to use the resources to increase effectiveness and productivity.
In the past, we have had enough politicians, who considered their reputation was more important than anything else. They refused to accept anything outside their entitlement. They led humble unassuming lives without unnecessarily burdening the National Treasury. We also now need to restore the dignity of our elected representatives including Parliament. Our country can never prosper unless the politicos stop misusing the religion for personal gain to remain in power immorally. The NATION is in flames due to the culture of impunity, which is a creation of immoral, unethical politicians belonging to all races and religions.