By Somapala Gunadheera –
When I heard that a group of UNP MPs were to visit the controversial Norochcholi Power Plant, I guessed they were deliberately heading for a repetition of the showdown at Hambantota. However the news of what really happened at the visit, gladdened my heart to find my imagination belied.
According to the media, the UNP delegation had been given a warm welcome with political leaders on the Government side receiving them with hugs and garlands. This response stands in direct contrast to the reception the delegation received at the much pampered emotional base of those in power, where the delegation was showered with stones and rotten eggs, by stooges and goons, not to mention gun toting by toy chiefs.
What is the reason for this diversity under the same dispensation? Apparently the Hambantota response was engineered by inexperienced power drunk amateurs. The Head of State may not have even been aware of the plans to embarrass the visitors in his home town. This brings into focus a part of the Government’s Achilles heel. That is the reluctance to stand up to foolhardy moves made by those who are emotionally or politically close to the base. The anxiety to pander to the wishes of short-sighted favourites leads to disaster. Traditional wisdom condemns this predilection with the words, “bahubuddhi maranam bhavet”, (It is fatal to go by the dictates of all and sundry). This homily has been successfully observed at Norochcholi. That is the first lesson from Norochchole Model.
By and large xenophobia has been the root cause of ineffective governance, particularly in the area of national integration, creating problems with the international community, especially our closest neighbour. So far it has been possible to play truant with our critics as the neighbour was weak and the rest of the world was not organized. Now that Geneva has got its act together and India is under a strong leader, it will not be possible to dilly dally on urgent reforms with ineffective commissions and never ending committees.
The second lesson behind the successful handling at Norochchole appears to be that here the Government was acting under impeccable professional advice, coupled with the President’s characteristic sixth sense. Usually, the bane of governance has been un-researched and unplanned responses to critical national issues. Undoubtedly, much thought and planning has gone into the positive approach at Norochchole.
Surely, the garlands were not bought at the spur of the moment. The receiving politicians and the supporting top officials did not happen to drop in by accident. It was a well-planned operation, so well planned that the visiting actors’ script had been rendered irrelevant. In the circumstance, they had no alternative but to take an objective stance and leave gracefully, after offering constructive suggestions. Never before in its contentious history had the Norochchole Power Plant received such a positive response. As a result, the Government has come out with flying colours at the end of the day.
In sum, the Norochchole success has accrued through two strategies. The first of them is that basically, action should be based on one’s own hunches. Intrusions made into them by emotional bias and indecision, results in chaos. Secondly, the results have been made still better by the apparent use of expert opinion. This is what traditional wisdom meant when it said, “Atma buddhi sukhan deti – Guru Buddhi visheshata” – (One’s native wisdom brings happiness – Expert advice creates excellence)
So much for the strategy that triumphed at Norochcholi inculcating in the Government a lesson to deal with its problems independently, under expert advice. That would be the best weapon to face the challenges that are mounting against it day by day, the hardest of them being national reconciliation. But the Norochcholi Model has a far more fundamental message to our politicians on all sides. Politics has progressively deteriorated to be the art of one-upmanship, backbiting, bickering, mud-slinging, undercutting and cringing to power. For once, two teams from the leading Parties have sat amiably, face to face, at Norochcholi and sorted out a national problem amicably, prioritizing national interest over petty parochial differences. The end result of this process would be a decorous model Parliament with each side vying with the other to build a better Sri Lanka, cooperatively.