By Helasingha Bandara –
The writing on the wall of the post 2020 destiny of Sri Lanka is almost visible unless some divine intervention can erase it. The learned voters of the country have already concluded which way the political wind blows this time and fear it. Although they are the majority, the triumvirate, advertently or inadvertently has managed to nullify the unified say of the majority. Until the presidential election of 2015 in which people sent Mahinda packing, this writer used “fools Paradise” for Sri Lanka quite regularly being frustrated by the perceived poor intelligence of the voter. The unexpected voter turnout and behaviour that brought the incredible result of the presidential election changed that view and replaced it with a much more respectful view that people who think clearly, in fact, are the majority.
Maithripala Sirisena became the president certainly not for his political skills or for that matter any other skills but because of the burning desire in people to see off the existing despot. One of his pledges was that he would not contest a second term. On this pledge people had to risk between ‘he may do good for having nothing to lose’ and ‘he would destroy everything for the same reason’. (Yana Yaka Korahath Bindagena Yanawa). Having nothing to lose is an ideal platform for a leader to take drastic measures to bring a country to the right path. Drastic measures are exactly the need of the hour for our country, if we are to entertain any hopes for a better country in the future. The leaders who are vying to be elected next term cannot do this. It was fair on the part of people to expect M. Sirisena to be Kannasami who Pilimathalawe thought naïve and inexperienced and could be manipulated but turned out to be Sri Wickrama the incorrigible. Sadly, he did not take either path but became docile or rather inanimate. M. Sirisena does not have the charisma or other personal attributes that a leader should have. His leadership style does not fall within any accepted leadership styles. He does not have the desired knowledge about the globe and its modern trends, nor does he have the required level of education to fashion his thinking. He has no vision, no plan, neither the competitive instinct to survive as a politician or to lead a country on the right path. Sadly, for the people who wished him good luck and hoped for the best he turned out to be a sleeper (kumbakarna) and ended up as a puppet (Don Juan Dharmapala).
Ranil Wickramasinghe, despite the elitism and the western sophistication that his acolytes heap upon him is no different to Sirisena. He is snail-paced and is not conscious of time. Three and a half years passed even before he realised things are moving fast and against him. Some believe that the recent no confidence motion was a wakeup call for him. People who are lumbering in slumber do not wake up. They do not know how to wake up or for them there is no need to wake up. Besides, he has run out of time to wake up and make a radical change in his policies, plans and activities and to make a sudden u- turn from the direction that people are moving now. The serious lack of competitive edge in Ranil (no wickrama at all) makes him cannon fodder in a political battle field.
Mahinda Rajapaksha has everything that a political leader must have in a South Asian political context which is not always necessarily positive. Indeed, his achievements such as bringing the war to a close and the construction of an excellent road network and so on can be glossier in the absence of any credible and visible achievements of the current government. Despite all that, the majority that I talked about earlier in this essay does not trust Mahinda and are weary of his wild ways. So, what choice do we have? Can we vote Sirisena-Ranil coalition in again and wait another five years for them to deliver? Is there a third alternative emerging? In this light the resurgence of Mahinda is inevitable just because something is better than nothing.
However, in line with what Emil van der Poorten has said, “Is there no one in this self-righteous Yahapalanaya government that realizes that there has to be a return to considerations of ethics, principles and morality of some description if the very (economic) survival of this country is to be assured?”
I must add, isn’t there a single member of this coalition who is intelligent, skilled, foresighted and bold enough to devise a strategy to reverse this trend?
If there is anyone to pick up the pieces, here is some food for thought. People desire and deserve some visible and tangible change for them to believe that this regime needs more time to deliver. Given the limitation of time, the regime can still achieve the following that would be clearly visible if achieved and the impact would be felt:
a. Establish highway discipline
b. Establish conscientious discharge of duty
c. Reduce crime rate
People in Sri Lanka, be they drivers or pedestrians, use Sri Lanka’s roads in the most barbaric manner with scant respect or care for the rights of other people, let alone safety. When the subject is brought up for discussion at the family home, at a community gathering, at a bar or even on a political stage, everyone admits that highway discipline in Sri Lanka is at its lowest ebb and it needs attention. This is something that can be achieved within a short time if the right person is given the authority and autonomy to consult those who have got it right, learn from them and implement. People will see and notice the difference and will feel the impact.
In this country, particularly in the state sector, people do not have any sense of conscientious discharge of duty. There is hardly any accountability. The mechanisms that have been put in place to monitor and evaluate qualitative and quantitative progress are more or less dormant. The sad reality of political interference has brought most good practice to a standstill. In this environment, whether duty is performed conscientiously or not, those who receive political favours are not subject to any physical or monetary penalties. So, such members of our society carry on the way most profitable to them regardless of conscientious discharge of duty.
In 2000, I needed a deed for a piece of land and had to wait 15 years to get it. I applied to get a survey plan approved before applying for a building permit in November 2017. Until today I haven’t heard anything. I have now given up the idea of building.
If we take AGA offices alone, people queue in them, say every Wednesday (Mahajana Day), wasting precious hours and repeating this on many Wednesdays. If we take 300 people waste a full day, that is 2100 human hours down the drain at one AGA office. If we have 500 AGA offices that is 1050 000 (over 1 million) human hours per week lost. This is how we fail to progress. It won’t be difficult to stop this. Get every AGA to tell their staff there are no Mahajana days anymore. There is the telephone, post and email available to you. Get on with that. No need to bring anyone to the offices of local authorities. If the jobs are done that way in time, people will feel the difference and the impact. Saving millions of human hours would be a colossal extra contribution to the economy.
The general public in this country are averse to crimes. That is why in the world rankings, Sri Lanka is above even the United Kingdom in the safety rate. Who is responsible for the escalation of crimes in our land? The politicians and their cronies. Crime in Sri Lanka can be easily eradicated if there is the will to do so.
What more can I say!