14 June, 2024


Time To Think In Black & White

By Amal S. Kumarage –

Prof. Amal S. Kumarage

For most Sri Lankans, politics ends when our vote is cast. It is seen as the end of our democratic obligation and we like to be left alone until the next election. Well who wouldn’t? After all, politics alone does not develop a country. Its progress is a collective effort of all its citizens in diverse ways ranging from the economic to the social, the spiritual to the environment. There is much to keep everyone busy and to leave governance issues to those elected representatives. However, increasingly Sri Lankans are being drawn in to episodes of political drama with each act ending in greater apprehension as we appear to head towards what now appears to be an act for which there is possibly no script in place. As each act closes, a different segment of the population applauds. Meanwhile, the country struggles with debt, corruption and worse still keeps getting divided along language, racial, religious and now possibly along values and ethics- a symptom of failure of keeping a country together. 

The Constitution that provides the rules of governance has been tinkered with regularity over nearly 50 years mostly for specific political expediencies to consolidate power, so that the current context does not seem even to bother us anymore. The media that bitterly complains of interference into independent reporting falls like a pack of cards with a mere wind of change, a growl and a huff. The judiciary, the administrative service, the professionals have sadly shown political partisanship above professional ethics or critical thinking. The different religious establishments have mostly chosen to side with the powerful and have long lost being a beacon of light to guide the critical thinking of the common people. Political orientation, support and personal reward have become established cycles of patronage expected from elections among individuals and corporates vying for benefits.  If Sri Lanka is truly being educated and developed, we should see more rational and ethically driven decisions not just in politics, but across all aspects of society. In fact the opposite appears to be happening where we are arguing if the popular sentiment should override the written law which to me is a regressive step towards a primitive society. 

However poor the performance of our politicians, we cannot shirk from the responsibility that it is we who have elected them and the blame for their dismantling of the checks and balances of governance rests with us. However tempting it is to conclude that the diagnosis for all ills across society is to call all politicians evil, it is perhaps the most dangerous position at this time. To hypothesize that it is all the fault of one party or the ‘unschooled’ MPs or that the rot is due to the fault of one leader or one government or the electoral system has no rational validity and is only an escape from our own individual culpability. One of the small victories of the last two weeks was the inability to fully tempt large numbers of MPs with money and position. The current crisis has left many disenchanted Sri Lankans from the village to the city and from the south to the north calling the folly of the political parties and the prospect of another election. But in fact it is we the people who are being fooled to think that another election would solve the problem and that people’s sovereignty would reign thereafter. 

As long as Sri Lankans think politics in terms of colours of blue, green, red or purple and not in terms of black and white of what is right and wrong, we will only succeed in changing the actors but the drama will go on. As long as Sri Lankans especially the religious leaders, the professionals, the academics, the university students are unwilling and scared to think and express publicly their individual opinion based on ethical and moral aspects, we remain condemned to see more or worse of what we have had the misfortune of seeing over the last two weeks. The disappointment of the Executive, the failure of the Legislature, the retreat of the media have brought us to the last remaining bastions of democracy namely the Elections Commission and the Supreme Court. The tea boutique jokes, the Facebook memes, the despair shared at cocktails and lunch rooms alike, should give way to greater public discussion of what is ethical and moral as the political culture of the future Sri Lanka. We should be able to identify and reject the lies, the conspiracy, the greed, the grab and the hold to power to generate values in public opinion around us. On that alone can we rest Sri Lanka’s future. 

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Latest comments

  • 11

    In essence, public focus must shift from the traditional question of ‘who should govern the country?’ to ‘how should the country be governed?’

  • 9

    An article that should be read by every Sri Lankan

  • 4

    Gradually I see writings of the same opinion which I had concluded years ago. 1) there is no true constitution 2) what we had since independence is DEMOCRAZY 3) Lankans willfully have been promoting this senseless crap and will have to face the consequence 4) there is no future for this failed nation (65 years is too long for any country to recover) 5) this is just the beginning and more to come 6) From the end of conflicts, it has been a free fall and the question now is when ??? are we going to hit the bottom.&) conclusion: A beautiful island raped by crooked politicians endlessly with the help of own people beyond recognition.) 7)All the discussions you see now are mostly GRIEF and in few it is GUILT. 8) Public is still in apparent denial.

  • 4

    An interesting perspective. Great if every voter can think in ‘black and white’ and make informed judgements based on facts. However, I think in a society like Sri Lanka where almost every aspect of life is heavily influenced or determined by politics, and politicians are almighty and above law, politics become personal and it is hard for the average punter to get themselves detached from politics.

    When two Sri Lankans meet, inevitably one of the first few things they discuss, perhaps apart from weather and family or friends, is politics. Contrarily, in any developed country such as the UK or Australia when two people meet the first thing they discuss is likely to be how their favourite (sporting) team is doing or what they are up to on the coming weekend. Politics, if at all, would be the last thing in their mind.

    When someone is emotionally entrenched in politics (or anything else for that matter), it is hard to think in black and white, or rationally about it.

    Besides, when politics in Sri Lanka is so rotten to the core and most politicians, regardless of their ‘colour’, behave so irrationally (being drunk on power), it is no surprise that the ordinary people who look up to the politicians respond irrationally too.

    Politics in Sri Lanka seem like a vicious spiral with every lot coming are worse than the previous lot in terms of corruption, misuse of power and abuse of law, no matter what colour they are.

    I think Sri Lanka needs a new beginning. The question, though, is who is going to take the lead. No one in sight as far as I can see.

    • 1

      We need to erase this political culture and raise a fresh, new, young, mindful group of leaders.

  • 0

    IT is proven whole 225 are Very corrupt. Now, it iw inthe open.We know for 70 years democracy and humanrights preachingWest also supported thsi because it helps them. Itis the same countries that Helped Pinochet like people. People should not vote to three wheller parties who will never establish the govt on their idelogy. IT is simply PALHORUU #1 from SLPP, PALHORU #2 from UNP and Palhoru #3 FROM slfp. pLAYING MUSICAL CHAIRS IS CALLED the general elelction. Sri lankan people are aware allthe corruption in the disguise of changing parties etc. They know party leaders give applications to these Drug Dealer or drug lords, Money launderers, Financial fraudsters., killers, thugs who burned party offices during the elections, those very old politicians who used to drive the car into a paddy field because a young chick touched him, the viagra man. PEOPLE SHOULD BE VIGILENT thinking to whimto vtoe. IT is the president who says the price for party chaging ws Rs 100 million to Rs 150 million. but Range Bandara like ministers sais my price is Rs 500 million. So, will people elelct these. Manusha Nanayakkara got money both from SLPP and ARJUN MAHENDRAN (UNP)

  • 0

    This is the ONLY path- the path that eschews petty, traditional, almost “feudal”, politics and looks objectively at the right, the wrong and the worthy. There are educated politicians who are imbeciles and uneducated who are filthy thugs on every side pf our political spectrum. So, it is time, as Prof. Kumarage says, to forget the colour and the mindless partisan politics that you and I have inherited from our forefathers and start to think objectively about who is worthy to represent us, who can be trusted to the greater extent to do the job, who has the wisdom requisite for good, just governance, who will make it a priority – who can be trusted to make it a priority, again to the greatest extent, to rule this land with the people’s welfare in mind and develop it for the good of all of us and not for the “Jaraawa” they can squeeze out of deals. Until we star to think in terms of black and white, Sri Lanka is doomed!!

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