By H.L. Seneviratne –
How our political parties have kept their promises is well known, as is the downward march of our political culture. Beginning with scattered incidence of bribery, corruption, nepotism and inefficiency in the early post-independence era, these have today become the very definition of government. It was with fervent hope that the majority of the people voted the present government into power, but deep disappointment with it and the system of parties within which it is embedded, has made it necessary to contemplate a political structure beyond the traditional political party, that we might call a ‘Non-Political Party’.
A non-political party requires us to rethink politics as we know it. Such a party is a loose organization that can appeal to the people for support to form a truly national government that is also honest and efficient. By a “ truly national government” I mean a government of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim parties, and not a government of just the two major Sinhala Buddhist parties as the present government is. In such a government a qualified person of any ethnic or ethno-religious community is eligible for any office. Thus, the president, or any minister including the prime minister could be a Tamil, a Muslim, a Burgher or a Sinhala.
Since the main interest of the existing political parties is self-aggrandizement they will oppose tooth and nail the idea of a non-political party. But, given the misery and hopelessness of laboring under our present political culture, expressed in both the present regime and its predecessor, a committed and sustained attempt to form a non-political party has a fighting chance of success. The best proof of this is how in the last presidential election, a coalition of people from different backgrounds and holding different views were able to vanquish a seemingly invincible foe.
Organizationally a non-political party has no choice but to use the model of the conventional political party. But its inner life could not be more different. The main objective of a conventional political party is the furtherance of personal and sectional interests, whereas that of a non-political party is the furtherance of the national interest.
A non-political party is by definition open to all including those members of any conventional political party who are willing to mend their ways, and accept the idea that politics is a calling in the service of the country, and not an industry, and less a license to commit every possible crime with impunity. Elected parliamentary members of a non-political party are entitled to an honorarium based on need, with none of the cash and perks that the present elected representatives enjoy.
If it is to succeed, a non-political party needs to be bold enough to exorcise the holy cows of our political culture. It must have the courage to loudly and proudly proclaim its commitment to the full and complete separation of religion and state, and to genuine power sharing with the Tamils, while also addressing the concerns of the other minorities.
Our politicians think the people are idiots, incapable of reason, and capable only of the grossest of tribalism. Thus, they resort to gimmicks like appealing to religion, ethnicity and “culture” to get votes. A non-political party can demonstrate that appealing to the people’s intelligence and power of reason is a more potent and more lasting way to get their support.