New ideas, opinions and arguments about presidential election and candidates are radiating within the society. In this slight analysis, I would neither examine the theories about leadership nor provide support for any candidate. My plan is to discuss some hidden, but decisive and considerable facts about our leaders.
In general understanding, power is the decisive fact to control the society even though there are different arguments in theories of leadership. Religious texts, philosophical ideas and political theories had also been widely accepted that, every movement of the society is decided by powerful leaders and their followers. We can identify different types of leadership styles namely, democratic, authoritarian and narcissists. From time to time leaders appeared for a short period of time i.e. four to five years or even a few decades to control or navigate the society. Some of those leaders, by themselves or their supporters or historians communicated that they can change the World or they have provided the best service for humankind.
Sometimes most dangerous killers or invaders like Alexander III of Macedon (336-323 BC) from the ancient Greek Kingdom recognized as “Great” in the present society. However, who would have imagined the situation of societies invaded and the sorrows of the people who were killed by Alexander III of Macedon. For this matter, a few centuries later Hitler would be regarded as a great leader even though today we live in a time where we can safely save and archive evidence and data compared to the days of the ancient Greek Kingdom. Nonetheless, we should note that there are some leaders, who were able to produce actual and widely accepted changes to humankind. Mahatma Gandhi applied the nonviolence concept of Lord Buddha’s’ teachings to the practical political movements as the first person to do so. He tried to solve complex political issues through nonviolence and gained nothing but a remembered name in history.
I would like to mention a few examples of correct decision making leaders from some of the developed countries. Japan is one of our main donors and we have a very cordial relationship with them. With the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan enormously changed its political and social structure. Meiji Restoration cancelled the traditional, feudal and strict class system in Japan and implemented a new financial and political security system for the Nation. Remarkably, the then rulers of Japan, introduced a national educational system that was capable enough to give a moral training which stressed the importance of their duty to the emperor, the country and their families. Those changes were responsible for the emergence of Japan as a modernized nation in the earliness of the twentieth century.
Many countries in Scandinavia made valuable changes in the correct time and manner. For example, Sweden was one of the poorest countries in Europe until the 19th century. It then changed its political and economical system in late 19 centuries with a strong grassroots movement namely, trade unions, temperance groups, and independent religious groups. Those changes created a strong foundation for democratic principles in Sweden. This was the same situation in the neighbouring countries. Therefore, the people of the Northern European nations including Denmark, Norway and Finland are the happiest people in the World, obtaining the most effective social security systems and living in a peaceful society with the lowest crime rates and corruption today.
My personal opinion is that our leaders are different from the above mentioned categories and cannot be included to the existing theoretical leadership styles. I strongly believe that, we missed and still missing a leader who can turn our country around and set it in the correct direction, similar to the present developed countries. During the colonial period we missed a chance but we can still design our own ground system for development. Additionally, many of our leaders who were appointed after the independence were incapable of introducing a longstanding political, economical and social mechanism to Sri Lanka. Many of them experimented in new systems without a real understanding about our society and its capabilities and without consideration for common interests.
We just followed transplanted or forced systems during the period of National Independence movement, domain country, and during the period as an independent country. In 1958, during the Sinhala Only Act, there was a landmark experiment in our political and social system. In the 1960s, the then leaders tried to implement a kind of socialist (or social welfare system) structure in Sri Lanka. In 1978 our nation experienced a capitalist political and economic system with an executive presidency.
After a few decades later, now our leaders want to change to a parliamentary system or abolish the executive presidency. The ridiculous thing here is that the leaders who helped to implement a new structure in 1978 are now appearing to abolish their own system.
Not only our grandparents, parents and us, but also our next generations will enjoy the new experiments to change our political and economical system. However, development of our people has always been and still is a few decades behind in comparison to developed nations. During the colonial period, they asked us to make tea for them and we are doing this even today. In those days we were controlled by force and today we are strategically controlled (the executive presidency is not the only weapon to liberate from those strategies).
The most important issue with those experiments is that our leaders purposely and/or spontaneously had been destroyed the thinking capacity or skills in the people of our nation. There is no valuable step that has been taken by our leaders to develop our peoples thinking capacity and their moral duty to the country and society. Only the considerable educational reform in Sri Lanka is free education system that was introduced by the C.W.W Kannangara. At least this Kannangara reform helped the social mobility in those days and to obtain high statistical data on the literacy rate today. Apart from this, our leaders didn’t introduce an effective education system that helped to develop the thinking capacity of our people and consequently to take correct decisions in an election.
Gradually our people’s commitment for national interests had been reduced and decreased the number of responsible people. Now this situation had been developed into a vicious cycle and many of our leaders who are emerging from this society do not have a moral duty to serve the country, to gain knowledge on the real needs of our people, and a responsibility for their behaviour. Our people also, got used to tolerate corruption, harassments, human rights violations, and all other abnormal behaviours of our leaders. Our people are innocent enough to hear lies, dirty and irresponsible statements made by our leaders. In Sri Lanka we do not have a political culture where political leaders are ready to take the responsibility regarding mistakes within their subject or field and to step down. Unlike the Japanese political leaders and top officials, our leaders will never resign respecting the people power.
To sum up this discussion, it is difficult to select a perfect social, political and economical system that match to our country. Furthermore, it is very difficult for our people to imagine or understand the aftermaths of a new experiment or continuity of the present system. We can see both, positive and negative elements of every system. Acceptability or reliability of those systems is depend on person to person. However, democracy, equality and nonviolence are widely accepted by majority for decades and guarantee of those concepts in the society is depend on the person holding the leadership.