By Lasantha Pethiyagoda –
The parliamentary parasites salivating for their turn for power scream for fresh elections. They have adopted the main demands of the sincere Aragalaya for a “System Change” as a new slogan. It is any rational person’s conclusion that what they really want is to use this slogan and carry on exactly like the present lot, or the previous lot once they start controlling the reigns.
The sixty odd groups that comprise the sincere, committed youth who agitated decently, singing, chanting and behaving extremely peacefully at the Galle Face Green defined and articulated explicitly, exactly what was missing, what gave rise to the rotten system that prevails, who were responsible, and in many instances, what could be done to change the system if they had a say. Everyone wants good governance, elimination of corruption, rule of law, et cetera although most people have got used to personal favours promised at each election as the objective.
In this game of taking turns to slurp at the trough of public funds, the habitual rascals know that their chances of winning more seats than what they have at present are high, if they seem to be in some kind of an “opposition” when the ruling parasites seem unpopular. That is why the dirty frogs jump from one camp to another close to the hustings. If traditional elections are held now, perhaps the main opposition may even get a majority in parliament. But would a new parliament with a new set of eager, as yet lean faces be able to bring about the desired “system change”? (Like “Pigs may fly also”)
The certainty is that many of the grand old vermin and budding new ones with the potential to eventually become crooks themselves will still form the majority of parliamentarians, largely irrespective of what party or group they pretend to represent. Would there be any real change? Would such parliamentarians ever legislate provisions to prevent the opportunities for corruption in all its forms? Even if they do, will such changes be actively practised?
The notorious political monsters like drug lords, ethanol mudalalis, chain snatchers, illicit miners and loggers are now campaigning around the country. The cost of such campaigning must be huge, going into hundreds of millions of rupees a shot. Where do they get money for such campaigns? Who is funding these scumbags? It is obvious that there are interested commercial or industrial entities behind such funding. Various massive scale scams and rackets are allowed to take place to pay off those who fund election campaigns that bring them to power.
Among other concessions, examples like allowing sugar importers to rob the government via a temporary reduction of customs duty, or large-scale blended vegetable oil imports under a misleading category like “edible fats”, wholly unhealthy for consumption, or removing some toxic carcinogens from pharmaceutical to cosmetic categories to enable their “legal” marketing. In all these the repulsive political vermin also privately pocket large blocks (Kuttiyer). This kind of top-level corruption is ignored or forgotten with some “investigative commission” appointed irrespective of party politics.
The system where elections are run with massive campaigns bleeding the poor starving people further, must end. That is because those who would fund their campaigns will demand payback, usually employing wholly unethical means.
The sincere and committed Aragalaya activists demanded a “people’s government” (Mahajaner Aanduwer) outside of parliament. Appropriately, this entity should be tasked with formulating the basis for future governance, at least in the interim.
Corrupt to the core political parties select their repulsive candidates not based on their suitability to become legislators, but solely on their ability to win against their rivals. Consequently, it is the notorious thug, the dastardly wheeler-dealer, the heartless protection-racketeers, the chain-snatchers in moving trains, the murderous drug lords, and other low-life who have ill-gotten money to spend that the party nomination boards mainly select – the ones who can win after throwing around their black money.
In an ideal system change scenario, political parties will not be able to nominate any rogue to stand for election. Without party nomination, no scumbag can win power even if they spend bags full of black money. But why do these abhorrent criminals want to become Members of Parliament? Because MPs wield enormous arbitrary power and influence in the lives of their constituents and over local police and public servants, businesses and racketeers, almost always acting outside the law. When this power is removed, the chances are that no low-life reptile would wish to contest – leaving the field to genuinely committed and sincere people wishing to participate in policy debates for economic and social progress in their beloved land.
Traditionally, the political criminals have inculcated a regime of personal benefits for those who would vote to elect them. This personal “gain”, for the average voter, comes in two forms. The first is a material benefit or utility or leverage in actual goods, services or by enabling them to jump ahead in a queue or by-passing due process blatantly illegally. The second is egotistical in elevating their own ethno-religious nationalism, devaluing the status of a demonized minority or “putting them in their place”.
The Aragalaya activists envisioned a people not voting for personal material gain by removing the MPs’ ability to interfere or influence the administration of public institutions. If the MP is powerless to provide personal benefits to individual voters, and the voter’s dependency in this regard is removed, then the voter will have to limit or recalibrate their voting preference on the candidate’s character, public or community service record, ability and usefulness as a good lawmaker. Without illegitimate or arbitrary power, and with less perquisites of office, few dirty rascals would contest an election.
The Aragalaya activists also demonstrated breaking of ethno-religious nationalism, although it is much more complicated, given that a large segment of Sinhala-Buddhists suffers from an ingrained inferiority complex that is buried deep in the subconscious. An inferiority complex vis-a-viz an imagined “westernized elitism and culture” or the “Colombo 7 culture”. And this has its roots in the hidden historical trauma of a millennia of defeat and subjugation, first at the hands of Dravidian invaders and later European colonizers.
This trauma is predominant among those with a “lower middle class social mentality” even if they are economically middle class and “educated” professionals. To them, ethno-religious jingoism, that aversion and hostility towards the “other”, is a way of overcoming this hidden trauma and the inferiority complex associated with it. To them this kind of “patriotism” is far more important than good governance, economic advancement and social harmony and progress, and developing other societal virtues. The outward manifestation of this mentality is minority bashing. Many racist leaders feed their supporters this fodder.
If there is no strengthened uprising or Aragalaya along the lines of Indian satyagraha against the British Raj, a significant percentage of people will continue to vote, without any other consideration, for candidates who are unimaginably corrupt or reprehensible. No “System Change” with the present generation of scumbags can address this. It would require a radical social and cultural change in the people, under the guidance of a committed and tolerant new political class made up of the Aragalaya activists.
A genuine “System Change” would never come through with a parliamentary election. A full-blown peaceful revolution of massive proportions ten times the magnitude that chased away the two brothers a few months ago will ensure the independence of institutions such as the public service, judiciary, police etc. and will usher in political and economic stability with all major external lending organisations fully supporting the change. The resplendent isle, the pearl of the Indian Ocean a land of plenty will then become a reality. Do think about it.
*Prof (Emeritus) Lasantha Pethiyagoda