By Raj Gonsalkorale –
If voters vote at the next election, they could be electing a President who cannot lead, and could be electing one political combine or the other and the country will have the same set of politicians and the same system that elects them. Voters therefore will have to decide whether they wish to continue with this charade, and if they do decide to vote, then, they too will be part of this charade.
The known Devil is better than the unknown idiots seems to be the prevailing view amongst many voters in Sri Lanka today. The government of the day is taken as some kind of puppet show with unseen puppeteers, both from within and without manipulating the puppets in Sri Jayewardenepura.
Some politicians who were labelled as corrupt, anti-democratic and dangerous, and the power behind White vans, although none of these accusations are yet to be proven, are ascendant again, while those who promised to rid the country of this unsavoriness, now stand accused of the very same misdemeanours they accused their predecessors. While there was no one single misdemeanour to define the status of the earlier administration, the yet unsolved Bond Scam stands as the flag bearer of misdemeanours of the current regime.
At least the previous regime was a functional one, although some argue, with the use of authoritarian means, to keep it functional. There was a leader who ruled. On the other hand they say the current regime is dysfunctional, leaderless and rudderless.
Besides the major parties, with the UNP working behind the scenes to find a new leader and divisions patched together thanks to the absolute disarray in the SLFP, the new political combine, the SLPP or the “Pohottuwa” as it’s commonly known, bloomed during the local government elections and it’s been blooming even more since. If it does take the Presidency and the government at the next elections, and many voters including even a segment of hard core UNP voters, believe they will, the country will be back with a regime with all its positives, but all its warts as well.
What does the average voter think of all this? Hobson’s choice? Who is the best of the bad lot? Shame, credibility, morality are no longer virtues in the country’s value system.
If voters vote at the next election, they could be electing a President who cannot lead, and could be electing one political combine or the other and the country will have the same set of self-serving politicians and the same broken system that elects them. Voters therefore will have to decide whether they wish to continue with this charade, and if they do decide to vote, then, they too will be part of this charade.
The Puppet show at Sri Jayewardenepura is not by inanimate Puppets. Many say they are Monkeys in Puppet gear, with Olympic level abilities to jump to any side that offers them the best deal. Elections cost a lot of money. In the past, politicians spent most of their wealth to fight at elections with hardly a return on their investments in monetary terms, if getting elected could be called an investment. Their ROI was their ability to serve the country in framing policies. Today, elections are mostly about the going price for Monkey puppeteers showing a very ready willingness to jump at the right price. Their ROI is purely in monetary terms, for themselves.
What of the government, the current one and the past ones in recent times? Do they deliver on what tax payers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere pays them? They are funded by tax payers of one country or another as even aid and grants that are given are funds diverted from tax payers in other countries.
Some argue that the previous government invested heavily on infrastructure including in agricultural infrastructure as these areas had been badly neglected for more than three decades. There are genuine detractors and opportunistic political detractors who argue that other priorities should have been addressed first.
What of the succeeding regime? The prevailing view seems to be that they have only either laid “mul gal” to projects that were already in the planning boards of the previous regime, or they declared open projects already underway when the previous regime lost power.
Both sides accuse each other of how much they lined their pockets and how they manipulated processes to give some kind of legitimacy to fraudulent decisions involving vast sums of money.
The list of alleged misdemeanours is endless.
In this climate, what good will it do to change the current Puppet show and bring back the earlier one? If processes can be manipulated, isn’t time to look at the political system that produces these processes?
What Sri Lanka needs is very likely a non-violent revolution that will be like a broom that sweeps away the puppets and the puppeteers.
When one mentions a revolution, there is always the tendency to look at it from the prism of violence or the prisms of historical, socialist revolutions. All these have failed, so why repeat mistakes?
Sri Lanka needs a different revolution to hand the country back to its people and take it away from self-serving politicians. What is needed is a revolution that rejects the status quo, both in terms of the governance model, and how representatives are elected to be part of this governance model.
Bringing about this change however cannot be entrusted to persons who are elected through the current system, as they will not introduce any change that disadvantages them.
In this context, the first step that is proposed is for a mass campaign to ask voters not to vote at the next Presidential and Parliamentary elections. If such a boycott could reduce the voter turn out say to a paltry 10% or less of the number of registered voters, it will be a revolution that is non-violent and without precedent anywhere else in the world. Such a low turnout in a country that records an average turn out in excess of 70% will be a referendum on the current political system and on those within the system. It will signify without any ambiguity that voters have rejected the system and what it produces.
The writer does not wish to offer proposals as to how one could proceed after an outcome as noted above as it is felt that the people by whatever means available should now start a discussion as to what steps should follow once the current system and people within it are rejected by the people.
One hopes that civil society and community organisations, religious organisations and people themselves individually and collectively, will commence discussions so that a clear picture will emerge as to what kind of system should replace the current system, and what calibre of people should be elected by people to the new system before the next set of elections. The next set of elections has to be a clash of ideas. It should be referendum on whether the country wishes to continue with the status quo or whether it wants a different system that brings back some honour to the task of governance.
Although the suggested methodology to bring about change may appear long winded, expensive and possibly fraught with some dangers, so far, no other suggestion has been forthcoming as to how the rot that has set in could be expunged and prevented from ruining whatever that is left of our values, our credibility and our morality.
If no one acts, then the conclusion one can draw is that no one really cares what system the country has and what calibre of people we elect to this broken system. We then must live with what we have chosen and the consequences that follow.