Almost fifty percent of all politicians, as they are far too uneducated, lacking in intellectual depth and foresight on national destiny and uncaring of it, are incapable of understanding the complicated problems confronting the Nation, which have been left as an unenviable legacy by the corrupt regime of the Rajapaksas. The other fifty percent seem to be so self-absorbed that they are more interested in power and privileges that they too are blinded by present enjoyment, even though the people are made to face present and future calamity due to the government’s bad governance, negligence and the ministerial and bureaucratic administration’s incompetence and inefficiency.
It is shocking that the government has made itself a ruling clique that is taking the people for granted. They are not connected to the people. They seem to be hoping to hang on to power in spite of their forgetting the promise given to the people to punish those lambskin wearing wolves clothing and posing as patriots, who have swindled the wealth of the people and banked the money abroad. They are also ignoring the rascals in their own midst, as the scale of robbery and corruption is supposed to be a few percentages less. They are foolishly banking on the 62% of the vote that brought them to power. They do not observe that the people are getting increasingly disappointed by the day, not only about the major issues and problems facing the country, but because these problems are getting more complicated due to the ineptitude, indecisiveness and blatant favoritism that Government ministers indulge in. They are unable to uphold law and order as they are beholden to their erstwhile friends who are indeed national fiends; some ministers do not have the ability to act justly and fairly. The way they act and direct their subordinates disqualify them from governing. Thereby, they show that they are also clumsy and gawky individuals foisted on the people who have a right to a better deal.
Leaving people frustrated
In the meantime, the people are getting harassed in their day to day dealings with government departments, provincial councils and pradeshiya sabhas. Those who are to serve the people – the clerks and officials may be under-qualified chaps who may have been politically recruited. They do not seem to know their job and are incompetent. They seem to have a queer mentality, thinking they are there to forestall the people and send them from pillar to post and not to serve them. They seem to think that the people who come to them are possible cheats, intent on outwitting them. Getting things done in a government department has become an unending annoyance to the people ever since the brown sahibs took over. They do not think that people come to the bureaus of the government to get things done properly and according to law. They do not facilitate matters for the people; they complicate them and lead people to frustration and disgust.
The general opinion among the people is absolutely powerless and helpless – except at the polling booth – that to get anything done, even legitimately, you have to know somebody working in a particular office or know someone who knows someone in that office. If that someone that you know happens to be a minister you can even rob an elephant and keep it in your backyard, barge into a ministry and create mayhem, or destroy a house of prayer and worship or break any law and go scot free. That is because, in this Country, whichever party governs, the ministers are not only above the law, they can bend the law, kick the law and make the law an ass, thereby making even a minister one who begets asses. One can be sure that all of it will also end up as a negative vote to the government at any election that may come, if the Government does not look sharp.
Decent governments – we haven’t had one for sixty years – do not need water canons, baton charges and gunshots to govern. What is necessary is for each and every member of the government to be honest. People should not elect thugs and louts, even though they have gone to Law College and scraped through, to govern. Governing should be by wise people, not swindling rogues. Any peoples’ government needs to put before the people its long term and short term policies and programmes of government. Both main parties have been messy in this regard, making their manifesto declarations a wordy, meaningless one, intended for propaganda purposes and to fool the people, and one they never pay attention to after the election. Even a former PM has admitted to that.
The Government needs to appoint qualified, high calibre personnel, who are very much available in the land, and not political rejects and other such like, to represent Sri Lanka abroad as ambassadors and attend to all the affairs that need official attention. After all, they are well paid, well assisted and are accredited with great ceremony just for that. Then there will be no need for ministers and MPs to leave the country and gallivant to all the five continents on the slightest pretext. They should attend to their duty at home.
It is because of their inability to do so that what needs to be done is left undone, gets neglected and hundreds of telephone calls and documents ranging from documentary evidence of acts of parliament, property deeds, Grama Sevaka’s certificates, water-electricity-telephone bills, identity cards, to get a just and fair consideration of a citizen’s request. People begin to question, ‘What the hell is this?’ President Premadasa, who could be met by the people at ‘Sucharitha’ at 4 o’clock in the morning, answered all letters and tried to see that the government bureaucracy assisted the people without harassing them unnecessarily.
Make FCID strong, permanent
If the President, Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers do not have the capacity to understand that due to the present debt crisis the country faces, it is not right, just and fair to import luxurious vehicles for the ministers when the people are facing many a problem in their day to day living, then the Cabinet does not have persons of common sense who know the sentiments and the feelings of the people, and the meaning of the democratic option they made at the last presidential and parliamentary elections. Importing seems to be postponed for a more opportune time!
In this context it needs to be asked as to what happened to the many Mercedes Benzes that were imported for the CHOGM event only a few years ago. What has happened to the luxury vehicles used by the President, Prime Minister and Ministers and their deputies of the ousted regime? Did they take them home? If they did, why not get them to account for those vehicles? Or, is the ruling government indifferent to these matters and soft-peddling on them, and acting in collusion to protect fellow political wrong-doers? The Government needs to not only not abolish but to have a permanent and strongly empowered FCID to monitor and fight corruption; it should be strengthened to bring the wrong-doers to book and punish public criminal activities, and thereby clean up the structures of government. Failure on these matters shows that the Government itself is tolerating corruption because of corrupt elements in its own ranks.
Follow up public declarations
Besides, the members of the government need to speak in one voice and communicate a common policy to the people. Let the people be listened to and heard. Let your policies be tailored to the democratic options of the people, and not to a vociferous minority with their naked wish of bringing back and reinstalling the ousted far more corrupt regime, to disregard the people and continue to indulge in corruption and ruin the future of this country
Before giving good direction to the country, the President and Prime Minister should show a strong bond of solidarity and hold out a common vision to the people. The Government needs clear thinking to do a thorough clean up and restate its policies, not in ambiguous and partisan political strategies but in flawless bi-partisan statements that make policies clear and show they are all prioritizing the Nation before their respective political parties. That is how it should be, always. Then it needs to meet the people and in unity communicate the message to all of them. Ask all the people to be truly patriotic and think of all of Sri Lanka first; and not just power-seeking egotistical individuals, parties, provinces and parts of it. No doubt support will follow if government members do exemplify what they proclaim to the people. They have a right to and need a sane, just and stable government that indeed governs. There will then be no baffling confusion over Nation Building.
Fr. Augustine Fernando
Diocese of Badulla