Even the most tenacious optimist would agree that the country is in bad shape. Perhaps, even at this eleventh hour of our country’s relentless spiraling down towards a state of chaos, the leaders, who have been holding the reins alternately-those whom we believe can make a difference-do not seem to have realised the importance of changing track and putting the country before every other consideration.
The present predicament makes it clear that two-party politics, as it has been practiced in our country, has not benefitted the people much. The elected party, after a few weeks in power, gives enough evidence to show that people are mistaken in thinking that our chosen “representatives” have anything but our interests in their mind. The contempt with which they treat the voice of the people and the condescension with which they “explain” away everything they do ,leave no room for doubt that parliamentary politics, as it has been practiced all these years, does not much reflect the representative character of the ruling party, whichever it may be. Only when they lose an election and are demoted to the “Opposition” would they begin to “voice” the wishes of the people and be sensitive to every single problem of the constituents who they choose to treat as a bunch of rabble-rousers when they were in power. Judging by how people-friendly every Opposition has been, people may, after every General Election, plead with all the newly elected members, “Please, ladies and gentlemen, be the opposition.” A cynic may suggest that “the political party which is on the side of the people until they come to power” may be added to the OED as another increasingly relevant meaning of the word “opposition.”
It is not difficult to see that this kind of cynicism is not at all an exaggeration considering the conduct of the “Oppositions” we have had in our parliamentary politics. As we know, in our normal human relations, disapproval, condemnation or rejection begets animosity. Not in the relationship between a political party and the general public! Politics seems to be an odd game in which rejection engenders friendship and compassion. Every time a political party is rejected at a General Election, it immediately begins to love the very people who have shooed them away unceremoniously. However, as our political records show, every “opposition” has amply demonstrated the art of settling scores after a period of wound-licking. Our entire exercise of electing our rulers, if shorn of its periodical fits of “sound and fury,” boils down to a vicious cycle of hope, disappointment, disbelief and rejection. Unfortunately, today, the moments of “disbelief” of the people are becoming ever more frequent and acute with each new decision made by the ruling party. A presenter may invite a weary audience to just look at the present Sri Lankan society to get a rough idea about how shock-absorbers work.
There is something essentially wrong with the existing mechanism of politics. You may blame individual leaders; you may blame parties, the system or even the populace. Each of these entities has been blamed enough with no tangible results forthcoming. Perhaps the problem lies in isolating the entity when we choose to blame it. Perhaps, we have missed the wood for the trees.
It is quite likely that all these actors: leaders, parties and the masses are nearly equally responsible for the present predicament and thus have to be taken together when we look for the underlying problem. If we can agree on that, what is needed is a mechanism where all the stakeholders can get together for the sake of the whole nation. As we know, the country can boast of experts in every important field, be it science, politics, economics, social sciences etc., but each of them has been working, more or less, in his or her “little corner.” Those who love the country as strongly as they profess can take the first step towards pooling all that expertise together to push the country forward; but first, “Leaders of all parties, unite!” For the betterment of all, including you worthies, we may add.