A school friend of mine, who I had met again for the first time in 5 years only a week ago, called me this morning, saying he had just been promised nominations by the President for the Kurunegala District list, and demanded that I raise money for his campaign, or he would never speak to me! “Nor don’t come to me for favors when I am in power as I will only help those who helped to put me in power.”
This in essence is what is wrong with politics today in Sri Lanka. Whilst this chap is not all bad, on one thing he said I do agree. You have to be in power in Sri Lanka to make a positive difference to the people or constituents you represent, whether they appreciate what you have done for them or not.
Another sad fact that is also true, is that it is now a case of wanting to go into politics not to improve the lot of the constituent, but to make money for the person, by lying to the constituents to get elected, the standard practice, due to the general assertion that telling the truth in Sri Lanka will not get votes.
I also know for a fact that there is a power struggle first to get on the nomination list, and people are fighting to be named, hanging around like leaches in Temple Trees hoping they can get the ear of the Boss. That sadly is how the system works, and once you have the OK from the Boss, he then says find enough friends amongst the current leadership to help you as otherwise you don’t stand a chance, and the Boss also demands you help him win the Presidency, the main ingredient being funds for the massive costs of the campaign, with Arrack being one of the highest expenses of the “mathata thitha campaign”(full stop to alcohol being a major slogan of the current administration). You literally have to buy a bottle for each campaign helper to get him to canvass or distribute pamphlets. He or she does not do it out of conviction, but in the hope of getting tangible in return, either now in the form of a bottle in the case of the alcoholic or later in the form of a sinecure or contract by which the helper hopes to make a huge return on his investment.
I agree with those who say this is the same in any democracy and it is the question of the degree to which it happens that differs and matters to the society in question. It is no lie to say that it is this form of government that has reduced a once successful nation, to one that is performing at about 25% of its potential. 100% of its potential will certainly put the country on a par with the best bearing in mind the huge human resource potential that lies dormant in this country, only to wake up in countries other than in Sri Lanka, where they migrate to.
The main point of my argument is that from the aforesaid it is a game that has huge returns for a winner, and is a gamble with high stakes. There is a large section of the community who are genuine about their altruistic motives to get into politics, but they just do not stand a chance, as they don’t have the pedigree of nepotism and personal gain that is required to get a party’s nomination in either of the main parties, but to an extent now creeping into the minor parties too.
It is this type of person who should be encouraged to enter politics; some of whom have worked all their lives in private enterprise, working for others, and then for themselves, who know the real world. The struggles of coping with bureaucrats, whose agendas are different from the supposed objectives of their employment, are known to them. They will then make the system what it should be, a servant of the state. The law currently is not fair by all, and has to be applied without favoritism.
These people who are not generally wealthy, but are of high moral standing and integrity, with a limited life span left, with no band of relatives to procure largess, don’t stand a chance of being elected unless they are adopted by a party that is able to sponsor them. Therein lies the rub. A genuine party has to emerge, where its trustees don’t aspire to public office, but are able with the integrity they command to attract donations and who by a selection process are able to nominate worthy individuals, giving them the necessary backing to carry out a credible campaign in both educating the potential voter on the merits of the party and its platform of candidates and the genuine objectives of the manifesto. This new direction from a main party in Sri Lanka politics is what is needed first to turn the country round, and not the same old game that is now playing like a broken record yet again, ready to hoodwink the unsuspecting population.
It is not the years of party membership that matters for nomination, it is the years spent in the service of ones specialty that matters. It is the level of experience on the subject matter, the degree of commitment to the objectives of the party and the willingness to commit the rest of one’s life or a stated period of one’s life that matters. We can then eliminate those who get into politics at an early age to work themselves through the system, as they really have no idea of life outside elected office, which elevates them from real life in Sri Lanka.
To clarify the point I am making, I would like to leave the reader with this thought. Every bus-stand in Sri Lanka has deep pot holes full of water, after each heavy thunder shower. The passengers invariably get drenched when the bus comes to where they are. No elected official appears to travel by bus so is not aware of this as otherwise corrective action would have been taken. I travel by bus regularly.