The Elections Commissioner says that he will have to spend Rs. 10 billion to conduct the election that will send 225 of these mostly expensive liabilities to Parliament – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
Once a donkey said to the tiger, “The grass is blue.” The tiger said, “No, the grass is green.” The discussion became intense. Both of them are firm in their own words. To end this controversy, both went to the lion – the King of Jungle.
In the middle of the animal kingdom, sitting on the throne was a lion. The donkey started yelling before the tiger could say anything: “Your Highness, the grass is blue, isn’t it?” The lion said, “Yes! The grass is blue.” The donkey said: “This tiger does not believe. Annoys me. He should be punished properly.” The King declared, “Tiger will be jailed for a year.” The King’s verdict was heard by the donkey and he was jumping in joy all over the entire jungle that the tiger was sentenced to one year in jail.
The tiger went to the lion and asked: “Why, Your Highness! The grass is green, isn’t it?” The lion said, “Yes! The grass is green.” The tiger said, “Then why am I sentenced to jail?” The lion said, “You did not get punished for the grass being blue or green. You have been punished for debating with that stupid donkey. Brave and intelligent creatures like you have argued with a donkey and have come here to get a decision.”
Moral of the story: In 2020 give your vote to the best candidate, just don’t debate with donkeys or vote for them or you will be punished for the next five years.
Why alley cats, donkeys and chameleons? A reference to alley cats is made to describe who some of our politicians are. An alley cat has no morals and is known for unfettered promiscuity. In context, it would not be out of place to describe some politicians as immoral, unethical individuals who are literally promiscuous in their behaviour and who do not adhere to any values. They are usually available to the highest bidder.
Sri Lankan’s biggest financial scam that defrauded the country of billions of dollars and part of which filled the coffers of a political party, other large scale financial scandals that have tainted the country’s reputation and also robbed the country of its money were all committed by politicians or their acolytes. Most if not all who were responsible still are around seeking to continue their thefts. One wonders whether the country is full of alley cats who keep voting for the same set of alley cats.
Donkeys? Do we need to elaborate? A Head of State disclaims any responsibility to a major debacle in the country, the next in command also pretends he did not know anything about it while a minister in that Government says he gave a warning that something untoward was going to happen nearly three years prior to the actual event that did happen.
A main accused hides in another country and now with a new name although one fails to understand how a person with a new name could be innocent of any crimes he or she may have committed under a different name. This article and many others could fill pages and pages of such incidents. Yet, the very same people are voted in by the people. One does wonder whether the country is also full of donkeys.
Chameleons? Since chameleons can’t generate their own body eat, changing the colour of their skin is a way to maintain a favourable body temperature. The outermost layer of the chameleon’s skin is transparent. Beneath this are several more layers of skin that contain specialised cells called chromophores The deepest layer contains melanophores, which are filled with brown melanin (the same pigment that gives human skin its many shades).
What is the simile here to our politicians? They don’t have a character to call their own, or the outer layer is so superficial and one can never say which colour they are beneath that. They change colour to further their greed. As the Sinhala saying goes “vaasi paththata hoiya”. How many times have our politicians changed colour? One cannot recall any one of them doing so on a matter of principle. The grass is blue when it suits them and the sky is green when it suits them.
This is the context within which another General Election looms before the country. While undoubtedly there are exceptions, readers and voters could judge whether some politicians standing for elections are either alley cats, donkeys or chameleons or all of them in one. If some of these people are voted in, then the voters could well be the donkeys.
Time for some fresh air
It is time that the silent majority made themselves heard about the prostitution of ethics and morality in politics and prevented the dirt in politics ever raising their heads. It is time for some fresh air to ease the suffocation.
Sri Lanka needs a new breed of politicians and political leaders. But they cannot get there on their own. So the voters have the opportunity to send a strong message that they do not wish to have a recycled, corrupt lot to sully the Parliament. Its credibility and honour is at a very low level now, almost at the water level of the Diyawanna Oya. Anything lower will sink the Parliament and with it any residue left of credibility and honesty.
The very same leaders who contend that the buck never stops with them, but only with others, are in the field hoping to extend their privileges and luxuries and their thirst for power which does not seem to get quenched.
What of history? The undemocratic actions of the J.R. Jayewardene regime, the genocide against the Tamils in 1983, unleashed during that regime with the full knowledge and even involvement of that regime, the mass-scale killings during the Premadasa regime to allegedly quell the second violent uprising of the JVP, and even providing arms and ammunition and money to the LTTE to chase the Indian Peace Keeping Forces from Sri Lanka, the signing of an ill-planned and ill-advised Cease Fire Agreement with the LTTE by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe which eventually resulted in more deaths and a final bloody war against the LTTE, allegations of large-scale corrupt activity during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, yet unproven but which has left a bad smell in the air, the impotent and corruption riddled Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime which witnessed the mother of all corrupt activities in Sri Lanka’s post independent period, the bond scam, and the most wanton, and preventable, deaths of innocent people who died during Easter in 2019 have all tainted the land many Buddhist claim to be the cradle of Theravada civilisation, and others claim to be the land of the all-powerful and all-knowing gods.
One can understand a catastrophe occurring due to a natural disaster like the tsunami, but all of the above and more have been the creations of a few human beings who had been entrusted the task of leading the country by the people of the country.
They all claim that there is a lot of smoke, but no trace of any fire that generated that smoke and therefore they are entitled to continue straddling the political stage to “serve” the people. The denial of any responsibility for the more than 300 deaths of innocent people during the preventable Easter attacks in 2019 takes the cake.
Despicable Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo who sat at Cabinet meetings when information about a possible terrorist attack had been presented well before 2019 did nothing and now both are looking at passing the buck to someone else. It is a tragedy that leaders who have no self-respect or any concern for the country are seeking to get back to Parliament taking on the three monkeys persona of not hearing, not seeing and therefore not speaking. At least the third monkey was dumb and couldn’t speak anyway.
To make matters worse, these two politicians are seeking to re-enter Parliament as they claim they have unfinished business to attend to. This unfinished business might be to once again stab others in the back and reoccupy the President’s House or Temple Trees.
The Justice Minister in the previous regime Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has publicly stated that he warned the entire Cabinet of a possible terror attack way back in 2016. He claims that both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe were present at that Cabinet meeting, and he also says he met President Sirisena privately to emphasise the seriousness of what he had come to know as Ministers like Rajitha Senaratne and Patali Ranawaka had ridiculed him in Cabinet.
This is all on record, and readers can hear for themselves what Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe says in a TV interview, and since, when he appeared before the PCoI and stated the same, if not more. Rajapakshe’s revelations are public knowledge. He has named former ministers in the last regime and even political leaders from other political parties who had worked together to do what law enforcement officers should have done independent of political dictates.
If other members of that Cabinet have guts, and even an iota of love for the country, they can redeem themselves at least now and come out with the truth.
225 mostly expensive liabilities
The country spends a colossal amount of money to maintain these politicians at national and provincial level. Official housing, fleets of motor vehicles, personal staff who are invariably family members, foreign trips, other perks, a pension after one term in Parliament, costs billions.
The Elections Commissioner says that he will have to spend Rs. 10 billion to conduct the election that will send 225 of these mostly expensive liabilities to Parliament. Besides the direct expenses, many of these politicians will defraud the country and amass personal wealth running into billions which otherwise would have been available for economic, health and social development.
It is the voters who will allow such tainted characters to get to the Parliament, and it will be a reflection of the character of voters, and broadly, the people of the country, if they vote for such people and allow them to get back to Parliament and continue their destruction of the fabric of the country.
Since 1948, the country is yet to see a politician being taken to courts, sentenced if proven guilty and debarred from contesting elections at any level. This is despite plenty of smoke that has shrouded the landscape of the country.
There is no doubt that democracy, with all its deficiencies is by far the best form of governance. However, if the current status quo continues and voters do not express the option available to them to cleanse democracy and democratic institutions in the country, and political parties do not sense this need and offer candidates who are not sullied, who are capable, who are honest and principled, who are moral and ethical, it will not be long before even what the country has as democracy, however deficient and devalued, will disappear altogether. The democratic institutions will be just brick and mortar and occupied by people anything but democratic.
If COVID-19 has brought some benefit to the country, it is the opportunity to think and act differently whether it is the economy, health or education or social and societal responsibilities to each other. Above all, in order to realise the benefits that such thinking will bring about, democracy and democratic institutions have to be saved from some of the individuals who have sullied what should have been sacred. It is time that voters acted decisively to do so.