Presidential election 2015: Key lessons

Friday, 16 January 2015 00:06 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The anxiety, tension and fear of violence that existed up to 9 a.m. on 9 January vanished completely with the presidential balance tilting significantly in favour of Maithripala Sirisena. According to the Colombo Telegraph dated 9 January, the outgoing President wanted to declare Emergency and annul the election results but with God’s providence, the plan was aborted. The incumbent President is the captain of his ship and the master of his fate. He is an uncorrupted politician who came up from humble beginnings. This is the character and calibre of a president that this country needs   The day 9 January became significant in the history of local politics where the countrymen were clearly advised by the new President, Maithripala Sirisena, and separately by the new Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe through live TV and radio broadcasts that no revenge attacks nor violence was to be carried out in any place island-wide. The Police were given strict orders to uphold the law and order irrespective of political party affiliations, race, religion or ethnicity. These are the first steps of any implementation plan of ‘good governance’.   Lesson 1: It is important for any political party to walk the talk During the campaign of the Opposition parties leading to the presidential election, several speakers on several occasions spoke boldly of establishing a government practicing ‘good governance’. This is just what the majority of citizens of this country want. The new administration has started on the right foot from day one. What is important is that this condition is consistent and is maintained throughout the administration period. It is a relief that we don’t see acts of revenge or violence as had been expected in previous occasions.   Lesson 2: You don’t have to resign if you have done no wrong We notice that, post presidential results, certain high officers of Government have tendered their resignations whilst some others have run away from the country. It is important for officers holding responsible officers to remember two things primarily: 1.That we, the people of this country, work hard to find money to pay tax so that these officers could be paid their salaries and provided benefits. Hence, to start with, they have a great obligation to us to do the right thing. 2.That they have been put in these positions of power in order to add value for sustainability and service delivery to the people of this country. Primarily, they must always remember their primary duty, i.e., to be in service to the people. That is why they are called Government servants. A ‘servant’ is one who is in ‘service to others’. However, the problem had been that majority of positions of power had been filled by people who either lacked qualifications to do the job, experience, integrity and ethics or a healthy mixture of them all. It is important not be learned ‘puppets’ at the hands of evil manipulators but rather remain respected as academics and authors.   Lesson 3: Politicians do not corrupt other politicians, but, businessmen do! After the era of leadership of late Sirimavo Dias Bandaranaike, we have seen several not-so-well-to-do persons entering Parliament and getting obscenely rich and ‘fat’. They do not possess sufficient wealth in order to corrupt their fellow politicians. Then where does the money come from? Who supplies the money to make them take wrong decisions deliberately? Who tempts them with the millions of rupees? Well, several unscrupulous business leaders do this dirty job. The politicians get attracted, they then get greedy and, worst of all, they start demanding commissions from every deal. There are very few of us who have never offered a bribe to anyone including any Police officer nor have accepted any bribe. It is very important to grow this ‘very few’ into a very large group whereby the job of the Bribery Commissioner could be made redundant. This is for the good of this country. It is we who appoint politicians and it is our duty to keep them uncorrupted. I sincerely appeal to all business leaders, entrepreneurs and citizens not to attempt to offer financial gratification to any politician in the future. Any attempt of any Government official attempting to solicit a bribe to carry out the duty he is paid to perform should be reported to the relevant authorities and the law must deal with such criminals. The fact that we appointed them to positions of power is sufficient enough for them.   Lesson 4: It is imperative that the legal system must take wrong-doers to task We have seen one deputy minister of the Mahinda administration been arrested in Aluthgama District and remanded. This is the democratic right of the people to see that perpetrators are brought to justice not through violence and torture but through the legal system of the country. The important take from this is that future politicians will be afraid to take initiative to take the law into their hands. On the contrary, they will learn to respect and uphold the law. What hope is there for a country where the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary are corrupt? That is the era that the country has come out of on 9 January. I strongly wish that all Government officials, Members of Parliament including Ministers and members of the Judiciary be tried through the Legal system and be brought to book. It should be made mandatory that a public declaration be made of the assets – both movable and immovable – of the politicians of the former administration and their immediate families. Wealth thus recovered should be put back into the monetary system of the country for it belongs to the people of this country.   Lesson 5: To run with the fox and hunt with the hound ‘Forked tongue’ was language that was used by the Red Indians in the US before the whites hunted and annihilated them. Forked tongue is re-lived by senior politicians today. Page 4 of the Sunday Times of 11 January quotes former Minister Wimal Weerawansa as saying, “We will be watching whether steps are taken towards implementing good governance. The Rs. 40 fuel tax relief and the Rs. 10,000 salary increase for Government employees are among the promises that have to be fulfilled.” The funny side that confuses me is why they could not implement righteous standards when they were in power. Does it mean that ‘analytical thinking’ kicks in only when one gets into the Opposition? In the same article captioned ‘SLFP, UPFA say will support new President’s 100-day program,’ three senior former Ministers of the UPFA pledge to extent their support to the incumbent President to implement his 100-day program and Constitutional changes that would benefit the public. This is all good, but what were they doing to benefit the public and to establish good governance whilst they were in power? Whilst some fled the country, some others may have the desire to join the new administration. So, do what you have to do when you are in power rather than criticise and disrupt progress when you are in the Opposition. Politicians from the former administration joining the new administration is good, provided their objective is to serve the people of this country and not to acquire positions of power to continue a life of corruption and luxury.   Lesson 6: Don’t mix horoscopes and auspicious times with political victory I wonder what happened to the astrologer who predicted a win for the outgoing President. He was so sure of his prediction that he stated he would kill himself in the Sirasa studio if President Mahinda lost the election. I have not seen his name appear in the obituary notices. When there were two more years to go, President Rajapaksa bet all his hopes on the prediction made by one man who based it all on the ‘horoscope’ and ‘auspicious times’. If any President has acted according to his conscience and upheld good governance with benefits of deliberations/initiatives going to the masses of the country, he need not fear his re-election. Lord Buddha has said that ‘if there is something important to do, now is the right time to do it (horawa)’. It is the guilt within that makes a man resort to violence and ‘jilmarts’ to retain his/her position of power. I like to let the incumbent President know that he is the captain of his ship and the master of his fate. He is an uncorrupted politician who came up from humble beginnings. This is the character and calibre of a president that this country needs. I urge President Sirisena to continue on the same path with humility, honour and righteousness.   Lesson 7: Stop playing the same record over and over We all respect and are grateful to outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa for bringing a supposed ‘unwinnable’ war to an end. Full kudos to him. The people are very grateful for this. But where have we progressed in terms of progress in economy, good governance, access to justice, access to information, freedom of expression and human rights in the post war 10-year period? Even after 10 years since the cessation of the war, the former Government machinery was propagating the war victory. This is an important story but a ‘stale’ one. Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II who played a decisive role in achieving victory, was voted out of premiership at the post-war elections. People of Sri Lanka have heard of the victory over the LTTE over and over again and it has been used as a ‘trump card’ over the years. Enough is enough! We have to get up and move forward. Playing achievements of the past may not earn votes but economic progress and social progress will. Fifteen percent of the population controlling 60% of the country’s wealth, and on top of that where the former ruling family became yet another component in acquiring wealth locally and from foreign investments as pointed out with statistics on TV broadcasts by Sujeewa Senasinghe and Champika Ranawake, became the straw that broke the camel’s back.   Lesson 8: Nothing is permanent When in power, we must remember that we have been appointed to such positions to fulfil an obligation and we must look upon it as a responsibility but not as an opportunity to wield power to do as one pleases. Did the Rajapaksa family ever think that the ‘thamasha’ would come to an unexpected end so abruptly? Did the procurers think at the time of procuring cars and helicopters worth millions that they would have to be flown out of the country so soon? Did they ever expect to live their lives outside their motherland? Had they come to these positions to live and enjoy their wealth for the next 100 years? Were they expecting to take these assets when they are dead and gone? It is a pity that Gotabhaya who supported General Sarath Fonseka to win the war fled the country is such a shameful manner. The same goes for his three nephews. Where is Sajin Vaas with the people’s wealth he squandered? It is important to remember the saying that ‘those who God wishes to destroy, he first makes them mad!’ Let us now rally round the new order of things and support democracy, good governance, freedom of expression, etc., for that is the ‘right’ of the stakeholders of this country. [Dr. Nalin Jayasuriya, DBA, MBA, BBA, FIMS(UK), FITD, FCPM, MIPM, MMA(USA), is Chairman of McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He is a much sought-after Business & Management Consultant. He is also a Management trainer with International repute.]

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