Slave Island?

Monday, 22 June 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


It is not just Colombo 2 but the whole of Sri Lanka as well. Does it occur to anybody that slavery has in fact spread insidiously throughout the whole island like a plague? Did we ever have freedom in living memory since independence? Were we in fact more at liberty before independence? Before colonisation there was probably serfdom anyway, which was also slavery. So were we ever free? 

Would we even know what freedom is if we never had it? We inherited a form of governance from our erstwhile rulers. It was passed off as democracy when in fact it was vested in the favoured few who could be relied on to maintain the status quo as preferred trading partners of the realm with virtually all material business concerns and plantations remaining in colonial hands as sterling companies. Most in turn found their way into the hands of privileged native families. Those that didn’t were eventually nationalised in the 1970s.

The island continued to be ruled by privileged family dynasties under the guise of democracy. Overt nepotism at its best. A choice of two dynasties was the order of the next 50 years with minor, short-lived aberrations. The island had simply morphed from ‘a British Raj’ to a native ‘Raja Paul’ or two who presumed they knew what was best for all the island’s inhabitants. 

The consummate results of these 50 years when compared to Singapore, which was 20 years behind our country at the time of independence, reveal that we are now 20 years behind it. This should be ample proof of our abysmal failure. 

The 30-year war and the two southern uprisings are no excuse. They would not have occurred had the country been governed more inclusively, which Singapore was, although a far cry from democracy.

So what is democracy? It is a citizen’s freedom to choose their leaders. To have a choice of would-be leaders. To have leaders who have the self-respect and dignity to leave when they lose an election, making way for fresh choices. Leaders who resign when compromised. Leaders who take responsibility for serious mistakes on their watch and step down over a loss of credibility.

Does any Sri Lankan politician qualify in any of these areas? Dudley Senanayake was the last.

Does the saying ‘A country gets the government it deserves’ apply to us? Definitely. We get the worst.

Why? The beggar mentality of the majority vote, which is easily swayed by false promises and an insignificant handout, never holds politicians accountable for their promises. The people continue to vote for candidates who have continuously lied to them, hoping the next time will be different.

Why do they do this? Is it indifference, apathy or just resignation over a lack of choice?

Democracy, like charity, begins at home. If party constitutions themselves are totally undemocratic and designed to only maintain the status quo within the party without free elections to party positions, they cannot rightfully lay claim to creating a just national constitution or, for that matter, govern a country democratically.

The majority of politicians see their constituents as election fodder: gullible and desensitised by the system without any alternatives.

Most politicians are unemployable and couldn’t sustain themselves through any honest means. They get into politics to steal, knowing full well that the entire system is geared specifically to that purpose with no safeguards or checks and balances in place. Quite often these are intentionally omitted to keep brothers and sisters in crime insulated from the law, which applies only to those outside the political system. They are above the law. Fraud, bribery, corruption, drug smuggling, kidnapping and murder are all in a day’s work.

No effort has ever been made to reform the system in the last 50 years because it was lucrative. Any change has been for the worse. Until now.

It would appear that the population has quite by accident and by an unimaginable coincidence finally elected the only honest and genuinely humane politician in the country as its President. The voters have succeeded in spite of themselves. Perhaps there is still hope for us. There can be no democracy without freedom from political bondage.

Judging by the upsurge of public sentiment it would appear that the population is finally politically mature enough to at least begin to grasp the significance of the principles of democracy, freedom, personal liberty and fundamental rights.

There is truth in the theory that a population must be educated and politically mature to reap the benefits of democracy. Ignorant votes used indiscriminately produce only a nondescript majority, not a democracy.

Perhaps it is time to introduce democracy and fundamental rights into school curriculums to educate future generations on how to choose their leaders and prevent opportunists who would enter politics solely for personal gain under the guise of public service.

It is time to discipline Parliament and rid ourselves of the bonds of political slavery.

T. E. from Kotte