COMPARISON OF POLITICAL MENTALITY
Published in Ceylon Today on 18 May 2016
Queen Elizabeth II, who has been the Head of Britain for several decades, turned 90 years old on 21 April 2016. As a ruler, she is an exceptional woman of strength and stamina who still chooses to reign and shine by living a simple life for many heads of States round the world to emulate.
By coincidence or arrangement, Queen Elizabeth II had a distinguished visitor from America for her 90th birthday celebrations this year. He was none other than President of the United States, Barrack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Naturally, the occasion was historical and sensational and the news spread thick and fast through
numerous channels of communication throughout the world.
It was also reported that the Queen's husband and consort, Prince Phillip, who is 95 years old, had suggested to President Obama to go on a 'jolly ride' in his black Range Rover SUV to which President Obama had unhesitatingly agreed and got into the front seat. The Duke sat behind the steering wheel and the Queen and Mrs. Obama took the rear seat.
Under normal circumstances, this was not acceptable as the US Secret Service, who is responsible for the President's security, won't allow the President to ride in an unarmed vehicle, or with a driver who is not competent! However, in this particular instance all four had a merry ride in the shining black SUV.
It does not mean to say that the good old Duke is not competent to drive a motor vehicle. He has driven all his life and being an active sportsman he has participated in horse-cart racing too and won. Even the Queen, on her part, has been spotted by the public driving to Windsor Castle in a green old Vauxhall during weekends, incognito by wearing an old overcoat and covering her head with a scarf! Apparently her army of dogs (corgis) is trained to lie down at the back of the car purely not to be distracted or spotted by the public. Once it was reported how the queen during such an exercise was stuck at colour lights in Central London traffic. A motorist who happened to stop parallel to her vehicle began to have doubts about the lady driver who resembled the queen, but within seconds lights changed to green and she had zoomed away.
Sri Lankan perspective
Will Sri Lankans ever witness a prominent minister or a politician driving his own car? Even if they do in a rare occasion, the public opinion is that he will deny doing so, especially, after an accident! Public in London have seen the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, travelling by underground tube trains where nobody bothers about it; he rides a bicycle in the busy London streets to keep him trim and fit without a band wagon of security personnel following him.
There was an era in Sri Lanka too where our ancestral politicians were very humble and down to earth. Dudley Senanayake used a Triumph Herald economical motorcar and President Premadasa was seen driving his old Morris Minor even after he came to the hot seat. W. Dahanayake always travelled from Galle to Colombo inside a 3rd class compartment by Ceylon Government Railway. During such travels he intermingled with fellow commuters. Once he was asked by a fellow train
traveller as to why he travelled inside a 3rd Class carriage whereas he could have used his privileges and travelled either first or second-class! His answer was sweet and short by saying: "Because there is no 4th Class in the train."
Now of course tables have turned in Sri Lanka. Politicians and people alike have changed in their attitudes and behaviour a lot. Judging by the most expensive luxury vehicles, especially the politicians travel on Sri Lankan roads, who can say Sri Lanka has not created an elite society (at least 1- 2%) ! One has only to get onto the public highway to observe the number of SUVs and most expensive luxury type models some Sri Lankans have imported at a cost of millions of rupees. The former President inaugurated the Katunayake Airport Expressway by driving the same brand of Range Rover SUV gracefully, the difference being it was white in colour whereas the Duke drove a black vehicle to transport the Queen and Obama family. So who can say Sri Lanka is a poor country?
Oligarchy is defined in the dictionary as a form of rule controlled by a small minority of wealthiest citizens in a country. Throughout history eminent personalities such as Winston Churchill have condemned tycoons using their power to serve their own purposes and thereby aggregating poverty by ignoring their social responsibilities and using their power to serve their self-centered motives.
India is a good example to study. Looking at Indian statistics (2011), Indian cabinet ministers were featured as using humble cars such as Maruti in preference to expensive and fancy SUVs. This was in line with the Indian strategy as part of its transparency policy. Manmohan Singh was not regarded as a flamboyant type prime minister; he drove a 1996 Maruti 800. His official vehicle was however a flashy BMW7 series.
It is such a shame that the present government in Sri Lanka during their short term in office so far keep on harping, from the time they took over, about the debts they inherited from the previous regime, yet they seem to be blind to the massive wastages in many forms by members of their own government. Has it become a mental disorder among the politicians of this country or is it a case of competition and trying to keep up with the Joneses when the majority of them, including local government representatives, are hell bent on getting luxury vehicles, SUVs, BMW and top range Mercedes Benz vehicles at a cost to government coffers which is tax payers' money?
The suffering public, who are squeezed up to their eye balls with ever increasing taxes and newly increased VAT, have realized, although it is a too late, that those top ranking politicians who came to their doorstep before the elections with a begging bowl to get their vote have forgotten why and for what purpose they have been elected to office. After all, the word politics and politicians in Sri Lanka has become the most reviled word especially considering some of the flippant statements made by certain ministers that, 'without a Mercedes Bens vehicle it makes their job difficult to run about without getting exhausted and late for other appointments"! The ten million dollar question would be to ask them whether they really need to travel in comfortable luxury vehicles to serve the public by shoving all other road users to the drains! Is has to be a gods' curse that Sri Lankans having to put up with such balderdash!
No wonder present day Sri Lankan politicians who appear to be thin like sprats before they come to office and turn into fat odd muscular pieces of humanity after coming to power and develop
huge and ugly bellies protruding like severely pregnant women who are about to deliver babies!
Is it due to their lack of exercise, having no time for anything else as they are so engrossed with their dedicated work and responsibilities towards the public, or being self indulgent, selfish and money orientated in this new industry of Sri Lankan politics – Its food for thought!!
Tilak S. Fernando