MR. POLITICIAN, Face The Mirror!
Politics and politicians have become a pet topic nowadays. Cambridge English Dictionary describes the word politics as 'activities of a government, members of law making organization or people who try to influence the way a country is governed'. Urban Dictionary, however, defines it differently viz: "Politics derived from the words poly meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'blood-sucking parasites'.
Currently a politician's position has become like that of a professional in Sri Lanka. A politician becomes either acceptable or detested by the very people who elect him or her to Parliament depending on his or her ability to justify the 'sugar-coated' promises made at general elections; though popularity, honesty, sincerity and simplicity are regarded as the basic ingredients required for a politician to survive.
With the amalgamation of two main political parties in Sri Lanka (UNP & SLFP), and the emergence of the new concept of 'Yahapalanaya', 19 months ago as the brainchild of the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena, to work in unison as a single team for the benefit and progress of the nation; it seems is exhibiting hairline cracks widening into major fissures. In such a backdrop it is sad to observe the development of rather a chaotic situation among the Parliamentary groups displaying the worst type of selfish attitudes where bickering, backbiting, infighting and fragmentation is taking place, seemingly leading towards an anarchic situation among themselves, which only leaves the voter confused and perplexed.
In the bygone era Sri Lankan Parliamentarians were thorough gentlemen of prominence who hailed from respectable families. They were sincere and committed and worked for the betterment of the nation with affection and dedication. After all, they too were human, and had their individual political ideologies, but when it came to national issues they forgot about their personal concerns or party politics and stood firm as a team of true patriotic sons of the country. Looking at the world at large, Britain is a good democratic example to emulate the solidarity of a nation. During the World War II and throughout their military battle with the Falkland Islands, during Lady Thatcher's premiership, this was clearly evident.
A random sample of yesteryear politicians will show Dudley Senanayake's name coming at the top of the list. He displayed unpretentious qualities as a parliamentarian. A gentleman who resigned from the post of Prime Minister of the country three times, yet the people re-elected him in every instance. At the end of his sojourn in this world his bank balance revealed only a few hundred rupees to his credit!
Dudley Senanayake used an ordinary man's vehicle, a Triumph Herald, as his private car. He never had any security backups and escort vehicles, as opposed to what people in this country have seen in the immediate past where politicians (from Government Ministers down to the ordinary Members of Parliament and Provincial Councillors) are being driven in luxury Pajeros, intercoolers, Mercedes Benz, Volvos and other limousines usually driven by millionaires of other countries.
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike left quite a lot of financial liabilities at the time of his assassination; having tried his best to fulfill his pledges to the people, while dabbling in politics. Dr. N. M. Perera, an intellectual, as well as a politician with his socialist ideology, did not wish to bow down to dishonest politics, which of course denied him the opportunity of seizing power. Wijeyananda Dahanayake came from an ordinary background but set a divine example to parliamentarians, of generations to come, by commuting from Galle to Colombo in a CGR (Ceylon Government Railway) 3rd Class compartment mingling with the commuters.
What was common among the bygone generation of Sri Lankan politicians was many of them entered politics from good family backgrounds, highly educated (most of them had attended foreign universities) with dedication, patriotism and fully committed to work for the people as well as the country. Most of them having hailed from wealthy families had no desire to earn that extra buck out of politics using their power and political might, as opposed to some of the present day breed who have been appointed as parliamentarians minus any such moral qualities of their ancestors.
On the brighter side though, one consolation today is the absence of hell's angels and back- up vehicles, in front and at the back of VIPs travelling on roads, pushing all other road users to the drains to make way for their masters who assumed they were a special breed fallen from heaven. But still the greediness, self-indulgence and the conceit to ride in Mercedes Benz cars and SUVs seems to be the order of the day for parliamentarians of all hues, which will cost millions to the tax payer! The recent approval of duty free car permits to all parliamentarians, which caused a huge public outcry, and stopped though temporarily by the government.
Present day politics in Sri Lanka are diluted, adulterated and corrupted to the core! It has transformed into a thriving business as could be seen by the number of so called ' honourable' men and their goons allegedly accused of various kinds of fraud and of pilfering public funds are seen frequently visiting the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID). More than once, getting imprisoned and then being bailed out, yet again, after a few days re-visiting on repeat performances for various other allegations. All the while intricate, convoluted and long-winded inquiries are still progressing into obscure areas, according to government sources! This makes the impatient public frustrated and who tend to believe that the grinding wheels of the Yahapalanaya are becoming rusty, and if at all, turns at snail's pace!
Sri Lanka has also managed to become a record holder in world politics, by becoming the only country where parliamentarians qualify for a retirement pension after clinging on to their 'Member of Parliament' tag for five years! What an amazing opportunity for them and for the whole world to become green with envy! This should be recorded in golden letters in the Guinness Book of Records as their pension rights come after drawing handsome salaries pumped up with perks and allowances of many a kind. Official residences, free electricity, which helps some of them to have air conditioning 24/7 even in their washrooms, tax free vehicles, free fuel, body guards and the lot, they enjoy, during their five year term, and end up still sucking blood out of the country's coffers.
The reason for some of our modern politicians to become unpopular could be endorsed by the fact that very few of them have the good attributes of their political ancestors, be it as a representative of the people at Local Government, Provincial Council, or Parliament; a degree of vulgar affluence seems to affect them! This is the main reason why society is getting horror-struck with the present lot, as some of them have become rapists, thugs and thieves of public funds, who take the political might into their own hands and exhibit their raucous behaviour even during parliamentary sessions stooping to utter gutter levels of the worst kind.
If a public opinion is warranted on the present day politician in Sri Lanka, a friendly advice would be to say politely: 'Dear Mr. Politician, when you wake up in the morning, please have a look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself a simple question as to who you are? Wait for the mirror image replay which say to you: ' Remember my dear friend, you are no more than a small servant of the public; ahead of you today is a considerable responsibility, and that is to serve your nation'!