What a difference a year makes. The country has been experiencing a year of newsworthy events, not all of them agreeable by any measure. Nonetheless some of them have been downright sensational. Worryingly, they mostly hold undertones of the country’s deep divisions.
There isn’t even a scintilla of doubt that the country appears to be in deep trouble just when its recovering economy cannot afford any type of political weakness. Analysts have likened our successive political helmsmen to ships’ captains steering the nation’s destiny. In reality, say some analysts, they have more in common with the early navigators who often did not have a clue where they were, let alone where they were heading.
Their maps and compasses were fairly unreliable and their course-plotting completely cockeyed. But that is no solution to the unending list of this nation’s countless problems.
Surely, disappointment and anxiety have prompted both analysts and voters to re-examine Sri Lanka’s political model in a new and more critical light. The clamorous din of the constitutional commotion for most of us has been a monumental pain in the posterior. Power has become a poisonous serpent in Sri Lanka politics that has for the present relegated the main concerns to the backburner.
Among the most important issues to be addressed are establishing healing and reconciliation bringing down the escalating cost of living and establishing a more democratic form of government. Ensuring human rights and investing in people by providing them with better health and education is another priority. But plans and pledges in Sri Lanka have been two a penny in the last couple of decades. Getting them implemented is actually the hard part.
It often seems that affairs in this country can get no worse. And yet they have. Despite all the garish charm the city has been bedecked in, the season of discontent in Sri Lanka is underway. With clouds of turbulence looming over the economy and with more tormenting financial hardships being imposed on the people, the political skyline does not seem a placid one.
The new strategies don’t seem likely to pay off anytime soon. This is not particularly because they appear like aimless patchworks of fantasy, but because the politicians have been taking a leaf from old Nero and fiddling around too much while the nation burns.
Besides both these administrations have been trundling along like slow-coaches to nowhere lurching mostly between rhetoric and inactivity. Now cobbled together they have also been guilty of appalling indecision when it comes to key issues. All this highlights the blatant insensitivity of our political leaders to the people’s pain.
What is unacceptable is that every government has been spoiling its politicians and bureaucratic flatterers rotten in budget-slashing times where ordinary citizens are being entreated to exercise austerity which now appears to border on bare hand-to-mouth existence. Take for instance, the dishonesty, the neglect, the incompetence and the sinful waste which have become the norm in every utility, state-owned enterprise and the bureaucracy.
Utilities charges today have become outrageously unaffordable. Take into consideration the reality that the consumers of this nation are already paying among the highest electricity and water tariffs in the world. In a nation where poverty and inequality remain disappointingly widespread, perhaps nothing is more destructive of public trust in a democracy than belief that corruption is flourishing as never before.
Everyone is aware that corruption and the criminalisation of politics have reached unprecedented levels. At any rate, that has been the rule rather than the exception, because the politicians impose austerity on the many while lining their own pockets and those of their fat-cat friends in an often monopolistic market.
Let us hope that the New Year will also bring about a decisive moment in history where one would be looking ahead to signs of genuine statesmanship being demonstrated by our leaders by avoiding senseless political showdowns. Yes, there will be the usual pageantry and political messages of goodwill that will amount to nothing, but hot air amid the nippy seasonal breezes.
To the powers that be I say: You are all a little bit older, and your corpulent cabinet is much more than just a little bit larger. Your conclave contains more than one minister who is more a scrounger and bludger than being a shaker and mover. You are all older in governance yet, but none the wiser! And please leave us out of the invitation list to your carousel to hell!
So, here’s cheers to a New Year and another chance for you to get it right. And to all you readers out there I am touched and thankful for your personal seasonal greetings. While wishing you all a peaceful and prosperous 2016 on the admirable theme of reconciliation, may you be blessed with courage to fight against injustice and stand up for your values in the New Year. I traditionally take an opportunity around this time of year to decree The Ten Commandments for politicians: See box. Readers are invited to include their own.
The Ten Commandments for politicians
1. Thou shall not raise thy sarong in parliament nor engage in fisticuffs or filthy language
as opposed to genuine debate.
2. Thou shall not fling slippers, sandals, books or files as missiles against
opposing colleagues in the legislature.
3. Thou shall ask thy party members to desist from cowardly character-assassination without irrefutable proof under cover of Parliamentary privilege.
4. Thou should learn to zip thy lip as often as possible to avoid putting thy foot into thine own mouth.
5. Thou shall not run around in ostentatious motor cavalcades and ride roughshod
over ordinary road users.
6. Thou shall not commit sins of omission nor as a matter of that partake of any sins of demanding commissions.
7. Thou should desist from telling amateurish damned lies and attempt in future to lie like
8. Thou shall attempt to look clever even if thou knowest in thy heart that thou is a fool with an I.Q. measured on the Idiot Quotient scale.
9. Thou shall not steal from the public purse nor ask people to tighten their belts, when thou cannot find a belt to surround thy own slobby midriff.