Sri Lanka is continuing to pursue its retrogressive course towards becoming a political giant at the expense of being sidelined as an economic dwarf. Recently that dwarf suddenly raised itself to unprecedented heights when another lop-sided, grand-daddy of Cabinets was formed. And it seems that it will continue to bloat until we are stuck with a ballooning Parliament of Ministers.
It happens all the time, with every succeeding government despite the election promises that have never been kept. At present we are burdened with as many as 92 Ministers, deputy ministers and state ministers. And the doors are open to accommodate further crossovers from the opposition to increase the number if necessary. It was only last week that Government Whip Gayantha Karunatilake said: “There is scope to increase of the number. Therefore, doors are open to accommodate anyone willing to join the government.”
What has eventually resulted is the ultimate continuing package deal that smacks of nothing less than political expediency to ensure the administration’s very survival. This is nothing new and hardly surprising because all administrations since the year 2000 have resorted to the grandest of all compromises designed after intense bargaining to satisfy the demands of dickering politicians.
Contemporary Sri Lankan politics has become a gigantic swindle perpetrated by many of the people, elected by most of the people and supposedly for all the people. But they are anything but for the people who are beginning to recognize the bitter reality that many of those chosen representatives run the country only with their own interests at heart.
Imagine today’s tally of 47 Cabinet ministers, with so many of the portfolios overlapping. By doing so the Sirisena regime that it is trying every imaginable means to avoid discipline and living within its or rather our, means.
To some, this may seem an unfair accusation, but the statement could be reinforced by the reality that if the need for discipline and order at the centre of our society has not folded, it has not held either.
It is hardly surprising that the durability of such trade-offs for the sake of political expediency is being questioned from several quarters. Besides incurring colossal expenditure some of the subsequently newly-created ministries will only serve to produce more bloated bureaucracies which in turn will cause more confusion and corruption.
Our political system, over the years has never worked well, except for the politicians themselves, that is. Our economy is still disorganized. Budget control is suspected to be in disarray, our currency hardly stable – that is an irrefutable fact. Why can’t the treasury bigwigs perceive the danger of papering over financial cracks by simply printing money? Another question that begs to be asked is: How far has our money been backed by foreign cash and gold reserves?
One does not need to be a financial guru to grasp the concept of real economics and to call for the replacement of institutionalized inefficiency. Big business is naturally wary of directly criticizing the government’s financial management. They are even less confident that their money will keep and sustain its value.
Sadly, such disorder combined with graft and kickbacks do not appear to be dirty words in this nation’s lexicon anymore. Corruption has become a sort of rapacious sub-culture that has overwhelmingly become part of our national heritage.
We have been told that the level of both moral and political maturity among our citizens is obviously higher than what its political leaders are willing to acknowledge. At the risk of sounding inequitable I would agree to disagree, Why then, if we had any intelligence would we vote for the political patrons of such audacious rogues? Admittedly it does not take an analyst or a think-tank to surmise that there are no gross ideological differences between our two major political parties, which have both been alternately riding this nation’s so-called democratic see-saw since independence.
I honestly suspect that up to now we have been left with Hobson’s choice in casting our ballots in the hope of picking a basically honest government. As a cynical voter I have given up looking for governments in terms of honour, moral tone and acceptable patterns of behaviour. And I dare say a number of right-thinking readers will endorse this view.
And of course, we Sri Lankans do not vote with our heads alone. We often vote with our hearts with more hope than faith that we have picked one relatively honest face after being left with such little choice.
Nearly everyone who is someone appears to be enjoying political patronage in some way or another. Even some of our eminent merchant princes with vested business interests have become critically dependent on political leverage.
Through all this the entire nation seems to be running away from what had once been its traditionally honest shadow. Our people’s hopelessness becomes even greater when such issues and blatant injustices are ignored, conveniently misinterpreted or totally blown out of proportion.
In a larger sense some of the blame has to be apportioned to us by encouraging such a virulent malaise by sitting in senile dementia. This is because we seem to go on recognizing most of them for what they really are, but go to the extent of entertaining and even anointing these knaves. Why do we remain shy to point our finger at state bureaucrats, politicians, professionals and the business community for remaining insensitive to this decline in civic responsibility and public morality?
The message will not get through to the rulers with an excessively idealized image of themselves who stick to their own adage that happiness can never buy power or money.
True, because it seems that no one in any ruling party wants to be a humble MP.
Within the governing ranks they are becoming an extinct species.