We were once assured, when we were very little, that we lived in an age when politics no longer mattered. Meaning that people were imbued with the confidence that the state would go about doing the job expected of it. It all seems so long ago. Then somewhere in the 50s that peaceful prosperity was no longer assured and politics, horribly bad politics, hadoccupied the nation’s stage with a vengeance.
Sri Lanka progressively became the kind of neighboruhood people would not have wanted to raise their children in. Many will attest to the truism that in Sri Lanka, honesty went out of fashion somewhere in the late 1950s. The climate of pious atavistic politics was steadily replaced by sick systems of governance which gradually began getting terminally sicker.
It is a sad but a true indictment that down the line the nation’s mindset began turning self-centred. Our mentality became diametrically different as did our values. Our perception of justice was also different. So much so that, at present no one appears to respect the law anymore. Why should they, when the behaviour of the majority of those who represented itwas hardly exemplary? The people became only too aware that many elected and appointed politicians and officials did not see themselves as accountable to the people.
They lamented over the widespread discontent over corruption and arbitrariness evident in daily dealings with practically all levels of officialdom, from public enterprises and the police to the courts. They were angered by their inability to get redress as a result of this general lack of accountability. Most seasoned legislators will tell you that what they have learned in the rough-and-tumble of the political snake pit could hardly be considered conventional tutelage. Because, they soon find out that it isn’t whether you actually won or lost, but how you placed the blame!
After all, politics is like window-cleaning. However, much you keep rubbing the inside, the dirt always appears to be on the other side. Still most parties after being swept into power are hardly able to resist imposing most of the shortcomings they have inherited on their predecessors, who also when in power have played the same blame game.They have all pointed to fiscal profligacy, mismanagement, corruption and nepotism and anything else that holds undertones of reprehensible conduct of their forerunners in governance. In this vast and lawless realm of modern Sri Lankan politics, such censure is pointless. The truth is that over the years there are too many culprits to count from both sides.
Neither of our principal parties is in a position to cast rhetorical stones, even if it is true that they have inherited a disorderly and defiled legacy. Flip the calendar back to some of those best-forgotten years of despotic legislative authority. Now what do you see in retrospect? All but the amnesic would have failed to observe eras that nurtured the rocky economy and mucky politics that has led to the decline of this nation.
All our successive governments have indeed been astonishingly alike in many aspects. They have all displayed the same style of governance, the same discreditable values, the same pomposity and the same disgusting forbearance for their own mainly dishonest cronies and flunkies. That has always been a weak and suicidal proclivity of all political administrations, with no exceptions.
Surely, no one can deny that those same critics had striven frantically to grasp the poisoned chalice with both quivering hands and leapt into the political and economic morass with their eyes wide open. They have done so with the seeming rapture of becoming transported into irrevocable mud-slingers. Besides, all administrations while in the Opposition come into power pledging to clean up the mess they have pointedly been accusing their rivals of developing.
History is not supposed to repeat itself, particularly if you are willing to learn by one’s own mistakes and the blundering oversights of others. But these doltish politicians never learn! Yet they all seem to clearly perceive a variance between their own trademarkof ‘progressive’ leadership as opposed to the ‘dubitable’ practices of their opponents. Several finance ministers over the years have conjured up a series of blurred snapshots, capturing trends in bits and pieces of the economy which have hardly made any sense to anyone including themselves. Naturally, they have shattered several ordered equations in most commercial and home administration portfolios as well as the confoundedly confusing Treasury graphs by the very ambiguity of their Budgetary pronouncements.
But so far, the much acclaimed reforms in equally important sectors have been lamentably deficient, bringing little comfort to the majority of the people. All they can see around them is physical, cultural and moral decay. Still, ourgovernments claim they are trying to rebuild a strong nation, with a new political culture and a flourishing economy. But first they must be able to end decades of deep Sri Lankan despair.
Theirs are all dramatic and ambitious goals, but they are not new. We have heard them all before, from the present Opposition as well, when its members occupied the ruling benches. That is why the government’s pronouncements will hold a fundamental sense of déjà vu. The similarities among the big party manifestos and their ideology have been uncannily similar for the past five decades or more. The nation has clearly been facing a relapsing order in which one observes a dwindling middle class, which has activated a social decline all along the line. The consequences of this repugnant drift are only serving to flatten our society to a proportion where the middle classes are being reduced to becoming distressingly broke, the poorer among us relegated to abject beggary and the poorest being debased to unspeakable deprivation.
For ordinary people the effect has been traumatic. Economic depression and political corruption have always been a threat to the stability of governments. Continuing to give consumers the short end of the stick is a dangerous and suicidal exercise. Governments which persist with foisting such intolerable burdens on their people have always been known to shorten their own political life-expectancy.