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It Is Not Just This Regime But The Opposition Too In 2012 …

[The Sunday Leader.lk, Sunday, 1 January 2012 12:05 No Comment]

“Happy New Year” said everyone to everyone else, after the year had faded off with bursting fire crackers last night. If all wishes made in good faith for a better New Year in the past had made this country better each year, if all wishes in the past were not just ritual and courtesy, but wishes society could aspire for, this country would definitely not be what it is now.

A few days before the end of the year, the media reported an abducted fish trader murdered, a Minuwangoda Pradeshiya Sabha member mysteriously killed and a soldier shooting an officer dead. Similarly, four Narahenpita police officers were arrested for sexual abuse of a young woman and extortion. Latest police numbers talk of over 1,600 rape cases reported during the 11 months in 2011. The first 3 months of 2011 had reports of 241 cases of kidnappings/ abductions. There is unlimited corruption and arrogance in the civil department responsible for law enforcement which is also heavily politicised even in local areas. Two police stations were mobbed and attacked by local people for murder in police cells; custodial killings continued and  recently it was found that officers have been accused of contract killings too. That alone goes to show that this country now has an irresponsible and crumbling State.

A State, wholly corrupt too, cannot take care of any service delivery however important it is. Run by an equally inept but corrupt regime, from primary to higher education, the whole education system is in chaos. One needs no more proof than the unresolved Grade I admissions, the pile of fake certificates and documents offered and accepted for admissions, the stink in the Examinations Department evident by their handling of GCE O/Level and A/L examinations and the university administration that can only suspend students and student bodies with no sustainable answers to any student issue, crowning the hopelessly muddled education system, that will hold a few more generations to come, to ransom.

Burdened with a tottering administration, sluggish, irresponsible and corrupt as it is, the State cannot deliver even the most basic services to the people, with over 90 top administrative positions said to be still held by retired “stooges” – old timers in service. They are nothing more than office administrators, living with their skill to parrot “Yes Sir” to any dumb politician. The judiciary has also failed in convincing the people on justice and fair play. There is every reason for the public to decry the judiciary when the helm of the judiciary is not only talked about, but is also seen to be having high political patronage. There are open accusations at other levels, from accepting promotions and positions to gifts as large as cars; leaving the independence of the judiciary open to heavy criticism.

Season’s greetings and good wishes apart, the year 2012 begins thus for the ordinary citizen, who is taxed in numerous ways to fund this political lawlessness of all State affairs which is reeking with mega corruption from top to bottom. Politicised and corrupt, this State is run by a regime that refuses to hold itself responsible to anyone. This regime stands no more for governance. The whole democratic concept of citizens voting a political party to power in Sri Lanka now, is a total farce. Political parties are just “brand names” which their leadership uses for the technical purpose of handing in nominations for elections. The party thereafter gets ditched for a nepotistic regime that usurps power.

It begins with the Elections Commissioner (EC) and the Declaration of Assets & Liabilities Act No. 1 of 1975 as amended by Act No. 74 of 1988. This law says, all candidates who fail to declare their assets and liabilities at nominations, shall hand over their declarations on assets and liabilities, to the head of the elected body, at the time of swearing in. Thereafter, all elected representatives sworn in, have to declare their assets and liabilities, every year. This law if adhered to should have all sitting parliamentarians continuing from 2004 April elections, handing over 6 declarations of assets and liabilities, by end 2011 and all other new MPs, at least 2 declarations by now. But have they done so? Can the Speaker instruct the Secretary General of Parliament to provide the public, with a list of MPs who have annually declared their assets and liabilities? He would not, for he is also bound by the same law to declare his assets and liabilities. It is a set of parliamentarians who talk money and dream wealth, that violate the law whilst legislating for the people as elected representatives. That includes the “Red” and the “Green” Oppositions too and the big noise by the Opposition on corruption and fraud are clearly publicity stunts.

How legal and functional are these political parties that nominate lawless men and women as candidates to choose from? For over 16 years, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has not contested any elections, nor held a proper delegates’ conference. All they had were mass rallies addressed by the party leader, often the President, with sympathisers and family members “bussed” to the venue. These were called “Annual Conferences”. It is interesting to know what their definition of a “party member” is, with local and branch level participation of “members” totally absent in the party decision making process. Whether they submit their annual audited accounts to the EC is a question, though remaining a registered political party. Such a dysfunctional party cannot hold this regime answerable to anyone. That is again how this regime continues with the Mervyns and Duminda Silvas. These are political parties that can go on without sacking a single MP, however grave their disciplinary issues are.

The UNP with all its internal rivalry, but with “reforms” intact now, remains no better and no more democratic than the SLFP. Often, those nominated to contest elections are not even “party members” by any definition, unless they are given a “membership card” the day before. The little “Miss Paba” who won elections purely for her début role in the small screen, is a classic example in proving how political and membership driven the UNP is. How authoritarian, undemocratic and alien the party is, in relation to its local membership is proved by how the powerful Working Committee, which basically decides everything in the party is constituted, by the Colombo power brokers.

Quite obviously, these political parties cannot be democratic by any definition. They do not have the democratic discipline nor the political will to act democratically, even within their own organisations. It is therefore absurd and naive to expect these political leaders to act differently and democratically in an elected government. It is stupid also not to expect them to double their investments incurred in contesting elections. Politics in Sri Lanka has turned out to be the safest business for any quick time hasty investor, to move from a Honda bike to a Porsche Panamera. The Constitution in the country with alarming executive powers and total immunity from judicial investigations, logically, would only make the regime more crude and arrogant down the line, whichever political party gains power.

Their inability and also their reluctance in turning into popular, member based political parties, has left these two main political parties, mere electoral outfits. During elections people vote one, against the other, more out of a 75 year long habit. Between elections, they remain Colombo centred, media trapped power clans with no charisma to lead public protests. The JVP unfortunately is not a people-based party, trying to work round the old, centralised Bolshevik concept that may sound loud but too lean for popular politics. We are thus no different now to countries that had not seen much organised and functional democracies with plurality; countries that had no leadership to move from transitional demands for reforms to democratic life and to a new era of development.

The year nevertheless ends with new citizen formations taking up issues that the Opposition should address and lead. From short film festivals and stage dramas with social criticism, writers moving into critical mode with book launches, citizens’ rights groups establishing advocacy platforms, to independent trade union alliances challenging government policy head on, the Opposition’s presence is almost ignored, as inept and unnecessary. This was also evident with parents protesting on their own in front of Isurupaya and students in front of the Fort railway station, while the Opposition was complacent, issuing statements on the examination results mess and that the minister should resign.

A political scenario that have no effective, organised and pragmatic Opposition political party interventions, often leads to anarchy, when people have to live with a detested, crumbling State. Tunisia and Egypt were comparatively fortunate in avoiding total anarchy, led by political demands for democratic reforms. Yemen since February is in turmoil, with no clear political perspective hammered out, to climb out of a bloody anarchy.

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