Beware of Arrogance of Power
From now on until September 8,
the upcoming Provincial Council polls are likely to be a central
concern of the country. That is, 'election fever' will be here
once again with all its attendant thrills and perils. As we have
right along said in this commentary, law and order maintenance
would be of prime importance and we hope the state has taken
cognizance of this requirement.
We also hope popular discourse in the days ahead would focus
sharply on the importance of the Provincial Councils. While
there is great alacrity to hold provincial polls and to run for
PC slots, a public debate on the general usefulness or otherwise
of the PCs is yet to get off the ground with any earnestness in
this country. Yet, the PC system is 25 years old and has been
sustained at mainly the tax payers' expense, although the public
and polity are yet to seriously demand a substantial
contribution to the common good from this system which is often
denigrated as a great 'White Elephant'.
Now more than ever before we need to assess the effectiveness
of the PC system. This is mainly on account of the numerous PC
personnel who are today making a public display of their power
and influence but not really justifying the considerable funds
the state invests in keeping the system going.
Therefore, it would be most welcome if the present polls
campaign period could be made use of to widely debate the
effectiveness or otherwise of the system. We need to address our
minds as to how the PCs could be used to usher regional
development, which is the essential purpose of the system.
These and many more issues concerning the system need to be
discussed widely in the quarters that matter because this
country cannot afford to be saddled with institutions that are a
huge drain on the public purse. It is not our position that the
PC system is useless. After all, it possesses a huge and
untapped potential, particularly in terms of the material
advancement it could promote, but we need to admit that the
structure has not measured-up to public expectations. Therefore,
the polity would do well not to get carried away by the polls
campaign but ponder on ways of making better use of the PCs.
Naturally, all eyes would be on the way the ruling UPFA
conducts itself in the days ahead. UPFA leaders are on record
that all law-breakers within the alliance will be shown the
door, and this is a step in the right direction. They are on
record that they have rid their grouping of criminal elements
which brought embarrassment to the alliance at the Pradeshiya
Sabha and Local Government levels, and such steps too need to be
welcomed. These principles must be strictly adhered to in the
days ahead also, as the polls campaign hots-up.
If some Pradeshiya Sabha and Local Government personnel are
figuring in opprobrious rape and other criminal cases, it is
because they have lost all emotional balance on tasting a little
power and influence. However, their conduct reflects badly on
the ruling alliance and the latter would need to ensure that the
malaise of power abuse does not afflict its personnel and
members at any level of government. Accordingly, firm
disciplinary control would need to be exercised on also PC
candidates and their supporters.
As we have argued in this commentary, all systems must be in
place to prevent power-abuse on the part of anyone occupying
public office. Sermonizing and pious exhortations alone by those
in authority are unlikely to ensure this, humans being what they
are. It is mainly checks and balances and institutional curbs
which could guard against power abuse by those occupying public
It is also gratifying to note that UPFA leaders are saying
'no' to relatives of those holding top posts in the Alliance
fold contesting the PC polls. This is as it should be because
nepotism is an ill which should be weeded out. Democratic
governance must ensure economic equity.
That is, growth must flow down to the masses. In a situation
where nepotism thrives, this process would be clogged because
wealth would accumulate in a few hands. This is the very
anti-thesis of democratic development.