Wanted new policies, new politics | Daily News

Wanted new policies, new politics

Politics in Sri Lanka has become a degenerated, corrupt and anachronistic affair. Beyond the rhetoric there is no public good derived from it. Politicians are not interested in the existentialist problems of the people. They are embroiled in controversies over trivial matters and are both ignorant and uninterested in grave issues facing the country. That is why so far no major national policies are found on any subject of concern, be it education, health etc. They indulge in opulence and enjoy comforts at public expense.

Under the executive presidential system certain features of monarchial rule are also being preserved, nurtured and continued. Such perhaps are the Vap Manguls, Aluth Sahal Mangalayas etc. with the participation of the Head of State. Late President J R Jayewardene was particular in adding his name to the list of kings that ruled the country. He also wanted to continue the tradition of Kings of yore by addressing the nation from the octagon in the Temple of Tooth, Kandy. During the last regime also an attempt was made to revive this.

Personality cults

Success or failure in politics of the country has been attributed to leaders and the responsibility of the collective leadership is never recognized. Except in the case of Marxist-oriented parties, political party members often stand in a relation of subservience to the party leader. Personality cults of the principal leader is encouraged and fostered at public expense. His or her birthday is celebrated at State expense.

Seventy years after political independence we have been unable to forge a Sri Lankan identity. We have not only witnessed communal strife and war but are today being exposed to the danger of a possible escalation of religious tensions. National unity eludes us still. We have messed up ethnic relations that it has become easy for outside powers to interfere in our internal affairs. We have ourselves created the conditions for such interference and are now complaining of foreign conspiracies. For example, if not for the July 1983 pogrom against the Tamils, India would not have openly interfered in our internal affairs though the same could not be told about covert action.

We also went through periods of grave human rights violations and curtailment of democratic rights of the people. Law and order has broken down as a result. The situation still persists despite a few positive steps at the commencement of the Yahapalana Government. Independence of the judiciary has been not yet registered in the mass consciousness.

Administration is so inefficient and corrupt that it has to be written off as useless. Its weakness could be seen from such trivial matters as the failure to ensure a ticket for passengers travelling in privately owned omnibuses.

Our education is in a mess. Admitting children to Grade One has become a nightmare for parents. Class and racial bias exist in the state school system while private fee levying schools are mushrooming and functioning without any regulatory control. Pre-school education comprising the most delicate formative years of a child's upbringing is completely in the hands of incompetent and mercenary private interests.

Major political parties

Almost all major political parties follow the neo-liberal economic model which has been historically outdated and globally proved a failure. The tragedy is that the rulers are either ignorant or are so attached to its dogmas that they cannot see the reality. It is suffice to say that all countries that have advanced rapidly in Asia or elsewhere have been revising the neo-liberal prescriptions considerably. For example, they did not dismantle state economic enterprises en masse as per the IMF and World Bank prescriptions. China and Malaysia are two noteworthy examples.

The cumulative result of these economic policies have been that the rich got richer and the poor poorer. National income is getting concentrated in the hands of the top decile of the population at the expense of the lower five deciles. Malnutrition is prevalent especially among under five children and many are dying from curable diseases due to poverty.

Unplanned and often sporadic development has in turn given rise to a situation that has caused frequent natural disasters. Long-term disaster prevention measures are compromised for short-term ad hoc solutions with an eye on election prospects of ruling politicos.

Despite the claims of politicians the above policies proved to be anti-people, anti-poor. The ratio of direct to indirect taxes stand at 20 to 80. That means robbing the poor to feed the rich. The transfer of wealth not alleviates but increases disparities and inequity.

These policies should go. We need new policies which favour the poor, which help to alleviate poverty and reduce injustice.

Pro-people, pro-poor policies

The new policy should plan for immediate amelioration of rural poverty by invigorating the rural economy. At the present juncture in which the country is facing an acute economic crisis, it is the rural economy that has the potential of revival. Despite the uncertainty of the weather rice production this season is reported to be a bumper crop. Contribution of the agricultural production could also be enhanced by reducing post-harvest loses in storage and transport which amount to about 30 percent.

Finally it should be stressed that unless new political forces emerge and takeover, this new policy cannot be entrusted to the existing comedians on the political stage. It is the task of the civil society to forge new forces that could deliver the needed new pro-people, pro-poor policies. 


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