Sri Lanka’s last chance | Daily News


Sri Lanka’s last chance

Perhaps Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s shrill call for a strong leadership is akin to what entails in the Dhammapada ‘utmost for the highest’– a lacuna in Sri Lanka’s political landscape waiting to be realised. Practising Sinhala Buddhists of his calibre are waning in this country as he emerges in Sri Lanka’s political horizon recognising such identity not for election goals but to identify himself with a larger happening in national well-being. To this enlightened politician, strong leadership is sensible moral integrity at a time when there is high degree variation and social interpretation in the present context on morality itself.

Morality, to him, is not only doing away with corruption but also a reaching out to an all-inclusive approach, for, in his clarion call to such a leadership, he is not unmindful of wrenching out the socio-political-economic divides within the country that has bled Sri Lanka for far too long. The differences of class, caste, race, religion, gender, political economic, educational disparities, have not lost sight of Karu’s attention.

In my decades of interaction with him, what I was most impressed was his striving commitment to being a sensible human being, with a nose for that which appeals to his conscience as moral alignment-and his simple Buddhist ways. Not for him of protocols, procedures when he is sharp enough to detect sidestepping of the moral hiccup and stand for what is sensible morality even firmly ordering the ill-bred into right action. Even at individual level, one would find him rising like a lion in the face of low, dastardly behaviour falling short of dignity, refinement and elegance needless to speak of his public performance we witnessed in the Parliament of late when that element in him outshone all else.

Deceitful acts of corruption, fraud and nepotism

Reputed as we are for being among the world’s most corrupt nations, the time has now come to efface that fallen image and establish a positive, dynamic, wholesome, accountable leadership found most wanting. Karu’s march towards that goal is certainly not a carpeted one as he is compelled into interacting even with drug peddlers, cocaine-consuming legislators and low calibre, self interested, bourgeois public servants among whom honesty is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Refraining from interacting with external accessories of race language religion, not for him the temple as venue for election victory of which we hear far less these days as minority kingmakers’ sentiments are well taken care of now than ever before by those of the ethnocentric / ultra nationalistic membership. Karu’s concern has incessantly and steadfastly been into a firm grip on people’s sovereignty. Deceitful acts of corruption, fraud, nepotism violate this elegant and noble concept. As a whistleblower for a strong leadership, he fills this moral space and falls in line with the sanctity democratic principles have to offer in the people’s well being. Liberal / participatory democracy where discussion and conversation based on mutual respect, inclusion and accommodation of a sort linked with infinite wisdom are his cherished ideals. Not for him the dubious path of low cunning and deceit, arrogance and vanity. His emotional stability, the unwillingness to stoop low under all circumstances, his unwavering alignment with integrity fills a moral space in this country – ingredients all of which he shares commonality only with Dr NM Perera and Dr EW Adikaram no doubt the only two intellectual giants Sri Lanka could be proud of.

Unfortunately, it’s nothing new that democracy in this country has altered its course, transforming it into a government of the thugs, for the thugs and by the thugs contradicting its glorious pronouncement as being government of the people, by the people and for the people. If Abraham Lincoln was alive today, he would certainly have developed a salted lime like countenance considering the predicament and dire straits global democracy faces. Not for him the dubious art of crowd control, of power consolidation, of rule by force, and hegemony.

His principles of liberal government, free and fair elections, rule of law are noteworthy. The Right to Information Act, the independent commissions and the Constitutional Council are some outstanding measures he valiantly fought for that no other politician could lay claim to. His attempts into people-friendly concepts and unbounded regard for their sovereignty, which for some reason avoid media highlight, add to widespread social ignorance on this most unassuming, modest, vibrant statesmanlike personality. To top it all, a shortfall of an active media unit in government offices aggravates the problem and his initiative in the software of governance is often ignored. He is not free of blame for the very media shy modest person that he is.

Self-seeking publicity is not up his street except on occasions when he chooses to emphasize a point.

His focus on human rights, the rule of law and people’s involvement in politics and civic life, his commitment into a political system for choosing and replacing a government through free and fair elections cannot be ignored at a time when subverting democratic principles has come to stay. “Power flows from the people and it is our duty and obligation to protect their rights if we believe in their sovereignty,” he once said addressing a gathering. “What of white vans and abductions. Aren’t they also part of people’s sovereignty,” one in the audience chuckled. The gentleman that he is, Jayasuriya said, “that’s best left for the people to decide as they did at the last general elections.” Confrontational politics is not his style for the seed inside him is that of classy star-studded gentlemanliness considering people’s will to be sacred, he insists it is a moral crime to undermine and subvert democracy. Sanctity of a people’s will and attempts to hijack it being two highly polarized states is confrontational and will not align with liberal democracy. Opting for a societal moral straight–jacketing, he does not appeal to those with tunnel vision. It’s not his style to argue and counter-argue over a narrowed outfit.

Aligning himself with one of America’s finest jewels of liberal democracy, Woodrow Wilson, it is not an underestimation to state that Karu in many ways stands for what Wilson aspired. Karu calls for a corruption free, clear focused dedicated people in much the same way as America’s finest jewel among a few others. “Democracy is a principle with us, not a mere form of government. Authority should be for leadership and not for aggrandizement. Government must serve its people and not make it self their master,” declared Wilson.

Valiant performance in parliament

Karu cannot stir the moral conscience of the people but certainly he can inspire as he has done in his long years of political history only to be fully endorsed in his recent valiant performance in the Parliament risking his own life to serve the people and save democracy itself. Not one leader in this country fought it all singlehandedly with courage and conviction and convinced the infinite wisdom of his steadfastness and upright into what he felt was right action– unfortunately not highlighted in the frequency it deserves.

As Colombo’s Mayor 30 years back when this writer interviewed him I remember asking him if his salary went into the Soorya Foundation. He modestly smiled and vehemently protested that it was not part of the interview. “No more interviews Afreeha if you include anything like that.”

I shot back laughingly, “Your Worship, is controlling a journalist’s fist also part of mayoral duty?”

I still recall the grandeur in his laughter that reverberated throughout the room.

To this day his magnanimity towards the Soorya Foundation continues unabated which makes Karu Jayasuriya matchless among the Parliament’s membership.

To those that are mistakenly or for convenience or acting within the constraints of jealousy led into a social construct and myth of age over integrity, the Malaysian populace has certainly done a ‘U’ turn in record straightening when they prioritized integrity over age in re-electing Mahathir Mohammed at 92 to drive out a corrupt regime and lead Malaysia along the portals of unimpeachable integrity.

It is left to be seen whether Sri Lanka has such a mature, enlightened and vibrant citizenry to enable Karu Jayasuriya, much younger than Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, as a future presidential choice to be saviour of this land driven by political paralysis where wallet-fattening and personal gain has been the mainstay on all sides of the political divide - colour seemingly the only striking difference and corruption their most favoured and chosen asset.


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