PEOPLES’ SOVEREIGNTY AND JUST GOVERNANCE | Daily News

PEOPLES’ SOVEREIGNTY AND JUST GOVERNANCE

Sri Lanka is facing a crucial and decisive historical moment. The moment has come for the people to be led by intelligent and honest men and women who could take the initiative to institutionalize a resilient socio-political structure that could restore and maintain a stability required for the whole country to survive, progress and advance in human dignity, justice, unity and peace. Recognizing its unique history and culture, this country needs an altogether transparent new mechanism of just governance that could adapt itself to needed rational maturation and coherent renewal of the relationships among her diverse communities within a pluralist people.

Their elected representatives and the administrative structure should democratically safeguard and serve the people in their many day-to-day dealings with the State and among themselves and with the rest of the world. Representatives should not use their position to entrench themselves in power, undermine the law, obstruct justice by abuse of power or directly influence business or engage in business with the government. That is a norm universally accepted today in all democratic countries. They should declare to the people their assets and liabilities and be accountable.

At the same time Sri Lanka needs a new generation of intelligent media personnel in the print and electronic media who could inform the public the true state of affairs in the political field as well as other events and happenings in the country without prejudicial embellishing or belittling that creates fear and aversion in the minds of the people. A national community spirit based on equality of human dignity, mutual honour and respect and non-violence should be developed. The media should engage in a serious discourse on how it could assist in the endeavour of nation building.

A NEW CONSTITUTION INDISPENSABLE

Yearning for a fullness of life with dignity and honour, good relationship with others and a sense of community, knowledge, truth and justice is basic to human beings.

In a modern state, good governance needs to be based on a forward-looking, circumspect, just and fair basic law, a constitution which should be a vital hinge which acknowledges the equal human dignity and rights of all the citizens constituting the State. The citizens who share the common homeland are endowed with different intellectual, socio-economic, political, educational and spiritual capacities. Yet, from the first citizen to the rest of the countrymen, they all share the same human dignity and therefore they should all have equal opportunity, as far as possible, and be governed by the same law.

In this age, the people together are sovereign; no single person including the first citizen of the land is placed above the law. There is no family or dynasty with exclusive privileges. No emperor, caliph or pirate could subjugate other people and impose on them his will as law. No representative elected for a brief period could attempt to arrogate to himself/herself such perquisites, symbols and facilities usually used by feudal sovereigns and despotic rulers who have lived lives of insensitivity and folly far removed from the people. Unfortunately while such an irrational and crazy politician at the summit wanted to embellish his gaudy ego with luxuriously equipped super-jet planes, other local minions wished to show their self-importance with highly expensive rotating chairs, all at poor peoples’ expense.

Today, the people collectively choose, for a well-defined period, some individuals from the people who, without arrogating to themselves unnecessary excessive powers and without wasting peoples’ money on luxurious palaces and lavish vehicles, are capable of serving all the people justly and fairly.

EMPEROR ALEXANDER AND THE PIRATE

Relevant to local politicians is a story that Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) in his book The City of God narrates about Alexander the Great who lived three centuries before Christ.

It is about a pirate captured by the people and brought to Alexander the Great of Macedonia (July 20/21, 356 – June 10/11, 323 BC) who was a powerful emperor having conquered several nations. When the pirate was brought before Alexander, everyone thought that he would be put to death. But Alexander asking him “Are you not ashamed of what you are doing?” tells him that even though the valuables he has robbed cannot be recovered, before condemnation and punishment he has a chance to ask for forgiveness from those he has injured; they will have some consolation.

The pirate told Alexander, “I don’t want to be punished nor to be forgiven. But I have something to tell you. That is, if you think I should be ashamed of what I have done, you should be far more ashamed of what you are doing. You and I are doing exactly the same thing. Because what I do on a very small scale with a small boat, I am called a robber; but you are destroying many lives, conquering many countries and taking possession of the whole earth. Your soldiers are plundering other peoples’ treasures and you are called an Emperor. It is you, not I who should be ashamed.”

Many were shocked at the way the pirate spoke to the Emperor while Alexander was lost in deep thought. The Emperor who had as a young boy been taught by Aristotle, without vacillating, replied, “What you have said is true. It is difficult for me to change. You are just one person who can give up piracy and start life afresh. I must also change my nature, steadily. But it will be very difficult”. And Alexander let the pirate go free.

Truth is strong and persuasive. Truth can liberate and change the mind, heart, spirit and attitude of a reasoning person. In the midst of unfortunate and confusing happenings, men and women liberated by truth could with understanding overcome many obstacles and solve difficult problems and live without fear. Emperors and empires will end, truth will prevail.

PETTY ‘EMPERORS’ AND PIRATES TODAY

Most of our present day elected representatives are in the brittle aspects of the character patterns of Alexander and the pirate. People expect the governments to strictly adhere to human dignity, rights, equality, truth and justice. Those who present themselves at elections as candidates to be elected as citizens’ representatives, individually and collectively promise to uphold these social values. However, when elected and vested with power they turn out to be disappointing because the people experience that the elected representatives do not keep their promises, but undermine these values in many subtle ways. They become discriminatory and it is their closest friends, kith and kin and party faithful who get far more than a fair deal while the people have to run from pillar to post. Either the elected representatives who wield power do not know of their responsibilities to the citizens and/or they do not know to get the public services of the government bureaucracy to properly attend to the business of the people.

The people travel long distances spending time and money to get attention to a small matter that is important to them. The people are hamstrung and stymied by an inefficient and indifferent political set-up and an apathetic bureaucracy. It is also common knowledge among the people that to get anything done at a government office, quite a few persons need to be bribed. Most of these government employees are directly or indirectly uncivil political appointees who are protected by their political masters and the people are helpless. Or else the people will have to go through a well-planned process to get the bribe takers nabbed.

Presently, those who have come to power through a seemingly democratic election, actually turn into a massive and intricate organisation of liars, robbers, pirates, swindlers and a band of stinking corrupt individuals who deserve to be in prison rather than in the highest forum in the land. Those at the summits of power plan the condemnation and punishment of petty thieves, bribe takers, corrupt public officials of various ranks and drug peddlers who unlawfully try to gain a few millions of rupees; while they themselves break not only solemn pledges and completely disregard the decisive democratic decision of the vast majority of the people but engage in various conspiratorial underhand deals and push the whole country backwards while robbing the peoples’ money in millions and billions of dollars. Installed in power, they place themselves above the law, desecrate the law, bend the law like by-gone feudal tyrants who foolishly manipulate it to serve their political whims in order to stay continually in power.

As rulers they tax the people left, right and centre, apportion very expensive perks and privileges for themselves, waste a lot of the revenue collected, mortgage the country’s future, neglect even attending parliamentary sessions for which they were elected and mismanage the affairs of the Land in a manner that jeopardizes the well-being and security of all the people.

Could we live without seeking truth and justice? Could truth and justice be ignored? Could potentates trample truth and justice with impunity? Could powerful persons by their attitudes, words and actions undermine the judiciary, disregard the respect due to citizens and cause unjust injury to their reputation? Of course not. When evidence of facts is not recognized, how could the truth be found? How could we live, without accepting the truth, especially truth that is publicly known? What is the consequence of ignoring the truth?

If the political authority at the summit of power is not decent enough to be subject to truth, justice and law, what is their authority but to harass and threaten, to cause dissolution, to imprison and according to their whim and fancy set free those politically useful to them, to covet and seize, to rob and swindle and act with impunity, abuse and degeneracy?

UNCORRODED SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS

Instead of a majority of foolish pirates of various hues, the citizens of Sri Lanka should not give in to despair but embolden themselves once again to organise and elect a band of well-qualified, intelligent, honest, upright and moderate men and women to whom could be entrusted the destiny of the country, and who would re-establish wholesome relationships among various communities and serve all her people justly and impartially according to the law and not according to egoistic subjective feelings that define what is right and wrong according to seeming profitable political returns.

What Pope Francis says about the care for the environment is apt also for Sri Lanka’s political environment, for people’s sovereignty and just governance: “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good. When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment”. (Encyclical Letter ‘Lodato Si’, Para 229). 


 

Add new comment