A nod to reality | Daily News

A nod to reality

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday spoke some home truths which may suggest that the Government will soon have to go for hard options even at the expense of its political future in order to pull the country out of multiple crises. Speaking at the inauguration of the Asi Disi Insurance Scheme for journalists at Temple Trees the Premier said certain unpopular decisions will have to be taken that may even place at risk the Government's political future.

It would indeed have been hard for the Prime Minister to make such a dim prognostication, being a populist leader with a charisma of legendary proportions which is an indication of the predicament in which the country is placed. It is also bound to place the political futures of the rulers in jeopardy if the nature of the unpopular measures were to have a telling effect on the collective psyche of the electorate.

But moves will have to be made irrespective of their political fallout. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa himself said he would take decisions not targeting the next election but only those which are beneficial to the country.

So it looks like the people will have to brace for difficult times ahead. However, both the President's and Prime Minister's standpoint it is hoped will serve to usher in a new political culture in this country where populist measures that would make the people a happy and contented lot but take the country into economic ruin will be a thing of the past.

Many would vouch for the fact that it is populist policies adopted by all Governments to grab power that has been the bane of the country. Populist measures such as packing State institutions with political supporters in the guise of providing employment have plunged these bodies to financial hellholes today. Unwarranted subsidies offered by all Governments over the decades are also responsible for the economic mess we are in today.

It would have been prudent for successive Governments to have taken the people into their confidence by painting the true picture of the state of the economy which certainly would have yielded the desired outcome, provided the leaders set an example and made sacrifices themselves as done in more advanced countries. During WWII populations all over the world made immense sacrifices with people willing to survive on pulses and cereals to support the larger goal of peace.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the present time is also similar to a war where the country is on the verge of peril needing a firm hand to rescue it from the brink. The Premier's message which amounted to a clarion call reflected this state of affairs in ample measure and now it will be up to the people to bear with the difficulties that they may have to face for the greater good of the country in the long run.

During WWII years the people cooperated and the leaders in their turn shared in the sufferings of the people, as old timers still recall. Similarly, at present, if the people are to be persuaded, the example has to be set by the rulers. Ministers will have to forgo their luxury living and all other displays of ostentation. One cannot expect the people to lead frugal lives and endure difficulties if ministers are seen driving away in luxury vehicles with security escorts. Nor will they fall in line if they feel politicians are engaged in open corruption and living it up in grandeur.

It is the privileged lives enjoyed by the ruling elite that are driving the youth of the country from our shores in their droves as much as unemployment and non-recognition of merit. It is such a mindset among the people that the powers that be have to guard against, if the people are to comply with calls by the rulers to prepare for hard times.

Sri Lanka can no longer afford to indulge in populist measures if it is to get out of this unholy mess. The people should be warned about what is in store at election times in the manner of true gentlemanly politics. The practice of making promises that to any average mind will be untenable and then making a U-turn after coming to power should stop forthwith. It is this patronage politics that has kept our people lazy, with a dependent mentality. The Elections Commission has recently taken certain steps to control the unlimited freedom of political parties including imposing a cap on election spending. It should go further and scrutinize the election manifestos of the main political parties and inform the public about the promises contained therein which are impossible to implement.

This way the people will not only be spared the disappointment when the promises go unfulfilled but also make Governments go on the right track in implementing sound policies for the benefit of the country. A halt should be called to what is called pledge politics (Porondu Deshapalanaya) in this country once and for all. It is this brand of politics that has compelled the Premier to announce the unpleasant tasks ahead.

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