‘Spring-clean SLFP and get rid of the rotten to win polls’
Chandrika’s call for party reform echoes what masses want from all parties: ‘Break free from rogues and come clean’
Mother knows best! The Matriarch of the SLFP, the twice elected former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge struck a blow for all right thinking members of the party her father SWRD founded when she declared last week that the SLFP must break free from joint opposition crooks and murderers and go it alone with a new set of above board faces.
“All the crooks and murderers are with Mahinda Rajapaksa, “ she told a group of foreign correspondents in no uncertain terms last week. “The SLFP can increase its vote base, if it makes a clean break with his group of MPs. Their campaign is aimed at scuttling the criminal investigations against them and not out of love for the future of the country.”
This call – even though it comes belated – must win a round of applause not only from SLFP members but also from the UNP supporters, from all those who clamoured for clean government and voted for the Maithri – Ranil combination in the belief that their ballot would lift this nation from corruption’s gutter.
After a pre election campaign heavy with charges of mega corruption leveled against the Rajapaksa regime and loaded with pledges to crackdown and bring to justice all those who had plundered the national coffers, the election of Sirisena to the presidency seemed not to have raised the nation above the sewers.
On January 9th 2015, the newly elected president had two roads facing him. The high road to cleanse the nation of the evil that had engulfed it. Or the low road of political expediency. He chose the low road. He simply had no choice.
Though he had won the presidency, his hands were tied by the composition of the parliament he inherited. Almost all the SLFP members were beholden to Rajapaksa. And the former president had their files too as he had announced during the campaign conveying a sinister threat to expose any pole-vaulter to the Maithri camp. In order to obtain the two third majority Sirisena needed to enact the 19th amendment to the constitution, he needed the support of the very men and women he had condemned as corrupt whilst he was the joint opposition presidential candidate. But in the first few post presidential election months, he was their prisoner. To the people’s horror, instead of isolating them, he was forced to take some of them to his side and make them even cabinet ministers. He had no alternative. But a great majority, most of them who had passed beyond redemption, chose to stay put in the Rajapaksa camp.
If the President’s decisions to make some unsavoury characters government ministers was understandable in the first dawn of Yahapalanaya, what was indeed perplexing for the public to fathom was his decision, as president of the SLFP, to grant nominations to the whole Rajapaksa brood of corrupt members to contest the election under the SLFP ticket; and, instead of a stay at Welikada, offer them the opportunity to gain a seat in Parliament, along with the attendant perks and privileges, including the licence to make a cool Rs 25 million profit overnight if they wished to sell their duty free car permit.
If Sirisena had given them nominations to prevent the UNP from gaining a landslide victory at the elections and thus control parliament and reduce him to a puppet president, the hung parliament that resulted have proved his calculations were spot on. But if he had also done so in the expectation that he would win the hearts of Rajapaksa loyalists, his gambit has not paid off but has condemned him further to suffer the slings and arrows they persistently hurl from their regained MP pedestals, thanks to the outrageous fortune the ingrates received, courtesy Sirisena. For the last two years the Sirisena government has been beleaguered by their assault; and presidential energies have been wantonly wasted on warding off their attacks rather than utilized and focused upon to heed the pressing call of the masses for a better future.
So much for expediency. Compelling political reasons and force of circumstances often dictate leaders, with an eye on self preservation, to follow that narrow short term course. But the presence of murderers and rogues, drug dealers and ethanol importers on the honourable list of SLFP members is but a blot on the party that has been the traditional heavy weight on one side of Lanka’s two party political see-saw. It’s an embarrassment to those right thinking members of the SLFP and an affront to the people that a major political party once wedded to democracy and newly betrothed to just governance should carry with it to the next election and thereafter, a whole gunny bag of rotten durians and hold it up as its proud public offering for the nation’s delectation.
Chandrika’s call to arms against the corrupt in the SLFP is timely. No doubt, in the early days of the Yahapalana government, she would have watched with mounting horror the reappearance of past ogres in the party fold – the very same monsters of corruption the masses probably had thought they had seen the last of – but realised she could do naught but hold her peace till the opportunity presented itself to speak out.
It is welcome that she has done so now, even at this late hour. It is creditable of her, as the sole active patron of the party, to have the gumption to declare that the party must even now break free of rogues and murderers and start anew to win back its lost credibility, especially when many in the SLFP are bound to pooh-pooh her view and say it will be a sure recipe for a massive defeat at the next elections. But will it be so?
Those who cling to such a notion, apart from their blind faith in the invincibility of Rajapaksa and the propagated myth of his much vaunted popularity in the country, are also playing the conjecture game, are they not? Their opinion that the SLFP will suffer a defeat if the Rajapaksa clan is booted out is no better or worse than Chandrika’s view that the party will increase its vote base if the party rids itself of the corrupt elements. For none can read the mind of the floating voter on whose decision, governments are elected or booted.
And what if the SLFP should suffer a massive defeat if it takes Chandrika’s advice and throws out the rotten apples?
For far too long, it has been the scandal of our times that the nation’s House of Representatives has been ridden with the corrupt, freely striding up its well, brazenly sitting on its benches, audaciously speaking out, as Chandrika said, ‘not out of love for the future of the country but only with the aim of scuttling the criminal investigations against them’, believing that attack is the best form of defense. It’s a national disgrace to have a people’s assembly filled not with honourable members but with those facing mega corruption charges and presently under criminal investigation.
Whatever should befall the SLFP, wouldn’t the nation as a whole be better off as a result of the SLFP cleansing itself of the sin for having entertained evil in its midst for so long? If that’s the price to pay to get the nation back on track, so be it.
But it should not be limited only to the Rajapaksa faction but against all, wherever they are found. After years of being tainted as the most corrupt main stream party, it is time the SLFP did some soul searching and rebranded itself by embracing the ethos of its founding father. In the last few years, the party has been used as a vehicle for the unscrupulous to gain power and with power won, gain a licence to indulge in corruption on an unprecedented scale. And it applies also to the UNP to root out the few incorrigibles found on their own oak tree, busy building their own nests.
Chandrika’s statement that the SLFP must break free from crooks becomes extremely relevant not merely in the context of her party but for the future of this country’s entire body politic. At a time when a new constitution is mooted and the speculation is that the executive presidency will be abolished or its powers greatly reduced and the supremacy of Parliament will be restored, it becomes even more incumbent of all political parties to ensure that in the forthcoming elections in 2020 that nominations are only given to men and women who are worthy of the honour to represent the people; and not to those who are notorious for their thuggery and corruption.
It may be said that the present parliamentarians with a history of corruption well known to the people were elected by the people. True. But did the people really have any choice in the matter? If the electorate is presented with a set of rogues put forward by either by the SLFP or the UNP as candidates and the people have no option but to vote for one of them, is it fair to blame the people or the political leaders who gave nominations to the rogues?
It should be noted that however great and pristine a constitution is, only clean candidates at the hustings will produce clean members of parliament which, in turn, will ensure clean government.
On March 12th 2015 all parties signed the PAFFREL 8 point criteria to be observed in giving nominations to candidates. The parities pledged, amongst others, not to grant nominations to those who are engaging or had engaged in the past in trades such as alcohol, drugs, bookies, casinos and prostitution that are detrimental to the wellbeing of the country, to those alleged of bribery or corruption, or to those who have abused power or caused destruction to the environment. Two months before the general election, President Sirisena signed the document on June 19th. All very well. But take a look around the Parliament chamber today. See for yourself whether the parties have followed the criteria they so grandiosely signed in a highly publicized show at the BMICH and pledged to follow.
Except for the absence of Duminda De Silva who was denied nomination despite Mahinda Rajapaksa’s heavy canvassing for him to be included in the SLFP list of candidates, and a few new faces, the present parliament is almost an exact replica of the old.
With President Sirisena of the SLFP and Prime Minister Ranil Wicremesinghe of the UNP – two men well respected and honoured and well known for their moral rectitude – it’s not too late for Lanka to forge a new clean political culture. It will be up to them to ensure that the candidates nominated to represent their respective political parties are of the necessary moral calibre. Lanka can no more afford to give into the dictates of political expediency and suffer its consequences.
Or else the new constitution’s supreme legislative cum executive parliament will be riddled with corruption and the nation will be ruled by swindlers, rogues, commission agent, bookies, drug dealers, ethanol importers, rapists and murderers and this nation will replace Tamil Nadu’s dishonored status as the most corrupt place in South Asia and earn the dubious accolade not as the miracle of Asia but as the cesspit of the world.
President Sirisena should do well to heed the advice of the patron of his party Chandrika and call the joint opposition bluff that the SLFP will be doomed if they breakaway and contest on their own. At the opportune moment he should not hesitate to boot them out, for the good of his party, for the good of his country.
For Lanka’s sake, give clean government a chance.
|What price cabinet brains ?|
True. Cheap things no good and good things no cheap but the question is whether debt-ridden Lanka can ill afford to hire the best brains at such exorbitantly high prices to sit in cabinet to solve the myriad problems that beset her today.
True also that Lanka is facing the worst financial crisis since god knows when. True the hoped for direct investments upon which the government had placed its economic resurgence have still not arrived at our shores. True, too, that on every front, there is some sort of calamity occurring. And compounding it all, the country faces the worst drought it has suffered in years. True also that to solve these immense problems, it calls for the highest expertise available no matter the price?
But this week when a former Central Bank Governor Dr. W.A. Wijewardena announced that a study made by him had revealed that each cabinet minister costs Rs. 8.5 million to maintain per month, he set the alarm bells ringing in every strata of society.
But though the world’s sole superpower the United States of America makes do with only 16 cabinet ministers, Lanka’s myriad woes are such that she can barely trot ahead with 47. That would bring the monthly bill to Rs 400 million per month or to nearly Rs 5 billion every year.
Dr. W.A. Wijewardena warned that this was a sum that the present government, experiencing as it does severe difficulties on the economic front, could not afford to squander on the cabinet. Of course he did not say nor will anyone else for that matter mutter that these special men and women possessing the highest intelligence quotients, were not worth every cent and rupee in the monthly 400 million paid to them for warming the cabinet seats they occupied but it only raises the question whether, given the dire financial situation, Lanka could afford the best brains to solve her woes?
It is the typical Catch 22 situation. If you don’t pay them, the problems will not be solved. If you pay them, the expense will add to the problems.
But financial reality must demand that one’s coat must be cut to one’s cloth. Perhaps the government should realise that paying the best experts such exorbitant sums, even though they fully deserve it, in order to solve Lanka’s problems is something that the state can no longer afford. And perhaps the time has come to go down a notch or two in the expertise stakes and settle for a lesser brainy rear to warm the ministerial seat at a more affordable sum.
It is commonly said, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. But sometimes such are the quirks in the business, financial, political world of life, that even if you pay millions, you still end up with monkeys. That’s if you are lucky. Most often its mules.
Ban, ban, ban: Political monk raises magic ban wand against big matches
A small group of politically bent Buddhist monks, led by the Patron of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera, held a press conference on Monday to address the moral issue of banning ‘Big Matches’ on the grounds of alcohol consumption by students.
Leaving political activism for once, they turned their focus on the fifth precept, namely the one that deals with the need to refrain from consuming intoxicants. The political Thera Omalpe who compromised on the Buddha’s Vinaya Code for monks to refrain from engaging in politics, when he became one of the founders of the JHU at its inception in 2004 which espoused Sinhala nationalism, called for the total ban of big matches, saying it was the bane of society and should be prohibited forthwith in the name of morality.
Addressing a news conference on Monday held at the Government Information Department, Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera stated: “Big matches should be banned in the name of morality. It acts like a platform for promotion of alcohol among students. The principals and authorities, including past students should take the responsibility and ban these matches. If not, the law enforcement authorities should ban them. Big matches and related events had become public nuisance today. Students consume alcohol and then damage public properties,”
He may be right of course. Except that bans generally seem to have the opposite effect to the one desired. It becomes the forbidden fruit whose taste become irresistible and may, indeed, lure the novice to taste it to see what the fuss is all about. Even as it did for Eve in the Garden of Eden when God forbade her from eating a particular fruit.
Education Minister Akila Kariyawasam seems not to agree with the monk’s blanket ban on matches. On Tuesday, he told the media: “We can’t ban school big matches. It is not a practical move to tackle students’ undisciplined actions. We have had discussions with school principals recently to take preventive measures to tackle possible violent incidents among students during the impending school sports season. And we have also have given instructions to law enforcement authorities including the Police Chief to take action to minimize incidents causing public nuisance during big matches.”
Seems a more sensible way of tackling a problem, does it not? And a more Buddhist way, too.
The Buddha’s approach to lead the people on the right road was through persuasion, not through wielding the stick. Perhaps it is time for the few Buddhist monks who adopt the ayatollah stance to ban everything under the sun that meets their displeasure, to revaluate how they convey the Buddha’s sublime message of tolerance and the fine art of persuasion to lead men on the right track. That ignorance as to the folly of evil cannot be wished away with a simple ban. And while they are it, read the Vinaya Code, too, which lays down the disciplines required of a monk. Especially the parts that deal with the rules of monks handling money and taking part in politics,
Things cannot be changed merely because a political monk raises his finger like a school master flashing his cane and tells the public on television that this or that must be banned and implies political action if it is not.
Whilst students’ drunken behaviour cannot be condoned in anyway, perhaps it’s the parents fault for not setting the right example to the children.
Maybe the monk should have used his media opportunity to also call for a ban on May Day rallies. It also provides a license, does it not, for the adults to have a rollicking drunken time on free booze given by the organizers to attend the marches on public roads in the noon day sun? And ‘acts like a platform for promotion of alcohol’ among adults for the young to emulate their elders come Big Match Day.
No hanky, no cry
Children’s handkerchiefs declared dangerous firebombs in the House
If Guy Fawkes used fireworks in his bid to burn down the House of Westminster, Lanka’s Parliamentary officials fear school children will use their nose blowing handkerchiefs to set fire and blow up the House of Diyawanna.
On Tuesday a hanky belonging to a child who was in the Parliament’s Visitors’ Gallery fell on a lamp and caused a minor fire which was instantly doused.
What did the authorities do thereafter to prevent a recurrence? Did they remove the lamp from that position? Did they cover the lamp with a mesh to prevent any inflammable object falling upon it in the future? No, why go to such lengths when the solution is so close at hand?
They banned schoolchildren from taking hankies to the gallery. On Thursday, after the hanky had been declared a dangerous firebomb, a table outside the gallery was covered with an assortment of handkerchiefs. Children had to surrender the offending item upon entry and could collect them only on exit. Perhaps tags with numbers on it were also issued to the owners to identify ownership of the 25 square inch of cloth to avoid disputing claims.
For crying out loud, can you think of a dumber solution? What next? Will it now be the turn of reporters to be banned from carrying their notebooks since paper too can easily catch fire?