President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100 days was an innovative election manifesto for Sri Lanka. It was a short-term government corporate plan and was attractive and realistic. As a result, for the first time in history, our politicians had to keep to time and work on set goals, whilst being monitored daily by the public. The one [...]


Pseudo-democratic parliamentarians, human rights and diversity


President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100 days was an innovative election manifesto for Sri Lanka. It was a short-term government corporate plan and was attractive and realistic. As a result, for the first time in history, our politicians had to keep to time and work on set goals, whilst being monitored daily by the public. The one hundred days are now over and all seems to be in a lull and we are yet again drifting back to old ways of patch-up politics.

It is not so difficult to follow suit and formulate a 60-month plan for the 5-year term in office as a manifesto by any party seriously interested in public welfare. This will be paramount for supporters of a national government or otherwise we will be again in the ‘soup’ and our politicos will start interpreting democracy in proportions (62 vs. 58), debate for years until the acts are reversed back to the starting point. The simple truth is what is public-friendly cannot also be politician-friendly. The pubic should recognise this and strongly demand a set-goal manifesto instead of party policies, especially to avoid another debacle by our pseudo-democratic politicians. This is because, in the recent times, most of our politicos did not follow any party principles other than trying to do anything that benefitted them especially financially. There was no distinction between socialists and capitalists in practice.

For the 19th Amendment, there was no money but transparency on offer. The hands went up, one by one, when called by name. There was total accountability individually. The public could easily identify the culprits. Most voted not really for the sake of the country, but for their own survival. They cleared the MY3 barrier with crumbling obedience, with a sinister hope of grabbing the first opportunity to revert to the old habits in the future. These self-oriented, politicos are now trying all their tactics, showing a never existed love and compassion for the country to deceive the public once again. Although members of this ‘clan’ call themselves as representatives of the people, in recent times, they did everything but represent the people. They blatantly passed one rule after the other to consolidate their jobs and surreptitiously exploited the very people who voted them into power. Most spent public money keeping a proportion in their pockets, and borrowed exorbitant loans holding generations to ransom.

With this kind of dishonest, undemocratic clans of politicians in abundance, we need an alternative. It is certainly better to vote for a party with a plan rather than a party with a ‘clan’ led by an illusion manifesto. Removing the World Bank plug, renovating 1,000 lakes, becoming the Miracle of Asia, creating one million jobs are some of these political illusions that cannot be realised without a sturdy plan. Their manifestos were nothing but a glorified set of words that deceived the common man. Sadly, the manifesto for the bygone 10 years appeared to have been, between the lines to ‘squeeze-dry the poor, spend willy-nilly to keep the ‘clan’ happy, serve the family, stay above the law and sell the country including the newborn if short of money’.

We can tame these illusionists and drive them home with careful use of the vote. We need true Sri Lankans in active pursuit of our voter base to re-think, drop meaningless affiliation to colours or parties and elect good, honest, true sons and daughters of Sri Lanka to Parliament. We need political leaders who would move away from ad hoc decision-making and adopt sound and transparent public policies to solve our problems and clear the path to become developed.
The politician’s main job is appropriate legislation. Attending to ceremonies, handing over presents, money, land, etc. are all corruption in one form or another. For example, if one’s true intention is to help pregnant mothers, then all pregnant mothers in the country should qualify for an allowance, not materialistic ‘poshana-malla’ that is none other than use of public money in a covert manner to fund the supporters. These public allowances need not be handed over by politicians themselves. Instead, it should be made available through the government infrastructure. If they want to give a ‘kiri weeduruwa’, then why not give a child benefit instead for all children. Mothers can decide what ‘kiri’ would be best for their kids. This will remove all the middlemen sneakily draining public money.

We need a party with a plan to consider several changes to the political paradigm. Currently the most important foundation Sri Lanka needs is unity and trust amongst its people. There is no point beating the bush. We have been dodging this necessity for decades. We need a clear national acceptance of equal opportunity, human rights and diversity through legislation.

Diversity has to be tolerated, accepted and considered equal by law. Until this is done there will be polarisation by race or religion. In this Equality Act, following characteristics should be classed as protected. In other words, it should become unlawful to discriminate people based on any of the following characteristics. These include (a) religion or belief, (b) sexual orientation, (c) marriage and civil partnership, (d) race, (e) disability, (f) age, (g) gender and (h) pregnancy and maternity.

In a similar context, the human rights legislation should offer protection from discrimination in respect to the following rights and freedoms. These include (a) right to life, (b) freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, (c ) right to liberty and security, (d) freedom from slavery and forced labour, (e) right of fair trial, (f) no punishment outside lawn (g) respected for your private and family life, home and correspondence, (h) freedom of thought, belief and religion, (i) freedom of expression, (j) freedom of assembly and association, (k) right to marry and start a family, (l) right to education and (n) the right to participate in free elections.

No legislation is perfect until tested in public. Thus, all legislation passed through Parliament should be subject to public consultation within the first year of its implementation allowing for a revised final reading again in Parliament. Legislation that does not undergo a public consultation should be considered defunct. This is one way to keep legislation in check by the public opinion. Revision of new legislation after public consultation is the norm in developed democracies in the world. Its time 19th Amendment is now offered for public consultation. The 20th may be passed, too, to be revised later by the next government. Such constitutional amendments add strength to democracy and shut loopholes that promote the abuse of power.

Requesting a 60-month plan as a manifesto from all political parties that are contesting next election is timely. This will help us identify the parties polarised with racial or religious instincts and how they are going to serve their voters who are constantly deceived year after year. These anti-national groups have simply promised a ‘pound of flesh’ for their clan to secure their posting to parliament. These parties and their activities have indeed been counterproductive for unification and equalisation. They claim to be representing a minority (religious, racial or economical), and do not really want to be equal, but more than equal. This is putting fuel on fire and makes the party with a ‘clan’ gain ground purely based on suspicion. Human rights and equality legislation will remove these clans of pubic parasites from office.

We also need a mechanism to ensure that all government officers are made aware of this legislation and are held accountable if they defy the law. Some parliamentarians think government officers are government servants, whose duty is to serve the parliamentarians. This was made publically known in the recent debates in Parliament when the formulation of the constitution council was discussed.

Government officers and professional bodies should be directly involved and be in line with government actions taken in diverse spheres such as health, economy, energy, environment, justice and education. They are essential to guide parliamentarians through provision of objective evidence emanating from scientific research or credible policy analyses. There is a long-standing dissociation in this country between research and public policy-making. These changes cannot be achieved with politicos openly downgrading all professionals as their servants. We must weed out such political megalomaniacs from power.
The professionals in the country, too, have an equal responsibility to ensure that the politicians take sensible decisions and they are informed and kept up to date. If not, soon our politicos may be writing prescriptions too to cure our ailments. There will be no need for any professional training or qualification. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia are recent examples of the end result of such dumb political supremacy. We need not go along this path. Ultimately, it’s we, the common man who will suffer.

While it is necessary to develop evidence-based policies, their effective implementation would depend on the efficacy of relevant institutions. In other words, the revamping of state institutions in different sectors is equally important with professional leadership and not political stooges. There are more than 3,000 politicians serving in our provincial councils.

We need more and more public money to maintain them, including the projected 255 in the next parliament. The money has to be generated by the public and not politicians. This is why the professional bodies, who are the representatives of this money generating machinery be at the forefront to guide politicians in the right direction without being blinded by screwed members of the ‘clan’. If not, politicians will monopolise public discussions and make decisions in their favour and lead the country to eventual self-destruction. If not vigilant, despite the recent political changes in the country, the ‘clan’ leaders are likely to continue with their long standing practice of making ad hoc decisions, mainly to suit them and not the public. The 19th Amendment itself was a perfect example that nearly returned to nothing.

We need a government that addresses various problems in a systematic fashion, in conjunction with professionals and professional bodies taking into consideration our own research evidence, past experience, and the experience of other countries. Without this, we are sailing in a rudderless boat in endless misery.

(The writer is an an academic. He can be contacted at

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