Discussions on development of the country and raising the living standards of the people which prevailed up until the end of 70s were based on various political and economic theories and philosophies. In this context, the leftists who promoted the ‘sociaist model’ played an important role. The influence of the leftists had on Sri Lankan [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Maithri-Ranil combination: Excellent team – Handle with care


Discussions on development of the country and raising the living standards of the people which prevailed up until the end of 70s were based on various political and economic theories and philosophies. In this context, the leftists who promoted the ‘sociaist model’ played an important role.

The influence of the leftists had on Sri Lankan society was clear when the then leader of a right of centre political party, the United National Party, Dudley Senanayake started addressing the public as ‘comrades’, a term usually used by socialists. He pronounced it as “Sahodha Sahoduni”. There were discussions and debates about the applicability of the economic development strategies adopted by Europe, Russia, China and Korea.

There were discussions as to whether the better effective and feasible line of action should be a democratic procedure through election of representatives to parliament or through an armed struggle. A few experiments too were undertaken. The youth were attracted to philosophies espoused by Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong and the revolutionary roles played by Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara. Left oriented youth were inspired by China, predominantly a feudal country with warlords and several imperial forces occupying the country, was marching towards socialism bypassing the stage of capitalist democracy and taking a new route described as ‘new democracy’ and the possibility of Sri Lanka following suit. The path of the Chinese revolution and Mao Zedong’s famous statement ‘political power grows through a barrel of a gun’ were also featured in the discussions on the choice of the best system for the development of Sri Lanka.

All those who participated in these discussions, those who chose even revolutionary methods and some who sacrificed their lives in the process, did so solely because of the commitment they had towards the country and her people. They were determined to build the country in accordance with models designed by them based on the philosophies they believed as most suitable to the country to the best of their knowledge and information available to them. This resembled the ‘Design and Built’ concept adopted by construction companies in building houses for customers.

The designs of a construction company are devised to suit the customer’s needs and the adjustments too are made according to the likes and dislikes of the customer. However, if there is only one model to choose from, and a question of selection out of many does not arise, what is expected from the construction company is the execution of the functions entrusted to it with diligence and integrity in building the only acceptable model. We, as a country, have come to this point where no cross roads exist, at least for the time being.

Market Economy
Both Russia (1905-17) and China (1921-49) resorted to armed revolutions as the only way out due to their exasperation with ineffectual monarchies, civil wars, foreign aggression and internal suppression. Being victorious and having acquired, after decades of arduous struggles, the economic success they have at present, they have come to realise that the model ultimately adopted by them is none other than the ‘market economy’.

Countries which achieved economic success throughout history had adopted only one system- a market economy. After 67 years of independence, we in Sri Lanka too have come to realise that the market economy has gained worldwide acceptance, and some countries directly and some others indirectly, have reached their development targets through the implementation of the market economy model. There have been many discussions worldwide about the characteristics of a competitive market economy and its pros and cons, what it can do and what it cannot, what it can and what it cannot take care of, the occurrence of periodical booms, recessions and depressions and the incapacities of the invisible hand of the market.

We in Sri Lanka need a market economy adjusted to suit our socio-economic conditions and production capabilities. It is only a few adjustments that we have to do by way of ‘Srilankanisation’ of a market economy. Therefore, there are no significant differences between the models offered by different parties as we now have a common model. Hence there is no necessity to have a distinction such as the United National Party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or the United Peoples Freedom Alliance since all these parties would have to adopt only one system-a market economy with adjustments to suit our social and economic structures. Therefore, what is needed in Sri Lanka is a strong and dedicated leadership that can ensure good governance putting a stop to all corrupt and fraudulent practices.

Maithri-Ranil Combination
On January 8th 2015, we came to one of the most crucial junctures in our history since our surrender to British colonial powers under the Kandyan Convention signed in 1815. Though 1948 and 1956 witnessed major changes in our history they weren’t as crucial as this. They were not as decisive and momentous as the change which took place on the 8th of January 2015. The duo, Maithri from Polonnaruwa and Ranil from Colombo, is seen as the best combination of leaders who could be entrusted with the responsibility of leading our country to prosperity.

The Maithri – Ranil duo with their combined knowledge, experience, exposure and vision are capable of adjusting the market economy system to suit the needs of the country. As stated earlier, since individual beliefs in political and economic philosophies do not affect the general model of economic development, Maithri as the executive president should make way for the excellent leadership team of politicians from among various political parties to work together towards the common goal of developing the country.

At the forthcoming elections, the President should not represent a party but remain non partisan. The process of choosing the excellent team commences with the selection of nominees for the elections which lie in the hands of the party leaders. The public can choose only from those selected by the party leaders. Therefore, the party leaders must act with the greatest responsibility at this crucial juncture. Both Maithri and Ranil should desist from fielding rogues at elections and nominate only decent candidates. Quarantine for identified and suspected politician fraudsters must continue to be in force. At this crucial juncture, a mistake made will be irreversible.

Funding an election campaign which needs colossal amounts of money is no easy task. It is because of this that party leaders tend to be lenient with and rely on the money power of drug dealers, casino kings, fraudsters and illicit business owners and politicians connected with them. This should be stopped for good. All party leaders can agree not to spend money in an internecine struggle. After elections, as discussed and made public, a national government should be formed. However, debarring disreputable and deceitful characters from joining such a national government should be the number one item in the national agenda.

Role of the Influential
However excellent and brilliant a team may be the tendency to make mistakes cannot be underestimated. Severe competition the society is engulfed in puts people under undue pressure. There is competition to put a child to school, to get a government job, to get a government contract, to get competitive trade benefits, to get a government land most of the time need the services of an influential person. It has been observed how the leaders of government downwards to a local government member, used undue influence to get things done for their supporters during the last so many decades. Even the excellent politician with a hitherto untainted character would sometimes knowingly or unknowingly, get dragged into indulging in corrupt practices when he has to act the ‘influential person’.

Therefore, it is imperative to reform the system and create an environment where it wouldn’t be necessary for the people to go behind influential persons to use influence. An integral part of such a reform would be the public administrative reforms, aiming at the establishment of a new model of public administration and just not patching it up, which can implement fast the government policies and programmes leading to a ‘Results-Oriented Government’.

There would invariably be much resistance to the introduction of such reforms by those who have up to now either enjoyed their influences to get things moving to their personal advantage or took it easy in doing less and responding less in the public service. However, for the sake of the country and for the sake of the public at large such resistance would have to be overcome and long-range multifaceted reforms implemented forthwith. Only a national government could bring about such reforms. The reason is, that whenever anything good introduced in the past met with resistance from some quarters, the opposition took advantage to make things difficult for the government or even to topple the government, however beneficial the proposal was to the country.

Discipline and good conduct
It is within a political party itself that a disciplined team of politicians with good conduct can be formed. It is the political party which is responsible for nurturing such a team. The organisational structure of a political party should be such that it maintains discipline and good governance within the party. There has to be transparency from recruiting members to the party to how promotions take place inside. All political parties should conduct educational programmes to keep their membership well informed of national and international issues. The philosophy which serves as the base of any political party would help to maintain member partisanship and loyalty and enable the members to choose between what is right and wrong. They can always refer back to the political philosophy to correct any deviation in their path. This was the case in left parties about five decades ago. However, political parties at present do not seem to have any political philosophy governing their parties. Hence what is now important is to inculcate the philosophy of goodwill, altruism, discipline and good governance among the members.

A member chooses to leave the political party to which he belongs when he starts to doubt the effectiveness and applicability of the party philosophy or the economic and social model that the party proposes for the country.
Under these circumstances crossing over and establishing new political parties took place on valid grounds. Till the 70s this situation prevailed.

However, because no political party has a dedicated link to any political philosophy governing them it is obvious that cross-overs to other political parties take place merely for selfish reasons or because of disillusionment with the party leadership. This phenomenon could be compared to a person changing the company he has been employed with all this time, to another, to receive more benefits such as higher salary, bonus etc.

Fraud Triangle
Fraud, deception and corruption are vices which are interwoven. In this context it is worthwhile learning what the Fraud Triangle is all about. The triangle shows three factors which lead to fraud, i.e. 1.) Incentives and pressures, 2) opportunities, and 3) attitudes/rationalisation. A person may make a false representation about a material fact, if he knew that he would lose some benefits had the actual facts been reported. He would get pressure from within, to declare something not achieved as achieved simply because it is only then he would be entitled to a cash bonus. At times, he may be driven by outside influences too. The greed to obtain what you need is an incentive to distort facts to serve your purpose.

This kind of fraud leads to manipulation of statistics and factual reports. Lack of consistent supervision and follow-up, badly designed internal control systems, allowing one person to complete a transaction from the beginning to the end, unscrupulous supervisors and situations where a person originating a transaction and checking or reviewing it are one and the same or under the influence of one dominant person, can create opportunity for fraudulent activities to occur. An attitude, character or set of ethical values may exist that allows those in charge or their subordinates to intentionally commit a dishonest act or they are in an environment that imposes pressure that causes them to rationalise committing a dishonest, act. Fraudulent activities are sometimes rationalised on the premise that ‘after all these things happen everywhere’ or when such untoward activities are approved by no less than the highest in the organisation.

If enough vigilance is not exercised to curb fraudulent activities, there is room for even an excellent team to get corrupt sometime or the other.

Hence, it is imperative to include a built-in set of checks and balances in the proposed constitutional reforms and good governance procedures. It is high time to initiate a political and social reform process with due prominence for administrative reforms for the benefit of all the people.

(This article was prepared before nominations closed on Monday. The writer can be reached at countbest@gmail.com)

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