The Sunday Times Editorial

22nd September 1996

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Time to change

The present political system where, largely self-serving politicians are making bogus promises to appease or mislead the people, has come to a point where it necessarily must change. We are glad that the Opposition Leader and the PA General Secretary have basically agreed on that. Most people are so bitterly disappointed with the two main political parties today, they feel they are confronted with a pithy Sinhala version of the Hobson's choice - choosing between a woman with a running nose and one with a recurring cough.

Before elections, politicians of all colours preach a lot about serving the people and fostering democratic freedoms. The principles of openness and transparency are underlined in their manifestos. But after taking office the democrats become demi-gods and criticisms is considered to be sacrilege. Very few politicians today appear to be living the Kipling principle of keeping their heads above their shoulders while others are losing theirs and blaming it on former regimes. We see very few politicians who are able to walk with kings or queens but not lose the common touch. On the contrary many appear to have got the Midas touch.

There is an urgent need today for pragmatic politics, not promises meant to be broken. We see an urgent need for the infusion of new blood or a new breed of politicians who are abreast with today's realities in a high-tech world and who have the freedom to rise above their petty selves. We need to have honest politicians and leaders with integrity who are prepared to quit on matters of principle. In recent weeks we have heard that from at least two Ministers but whether it will go beyond words is a matter of grave doubt.

We need to see the misfits and miscreants even in the ruling party being removed while the party is still in office, without commissions of inquiry having to be appointed by the next regime. These have often tended to be propaganda circuses. We need today a change in the culture of politics so that men and women will step into the arena not to get something from the country but to give something. Many politicians promise to do that while in opposition. We heard it from the PA but power creates monsters.

After the violence and the counter-violence in Negombo three weeks ago, there were more killings on Friday. As ominous, was a speech reported to have been made by President Kumaratunga in Veyangoda last Sunday. In her speech the President is reported to have said (and it has not been contradicted so far) that those who attacked PA supporters in Negombo should be sliced up or something to that effect. Are we seeing a new Attanagalle doctrine? Heaven help this nation.

Dirty hands

With Sri Lankan Cricket rising to professional and mature world class status not only in limited over matches but also in tests, there is unprecedented public interest in the game. As often happens, petty party politics has to creep in from somewhere to spoil the sport.

The millions of fans in Sri Lanka want to watch cricket and enjoy the hurricane hitting of a Sanath Jayasuriya or Aravinda de Silva. As to who is the chief guest or whether there is a Presidential presence carries as much significance as a no-ball.

As a direct result of petty vanity at best or political calculation at worst, the Cricket Board Chief is made to grovel in a most humiliating manner offering a thousand profuse apologies. An independent media institution - whatever our unhappy relations are with it - is put on the spot, to the extent that the more valid issue of the relationship between the state and an independent media network is dominated by political overtones.

Cricket is a gentleman's game. We saw at the Singer cup Final the magnanimity of Australian Captain Ian Healy in defeat when he gave full credit to Sri Lanka and offered no excuses. In cricket opponents are not hammered and umpires not threatened. Great cricketers like Sir Donald Bradman never challenged an umpire's decision on the basis that the umpire could make a mistake but would never cheat. That is the spirit of cricket and party politicians of today's breed obviously cannot come anywhere near those heights. So let them please keep their hands out of cricket.

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