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The dark era ends

Wither Sri Lanka, one time a vibrant democracy, was the multi-billion question in the international fora till recently. An overnight silent revolution backed by the ballot dawned a new era on a decisive day on January 8, 2015.

 D.S. Senanayake Dudley Senanayake S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike Pieter Keuneman
Dr. N.M. Perera J.R. Jayewardene V. A. Sugathadasa Ranil Wickremesinghe

Elections at regular intervals, universal suffrage, representative Parliament and the like attributes of democracy remained in the country yet under the spell of fear and apprehension. What really matters is not the mere nameboard or trade-mark of democracy but the spirit with which it works in a society where the rule of law and independence of the Judiciary are upheld. In the recent past, all such values died a natural but painful death.

Here are some of the recent newspaper captions -

'Travel ban on Mahindananda', Lankadeepa - 27.1.2015

'Presidential secretariat vehicle fleet - 245 missing' - Lankadeepa 27.1.2015

'100 kilos of gold worth over billions' - Allegation against the former First Lady by a former DIG's wife - 27.1.2015.

'19 gunny bags full of Prime Minister's office documents found in former PM's Secretary's well in Minuwangoda' - Lankadeepa 26.1.2015

'Litro gas deal, - Rs. 700 million loss to government' - Divaina 25.01.2015

'CJ quizzed by the CID' - Lankadeepa 24.1.2015

The Hela Urumaya calls upon the Government to investigate the case of 251 kgs of heroin smuggled to Sri Lanka where the former PM's son and Secretary were allegedly involved. - Lankadeepa 24.01.2015

'Travel ban on Sajin Vas and Cabraal' - Lankadeepa, 23.1.2015

'53 Presidential Secretariat vehicles found at Kotte' - Lankadeepa – 23.01.2015

'CID trailing a former IGP and a young Colombo district MP – Wele Suda's business buddies' – Divaina 23.1.2015

'Lasantha, Jeyaraj, Raviraj and Thambimuttu Killings to be probed' – Lankadeepa 22.1.2015

'Sixty-thousand bottles of Wayamba arrack seized at Dematagoda' (A Cabinet Minister is a shareholder of the manufacturing company).

These are only a microscopic number of the misdeeds alleged to have been committed by UPFA politicians, State officials and other UPFA cohorts whose blind allegiance made them feel that their Government was invincible.

From the PS member right up to the UPFA top brass were a law unto themselves. Most UPFA Pradeshiya Sabha Chairmen were tinpot dictators rampaging villages like wild jumbos.

If not for the pressure local and international, the down-South young PS Chairman, a fugitive of law who was found guilty of murdering a British national would have escaped the long arm of the law.

Lawlessness

The non-application of law to UPFA goons became a weird phenomenon in Sri Lankan politics. In Deraniyagala, some estate workers under the patronage of UPFA PS Chairman - “Athakota” killed the Superintendent of Noori-Estate in broad daylight.

All these were due to the non-enforcement of law and humiliation of the police. The police became a virtual prisoner at the hands of the MP, the strong man of the area. A classic example of this was where a Southern Lanka Deputy Minister notorious for his foolhardiness raided the local police station with his thugs and took away some arson suspects saying that he would himself produce them in courts.

The Government maintained a deafening silence. The law of the jungle prevailed at its brazen best. All that was inviolable were openly raped with impunity.

Politicised judiciary

In the democratic set up the Judiciary is treated as sacred and independent. The Superior courts were packed with political appointees and the former CJ was humiliated and sacked.

Stooges in key posts

Political henchmen who knew next to nothing were appointed to man key public institutions.

The Ports Authority, the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, Petroleum Corporation and Central Bank suffered unprecedented losses.

It was revealed that the former IMF shamed boss Strauss Khan was hired at a cost of US $ 750,000 to make Sri Lanka a financial hub.

The list is far from over. Several PR companies in the USA were paid huge sums of money to promote Sri Lanka's image in the international community.

Greece is relatively a poor economy punctuated by recurrent setbacks of near total economic collapse. The financial wizardry of the Central Bank was such that they invested billions in Greek bonds. The enterprise was a total loss to the country.

Foreign Service

Career diplomats were sidelined to accommodate unlettered political neophytes to key stations. Even Consular offices were not safe as they became the junkyard for the ministerial kith and kin. The net result was that Sri Lanka was completely isolated in the international arena and lost badly at the last two UNHRC sessions in Geneva.

Media freedom

The media was compelled to enforce self-censorship in reporting not only controversial issues but even daily events. Several media personnel were tortured and murdered or forced to migrate. Media institutions with its billions worth equipment were set ablaze by UPFA goons who held sway.

Some state media institutions were headed by Government henchmen who ravished the noble profession paying scant respect to the accepted norms. They exploited the service only to attack the political opponents of the UPFA in uncouth language and false allegations and to thrive themselves in extravagance.

State print media circulation figures dropped sharply due to the lack of good reading material in their lop-sided publications. They sang hosannas for the UPFA while unfounded allegations were levelled against Opposition politicians to tarnish their image.

The import of cheap and substandard medical drugs became a lucrative business at the risk of death to patients.

The progressive National Drug Policy introduced by Senaka Bibile disappeared eventually at the hands of drug barons without even a trace of the document. All this took place with the blessings of some politicians who were closely linked to multibillion drug importers.

Men of calibre

Dacades ago in Sri Lanka the noble art of politics was practised by men of calibre, intergrity and simplicity such as D.S. Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Dr. N.M. Perera, Dr. S.A. Wickremesinghe, Phillip Gunawardene, Dr. Colvin R. De Silva and J.R. Jayewardene.

On the mere allegation by Dr. N.M. Perera that the Prime Minister favoured in awarding contracts to his brother's company to purchase equipment, Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee headed by Dr. N.M. Perera himself to probe the alleged deal. Eventually Dudley was exonerated of all allegations and Dr. N.M. Perera, the gentleman-politician tendered an open apology in Parliament. Communist leader Pieter Keuneman too tendered an open apology in Parliament for a somewhat similar allegation against Minister V.A. Sugathadasa.

Those were the days when people of all parties acted democratically and politics was not a profession or a lucrative business but a noble service for them irrespective of the camp they belonged to.

Most of them were born with the silver spoon in their mouth and when they retired from politics they had only a megre income for their survival having spent everything on social service. Dudley Senanayake had only Rs. 456 in his bank account at the time of his demise.

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike had mortgaged his Rosmead Place property for his political campaign. Similarly, most party leaders in the past ended their lives as virtual paupers in contrast to the present day defeated politicians who had amassed wealth for generations pillaging state coffers and having ventured into all types of corruption, malpractices and illegal deals.

With the effluxion of time especially during the last decade, politics became a lucrative business for most UPFA parliamentarians. After winning the war some UPFA stalwarts thought that they would never be defeated under any circumstances. They indulged in all forms of nefarious activities with the powers vested in them by virtue of the portfolios they held.

New concept

The concept of a common candidate mooted by Ranil Wickremesinghe and ably supported by a large number of progressive forces in the country who were hell-bent in dispelling the Rajapaksa maladministration worked relentlessly to form a Government with a new political culture and good governance.

After an aggressively fought battle, the common front heaved a sigh of relief on January 9 with the resounding victory achieved.

The vast majority of the countrymen eagerly and anxiously await to see how the present rulers fulfill their pledges to relieve the people from the grip of poverty and establish law and order in the country to maintain good governance with a new political culture. The common man is quite content with the mini budget proposals presented by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake on Thursday as the prices of essential commodities have been reduced substantially and many measures taken to reduce the cost-of-living.

Similarly, the people look forward to see how the culprits will be brought to book and dealt with severely as they plundered the State coffers making the average man poorer but wiser.

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