All Political Parties Must Act Responsibly!
Granted the British facilitated the formation of political parties, in the State Council days, allegedly as an extension of the infamous ‘Divide and Rule’ policy, on the model of what prevailed in Britain at the time, the fact that it is entrenched in the politics of Sri Lanka today has to be accepted. The formation of the first political party in Colonial Ceylon, the Trotskyite, Lanka Sama Samaja Party, its nomenclature reflective of the developments in post-revolutionary Russia, was also dictated by the local scenario where it was the powerful elite who dominated the Executive Committees in the State Council.
The change of the political situation in Soviet Russia led to the founding of the other leftist political party the Communist Party of Ceylon, followed by the rightist United National Party and significantly the first-ever racialist Party, the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchchi called the Federal Party in Jaffna! Today, there is such a proliferation of parties that some are jocularly called ‘three-wheeler parties’. However, what matters is how responsible the main political parties have been to the country and the people. While the ruling Party has a duty to serve the Opposition should not obstruct.
The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) came into existence to voice the needs of the downtrodden and the oppressed as members of the elite were the Chairmen of the Executive Committees best served the interests of the upper class the LSSP, for instance, having to distribute dhal during the malaria epidemic. The difference in the attitudes of the British Colonial Government, the LSSP having to come forward to helping the people in a big way, and the present Government, with the Opposition donating equipment to hospitals, is over 80,000 people dying of malaria compared to very much less COVID-19 deaths.
In addition the Viplavakari Lanka Sama Samaja Party (VLSSP) and the Nava Lanka Sama Samaja Party into which the Lanka Sama Samaja Party split and the Communist Party of Ceylon, not forgetting the Labour Party of A.E. Gunasinha rendered yeoman service in winning workers’ rights in British times. All local leaders of the State Council irrespective of political ideology they followed acted with a sense of responsibility in developing the country within the limits of their power. That was how the much valued ancient irrigation works were restored and Raja Rata lands were opened up under colonisation schemes.
Their patriotic attitude led to laying the foundation for heavy industries and hydro-electricity, ensuring free education and health for the country to be ready for freedom in 1948. The increased responsibility of political parties was manifested when in 1951 S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became more people-friendly. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) founded by him that obtained an epoch making victory ushering in the 1956 Revolution not only brought about a cultural revival but also took several steps responsible for the uplift of the country and the people such as taking over Royal Air Force base at Katunayake.
What, he said in his historic address on 4 February 1948 delivering the Vote of Thanks on the occasion of granting Independence that ‘political freedom is meaningless without economic freedom’ was prophetic and is reflective of his overall thinking on the main issue confronting the people. The VLSSP, led by Philip Gunawardena, of indigenous scientific socialism fame, that joined the SLFP of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna Coalition Government was behind the nationalisation of Cargo Boat Despatch Company as Port Cargo Corporation, Private Bus Companies as Ceylon Transport Board and other progressive legislation.
However, it is legendary that other leftist political parties obstructed him at every turn prompting his widow to say, pointing to one such leftist political party leader, that he virtually killed her husband. It was said of one such party that when it rained in Moscow its members caught a flu! This role is perhaps assumed by their successors of the new left, not so much by criticising the Government, as an accepted democratic right but by mud-slinging accusing of family rule, whereas the truth is that some are not fertile enough to possess the procreative ability to produce a successor at all.
A political family has to be judged not by the number of its members in politics but by the quality of their performance. What elevated the Rajapaksa family to the helm of affairs in this beloved land of ours was the vacillation of the previous regime in fighting the war against the LTTE terrorists. The aura of fame achieved by liberating the country from terrorism cannot be obliterated and their continuing vigilance in ensuring its security has prompted a grateful nation to keep them in power. Their sense of responsibility towards the country and its people has become legendary.
The Opposition parties, well knowing this, make a futile effort to vilify them at every turn but the large majority of the right thinking people cannot be dissuaded by their vain tactics: getting farmers, teachers, health workers, humanelephant conflict affected and consumers, to shout indecent slogans. So, just as it is imperative for the political parties comprising the Government to act with responsibility the Opposition political parties are doubly bound by the trust imposed on them by the people at large to be strictly responsible, talk and act with decorum, not setting a bad example to children watching TV news. Politicians must act with responsibility, not making hooligans out of young children, university students and adults!