Wijith DeChickera points his fingers at the three Fs in LMD’s campaign to ‘Refresh Sri Lanka’
One must realise there are three Fs on Sri Lanka’s governance report card before aspiring or attempting to refresh and regain lost significance, stability and stature – it’s the sensible thing to do: reflect.
THE PAST The first F is a failure of forms.
From a constitution subject to tinkering by successive political movements, through a social contract susceptible to hijacking by vested interests, to the checks and balances supposedly guaranteed by the separation and division of powers failing because the three arms of government are incestuously intimate to the detriment of the national interest.
An obvious second is a failure of function.
That’s when practice doesn’t follow policy or praxis is based on unsound policies. For example, when government moots establishing a National Debt Management Agency (in the 2022 interim budget) and an International Trade Office (2023 annual budget) but fails to allocate finances for these.
No state expenditures were set aside for these, which never materialised.
Or governance confuses its functions between the central bank as its monetary policy regulator and the finance ministry as a driver of fiscal policies. Such abject decisions led to dangers tantamount to declaring more than bankruptcy but deliberate courting of disaster for our international image and investor confidence too.
The third F is a failure of fundamentals.
It is when economic and sociopolitical pillars are fundamentally unsound. Under inordinate pressure from within and without, the entire edifice crumbles and crashes.
Such errors and omissions pre-empt forward-thinking visionary ideas from taking root in fertile soil; rather, they uproot good harvests – often, literally – overnight (as when implementing an unwise fertiliser policy).
They sow the seeds of social upheavals, famine and hunger, and cause the poor to fall through whatever safety nets may have been in place; setting on fire the cycle of socioeconomic inequity and making the nation at large susceptible to insidious political forces.
“The intuitive will honestly turn the unforgiving glare of that probing searchlight on oneself to execute a merciless scrutiny of islanders’ modus operandi since independence”
THE PRESENT Therefore, any attempt or aspiration to help Sri Lanka recover from its predicament must address the three Fs on the country’s scoresheet by essaying corresponding reforms.
For one, whether it is governance – good, bad or ugly – or general realities as such that affect the national interest, as well as the peace and prosperity of all citizens, these forms must become areas of interest and activity for all islanders… in the island and beyond its shores.
No longer can Sri Lankans be content to consider themselves in the driving seat when voting and then abdicate all responsibility for what transpires in-between elections. The buck stops here… with us citizen stakeholders – and not a corrupt and incompetent culture of governance.
For another, in the interim between casting one’s ballot and experiencing the ramifications of electoral results, Sri Lankans near and far need to avail themselves of every space, forum or opportunity, to critically and constructively engage with their elected representatives on the functions those forms are meant to perform, using every agency available.
These instrumentalities range from advocating for better governance in the media, actively debating and disseminating analyses essayed by nonpartisan think tanks that scrutinise public policy, and even agitating for more citizen agency in government decisions in the interim – even calling for constitutional reforms to introduce the much needed ‘right of recall’ whereby elected representatives who fail to deliver in line with their campaign promises are ‘re-voted out.’
THE FUTURE Last but by no means least, every citizen – not only voters but the youth and children – needs to be re-educated on the fundamentals of a just, peaceful and equitable society.
The honest will intuit that the answer lies on inward paths. And the intuitive will honestly turn the unforgiving glare of that probing searchlight on themselves to execute a merciless scrutiny of islanders’ modus operandi since independence.
Shall we do better to breathe citizen responsibilities as much as rights?