Too many cooks spoil the broth……….

The literal meaning of the proverb is that when many cooks are appointed to prepare the soup, they will spoil it instead of making it delicious. Each of them will have own tastes and preferences and will use them to make the soup. Often, they disagree with one another in the method of making the broth. Every cook will cook the same soup according to his own interest and skill. As a result, they will spoil the soup. The same thing applies to the reconciliation process taking in the country, for if there are too many people there to do a thing at the same time, the result will not be much desirable for too many cooks will spoil the broth.
The permanent representative of Sri Lanka in UN has told the assembly last week that communal elements are delaying the reconciliation process in his country. True there are too many cooks to spoil the broth in Sri Lanka; not only ethnic biased extremist elements from all corners of the country and of late living as diaspora overseas, but also many legislators themselves who made a fortune out of the misery of the people during the war years are not helping the process. There even those in the noble medical profession like the doctors jumping into the band wagons who are not allowing the government to move forward at the desired phase. The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), are asking for special privileges over and above those privileges already granted to them – in this case the automatic allocation of high standard schools for their children wherever they might be located in the country. Earlier at different times the professors in the universities and those in the in the administrative service did put pressure on the government to increase their remunerations using an avenue that was in the past used cautiously by the organized bodies such as the trade unions particularly in the private sector initially to improve the below par working conditions of their membership. Later these unions themselves were engulfed into politics are today supporting political parties.

This is because over the past few decades the elected politicians led the way grabbing such unfair privileges, from numerous special allowances for basic facilities over and above their tax-free official salaries, to the right to sell their duty free vehicle import permits, to the right to give jobs or recommend state sector jobs to their followers or kin. Too many legislators were made ministers and the ruling party was top heavy adding to the problem, these people already living comfortable in society lacked social responsibility; and failed to realize it was their greed that derailed all attempts of the government to better the living standard of majority of the people, in particular the poor who lives below the poverty line in the country. The mess resulted in loss of productivity in the country, was made worse by the two youth uprisings in the south and the third in the north engulfing the east that led to the three decades of civil war that impacted everyone in the country. Finally there was a dictatorial government that brought the civil war to an end, which without building peace in the country, ventured into corrupt practices like taking bribes, arm deals, pushing drugs and opening up liquor shops all succeeded in taking the country down to underworld status in six years where human killings and disappearances, became normal events like droughts and floods throughout the country.

All this changed and following the general elections in August 2015, the two leading political parties in the country UNP and SLFP formed the Yahapalanaya government with few other small political parties and the people had high expectations. The new government took on the difficult task of uniting a divided country together, but the people were soon disillusioned when a rebellious breakaway group elected to parliament from the previous SLFP dominated UPFA government moved to the opposition calling them the Joint Opposition (JO) and making life difficult for the government both in and out of parliament. Some of the notorious members from both sides of the previous parliament stayed on with the government and are obstructing the journey by sympathizing with the joint opposition are not helping the cause of the new leadership and are ably assisted by members of the administrative service that served the previous regime, retained in service by the present government. Furthermore the UNP alliance with SLFP is not permanent and both parties are continuing to serve the interest of their parties preparing for the next elections. As part of this programme the UPFA has called on the SLFP Parliamentarians in the joint opposition to join the SLFP and commit them to strengthen the party and ensure its victory at the next elections.

JVP the third force in the political arena most affected by the union of the two major parties are playing an active role in opposition waiting for better times. Of the main minority parties TNA are in opposition hoping to get under the present rule long overdue better life for their voters in North and East and supporting every reforms government is making towards this goal. Not surprisingly, their enemies are within consisting of all other Tamil political parties operating in North-East who are fighting for their share of voters to gain political power in the region. But the biggest headache for TNA now is from the Tamil Diaspora who supported them at the elections in 2015 and who in return wants to influence the events in the country. But novice TNA is now wiser and knows very well that it will betray democracy and trust of the people who voted them in at elections; and are hopeful under the UNP-SLFP alliance government it is possible to find a permanent solution to the ethnic problem within a united country. Recent tear gas attack in Paris disrupted a Tamil diaspora meeting with TNA members prompted a call by the TNA leadership for the diaspora not to indulge in such violence because it would not help the political atmosphere for dialogue under way in Sri Lanka.

Then there other political parties like the SLMC representing the Muslims in North and East, who are playing a waiting game without committing themselves and exploiting the situation to their own advantage by always being with the government of the day. Those political parties representing the Upcountry Tamils are playing the same game as the Muslim parties, which is understandable for it is a survival game to those political parties that represent the most disadvantaged people in the country. There are many other small political parties in the fry including those formed by Tamil rebel groups and many small splinter groups from the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community, who whenever possible get accommodated by the ruling parties to make the number to form a government. Given the opportunity they have proved they are second to none in exploiting the opportunity for their advantage. The silent majority from all parts of the country was repelled by these law makers of all sizes, colours, shades many of whom were a law on to themselves; and these people were thankful when the new government was formed in 2015. In this backdrop the proposed addition of a new political party that is to be formed by the joint opposition is like putting spanner in the works.

It spite of all these political parties the poorest of the poor in city slums and rural villages not represented by any of these parties and are therefore not cared for by the state. Their number increased two fold in North and East of the country with the civil war and it is estimated as of 2010 8.9% of the total population of the country lives below the poverty line. Poverty still remains widespread and continues to be a challenging problem in Sri Lanka, with 90% of the poor and over 80% of Sri Lanka’s population living in rural areas would only lead to another uprising. With many external forces influencing the law makers while ministers are literally flying about in the country. The poor are thus left without care for with no roof over their head and proper food to eat; that makes the proverb “ Too many cooks spoil the broth……”a reality in Sri Lanka.