Sri Lankan Parliament needs to rid of its Jekyll and Hyde personalities

Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-HydeStrange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a fable by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson first published in 1886; is about a London lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde. The story’s impact is such that it has become a part of the language, with the very phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” coming to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next. This policy instability has been defined as the biggest deterrent to good business climate in the country according to the 2016 Annual Report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, mainly because over the years many leaders in the legislature are having this “Jekyll and Hyde” personality whose moral character change from situation to situation, that they are unable to come up with a stable policy on many issues.

This moral character change from situation to situation were exhibited by leaders from the days of independence, there was SWRD who advocated federalism left it  in the ‘50s to promote ‘Sinhala only’ policy; because he was not made the Prime Minister in 1952. Then UNP having lost its lustre and received a crushing defeat in 1956, to regain power JR staged the famous Kandy March in 1958, opposing the ‘Banda-Chelva’ Pact conceding Regional Councils made to resolve the demand for federalism by the minorities. It was the same JR in 1987 by way of the 13th Amendment to the constitution, conceded Provincial Councils instead of the Regional Councils offered in 1958 by SWRD and merged the North and East Provinces. In 2009, with the end of the civil war MR promised UN, that he would go beyond the 13th Amendment to the constitution and give 13+ and with his moral character change in no time went on to demerge the North-East Province keeping the security forces in the region to achieve his agenda and in 2015 was rejected by the people. The absence of this “Jekyll and Hyde” personality in our leaders would have not caused this ethnic issue some six decades ago and the country would have been saved from the miseries of the three decades of bloody war that produced no winners, only a great loss to the nation.

On the economic front, this moral character change from situation to situation was visible even before the civil war, in particular on development related matters. The country’s location and current external relations stands well to support an export driven economy that could have helped to regain its leading position in the region in the negative peace years after the civil war ended in May 2009; but the present government having inherited many white elephant development projects that were not bringing in any revenues and left with an empty coffer with no funds in 2015 to serve the loans taken for these and many other uncompleted projects by the previous government. Those who initiated these loss making projects were in opposition and vigorously opposed all moves by the government in the parliament and outside to resuscitate these projects, the Hambantota Harbour and Airport are two such projects. Then the Colombo Port City project that was stalled in 2015; is getting underway at present with reclamation and infrastructure development work and are looking to attract investors on the prime properties.

The new M&R combination leadership too has exhibited this moral character change from situation to situation as did their predecessors; for they were voted to power among other things with promises to cut back on extravagances have failed to prove it in the two years they have been in action. The tendency to have too many ministers than necessary that cost heavily has continued resulting in cluttered portfolio of ministries that lack focus and on many occasions have stepped on each other’s toes to say the least enjoying the treats while the people are engulfed with heavy financial loads. In addition, providing additional allowances and spending massive amounts of money to import luxury vehicles for the legislators and their officers. To make matters worse the country is meeting the heavy cost of providing security to these many ministers and administrators. Although the war was brought to an end many years ago the state is yet to reduce the number of security forces; that is too helping to drain the empty coffer that gets filled with little export earnings that has started to ooze in.

More importantly, the so called “National Government” made up of UNP and SLFP the two largest political parties in the country and few other minor political parties in 2015, have failed to have an all-inclusive policy of governance that would have benefited the marginalised minorities living in remote areas of the country, most of whom were directly affected by the war and are not represented in the government. Despite the war free environment, it is this and the lack of stable policies, that has eluded to attract foreign investments into the country that has forced the rulers to borrow more from foreign governments and international financing bodies for its development projects.

While the country is celebrating the 14th UN International Vesak Festival, to follow the path set out two millennia ago by Gautama, the Buddha and brought to this island by the son of great Emperor Asoka; may it bring enlightenment to our two leaders “M & R” as true Buddhists earn their living serving in a righteous way by venturing into various righteous enterprises to improve the overall livelihoods of the poor people of this country during the rest of their journey as rulers of this blessed little island nation.