Protecting democratic process in society

Everyone has and had his way and right of coming to know what he knows and what he in general desires to know. None of us could come to know all that we like to know. Many of us fail even to know all that we ought to know. It is therefore the obligation of those who know more than others to enlighten the ignorant and make them knowledgeable about what is most essential for personal, community and social life. What one comes to know may not be attractive and may not seem good sometimes at first sight. It is after coming to know something better that one begins to see that it is good and begins to be familiar with it and love it. Coming to know is a ‘revelation’. It is an opening of the mind to knowing something new, to know and understand well what the five senses – touching, hearing, speaking, smelling and tasting – transmit to the mind.

The mind will grasp and embrace it when what it comes to know is consistent with the structure and make-up of the mind and reality. The mind is structured to grasp, experience and understand what is and what it did not know before. Knowledge, to hold itself up, should be true, just, good and beautiful. The mind clutches at what is true, just and good and embraces it.

Others could introduce us to new knowledge, to what is true, just, good and beautiful. It is a great privilege of parents, elders and teachers to introduce the young to new knowledge.

The young are often enthralled with what they are helped to discover. They remain fascinated with the teachers who have taught them new things, or who have helped them with ways to discover new things on one’s own. In fact that is the function of teachers: to help students to open their minds, to think on their own, to question, to search for and seek answers. Those who wish to make Sri Lanka a knowledge hub should get a new generation of teachers to stimulate students to open their minds to think on their own, guide them along correct and logical thinking and come to new knowledge or discover knowledge on one’s own initiative.

The flourishing of democracy depends on reliable and unprejudiced knowledge of men and affairs. All should be introduced to grasp and accept the democratic process, value and protect it. It is necessary for citizens to protect this freedom to know.

True knowledge at which one arrives often with the help of others, helps one to discard what is not true, even when it has been handed down from one generation to the next. One sometimes finds it difficult to uncritically fit today’s narratives of past history to the limitations of the historical context of that past. It is here that literary and historical criticism is central. True knowledge is liberating. Truth makes one free. Freedom is a human value of such worth that without it the dignity and identity of the human being is absent or undermined.

Sri Lanka today is at a juncture when as a democratic people, we need to rediscover the reliability and foundation of what we know about ourselves, our history, the meaning of our legends, myths, traditions and customs and how we analyze and give expression to them. We ought to understand the fundamentals of our economic situation in order to demand that those who govern handle matters prudently and not recklessly.

Many an aid is needed for the mind to make correct assessments and honest judgements. Today’s political context make these judgements very important when they concern the democratic and economic processes of society as they touch the human dignity, rights, well-being, honour, respect and self-esteem and the standard of life of all the human beings inhabiting the country as citizens.

Communication between persons and of leaders, especially those appearing as national leaders need to be reliable and true. One’s truthfulness cannot be foisted and forced on others. Openness, candor, honesty and frankness cannot be suddenly put on like a clean shawl.

The vast multi-faceted public service, made complex and selfishly politicized by the UNP, SLFP and now pandered to by the SLPP and other parties are a great burden on the tax payer. Though those who serve in it have security of tenure, they are noted for lethargy, inefficiency, procrastination and delay and inattention to duty. They make and break governments. Yet political leaders seem to buy them over at election times and the tax payer gets further burdened with extra taxes and inefficient service that makes good governance impossible.

New and patriotic ways need to be found to bring the whole public service to a truly civilized and very sensitive and conscious democratic social process. What is there today is not a civilized structure of service. It is a highly corrupt and stinking structure that brings disgrace on the whole country.

PEOPLE SANS SENSE OF SHAME

Some social analysts conclude that there is also a repercussions of an unacceptable intrusion of religion into politics and therefore advocate the separation of religion from politics. If one carefully observers, the all pervading influence of noble religious truths do not pollute or contaminate and poison society. But the intrusion of religious prejudice, bias, superstition and distortions of religion have been allowed to corrupt politics, religion and society.

Human beings, from birth to death should breathe clean, unpolluted, uncontaminated air to live a healthy life. Breathing fresh air and exhaling bad air does not make a noise. Pristine religion that is true, just, wholesome is like breath that gives life; it is graceful, does not pollute or poison thought. A religious adherent who goes wrong could be brought back to truth by the believing community. True religion, when believed and lived, witnessed to and preached does not harm anyone; it enlightens and elevates. Whereas Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, Nazism, Fascism and the political ideologies of Wijeweera. Prabhakaran, Rajapaksa are distorted, polluted and often self-absorbed, biased and prejudiced so as to make them inhuman.

Righteous men and women who are faithful to the truthful and noble tenets of religion, live according to them without making an exhibition and show of it. They have held the highest offices of public office and most members of the judiciary have creditably preserved the prestige of the high positions they held.

Upright persons are disciplined and have self-control. They could be truly religious without being discriminatory of anyone. They could treat all as equal and honourable human beings with dignity and human rights. They who are independently self-disciplined are able to appropriately expunge the egotistic tendencies that could creep into their lives. Whereas some others who even preach religion on the side do not only denigrated and abuse religion, they become utterly hypocritical and dishonest. Hypocrisy, abuse and dishonesty do not come from religion; they come from an emptiness and a meaninglessness peculiarly vested in people without a sense of shame.

When presidents and some judiciary officials including some chief justices were not honest but were plainly hypocritical and had no sense of shame, it was a great tragedy for the country. This the people should understand.

LEGAL SYSTEM

The New Constitution which needs to be established should be the foundation and base of a legal system where everyone including the President is subject to the law that is supreme. There should be absolutely no ground for any individual, be he President, Prime Minister, Minister or any high official to take arbitrary, autocratic decisions that bind other citizens. When the law is made to prevail over a people for a period of time, the self-restraint and discipline required to uphold the spirit of the law take root in that society. That is how it is in societies where corruption is minimal and very much under control, if it has not altogether completely disappeared.

However the proneness to evil in man so universal that someone can succumb to greed and lust and the love of money. Presently politicians who have indulged in swindling the state itself and making illicit gains of hundreds of millions through commissions of various kinds find it quite natural to throw away twenty-five to fifty millions of rupees to lawyers who could succeed in finding loopholes in the law, or making use of a legal technicality to getting them out of desperate situations.

Therefore those in the legal system and those exercising power and influence are not immune to this malady of bending the law for the love of money. Unless the discipline and self-control they have imbibed in their professional training restrains them, energizes democratic traditions of society and upholds them, they too could fall away and become anti-social and anti-democratic, anti-human and anti-religious and contribute also to the economic ruination of the country.

Everyone knows that Sri Lanka is in an almost irredeemable rotten state. Much needs to be done to raise all the people to an acceptable level of human dignity and honesty. And someone has to begin the process. If what Sarath Fonseka has recently spoken is the general consensus of the team headed by Sajith Premadasa, there is some hope that this country could turn back from complete catastrophe and regain its lost self-respect and hand over a worthy heritage to the coming generation. 



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