Left-of-centre or what is left of centre?



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By REGGIE PONNAMPALAM


Of late, I have been reading a great deal of differing views on how and what the Constitution should be made up of, and the form of government we should be either bestowed with or suffer under. I must admit the views were divergent and, to me, were pearls of intellect on strings of context. Names like Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, Stalin, Castro, Che, Mao, Mussolini are resurrected. United, unified, unitary; Socialist, Capitalist, Globalized; multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, pluralist democracy, meritocracy, nepotism, hegemonic, centrifugal, centripetal, parochial and a repertoire of hair-raising and hair-splitting descriptions came up.


The fundamental problem I see, however, is that we are governed by a Supreme Parliament and it is indeed a great achievement to see the Common Man enter Parliament, even though proceedings at the Pettah Pavement could be described as more orderly. Where are we? All we are entitled to do is vote (when they decide) and they presumptuously adopt their Rights and Privileges while performing a few rites to impress us – the voters. Pomp, pageantry, plaques and media coverage included. That is a Constitutional Fact. The truth is that over 90 Members of this Supreme Body have not passed their GCE (O/L), a few others have struggled a little further, and a handful has some real professional qualifications. Even that was challenged in Parliament recently. Explaining to them these terms might be difficult. Somehow, I believe they understand what bourgeois is about – after all, ‘bourgeois-ification’ of the ‘Proletariat’ is what they achieved.


At the height of power of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the strongest ally – politically and economically was the German Democratic Republic. Even without Internet, the joke doing the rounds at that time was something like "It’s German, It’s a Republic. Don’t middle with middle names". We are The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Hoeneker, Gadaffi, Sadam, Mubarak, Mugabe held elections. We have Maithri, we have Ranil; middling becomes an interesting prospect. Meddling is spelt different. ‘Medal’-ing is a connotation. Elections or Elect-shuns is the question and the ‘mug-shots’ have begun to mushroom at every nook and cranny.


I wonder if someone could come up with a substitute for a system wherein we pay 50,000 a month to reimburse telephone bills to every Member of Parliament ,and they invoke their right of privilege when calls to a particular person is revealed. Some forgetful of ‘familiarity’ have logged over 700 calls; some talk about a book that any publisher would categorize as fiction; some claim they said "NO" but at a face-to-face meeting, did it fizzle out to a "no, but . . . "? Is there any system where we could ask how much of what was left of the 50,000 was spent on speaking to other constituents and/or voters? Privileged conversations? Conflicting, yet interesting.


Someone should come up with a system where, some form of medication or counseling should be provided when someone says he doesn’t know about or can’t remember a meagre million a month as rent or a petty 160 million to purchase a residence. Good counsel could advise us on sanity or the sanitary option of flushing him down the toilet.


When a self-proclaimed ‘Economic-Czar’ is summoned before a Judicial Commission enquiring on the circumstances where we, the citizens of the country, the Central Bank and the Fund that Provides for Employees who slog, slave and contribute, collectively lose billions (estimates range from the tens to hundreds), walks out and admits mistakes were made. A glaring mistake he did not admit is that he missed the take – someone reports 5, 6, 7 BILLION profit. I may be mistaken with the figure behind it. It will figure out. Can some erudite scholar or theorist come up with a Clause (without Santa in front) in the Constitution that we the voters could say "Sorry, we missed the take. We’ve lost billions and you’ve just lost your job"?


Cabinet grammatically is a dresser, where dress is endowed with privacy. Extended to politics, a Cabinet becomes a closed coterie of confidantes. Inflation is explosive, reigning in the cost of living is a dying promise that remains on the agenda. Debt, loans take precedence. Religion, caste, creed aside, don’t we all hope and pray that we can pay off the World Bank, IMF, and other debts and loans.Under what system does the repayment of political favours and debt take precedence over National Debt?


Would it not be a progressive milestone if it is mandated that all elected representatives use public transport? It would certainly give them hands-on experience on the trials and travails of commuters. In trains, they could see for themselves how organized begging, vending and a lot more is carried out. They could also experience the luxury of ‘Standees’ in Luxury Buses; twiddling their thumbs and looking on as buses stop for five to ten minutes at some halts waiting for would-be commuters and get to know first-hand the drivers’ and conductors’ version of curtsying mannerisms. The change would do them good, especially when they get short-changed. How else could they even begin to visualize revamping the transport system?


Then there is the system of security and bodyguards for our politicians. Crime thrives on lack of punishment and there have been umpteen reports of a political nexus in the increasing incidence of crime. On the other hand, we have self-proclaimed heroes who claim they will fight until their last drop of blood and even lay down their lives for their motherland. Why can’t these eloquent heroes walk around alone and see for themselves what it is to be ‘hit’. The ‘Raw’ truth is that one leader nurtured a group to engage in death and destruction. It got too big for them to handle and got out of hand, resulting in a son being killed by them. The turnaround helped us defeat this group. Similarly, we can surely afford to lose a few elected ‘sons of the soil’ if it will result in curbing criminal activity. Who is the theorist who can formulate a system where our heroes are afforded the opportunity to experience the horrors they created?


In politics (and religion), preachers thrive and practice, very often, is in the breach. Growing up, we had a hoard of politicians of every hue visiting our home. My father, in his wit ripped almost all their theories to shreds. The people in the politicians remained his friends. I believe it would only be fitting to sum up with one of his favourite tag lines –


IF THE CAP SUITS YOU, WIPE YOUR FACE! E-mail :ggponnah@gmail.com


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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