This is what Maithiripala is promising:
Mahinda Rajapaksa was a ‘pleasant man’ then. I too joined him in the Pada Yatras . This is why I am trying to take away the powers of that seat, so I too can remain a ‘pleasant man’. Any man who attains such limitless power becomes ‘unpleasant’. We will do this in the first 100 days.
I have also put forth a suggestion which the organizations supporting us did not ask for, and that is to reduce the term of the President to four years from six. We will remove the unlimited power of the Executive and share it with the Cabinet, Parliament, Judiciary, the public service and police. (Ceylon Today)
Law and order is the infrastructure that Maithripala promises.
Right now we have to appeal to one family, to the Rajapaksas. If you want to do business, if you want justice, sometimes even if you want to get a kid into school. This isn’t scalable, but it also means that people close to this family have more access to justice and prosperity than the rest of us do. Indeed, they have access to injustice and corruption. That is the nature of a system based on men. The relationship is more important than logic, rules or morality. It’s family rule and family comes first.
A Maithripala government, if it emerges, will initially be another bunch of men (and women). Some of them are douchebags, some of them are dumb, a few are smart. Only a few of them deeply care about good governance, but they all need institutions to share power between themselves. Because they are such an achcharu coalition they have to institute commissions and laws because they can’t trust each other to share power. Checks and balances are a wonderful thing.
Why I’ll vote for Maithripala is because he is the common candidate. He depends on so many different power sources that he has to rule by law in order to exist. He’s not running a family business.
If Maithri wins it’s going to look like a bunch of political jockeying for 100 days. If he pushes half of his reforms through, however, you’ll be rid of the Executive Presidency that holds all the power and be left with something balanced between a weaker Presidency and a stronger Parliament. And guess what, they’re not all related to each other.
When you do business outside of the family is when you start needing contracts, agreements, procedures, etc. Because you can’t trust each other. At that point you can start fixing the judiciary not because it’s the nice thing to do but because these competing power bases actually need laws to deal with each other. Couple this with the Right To Information they’ve pledged to push through and we have a recipe for a functional democracy.
REALLY, SO WHAT?
So what does it mean for the average citizen? Well, you have to ask yourself, am I related to Mahinda Rajapaksa? If you’re not, you can count yourself out of a prominent role in government. Then you have to ask yourself, am I friends with a Rajapaksa? If you’re not, you can count yourself out of a secure role in big business. Then you have to ask yourself, am I like the Rajapaksas? Because if you’re a minority or different, your physical safety isn’t assured. That’s what family governance means. Things work the closer you are to the family and they get ugly further and further out.
Governance by law, on the other hand, means that you can be the son of a farmer and aspire to be Speaker Of Parliament or to control an actually powerful Ministry in your lifetime. It means that you can build a business and not have to pay people off or suck up to them to keep from having your land and assets seized. It means that mobs can’t attack random Muslims or Tamils or Christians because their representatives would have actual power both over the police (through the Constitutional Commission) and within the government as a whole.
Right now there is a class of people that can murder, rape, steal and extort anybody and get away with it because they’re connected. Because loyalty trumps logic. Right now there are a few thousand people that make millions of Rupees colluding with foreign powers while passing the bill to you and me. That is the price of family governance. However much development you see, never forget that the family comes first.
Me, I’m not a Rajapaksa and I want something different. I don’t think Maithripala can create law and order in 100 days, but I think that he is experienced enough, decent enough and checked-and-balanced enough that he has to deliver good governance in order for his government to exist. And he’s only asking for four years. It’s not rule by a family and he needs laws and institutions to stitch his achcharu coalition together, like chili and salt.
If I was a betting man I’d bet on Mahinda Rajapaksa cause he A) truly has done a lot for the country B) is well (and dubiously) funded and C) cheats without awareness that he’s doing anything wrong. But I’m not a betting man. I’m just a voter and I’m voting for a Maithri government. I think there’s more room for me there.
I hope we have a peaceful election. Peace out.