The mandate is clear, perform or face the consequences | Sunday Observer

The mandate is clear, perform or face the consequences

8 November, 2020

Results, results, and results! This is what the entire country expects from their legislative representatives in Parliament and the local government authorities. As a senior Minister quite rightly expressed recently, no more excuses. The country has given a clear approval four times, from the 2018 local government election to the passing of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority, recently. This feat probably has not been achieved by any previous government in post-independence history.

Some critics say the 20th Amendment has given extended powers to the President and that he will exercise extraordinary executive authority. Does it matter if this expanded power is applied for the common good of the country and its citizenry? During the past eleven months, President Rajapaksa has revealed in every sphere that his primary concern is the welfare of the nation. Therefore, despite the hue and cry of the Opposition parties who have run out of slogans and are also without proper leadership, the public seems to have accepted the word of honour of the President.

It was clear from day one of his assuming duty at the uppermost office in the country; President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has displayed the strength of the leadership at every necessary moment.

Throughout the short period of his Presidency, he has been explicit about his vision on the growth of the economy and public welfare. With this in view he appointed a team of young and vibrant State Ministers with clear subject areas and performance parameters. The public seems to have accepted the new team of State Ministers, probably more enthusiastically than the President’s Cabinet of Ministers.

The challenge for both Cabinet and State Ministers is three pronged in relation to performance. Firstly the Presidential influence, secondly their own popularity in the public eye, and finally the opinion of the voters in their respective electoral districts.

Transparent guidelines

Therefore, they have to be extra vigilant, effective, and time-bound more than ever. President Rajapaksa’s message to his Ministers was crystal clear and he has laid down transparent guidelines, parameters, and performance indexes that cannot be ignored. It is evident that he will not hesitate to take stern measures if he observes a noticeable decline in public confidence.

While the functioning of the Members of Parliament is a constantly discussed national topic, the performances of 8,000 plus local authority politicians in 340 institutions are not usually in the public eye. In Sri Lanka, news of local authority members invariably draw attention due to some kind of nefarious activity, and are rarely good news on a matter of public interest. In this writer’s opinion, the performance of local authority members must be monitored much more closely as they interact with the general public more than the Parliamentary representatives. Their presence throughout the country in smaller clusters can provide a tremendous contribution for the welfare of the nation. Local authorities generally serve a two-fold purpose in functionality.

They are, administrative functions and providing facilities and amenities to the public. Historically, these authorities have been a training ground for political leadership as well. Often, politicians gain entry to Parliament through a gradual process by coming through the ranks in local authorities. Regrettably, in Sri Lanka, there is no proper mechanism to educate politicians, both local and national, on political leadership. Hence, they merely act either instinctively or on past experiences on any public matter.

However, since local politicians collectively engage in enormous community welfare programs, the central Government can utilise them effectively in all national development programs if a disciplined mechanism is established. If properly marshaled, the local authorities can provide a matchless contribution to the overall government performance.

Development strategies

In chapter two of the Presidential manifesto, the appointment of Ministers and their respective senior officers were vividly described. The Government, after its election has kept the promises and appointed Ministers and State Ministers exactly as mentioned, placing its trust in them. Hence, now is the time for the Cabinet and State Ministers, to engage in their development strategies. It is creditable that some State Ministers have already taken to the right path and show that the assignments they were given are being executed efficiently. The fate of the country is determined to a great extent by the political performance of any country. When electing representatives, Sri Lankan voters based their decision on the image of the President and the Prime Minister.

The magnitude of the four victories demonstrates the trust placed on the two leaders, and not on their followers. Since the Presidential race, the general public immensely trusted the President for performance on his rationality, authoritativeness, and inspiration.

The effective functioning of the authority of the country is always provided with the understanding and consent of the entire government machinery including politicians and officials.

The process functions properly when the politicians and the officials trust the experience and competence of the leader and follow the instructions. Thereby, stability could be achieved in these trying times of the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused a volatile economic situation in the country.

Most State Ministers, taking a cue from the leadership, are genuinely trying to go ahead with their respective assignments even amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The nation, as a whole, except a few waiting for the Government to fail due to their personal political agenda, are patiently waiting. They know that miracles do not happen and that the Ministers need time to perform. Also the politicians are aware that non-performers will be exposed and such exposure can harm their political careers. In the context of government performance, a figure that cannot be forgotten is the veteran task-master Basil Rajapaksa. Claims that the ‘dual citizenship’ clause of the 20th Amendment was aimed at bringing him to Parliament, does not seem to be an issue for the general public.

Challenge of Covid-19

He has come to the public eye again after seemingly a brief pause, to face the challenge of the Covid-19 re-emergence. The versatile Basil Rajapaksa has not failed in any task assigned to him during the recent past concerning politics, civil conflicts, economic, or any other matter.

Therefore, his presence and participation in Parliament or outside will be critically important to enhance the Government’s performance.

People have voiced their opinion through elections that paved the way to the two-thirds majority in Parliament. People explicitly believe that President Rajapaksa will not abuse the power vested in him through the 20th Amendment.

This can be a blessing in disguise to the Government and its stakeholders as almost all important decisions in relation to national interest will be taken by the leader, making available every required resource for the development of the country.

They also believe that the Government is taking adequate steps to overcome the current precarious economic situation. Therefore, it is time now for the entire machinery to get together and show the promised results to the nation.