The Sunday Leader

Good Governance And Animal Farm

Events taking place in the country today brings to mind the proclamation in George Orwell’s book Animal Farm that ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’. The sentence is a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite.

During the last few days several men and women were arrested on drug charges but those alleged to have been involved in large scale drug trafficking appear to roam free. It’s common knowledge that the drug suspect ‘Vele Suda’, arrested in Pakistan and brought to Sri Lanka, has revealed several names connected to his drug dealings. Some have been questioned by police but so far no arrests have been made. However, law enforcement authorities lost no time in arresting the ‘small timers’ and one begins to wonder whether some are still more equal in this new era of good governance.

The much-talked-about good governance, especially before the January 8 presidential poll, does not appear to have much significance today. Especially the statement by the new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who holds office until the next general election said to be held in April this year, with regard to the heads of newspapers.

A few days ago, while saying that he planned to ‘summon’ the owners of local print media to warn them against attempting to create communal dishamony in the country, Wickremesinghe said he would ‘invite’ media rights groups to attend the meeting for them to raise concerns they have over the owners of the local media.

In Sri Lanka, and for that matter in any democratic country, summons are issued by courts of law and other relevant institutions and not by individuals, be it an ordinary citizen or a prime minister. Wickremesinghe also said that if any media head did not come, he would see to it. Whether it’s some sort of notice, charge or threat, only the Prime Minister could explain.

Ranil Wickremesinghe alleged that some heads of those media as well as several journalists were in the payroll of the former government while serving in the respective newspapers.

Can the new prime minister give an assurance that certain journalists and newspapers are not providing him total support, violating all norms of journalism?

Is it ethical to have different ethics for different journalists? Has journalism too become an Animal Farm with some made more equal than others?

Wickremesinghe says that some newspapers had attempted to remove him from politics but they failed over the past 10 years and later they attempted to ensure Mahinda Rajapaksa win the Presidential elections in January, but he lost. These very comments invariably brings into focus that he had been losing elections – presidential, parliamentary and local – for decades and at the Presidential Election held in January this year, he had to seek the support of a minister of the ruling party to bring about the downfall of the Rajapaksa regime. However, all those years he had been very successful in holding on to his position as the leader of the United National Party.

Meanwhile, certain high rankers in the new government too are voicing concern over the pledges made during the presidential campaign. Among them is the Minister of Health, Rajitha Senaratne noting that the police was focusing more on small fry instead of going after the ‘Big Fish’. A prominent figure in the formation of the new coalition to bring about the ‘political turnaround’, the Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero too has voiced concern over the delay in bringing the wrongdoers to book.

Another much-talked-about topic is the construction of the Colombo Port City Project, which Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe claimed would be stopped immediately after the presidential election. However, almost half the period of the 100-Day Programme is over but the Port City Project continues unabated. This has resulted in many questioning the UNP claims made before the election on the Port City and whether that pledge was a mere ploy to get more votes.

Good governance is not only bringing drug dealers to book but also all sorts of other corrupt persons who break the law. Also, the general public too could help maintain good governance by not permitting the corrupt and those who attempt to deceive the public with false pledges. The public could do it with little effort with their votes during elections.

The corrupt could come in any form. It could be a ‘Wele Suda’ from Kolonnawa or a ‘Lande Sunil’ from Batawala. But the important factor is no matter from where they come and what type of corrupt practices they adhere to, the law should apply to all in an equal manner.

No Sri Lankan would want our homeland to be an ‘Animal Farm’ where some are more equal than others!


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