Sarath Fonseka vs Sarath Weerasekara

By - Prof. D. A. Basnayaka

(Lanka-e-News -27.Dec.2020, 10.30PM) Recently Mr. Fonseka unwittingly found himself in a heated argument with Mr. Weerasekara in the parliament over a social media post, in which Mr. Weerasekara’s son can be seen saluting his father, who was recently offered a cabinet job. Due to the fact that Mr. Weerasekara’s son is a junior officer of the ministry, where Mr. Weerasekara holds the new cabinet position, Mr. Fonseka rightfully expressed his view that the social media post could give a perception of collusion, and should not have been posted, or the saluting should not have been done at all in a public place. On the other hand, Mr. Weerasekara and several other MPs argued that it is a sweet moment between a father and a son and Mr. Fonseka should be an inhuman person to criticise such a harmless moment. Why this incident is important and why it matters?  

“Safe Pair of Hands” and “Loose Ends”

This incident can be considered as an emblematic case among many such incidents in Sri Lanka. After taking these characters out of the equation, the incident reduces to a simple matter of “objective decision making” and “subjective decision making”. What do these decision making approaches really mean? The subjective decision making denotes to the decision making influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts. In contrast, the objective decision making denotes to the decision making not influenced by personal feelings and opinions, and is solely based on facts. The readers of this article who are objective might favour Mr. Fonseka, and who favour Mr. Weerasekara are likely to be subjective decision makers. Why does this objective-subjective-ness matter in real life?

The judgements made by objective decision makers are very stable and consistent. These individuals are often known as “safe pair of hands”, and are highly sought-after for greater responsibilities. They are often paid handsomely by large organizations entirely for their quality of being objective. Objective individuals can be safely given greater responsibilities with little supervision. The objective decision makers can defend themselves in difficult situations easily. In contrast, subjective decisions makers are known as “loose ends”. Their decisions are often erratic, and the majority of people find it difficult to understand the motives behind their decisions. Also they cannot defend themselves successfully in difficult situations such as in courts of law. However, subjective decision makers could come across as warm and kind personalities, but they are the kind of personalities who often find themselves accused, or in some extreme cases fired, for “lapse of judgements” in modern democracies and in large organizations. Furthermore, subjective people are prone to manipulation or to be in compromising situations. Large organizations and sophisticated governments do everything to avoid subjective decision making in their commanding structure, and spend large sums of money just to train and educate people on objective decision making. At the very top of the commanding structure, it is not the individuals’ formal education or experience, but their ability to make objective decisions that matters the most. 

It is important to point out that we do not imply that objective decision makers do not make erroneous decisions. Even though objective people base their decisions largely on facts, they also run the risks of interpreting facts incorrectly, which in turn could result erroneous conclusions. However, the education and experience could sharpen the objective decision making of an already objective decision maker, and might reduce the extremely subjective decision making of an already subjective decision maker. The objective decision makers are very responsive to training and education, and are also likely to change their original decisions in light of correct interpretations of the original facts. What are the implications of one’s objective-subjective-ness for a country?

Implications to Wider Society

A growing dissatisfaction among many Sri Lankans is that the decisions made by the government often seem erratic and not consistent. Unless these decisions are intentionally made to look erratic for some covert reason, it is very likely that they are made by majority subjective decision makers rather than objective people. However, the objective and subjective decision makers are both useful for the successful operation of a country. The objective people can communicate well logically, and can simplify difficult multidimensional problems with ease. The objective people with sufficient education and/or experience can operate very independently, and top leaders can safely count on them. The subjective people on the other hand can be very friendly and hardworking, but may not be the best choice to give leading roles with executive power. They often operate very successfully under a watchful eye of an objective decision maker, and with clearly defined boundaries.  

If one has to put both objective and subjective decision makers together, it is always desirable to put an objective decision maker with sufficient education and experience at the top. Otherwise, objective decision makers, under a subjective decision maker, tend to leave the group abruptly, or completely shut them down from participating in group efforts. For instance, we currently see a large swathe of law-abiding and capable people are extremely inactive in the society, and their contributions for big challenges of our time is next to nothing. We also see a growing trend that well-educated, well-trained, and well-settled Sri Lankans are leaving the country in despair creating a vacuum of role models. This is an unsustainable demographic trend, which has been creating adverse ripples through the social fabric for several decades. 

As far as the governance of a country is concerned, the responsibility to choose the right kind of people from the nomination process to the selection of the cabinet falls exclusively on the very top leadership. If they find a favourable combination, objective decision makers will bring them glory. Otherwise, subjective decision makers in wrong places will create chaos and carnage. For instance, a single lapse of judgement in a battle field could mean thousands of lost lives, and in politics could mean the loss of decades of economic and social progress. If the top leaders are really serious about their leadership and legacy, it is more beneficial for them to take more time to study the thinking pattern of their own lieutenants rather than their enemies. 

Closing Remarks: The writer has observed in several occasions that Mr. Fonseka, despite not having any degree or higher degree, has shown remarkable ability to plough through subtle issues objectively in order to reach to the core, which may be inspirational to many. It is reasonable to assume that this objective decision making ability had played a major role in his success in the battlefield. Meanwhile, Mr Weerasekara announced a worrying public security policy decision within days of his cabinet appointment, and continues to make lightly-thought statements in the parliament.

Prof. D. A. Basnayaka

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by     (2020-12-27 17:50:26)

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