By Vishwamithra –
“You take people; you put them on a journey; you give them peril; you find out who they are.” ~ Joss Whedon
A government without the Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghes: That will be the day. Whoever succeeds the defamed Rajapaksas and politically sterile Wickremasinghe in Sri Lanka in the current environment would have a day to celebrate; without any inhibitions. The country would be observing a day of relief; that might happen or that might not happen. Who would be the bold person or party to usher in such an alleviated circumstance?
But history has taught us, if ever we are patient and wise to learn from it, that such historic occurrences take place, not automatically but are actually engineered and executed by those who had chosen to spend many sleepless nights; they had been planning, readjusting those plans and making many compromises before they assume power. It is no easy task; it is no burden an ordinary man could carry for the weight is so heavy and the carrier might be buried under it if the wrong step or a wrong move is taken at the wrong juncture.
Yet, one must remember, a country without such political hypocrites like the Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghes is not going to be a utopia either. We learnt that lesson in 2015. Getting rid of Mahinda Rajapaksa was not good enough. The person or party that succeeds must also live up tot the expectations of the greater majority of the country. What were those expectations? What did the masses want in 2015 and what did they actually need?
A close examination of the aftermath of the 2015 February 8th Presidential Elections, would invariably find that Mahinda Rajapaksa and his clan were merely substituted by another set of crude, unwise, unintelligent and equally corrupt set of rulers. The extent to which the Rajapaksas have been successful in legitimizing and justifying corruption was made visible. Both, the One Hundred Day Program and what followed after the first one hundred days, were a gross disappointment, to say the least. The United National Party (UNP) on the one hand and Maithripala-led SLFP-diffectors on the other, were not saints.
Firstly, it dawned on the UNP and its front-line leaders, who occupied Cabinet portfolios in the so-called Yahapalanaya government, that twenty one (21) years, form 1994 to 2015, was a long stretch of time without power and, in fact, one whole new generation has been born and achieved sociopolitical puberty. For them to forego an opportunity to avail themselves of the monies and perks that came naturally towards them via government contract commissions and other means, in their own interpretation, is a sin.
They decided to dig in and dig they did. The Central Bank was in the hands of a Ranil crony- Arjuna Mahendran. The Bond-scam and its drastic repercussions immediately had a telling effect on the balance period the Yahapalanaya government. Yahapalanaya lost its first four letters- Yaha which means right or pure as against wrong or impure. Some Ministers openly indulged in corrupt practices and as a consequence, bringing the Rajapaksas to justice soon became a farce.
Furthermore, the consequences of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s announcement during the 2015 campaign that he would cancel the Chines-funded Colombo Port City project and subsequent restart of the project cost the country a lot of humiliation not to forget the personal injury to Wickremasinghe’s reputation.
While the Yahapalanaya government was meandering from one wrong step to another, the Rajapaksas did not go to sleep. They found a new bandleader: Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Gotabaya is Mahinda’s brother and was the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense. Gotabaya was a product of the Viyath-Maga group- a collection of left-wing intelligentsia in the country whose political aim was to sustain the Rajapaksa hegemony and launch Mahinda’s younger brother as modern day Messiah.
In addition to the country reposing her faith in another Rajapaksa as President, the parliamentary elections that followed saw the decimation of the UNP and its leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Personally For Ranil, it was a devastating result. Not being able to secure even one single parliamentary seat is no badge of honor. Nevertheless, the honeymoon of the Pohottuwa group was short-lived. It is rather redundant to speak about what happened to the Messiah. He was virtually stripped of his cloak and the staff.
I have penned many columns on the subsequent series of crisis after crisis, fast reaching a unholy climax of the country being declared bankrupt. Whom did the fading Rajapaksas reach to steady the faltering ship? It was Ranil Wickremasinghe who time and time again was alleged to have helped the Rajapaksa family during the Yahapalanaya days. It was a good strategy for the Pohottuwa MPs, but ‘good governance’ and ‘accountability’ of our politicians became the immediate victims of such a short-term game plan. Power and power alone has played an unmatched role in this nasty enterprise called politics.
Rulers need not be role models; they need not be saints; they need not be even morally ‘perfect’. Yet when all chips come down and the very life of the country is at stake, they must rise to the occasion without a murmur, without the slightest hint of self-preservation. None of our past rulers could be classified as the above. That exactly is our problem. When the country and her people, especially the most downtrodden are helpless and clamoring for help, real rulers cannot simply look the other way.
Are there any leaders today with such credentials? Are there any such rulers who are on the field today, asking for the people’s sanction and mandate? The answer is simple and short. It’s an emphatic no. The uneducated and unformed men and women might say that it is a heavy a weight to shoulder but truth and fairness and honesty are not overbearing weights; they are the simple yet relieving components one must carry to one’s grave so that they would be remembered one day as selfless and glorious and great. Such men and women have trodden this path of hardship and tears with a smile on their face and utter relief in their hearts. In the far rural hamlets, in the shabby shanties in the suburbs and rarely in the mansions in Colombo, such men and women have happened to have lived and died.
For such men and women to imagine a world without the political ragtag like the Rajapaksas and Wickreeasinghes is unimaginably uncomplicated, easy and plain. Who would fill the void of the current rulers? Is it Sajith Premadasa? Is it Anura Kumara Dissanayake or is it Patali Champika Ranawaka? Certainly not any other in the UNP, and that is beyond question. There may be some others in the National People’s Power (NPP) movement. When one looks at the NPP platform and study the faces, their academic credentials and their past- immediate or distant- one cannot but be impressed and conclude: let’s give them a chance. Wijitha Herath, Sunil Handunhetti, Bimal Ratnayake and Harini Amarasuriya don’t seem to be just average men and women. If we have given the other ‘failures’ so many chances and each time those chances have been wasted away and only regret and hatred remain in our hearts and minds, why not give these new men and women a chance?
As I stated earlier, being devoid of the old is not sufficient; getting rid of the Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghes and Premadasas should not be portrayed as an end result of a transactional venture; It should not be executed as a matter of revenge or tit-for-tat action. Politics practiced as a sociopolitical transaction does not end well. It only creates and sustains itself as a never-ending cyclical social dynamic.
Given the current circumstance of economic crisis, sociocultural decline and emerging religious fundamentalism, defining and shaping a society’s future and its elementary qualities could be hard and mind-consuming. Yet one has to do it for the sake of our children and their children. Economic recovery cannot be tied to political stability. If the people decide to sacrifice one in favor the other, at the end of the process, they sacrifice both. History has shown us this occurrence time and time again.
It could so easy to daydream about a country without our present set of corrupt and incompetent rulers. But in order to make such change a reality, to make it really happen is no easy venture. Commitment and commitment and commitment are the first three ingredients for achievement of such a noble aim. For only such selfless commitment can drive anyone to an identified goal.
However, if one comes to one’s own conclusions founded on the past of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), their reckless and misguided ‘insurrections’ and ‘revolutions’, one would always have misgivings and suspicions and doubts and justifiably so. But again, one must make those conclusions weighed against what the country has done unto now.
They have repeatedly put in power so-called men and women who pledged honest, competent and incorrupt governance. Yet, after seventy five years of ‘independence’ we have arrived at a station which is further behind the point of the beginning. That and that alone would justify our belief and faith in a new journey; along a new path and with new ideals and, of course, with new leaders.
*The writer can be contacted at email@example.com