By Vishwamithra –
News reports say that the government party is calling for an All Party Conference (APC). Their focus would be on the current economic crisis and on a possible resolution to it through a dialogue amongst all political parties represented in parliament. Although the mechanism, declared to be adopted by the ruling cabal, seems genuinely authentic, considering the unequivocal hypocrisy they are currently wrapped in, the motive behind such a ‘stately’ move seems to be undoubtedly ulterior and singularly sinister.
All opposition parties who would accept the government’s invitation should insist that inclusion of the Twentieth (20th) Amendment and its immediate annulment from the country’s Constitution should be item number one (1) on the agenda. After making every possible effort to demolish the official parliamentary Opposition philosophically, politically and physically to nothingness, the Rajapaksas have outlived their trust as credible and trustworthy rulers. A readiness to come to the table with a fake posture of reconciliation with their political opponents looks more like another political stunt in the best of times or a show of an acute dearth of capacity as responsible rulers of a country in the worst of times. Whichever way one looks at it, it neither looks sincere nor a genuine gesture of serious political craftsmanship. Such is the status of our body politic today.
On the other hand, one simply cannot seek a resolution to the current crisis and leave the mechanism and the structures that would engage in the resolving process in the hands of a narrow-minded, impulsive leader who is widely alleged to be corrupt and incompetent. With all the powers he is invested with now in terms of the Twentieth Amendment, expectation from him to execute a plan so agreed upon by an All Party conference would be a fantasy of the highest order. It is as simple and transparent as that.
Nevertheless, the Twentieth Amendment is not the be-all and end-all of all our problems. Yet one cannot hold any conceivably practical point of view if the current forces of power could go forward in their progressive thinking or in the execution of such thinking without wholly and unreservedly discarding the 20th Amendment that was introduced into our Constitution in the wake of their electoral victory. Ever since Independence, every amendment and later introduction of brand new constitutions were done not to expand the powers of the people who in fact are most sovereign and independent element of our constitution; they were introduced to inflate the powers of the rulers.
The people’s government has become a rulers’ government. The more and more power entrenched in the chapters and verses of that supreme document, the source of our laws, the very foundation of what rules the life of a nation, went far beyond the people. It went towards suppressing the very rights that the said Constitution so declared to uphold and protect. This cruel irony’s consequences impacted on the sovereignty of the people in such a subtle way, they, the people, not only did not know what hit them; they never had a clue that such a process was consuming their fundamental way of thinking and living; consequently it never dawned upon them that they were fast becoming an integral part of the corrupt fabric of dishonest politicians and a primary part of the corrosive system of governance.
It is heartrending that we have come to this appalling state of existence. But the sooner we appreciate it, the easier will it be for all of us to come to terms with it. However unpalatable the ensuing conditions would be, the ruling family would not hesitate to decelerate their pace of making money at the expense of the country. Their preoccupation with enriching themselves at whatever cost is, in fact, more than visible. No man, woman or child of ordinary upbringing could endure the extraordinary weight set upon their shoulders. It’s becoming increasingly heavy and when the day that weight crushes down the carrier totally, it will be too late for any leader to lead the country; there will not be any followers to lead. The would-be-followers might be all too weak or they would be all too dead!
Enactment of such an eerie human drama looks more than possible given the latest turn of events in the country, especially during the last few days. Freeing the rupee of the artificial shackles it was tied up to by that comedian of a Governor of the Central Bank and its short term ill-effects are taking their collective toll. Spiraling of prices of essential commodities has caused tremendous privations to the ordinary masses and they will be too weak and more occupied with purchasing stuff for their respective households to take part in any anti-government protest marches or other undemocratic yet nonviolent activities. That will all come at the cost of free movement and free speech. And the irony is the ruling family is counting on it, the masses being too weak.
Today’s Opposition must see and feel the electricity of the occasion. The government is becoming increasingly anxious and progressively weak and desperate and that may well be why they are calling for an All Party Conference. An APC is basically an apolitical appeal. One cannot understate the patriotic tinge it renders towards the party that is calling for such a ‘patriotic’ call. A government that thundered from the election platform that they had all the solutions to each and every issue the country faced is now lying horizontally on the ground with their faces down; they have nowhere else to look, nowhere else to go. In such a treacherous context, what can the opposition do? What can it offer?
It is precisely in this situation the Opposition must resort to its own inherent tactics and strategy as a valid and legitimate Opposition. They must strike when the proverbial iron is hot. The environs are demanding that they must show some modicum of patriotism and push the proverbial envelop, not on behalf of themselves, not to gain more leverage for themselves, but totally and absolutely on behalf of the people whom they say they represent.
If any evocative changes are to be executed with even an ounce of trust and faith, the Opposition must ensure that such changes could be executed by a trustworthy machinery that is scrupulously guarded and tightly protected by democratic structures enshrined, may be by a Twenty First (21st) Amendment, or even a brand new Constitution. Throw the Twentieth (20th) Amendment into the dustbin in and of parliament. No more chapters, verses or articles are warranted in our Constitution for the enhancement of powers already granted to the rulers. No more powers, no more impunities, no more licenses to kill.
What is of utmost significance today is to restore the confidence of the people and win their trust and faith, not only in the administrative and political structures provided for in the Constitution, but more so on those who exercise powers within those structures. It cannot be done unless and until those who have committed unpardonable crimes against their own citizens and the country are taken to task. Those who indulged in such unspeakable acts must be brought before the wheels of law and order and if found guilty, must be punished without mercy.
It indeed is a tall order. Today we, as a country, are enduring all this suffering because we failed to do the same in the wake of the defeat of the Mahinda Rajapaksa-regime in 2015. Instead of Mahinda’s corruption and dishonesty, we now have his brother’s, Gotabaya’s incapacity, arrogance and alleged corruption to deal with. Gotabaya could be more dangerous than his elder brother because, during Mahinda’s regime, he was the Secretary of Defense and had access to the most vital part our security forces and that defense machinery is ready and willing to listen to its old master. Resort to vicious and unforgiving suppression is only a microscopic part of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa-character. He is trying to conceal his lack of capacity by shouting, screaming and turning to his podians in uniform to deliver his punches to an unsuspecting mass of people.
Patriotism is not one’s love for the geographical area one is born into; it is one’s loyalty to the values and measures one has inherited from his or her ancestors, wherever they hailed from. No person is more unpatriotic than the one who betrays those generation-old values and principles. Gotabaya Rajapaksa and almost all our leaders have sold patriotism as a political commodity at the electioneering marketplace. They have buried our patriotism in the shifting sands of superficial merchandises and temporary luxuries. The luster of true patriotism has faded away and in its place is a veneer of daily demands for bread and rice and medicine.
The country’s coffers are empty; its character is disfigured; its journey is frozen and she is facing many a pitfall of unwise decision-making and outright corruption and nepotism. The nation is gripped by an unbending and unrelenting assault on the very core of her national DNA. Emptiness and a sheer barren land beckon us to nowhere. She has become helpless in a web of collective duplicity; in the face of unmerciful global challenges her people are clamoring for the birth of a messiah who would never come. Even if he does appear, he would not be equipped nor would he be able to address the burdens and anxieties of modern day youth.
No more a safe harbor in the tempest, Sri Lanka is meandering in a desolate setting of emptiness, duplicity and willful corruption. Feeling the rough gavel under her feet and beholding a hazy horizon the nation will trudge on an ominous path to an ominous end. To paraphrase King Dutugamunu, ‘in this cruelest of environment, how can I sleep with my limbs comfortably stretched’?
Shame on our leaders; shame on our people; shame on all of us.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org