By Vishwamithra –
When one looks back on the pros and cons of the decision taken by the people in the 2015 Presidential Elections and the mandate it carried, after two and half years in power, the current administration does not have anything to brag about except one outstanding accomplishment of theirs. With all the alleged corruption and ineffective management of the country’s ailing economy, the very introduction of transparency aspect of governance where the government party’s own members were taken to task when found in want of proper and accountable conduct. Dismissal of Ravi Karunanayake from the Ministry of Finance in the wake of the conclusion of the Presidential Commission on the so-called ‘Bond-Scam issue is one conspicuous example of such transparency and accountability in governance.
However, the optics of such a finding and what followed the findings were extremely injurious to the “Yahapalanaya” concept the government boasted about. In politics, it’s all optics, especially in the short run. The failure on the part of the Prime Minister to realize this fundamental aspect of politics is astonishing given the length of years he has been playing this game of politics. That is why most governments, especially the Rajapaksa regime, during their tenure, swept such numerous cases, found to be manifestly authentic, under the proverbial carpet. The following Ready-reckoner would indicate in a nutshell the various atrocities brought upon the nation by the Rajapaksa clan:
Ready-reckoner of corruption, murders and intimidation by Rajapaksa and Company
- November 9 and 10, 2012 Prison attack – 27 killed
- On 13 January 2013 Impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake
- On 8 February 2010 by Military Police arrested General Sarath Fonseka
- Disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda since 24 January 2010
- August 1, 2013 three persons were killed including two students in Rathupaswela
- Unanswered heinous crimes against journalists and media institutions
- May 2008: Keith Noyahr, Associate Editor and defense columnist of The Nation newspaper was abducted and beaten up.
- January 6, 2009: The Sirasa Depanama Studio Complex was bombed by a group of assailants.
- January 8, 2009: Not even 48 hours after the attack on the Depanama Complex, Senior Journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated in Atthidiya.
- January 23, 2009: Chief Editor of the Rivira newspaper Upali Tennekone was assaulted by a group that arrived on two motorcycles.
- March 25, 2009: The office of the Udayan newspaper in Jaffna was attacked with a hand grenade.
- June 1, 2009: Journalist Poddala Jayantha was abducted in Ambuldeniya, Nugegoda.
- March 22, 2010: Attack launched on the head office of the Sirasa Media Network, leaving several of its employees injured.
- July 30, 2010: Attack lanced on the Voice of Asia Media group which runs Siyatha TV and radio stations.
- April 13, 2013: Head office of the Udayan newspaper attacked once again, making it the 33rd such attack on its office and journalists.
While no exceptional defense should or would be made for the so-called ‘Bond-Scam’ issue, a significant black mark against the current administration remains the ‘Bond-Scam’. Furthermore, even before any judicial findings were concluded, the Minister who was allegedly responsible for the scam was removed by the Prime Minister and those who were alleged to have committed this horrendous white-collar crime are behind bars. None of that sort happened during the regime of the ‘Rajapaksa and Company’. During that time all the alleged perpetrators were free to roam the street corners crowded by political and financial thuggery and allowed to indulge in their favorite pastime of newly defined governance. Galloping down the road to glory and self-enlargement with their Masters, the leeches of the past regime played their own despicable game of power-politics to a sinister end. In their game, the people were pawns and other insignificant pieces of trash. The deal makers and commission agents were the only VVIPs who could meet the Ministers and the King at their own behest.
While the voting public, who faithfully voted these caricatures of political trash into office successively in 2005 and 2009, unrelentingly supported the ‘Rajapaksa and Company’ to an intolerable limit, the then Opposition led by the current Prime Minister was in their own messy circumstance. Ranil’s leadership was challenged by a motivated group of second-tier leaders of the United National Party (UNP), led by Karu Jayasuriya and Sajith Premadasa. While Karu Jayasuriya was willing to go and did go all the way, Sajith decided to go so far and no further. This is an unbecoming conduct on the part of Sajith Premadasa. Sajith is nursing his own ambition to be the leader of the UNP, yet a pathetic show of vacillation is no trait of sound leadership.
On the other hand, Navin Dissanayake, albeit the fact that he left the UNP and joined the Rajapaksa regime during the time of the war, (Navin’s father, Gamini Dissanayake, was brutally bombed down by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) after joining the UNP, is enjoying the support of a clear majority of UNP parliamentarians. When parliamentarians ponder about their future leaders, there are three characteristics which stand out as crucial in determining that quality. 1. The leader should be a winner 2. He must possess decision-making capabilities, not vacillating 3. Inspire others. In all three categories, Navin Dissanayake is ahead of Sajith and the UNP parliamentarians seem to have realized that.
Well, that is all events yet to come. There may well be, as the saying goes, many a slip between the cup and the lip. In whichever case, either Sajith or Navin is infinitely better than any member of the Rajapaksa clan. For that matter, there is no second-tier leadership in either the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) or Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). The UNP can boast about a wealth of talent and experience in its second-tier: Sajith, Navin, Ruwan Wijewardene or Mangala Samaraweera could be miles ahead of any leader the SLFP or SLPP can field.
Looking back on the list of atrocities committed by the Rajapaksa clan- as illustrated in the above list- any one single member of the Rajapaksa family or its associates has disqualified him or herself. That is clear as crystal, one would say. That is the realistic picture the current political landscape displays. Enveloped in a culture of corruption that has been taken hostage by politicians of all parties, enmeshed in dire straits of economic hardships and having come to terms with a degenerate lifestyle of being subservient to money and power, our people, in 2020, will again face a choice between realistic, decent and honest politics and perverted and debased practice of governance in the likes of the Rajapaksa-rule.
In whatever circumstances, Ranil Wickremasinghe, the present Prime Minister and leader of the UNP cannot be just discounted as a non-entity. His strengths purely lie in his experience as leader of his Party. However, the present coalition setup has managed to ruin Ranil’s image as a ‘good’ manager of the country’s economy. On top of that, the infamous ‘Bond-Scam’ and Ranil’s close affinity towards Ravi Karunanayake also have helped in this downward path of Ranil Wickremesinghe. But he does not seem to have given up on his ambition to be Sri Lanka’s next President. What seemed a few years ago a distant reality, Ranil’s ambition, as evidenced in the recently held local government elections, now seems almost dead.
In the clear context of a suitable candidate from the UNP to contest the next Presidential Elections, Ranil in fact is behind Sajith Premadasa and Navin Dissanayake. The UNP, although had a great history of bouncing back from near extinction, is now facing another frontier. In the international arena, populist politics is gaining grounds. Sri Lanka simply cannot escape from that political geography. In spite of history, the United National Party is now grappling with the geography of political thinking. A leader who can give the right expression to that prevailing current of politics would certainly have a better chance than any man or woman who is sinking in traditional politics. It is a choice between existence and extinction.
*The writer can be contacted at email@example.com