By Somapala Gunadheera –
Dayan Jayatilleka (DJ), the rolling stone that appears to gather no (dogmatic) moss as it rolls, has made a prophesy at the Nugegoda Rally, as claimed by him in the Daily Mirror last week. DJ prophesizes a political “Titanic” and admonishes, President Sirisena that he should eject Prime Minister Wickremesinghe before it hits an iceberg and sinks.
Leaving the possibility of a political Titanic for later consideration, it will be useful to discuss DJ’s comments on the PM, which are leading to the disaster as he claims. “PM’s policies, personal style and the aggressiveness of his loyalist UNP hawks have become alienating and polarizing factors all around the political compass. The PM is radioactive; a hate symbol; the target on the back of the Sirisena dispensation, the SLFP and the UNP itself”. One cannot dismiss this charge offhand. But if the forecast is valid, it can be avoided by considering the validity of DJ’s reasons for the charge and taking positive action to correct the faults, if applicable.
Speaking for myself, I felt disappointed by the PM’s personal style and the aggressiveness a few months ago. His interventions in Parliament sounded rude and offensive, unbecoming to his position. But of late, he has corrected his tone and attitude, may be under professional advice. One cannot also deny that ‘loyalist UNP hawks have become alienating and polarizing factors all around the political compass”. That fault also can be corrected by honest introspective reflection and a Cabinet reshuffle that appears to be long overdue. The charge that ‘the PM has a crisis of legitimacy’ and that ‘the bond scam has blown a hole below the watermark of his incumbency’ also rings a disturbing bell in the public mind. The devious route that the relevant investigation is taking has become a joke and the sooner that matter is finally disposed of is the better for the Government in power. These corrections would naturally remove the hate symbol on the PM, if any.
“Governmental dysfunction and deadlock leading to disinvestment and implosive collapse” is also a matter that should receive close attention. The root of dysfunction appears to stem from the attitude to entrust functions to a few selected favourites and hope for the best. There seems to be no managerial coordination, supervision and targeting. The ‘deadlock leading to disinvestment and collapse’ can be prevented by positive and pragmatic action on the ground. RW has a tendency to keep rattling on future plans to disbelief and ridicule. It appears to be an extension of the ‘bracelets syndrome’ in his youth. An ounce of investment on the ground is worth a ton of boasting about imaginary plans in the pipeline. The challenge is to see that investments become visible to the public eye and that they are credible. Unfortunately, investments made with much fanfare and celebrity participation have led to embarrassment. The Volkswagen factory at Kuliyapitiya and the Horana tyre factory are clear cases in point.
However, I do not believe that DJ’s admonition to President Sirisena that he should eject Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is a workable proposition. MS’s presidency is only an impeachment motion away under the present power configuration in Parliament. He can be removed from power more gracefully and plausibly than the ejection of Her Ladyship Shirani Bandaranayaka from the seat of Chief Justice. Of course, a split in the current coalition might result in the loss of the two-thirds majority of the Government but even after a breakup in the current coalition, RW will retain enough seats to continue in power. Judging from his restraint, tactful course corrections and self-negation, it is clear that MS is more aware of his vulnerability than anybody else. Being a hardboiled politician, he would know that for him to jump out of the coalition is to jump over the Nilvala Bridge. That automatically rejects DJ’s admonition to eject the Prime Minister.
Although the current rate of performance is obviously below par, I do not believe that the “Titanic” would hit an iceberg and sink in the long run, if only the government resorts to course correction and effective governance even at this late stage. That calls for efficient delivery on several fronts.
Many leading opponents of the regime in power are accused of grave crimes but not a single of the charges against them has been proved in a court of law, so far. People are getting tired of seeing VIPs of the last regime being arrested and re-arrested in a row and being remanded. It is true that charges involved in these cases normally call for time in the investigation. It is for the Government to cut short these delays by law reform and assignment of efficient prosecutors to handle them. If the legal system could be vitalized to finalize a few sample cases in quick time and if the cases end up with the conviction of at least one or two leaders of the past, the tide against the Yahapalanaya is bound to turn. That would automatically put the current rubble-rousers on the defensive and create space for the rulers to show positive results.
As much as expediting the cases against persons opposed to those in power, it is necessary to do the same in the case of those with the Government, if they are accused of wrong doing. The bond scam comes to mind here. May be that those who are accused will be proved innocent after investigation. The duty of the rulers is to arrange for prompt investigation so that the impugned may come out of the cloud at the earliest opportunity. The Government does not have to worry about insiders taken to task for their crimes, crossing over. They will only bring embarrassment to their destination and glory to Yahapalanaya. There will be many volunteers competing to replace them.
Reviving the decadent economy is a prime duty of those in power. Any amount of blame placed on the management of the economy by the predecessors will not help here. They have been displaced for their faults. The newcomers have been brought in to correct them. The situation is reminiscent of Andare who took a bet to carry a rock stone asking his challenger to lift it on to his shoulder. The greatest need of the time is income generation and poverty alleviation. That calls for more and more investments. It is important to ensure that such investments do not compromise the country’s future. The demand for vitalizing the economy cannot be met by trivial increases in fines and the price of sweep tickets. While the output from these ventures is negligible, they result in the alienation of hordes of supporters who helped to bring the regime into power.
National reconciliation is another priority. That can be brought about by ensuring equality to all the citizens of the country. Economic and cultural discriminations against the minorities in the past have taken a heavy toll. The resulting conflict has led to the death of thousands on both sides and to a stagnant economy. However, much circumspection is required to solve this problem, given the tendency of power hunters to rouse the masses on this explosive issue and upset the apple cart. Nevertheless the sooner the mindset of the people is removed from favouritism, discrimination and separatism, the better it would be for a united and prosperous Sri Lanka.
My own belief is that our own Titanic sank shortly after it was floated 69 years ago. The task before us today is to refloat it. If those in charge act sincerely and positively to rectify the mistakes of the past and rebuild the economy and grant equality to all citizens, I am convinced that our Titanic would surface at the next election, manned by an educated, law-abiding and uncorrupt crew consisting of sailors of all communities carrying the national flag triumphantly.