By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“A is Bad. B is Bad. Give it to us”
Participating in the Third Reading debate of the 2022 budget Anura Kumar Dissanayake, JVP’s leader stated that “the time had come for people to cry in unison for the harm inflicted on the nation by rulers, since independence.” AKD further asked if anyone could be proud of the way the country had been ruled so far.
There is a logical error in assessing Sri Lanka’s achievements since Independence in a black or white style or ‘cancel culture’ style that the JVP likes to do. They have a logic, I know, and that is to show that all parties to government are equally bad and so the people MUST vote for them next time. This is the logic of exhaustion. But political chemistry never works that way
JVP has been doing this ever since they opted for the democratic path. AKD in particular does his home work so well like no other opposition politician does. He brings out facts and figures so easily from the top of his wonderful memory-and he bashes both the ruling government and the main opposition contender. The peculiar outcome of this tactic is that it brings the main opposition contender to the seat of party. In this way, the UNP -led coalition gets in and out of power and the Rajapaksa-led coalition does the same. Alas, the great whistle-blowing AKD and his party is left out in the cold to be content with 3 % of the votes. The party is a deft protest organizer and has always been able to draw crowds to their meetings. However, the end result is bizzarre from their point of view.
The party never thought of temporarily coalescing with the Opposition, getting into government and white-anting it so that they eventually develop a public backing as “the people who can do the job.” You need clever political manouvering for this strategy.
To re-paraphrase VI Lenin, the idea of getting together but marching separately did not occur to the pre-JVP old Marxists. The JVP, after the CBK debacle, stood to their guns and to their outworn socialist political philosophy and are now dying in slow motion. The old Marxists like Peter Keunemann, NM, Colvin, Bernard, DEW, Vitarana etc opted to ally with the opposition and form a government with the latter. On the other hand, these blokes at that very point forgot the idea of marching separately to make a government of their own. In this way, DEW and crowd-not to speak of smaller fry like Raja Collure- loved the food and meekly became team mates of corrupt governments. Collure is happily settled with his Governorship.
I can imagine, the JVP must be having this murky model in mind when they keep out of both government and opposition parties and shout as loners in a political desert. One must give credit to AKD, whom I admire a lot, for being more principled. On the other hand, politics is not necessarily about principles. Going it this way JVP will lose even the desert and the oases. Hence, they have to act with political wisdom and not with hardboiled truth.
Nothing Done so Far-Ever?
Now, let’s come to the initial springboard of this essay, namely AKD declaring that all Sri Lankan rulers and parties since independence have done nothing at all for the country. A short cut is to quote Lee Qwan Yu’s book and his views therein about the progress the island nation had achieved at the time he visited the island. Lee Qwan Yu took away Lanka as a model; he adopted that for Singapore whereas Sri Lankan rulers of later years abandoned that model and fought on a disastrous terrain of their creation. The thirty-year War followed, our investments suffered, our growth stopped, political crooks took over and earned for themselves. Where we are now is the logical point to which the SWRD Bandaranaike era brought us. Rajapaksas are growing Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism
Our dollar earnings get lower and lower, commission-laden non-cash earning projects are launched. Airports without planes, Harbours without ships, Sport Stadiums where sports persons don’t play and so forth. The forex is now gone and we look up spinning Cabraalian theories. We look at the sky but there’s no rain.
Prior to 1956
Prior to 1956 Sri Lanka was fairly booming. We had Balance of Payments surpluses. Rubber, tea and small crops had their heyday. Maha Vidyalayas and Mady Maha Vidyalayas came up to educate the broad public, universities came up, so many abandoned irrigation tanks were restored and new colonization schemes were established. I established twy myself when I served the government in Polonnaruwa. Kawdulla, Minneriya cake up. Our justice system became the pride of Asia. Our administration (civil) service was well trained with no political interference. I was part of the latter and so I can tell with personal experince. We had a professional Foreign Service. Even as late as the time of JR Jayewardene we had the massive Mahaweli Development project and we had Export Development Zones. Above all we had the revolution of the open economy that we achieved before India.
Even the yahapalanaya government that Rajapaksas replaced in 2019 was on the right path of professional government. And this, despise the underhand sabotage of Sirisena. We had Independent Commissions, a government responsible to parliament, no extrajudicial killings, great foreign relations, harmony among ethnic groups, GSP Plus, extension of computer literacy to schools, and so on. That government payed all debts up-to-date and left 7.8 billion in forex reserves. Yahapalanaya did not do enough-true but it had been on the path and that everyone knows.
Thus, AKD, my friend and brilliant man, you aren’t right. You deserve to be at the helm as Ranil Wickremesinghe himself once remarked. Get your thinking right and you will be there.
*The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org