By S. Sivathasan –
For a polity that yearned for change in the better part of two incumbencies, the coming together of multiple formations is strikingly inspiring. The single resolve welding them together is Regime Change. It is seen as the most powerful rallying cry to fuse the discordance into purpose. Executive Presidency should be terminated is the slogan. It is not the goal nor the ideal. Nor are illusions nourished that it can dazzle the multitude or win their allegiance. The institution is under attack for the riddance of the occupier. Civilized political behavior, the world may compliment.
Nine into One
Is the above understanding a splash of the unreal? No. More down to earth many would say. If the latter be true how will the future unfold? The immediate present saw politics transiting from static to kinetic. After much reflection it happened on 24th July. What next? One can speculate. Tendencies that were disparate are now coalescing and on the verge of getting crystallized. To lend further weight, accretion of two more entities – Indian Tamil and Muslim – needs promotion. In no time the current Force of Seven needs to be seen as Force of Nine. Concurrently people would like Nine fuse into One. Like Lord Muruga displaying six faces, this single political persona will then embody nine segments. Whatever the number, what should be visible is a face of defiance. Swift progress at fusion will signify the decisive caliber of an emergent leadership.
Leading personages abandoning trivia and talking alike though differently nuanced and with varying emphasis will be a sign of serious intention. This will begin shortly it is supposed. More weighty than the spoken word is the written one. When elections are due receptivity is high. This is time to engage the voters’ mind to dwell on what is more pertinent to them and the country. The developed countries excel in doing them through the most potent mode, the Manifesto. The emergent leadership should exploit this
Strategy with a gripping manifesto.
Manifesto for Change
Stagnating economies miscalling themselves developing countries yield to inertia and fail to present a well-documented, credible course of action. In the result there is neither economic nor social advancement. In this act of default Sri Lanka stands foremost. For easy understanding the focus may be sharply narrowed. Since independence what has been the cumulative expenditure on irrigation and agriculture? In just 3 areas of paddy, sugar and milk what is the performance? In continuous self-sufficiency mode with perpetual imports have been the boast and the reality.
This is a field for aspirants to state power and for governance to go to the masses, through the medium of a Manifesto. Educating our political masters is serious patriotic business which needs to be initiated immediately and then pursued for long. When this remains undone, bashing the Tamils, pulverizing Muslims and hunting for hate symbols become the easier paths. Cutting down on Education and Health is discovered as the most facile way to boost Defence power through wasteful expenditure. To make the economic woes more burdensome, ever escalating welfare expenditure is added. For far too long has the country lost its way in this maelstrom.
Countries that take growth and development seriously, pay very high priority to education. One such is Ireland which has devoted most of its energy to education. Quite sensibly education receives the weightiest support even a quarter century after reaching an enviable position. Our situation is different where satisfying physiological needs is yet paramount. Where does Sri Lanka stand today? In the quagmire of stagnation. About spurring growth a comprehensive account need not be given here. Attention being drawn to a body of factors enhancing investment climate would suffice.
UNCTAD has codified the essentials well. The rule of law is deemed supreme by any investor. Independence of the judiciary scores very high. Trained work force and trainability are important. Knowledge of English, much above literacy is needed. Transparency is rated high. Those in authority knowing that there are countries other than Sri Lanka with good investment climate is of advantage. Self-praise and gloat apart, how does an outsider rate SL? The report card on Failed States Index 2014 groups Sri Lanka in Alert category, ranking her below 148 countries. Conversely as 30th most fragile among 178 countries. Can investors’ perceptions be positive? Will judgment change if highways are paved in gold or Mattala is built of platinum? Regime change can set the pace moving.
Patriotic political elements clawing their way towards authority have to create disaffection, mobilise antipathy and consolidate it in a single hand. Will it begin at Uva PC election? The unaffordable price of milk, presented in a manner to catch the common eye will damn governance from 2006 – 2014. Exchange spent on milk and sugar imports will highlight the fruitlessness of foreign employment. Instead of listless chirping about cost of living, when the price of coconut is presented as mismanagement of the plantation economy and a disregard for people’s wellbeing, it induces thoughts about change. To a similar purpose the escalating price of bread. There is no need to recount many here. Recent stages of people’s decline require highlighting and emphasis.
In the 20th century, particularly in Europe the Communists and later the Fascists made the street the theatre for moving politically. To grip attention and then capture their allegiance, they found meaning in well-crafted posters appearing in white and red, eye catching banners and stirring slogans. In Germany the Fascists showed their mission and verve and the people entrusted the machinery of state to them. In Sri Lanka the writer is able to see that Mein Kampf has been read and reread. If the discernment be correct, the worst is yet to unfold. Avoiding the worst is a huge responsibility before the emergent leadership and it needs to brace up to it losing no time whatsoever. To present an alternative of unity and strength, to test the waters and for correctives, NWP and other Provinces offered opportunities. All were let slip and almost an year was lost. Now UVA cannot be missed to present a full-fledged alternative Front.
The elections of March 1960 demolished all illusions of the Left capturing electoral victory or state power. The sweeping victory of Srimavo in July 1960 destroyed hopes of power sharing as well. With a no nonsense Prime Minister, strikes too became difficult. The splintered left of 3 formations came together in August 1963 and formed the ULF (United Left Front). With 3 portfolios Srimavo finished off the Left.
The above account is to drive home the point that Sri Lankan politicians, smart in themselves, set out to outsmart the adversary and are in turn outsmarted by the other when the latter is armed with power. As remarkable is the knack of both to get the scent of danger even when there is only a whiff of it. This scene is getting enacted before our eyes now.
On July 24th the Force of Seven came together at Colombo Town Hall with Rev. Sobitha Thero in the chair. Two days later it was reported that Shirani Bandaranayake, former Chief Justice was selected as the consensus candidate to run for Presidency. On July 30th a news item said that the President had appointed a former Chief Justice to draft a Constitution Amendment Bill to abolish the Executive Presidency. Indeed a smart scenting of danger from a reading of the writing on the wall. It’s an effort at taking the wind off the sails ahead of a gathering storm and to thwart the enemy. Perhaps there is some misreading. To the writer the target of the Force of Seven is the occupier of the chair and not the chair.
There appears to be some more outsmarting attempt by the President in the choice of the draftsman. He seems to tell the country that while the opposition has selected an impeached Chief Justice, he has chosen an unimpeachable Chief Justice.
The leadership has also the compulsion of break-neck speed. Force of Seven to become Force of Nine in no time. Nine into One immediately thereafter. Single candidate for Presidency, Consensual nominee as Prime Minister, name for the party together with acronym and flag are the remaining essentials. Then it is poised to set about its patriotic mission and to issue its clarion call rephrasing the stirring words of the Communist Manifesto.
“The People’s Leadership disdains to conceal its views and aims. It openly declares that its ends can be attained only by the decisive overthrow of family rule. Let the incumbent regime tremble before the people’s upsurge”.