By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
To be sure, the yahapalanaya government, now into its third year, has done something substantial. However, it is getting into the bad books of people for what it has not done. Neglect outdoes achievement.
The result is that ample fodder is given on a plate to the opposition.Those who want to see the government fall like to cling to a negative rhetoric. Where is yahapalanaya? What have they done? To be sure, one hears such negative refrains not only from the Rajapaksa-committed. A very large number of people at home and in the Diaspora keep talking that way adversely.
The former Deputy Governer of the Central Band, W.A Wijewardena, who has been quite vocal about government failures ever since the yahapalanaya government was formed, told an audience recently that,”this is a lame-duck government.”
All sorts of rumours are floating. The problem is compounded when communication from the government side isn’t catching up with complaints. Successful governments keep in communication with the people. The major question in the lips of numerous people is: “Why isn’t their progress in catching the rogues and criminals of the former regime?’’ Numerous other question of less import but of equal dramatic impact keep flowing with no explanations been offered.
In this respect, the government-controlled media in Sri Lanka has been most ineffective in the past, while independent media are freely using the tolerance granted by yahapalanaya in order to attack yahapalanaya. The new atmosphere of tolerance gives ample space. British Philosopher AC Grayling states,”Tolerance is not only the centrepiece but the paradox of liberalism. For liberalism enjoins tolerance of opposing viewpoints, and allows them to have their say, leaving it to the democracy of ideas to decide which shall prevail. The result is too often the death of toleration itself, because those who live by hard principles and uncompromising views in political, moral, and religious respects will always, if given half a chance, silence liberals because liberalism, by its nature, threatens the hegemony they wish to impose.
So, now we observe how Media attacks the government and street protestors attack the government. BBS is said to be at large, burning Muslim shops at will. This is the new land of yahapalanaya tolerance and freedom of expression. Freedom has now been taken for granted so much that it isn’t valued any longer. Even knowledgeable experts of the ilk of W.A Wijewardena would have got into a soup had they been caught criticising Mahinda Rajapaksea, Gotabaya or the siblings during those dark years. In fact, I have never heard Wijewardena do that.
In a sense, there is a justifiable context for government silence that critics like Wijewardena do not reckon. Criticism must reckon context. One can see the government struggling to keep its numbers in Parliament in order to pass the new constitution. For this reason they seem be just giving in to demands. MPs are given massive financial benefits, luxury car permits etc. Their greed is satisfied to maximum extent. The crooked from the former regime have been bought over and these idiots are kept with a wide margin of tolerance. The most recent case of yielding to pressure was when the former Finance Minister, Ravi Karunanayake, made a Shylock-like demand for two agencies that fell under his former portfolio-the Lotteries Board and something else, which under no stretch of imagination can be classed classified under the Foreign Ministry. That was an appalling decision. If Ravi has ambitions of going up the ladder in politics this kind of episode is going to black mark him. President caved in. Ravi appears to be a hard nut to crack. He organised something called the “Best Finance Minister in Asia,” title for himself. It was a joke for others but Ravi took it seriously. It is a credit to the sense of the President and PM that they weren’t impressed. It is a characteristic of the stupid that they assume others are stupider than them.
It is easy to comprehend that government hand-outs like the above are strategic concessions made under constraint in order to sustain the government’s strength in Parliament. Numbers in Parliament are vital for any legislation and, particularly, in order to pass the new constitution. I think the government is being very politically down-to-earth and pragmatic. The tight-rope walk is fairly fluent. A country’s constitution is its most fundamental legal document. It lays down the rules of the whole game of political process. It was because people realised that, that they cried for a new constitution that expels the Executive Presidency. For the Rainbow Revolution to materialise, this horrible institution must go. Sri Lanka’s social and political culture has become so pliant and so corruptible over the decades that the country has become vulnerable to the agendas of damaged and obsessional Presidential incumbents. The institution of the Executive Prime Minister would, on the other hand, while leaving in the hands of the incumbent adequate powers to govern firmly, make that institution thoroughly accountable to Parliament. If that change-over can be effected, it is “hurrah!” for the yahapalanaya movement. We believe the rest of the processes of good governance will follow on the heels of this change.
On the other hand, this conceding game of the government is in dangerous territory. By conduct sans principles, government will lose acceptability and respect within and outside Parliament. This triggers an erosion process that can well lead to a political landslide. President Sirisena and the Prime Minister must develop the guts to reject and repudiate dark moves from among their fold. They must learn to say, “No!” If one does not reject anything one stands for nothing.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org