By Hema Senanayake –
IMF does not say it directly, but IMF does not stand with authorities if the people of the member country do not stand with the government. Elections are the way to test whether the people are standing with the government and its authorities like the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank. IMF does not provide financial assistance for military dictatorships. But it works with many countries categorized as “not free” or “partly free” by Freedom House, if elections are held regularly. Sri Lanka is categorized as a partly-free country. Not only IMF, but creditors of all kinds also want to see whether the Sri Lankan government is truly backed by people. They want to see whether there is true political stability in the country.
It is true that holding Local Government elections will not change the government, but Local Government elections will show whether the people stand with the government or not. IMF and other creditors might be willing to see it. President Ranil Wickremesinghe knows this well. Therefore, I think that he will not take any action by himself to postpone the election either as incumbent President or the Minister of Finance. But he will do whatever possible to postpone the elections without getting him involved directly but indirectly maneuvering other government institutions like Election Commission, Judiciary or even returning officers appointed by the Election Commission, to get the election postponed. In remotest possibility, if such thing happened, perhaps he would blame the institutions involved in postponing the election. Then he would say to IMF that he could not help and involve with the decisions of independent government institutions. Perhaps he learned these immoral tricks from his uncle JR Jayewardene.
One of my learned friends said that JR once played a same cunning trick with the then Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. JR Jayewardene after came to power in 1977, wanted to deprive the civic rights of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the former Prime Minister and he hatched a plan involving courts and parliament. But Indira Gandhi having close personal ties with Mrs. Bandaranaike did not want that to happen. So, she telephoned President Jayewardene and requested not to remove Sirimavo’s civic rights. JR replied that he could not involve with the decision of courts. The answer was technically correct but being a veteran stateswoman and a well-informed Head of State of India, Mrs. Gandhi knew that it was a complete lie. Since then, for a long time, India was hostile towards JR’s regime.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to play the same cunning trick with IMF. He wants to show that he did not to get involved in postponing the election, instead, he wants to point out to IMF that the Election Commission or Judiciary or some other institution did it if election is postponed. If such thing happens, I strongly feel that IMF would delay its decision of granting financial assistance even if creditors agreed to restructure their loans. IMF’s language is different. It might continue to postpone its Board Meeting to approve the loan for Sri Lanka and would say that IMF want to give more time to authorities to finalize the reform programs. This might prolong the Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. Therefore, Ranil Wickremdsinghe should be careful not play with any trick to postpone the election.
I hope government institutions and officials are much more independent today and they will understand the importance of holding provincial council elections as it will be the turning point on the path to economic recovery of this country. Therefore, this election is a must not an option.