By Emil van der Poorten –
I don’t know where the title language of this piece originates but it seemed more appropriate than the probably more commonly used, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
If one continues to be shocked by the aberrations from democratic practice in those countries that continuously claim to be its protectors, Sri Lanka’s political shenanigans have reached the point where they have ceased even to amuse those with a wry sense of humour. They simply disgust.
And the reason for that disgust is the monumentally insulting behaviour that our politicians seem to insist on thrusting at this country’s electors.
We are internationally reputed as a nation to contain the most sophisticated voting population in the region and one, to boot, capable of navigating the shoals of potential dictatorship with an occasional running aground to keep things interesting. In final analysis, warts and all, Sri Lanka has been viewed, during its time post-British Imperialism as a land where the essentials of democracy were intact.
Is this still the case, or have we, thanks primarily to the infection of a “master race” virus, let ourselves slide down the slippery slope to despotism with the attendant rampant murder and mayhem?
Suffice it to say, at this point at least, that the indicators, at least for those who believe that the people’s will should prevail and power should not come out of a gun in the matter of governance, are not good.
We thought we were rid of the most violent and corrupt government in our recent history when the mild-mannered Maithripala Sirisena took on and convincingly beat Mahinda Rajapaksa at the beginning of 2015. However, it seems like that was not to be and recent developments amounting to what appears to be a complete capitulation of Mr. Sirisena, now the President, does not portend well for a country that was looking forward to some measure of democracy in practice and the return of the rule of law.
It seems like the malady that infected the Rajapaksa group which seemed to begin its political life as yet another mildly socialist agglomeration had entered the veins of the new Sirisena Dispensation.
The (thinking) jury is still out on the matter of the “Mahendran Matter” but, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Ravi Karunanayake have enough political experience under their respective belts to have known that “perception” adds up to everything in politics and the whole mess has been made worse by keeping it before the public’s eye with vacuous statements that do little but sound like lame excuses and remind the public, again, of the sweeping accusations made by the most loud-mouthed of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s spokespeople, led by that unparalleled demagogue Wimal Weerawansa, truly a politician without shame!
Then we had the comedy of the “100 Days Program.” There was no way that the ambitious targets set could be achieved within the time frame set. If it was sloganeering that was needed, surely some achievable generalities could have been listed? Even the much-trumpeted passage of the 19th Amendment, while less than an unmitigated disaster, saw only an emasculated version of the original proposals pass into law. It offered the Rajapaksa Rump in the legislature a wonderful opportunity to grandstand, be as obstructive as possible and prove the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
At no point did it seem that Ranil Wickremesinghe’s strategists had so much as considered provoking the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of elections as quickly as possible. This, in a very real sense, would have been striking while the iron was still hot. I would submit (for the umpteenth time!) that this policy was driven primarily by those with the ability to influence UNP policy wanting to have their cake and eat it too: the “insurance buyers” who survived the Rajapaksa Presidency (and Chandrika’s too, if truth be told), were ensuring that should gold turn to dross, they’d be able to return to that same status if/when Mahinda returned.
Insofar, as the well-being of the “insurance buyers” is concerned, their strategy could well be proved dead right if/when Mahinda Rajapaksa regains the reins of absolute power. Laying anything resembling principle aside, can you contest the “success” of those who, win or lose, maintain their privileged positions in Sri Lankan society, even if slightly diminished, and continue to exercise the ability to mint money even if it is at the public’s expense?
The foregoing is not a case of being smart after the fact. I have, on several occasions, at risk of being a positive bore on the subject, kept repeating this obvious fact and it certainly gives me no pleasure to, probably, be proved right on this issue in the final analysis.
We need, for starters, to stop identifying symptoms as problems and to remove from the anti-Rajapaksa body politic those who do, in fact, constitute a political Fifth Column, doing little but ensuring their financial nests are feathered irrespective of the party in power and what it is likely to deliver in the matter of governance.
I am still optimistic that the Sri Lankan electorate has the capacity to see beyond the trees of the “insurance buyers” to the forest that threatens to envelop us with the darkness of death and destruction. However, it is going to take a significant number of people of decency and honesty and political skill to address that task.
This is a time for those who believe in justice and good governance to stand up for those principles and do whatever they can, no matter how insignificant it might seem, to restore Sri Lanka to its status of “the beacon of democracy in Asia!”