By Emil van der Poorten –
There is increasing frustration created by the fact that a government which proclaimed its adherence to all that is sacred in democratic practice has continued to slide into the slough of equivocation and the practice of the very corruption that they derided while in opposition. Their bumbling and stumbling along, trying to be all things to all people save those who try to adhere to principled conduct, has earned the disdain of every thinking Sri Lankan.
The Ranil Wickremesinge (RW)/Maithripala Sirisena (MS) coalition appears to be a study in confusion, the only consistency being in the matter of looking after the financial well-being of its constituent members.
The open wound that is the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) issue, has not seen anything resembling firm action of any description to stop its continuing putrefaction. The old adage, “S…t or get off the pot” would be an appropriate admonition to those supposedly having authority to act on this issue. Its prolongation has done nothing but inconvenience the public with no resolution in sight. In this context, I cannot resist the temptation of asking a question I have asked several times before of those such as the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) who persist in acting “holier than thou:” “Why was this not an issue when Mahinda Rajapaksa was doling out hundreds of millions from the national treasury to establish this very institution?”
One doesn’t need a crystal ball to conclude that there is an orchestrated campaign to destroy whatever was gained in the way of democratic practice in January 2015. Given the fact that the Rajapaksa horde has effectively alienated all the minority communities of this country, save for that rump of the Roman Catholic community still influenced by a Cardinal who was consistently and vociferously supportive of Mahinda Rajapaksa and all he represented, the chances of the Rajapaksa family returning to its hegemonic status through democratic means – one man/woman, one vote – is anything but a probability. That state of affairs only leaves one avenue open to those seeking to unseat the current Yahapalanaya government: making the country ungovernable. That they are on their way to success in this endeavour is obvious, the chances of that endeavour being successful enhanced by the behaviour of the RW/MS lot who appear to believe that anything resembling a sea-change in governance will affect them, if at all, only marginally.
The current lot are in cahoots with those who might unseat them because, as they perceive the situation, the only risk they run in the event of the return of their predecessors is, perhaps, competition in their plunder of the public purse. No sea change, only the possibility of a slight reduction in their misappropriation capacity. At first glance, it is easy enough to fall into the trap of thinking that it is only ineptitude and stupidity that is generating the stumbling around of the present lot. Look a little harder and you will realize that this conduct flows from the simple reality that there is little, if anything, to choose between them and their predecessors. More dangerous yet is the fact that both sides of this coin have realized that they are precisely that – two sides of the same (debased) currency – and are conducting themselves accordingly.
The pattern was set before the last general election with the elevation of Karu Jayasuriya to the upper levels of the United National Party. Mr. Jayasuriya had led a massive defection of members of the UNP caucus to the Rajapaksa regime, presenting the President of that time with the means of destroying anything resembling democratic practice which had survived J. R. Jayewardene and those who chose to walk in his footsteps. In a nutshell, Karu Jayasuriya presented Mahinda Rajapaksa with the steamroller majority that he applied to whatever was left of principled democratic parliamentary procedures and practice.
When Mr. Jayasuriya’s petulance at his new boss’s conduct of affairs did not permit his remaining in MR’s fold, he returned to hurrahs from the United National Party.
Something else of significance was that the fact that he left with a dozen and half of the UNP caucus and returned alone generated nary a mutter from a national media whose conduct was hardly exceptional given its kowtowing to one or the other of the major political configurations of this country. That is also indicative of something else in the Pearl of the Orient: the media choosing not to provide anything resembling political analysis of any depth because, in their wisdom, they know that at the end of the day, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you or one that might soon be delivering crumbs from the national table to you!
Where does that leave 99.9% of the population, you and me included? Out in the cold that’s where!
It used to be said that “He who pays the piper, calls the tune.” Not in 21st Century Sri Lanka for the simple reason that the piper’s paymasters have accepted the fact that once they (paymasters) have elevated a microscopic part of their fellow citizenry to political authority, those who should be doing the bidding of their electors choose to do nothing of the kind. They choose, instead, to exert their authority by lining their pockets. The real tragedy for Sri Lanka is the fact that this mode of behaviour has become a part of the national culture and has been accepted as such.
I will close by attempting an optimistic answer to the question posed in the title of this piece.
There is a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the status quo that could be converted to concrete action. However, the challenge is going to be to harness this wave of dissatisfaction and guide it in the direction of non-violent protest leading to what is absolutely essential change. Resorting to violence would only result in the history of 1971 and the late 1980s being repeated, with the attendant bloodbaths which distinguished them. After all, the last thing one needs is confirmation of the adage that goes “The more you do what you always did, the more you’ll get what you always got!”