By Lasanthie Warnapura –
The coalition forces led by the late most Rev Sobitha Thero did exactly what former President did at the recent election during the run up to the 2015 election. They lucidly marketed the negatives of the former strongman but mostly created hope amongst the electorate of better times. Three years down the road without the late Rev Sobitha, the coalition lost it’s sails and meandered along forgetting the aspirations they themselves created.
The Yahapalanaya government did have many credits to itself in the form of media freedom, rule of law and judicial independence. These however were not issues directly felt by the masses who were bombarded by rising food and other prices. “yahapalanaya kannada? ” asked a three wheel driver from me.
The approach of this government was of a technocratic nature which would at best be ideal for a developed nation. Mahinda Rajapaksa regime was full of flash and thunder and mega projects that brought in mega bucks for them which were used at this election. The rural electorate cannot distinguish between seven zero numbers and four. They witnessed the vanity projects and the over priced road network built during the MR period as a great leap to modernity. They do so at present too. They also believed somewhat that the Rajapaksa family and regime were corrupt. That was the reason behind Maithripala Sirisena becoming President. But that was in 2015. They do not think so now.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, could not have defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last Presidential election. Or, that was the thinking at the time Maithripala became the common candidate. It was that same thought process when Gen. Sarath Fonseka, was nominated at an earlier election. Ranil Wickremesinghe, therefore cannot muster enough to oust a Sinhala Buddhist stalwart for Presidency after the defeat of the LTTE, by his own reasoning. He however has a firm grip on the Executive Committee of the UNP and cannot be hoicked. These are realities for the UNP to ponder. Let us reason why the electorate opted to give Mahinda Rajapaksa such a boost at the recent local government elections.
It was common knowledge that the man on the street was disillusioned within a single year of Yahapalanaya. Ranil was looked upon as upright when he refused to smuggle in defeated candidates through the back door to parliament when Sirisena did. Though there was a strong cry to bring in Rosy Senanayake he did not. Then he faltered. Faltered big time. President Sirisena got embroiled in micro management. He forgot that he was the Chief Executive. Bras being thrown on stage and the level of sugar in flavoured drinks became important.
The Yahapalanaya government ( Sirisena faction) then looked inward at corruption. The Bond Issue imploded. Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot do what Mahinda Rajapaksa can. He does not know how to cover up for rogues. That is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s forte. he need not have defended anyone. That was the mandate given to him.
He forgot two important factors. Right people, (read Doers) in the right places and distance (read Sack/Dismiss) the corrupt. Defending Arjuna Mahendran and continuing with Ravi Karunanayake were but some. There were many other UNP’ers within the Cabinet that the Sirisena appointed Ministers whispered in to the ears of the President and the media, of being corrupt. Not done due to altruistic reasons but for green eyes that UNP’ers had embraced the plum Ministries. Big Ministries-Big Bucks. Remember President Sirisena was enamoured by Ranil at the initial stages and would have done his bidding willy-nilly. But as Sri lankan’s are wont to do, the SLFP ministers made Sirisena guilty of not placing the SLFP first amongst equals.
But these were not the serious issues that the Yahapalanaya government failed to address. They simply allowed the opposition to grow on the freedoms given to them by Yahapalanaya. A cardinal mistake. One cannot govern with weak knees. No politician of any stature has been found guilty of corruption in Sri Lanka. That is by design. Politicians do not wish to do that because the same fate might befall them. The weak would also fear to do so as others may seek revenge on them by foisting a false charge. Party insiders feel that Ranil belongs to the latter category and he had a hand in getting the former Attorney General to go slow on framing charges.
The media was awash with the 1.4 billion dollar deposit in Namal’s name in a Dubai based bank. They botched it. They found out about Wimal Weerawansa’s and his wife’s forged birth certificate and Passports. Nothing has taken place yet. The infamous MIG aircraft purchase which figured in many a newspaper as a Government to Government deal is now shown as an agreement between an individual and our Government. The backend agreement between that individual and the Ukrainian Government is for $ 7 Million US less. Nothing has happened. Lasantha Wickramatunga murder case, Prageeth Ekneligoda disappearance, Ruggerite Thajudeen’s murder are all in limbo. The seven Tamil boys who were killed, is another case in point. The ACF workers….my gosh the list is endless.
Why the Yahapalanaya government could not make haste where it was needed is mysterious? No. It is not. Mahinda Rajapaksa carried flowers from temple to temple and numbed the buddhist clergy in full view of the media. He also espoused that the Sinhala/Buddhist brand was superior to other races merely as a marketing exercise to expand a block vote. Privately he has nothing but derision for both. Against this Ranil loved to keep the Rajapaksa coterie out and about to split the SLFP vote between Maithripala and them. Maithripala in turn appeared to be favouring Gotabaya and keeping him out and about, perhaps to have him by his wing on a later date. Between the two they missed the woods from the trees in heeding the mandate they were given in 2005.
Added to this the duo looked inward to catch their own rogues. The Bondgate was the classic example with Ravi Karunanayake episode adding the salt and pepper. So, the Yahapalanaya government showed the 61% and the balance that, the rogues being prosecuted were “On Our Side” and not theirs. By implication when the Yahapalanaya government faced the local elections it was the Bond scam that the people remembered. True it was corruption at high level but it was also an own goal. The former rulers were made to feel Lilly white.
President Sirisena forgot that he was meant to work together with the two factions within the government and so fail did Ranil Wickremesinghe. Being a senior hand in the game he could not adjust to managing Sirisena nor the other renegade SLFP’ers. he failed similarly with Chandrika too. The people by and large were not impressed as stated early into this article. “Nothing is happening” was what one heard, well into the third year. Prices of commodities were higher during MR era but the Yahapalanaya government did not know. Astonishing.
So what bodes for Sri Lanka? Unless and otherwise the coalition gets the cases against the previous lot expedited it would be curtains. Not for them. BUT FOR US.
Yahapalanaya requires, Sense and Sensibility.