By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
In the main, coalitions of diverse parties have been recipes for political instability and economic stagnation. Down every step of the way they will be obsessed with politics – meaning fighting for the advantages each party could extract at the expense of the others to consolidate their political bargaining and electoral chances – brushing aside economics of growth, or the day-to-day issues that plague the people. Their internal bickering will dominate the headlines.
In fact, all coalitions are like Hollywood marriages: gilded, glamorous and grand today and divisive and deadly leading to divorces tomorrow. The two best known examples that went the Hollywoodian way are those of UNP-FP and SLFP-Marxists. They were marriages of convenience that were destined to break-up.
The most notable was the Marxist-SLFP coalition. Marxists who rushed to prop up Mrs. Bandaranaike discovered, rather late in the day, that they were not wanted either by Mrs. B or the people. When they went to the polls after their bitter divorce the people’s verdict on the Marxists was ruthless : the biggest and the most formidable opposition in the post-independent era was wiped out.
By joining Mrs. B. the Marxists lost their identity, their support base in the electorate, their image as a dynamic alternative in the opposition and, above all, their integrity as intellectuals (“golden brains”) offering solutions to national problems. Like all incompatible coalitions it was doomed from the beginning. The irreconcilable contradictions within the Marxist-SLFP Coalition, their unworkable pursuit of diametrically opposed goals, the Marxists compromising with the ruling Right-wing SLFP elite abandoning their traditional left-wing ideologies, the never ending internal squabbles with both sides jockeying for power, the personality clashes with arrogant Felix Dias Bandaranaike usurping Mrs. B’s powers and dictating take-it-or-leave terms to the Marxists contributed to eventual collapse of the Coalition and, worst of all, the burial of the Marxists.
This example is a warning to the UNPers who have now gone to bed with the Sirisena–CBK–Mangala “My-3” of the SLFP. If this Coalition ever takes place, both parties will be locked in a stalemate of their antithetical politics with neither party having the capacity to even achieve the minimum goals promised in their MOUs. Besides, the diverse extremists in the coalition – JHU- UNP-TNA (the covert partner) – will never see eye-to-eye on key national issues. What kind of soup can they make when there are so many cooks, most of whom are like Wickremesinghe and Champika Ranawaka, qualified only to cook their own goose?
Sirisena so far has been playing the role of being all things to all men, women and hermaphrodites. He can play this game only as long as he is a candidate of the opposition where he floats merrily on airy-fairy promises that are not likely to see the light of day. His capacity to fulfill/appease the diverse parties in the Coalition will evaporate once he sits down in the seats of power to hammer out the details and determine policies. It is at this point that the cracks will open up. The intractable complexities of holding the heterogeneous forces within the Coalition will be beyond the limited capabilities of Sirisena. He neither has the skill to hold them together to keep the Coalition going for some time, nor the power to build consensus on the vexed issues facing the nation.
The way the forces are aligned in the Coalition it is clear that the SLFP is now divided into (1) the modernizing, development-oriented, forward-looking engine of growth headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa and (2) the rickety old cart headed by asinine CBK-Mangala duo that left the worst legacy of corruption and inefficiency since independence (1948), according to the Editor of RAVAYA, Victor Ivan, who was an insider in Kumaratunga’s political campaigns.
This old, corrupt gang offers only vindictive politics. Besides, the regime change they promise is not going to change the political culture one bit – not with their vindictive politics led by corrupt has-beens. The legal, institutional and political impediments standing in their way for constitutional changes are intertwined in near insuperable complexities that it doubtful whether they can change the constitution in the foreseeable future, let alone the 100 days. So it will back to square one, with the same old same old. They will fail like they did when they were in power last. And when they fail they will try to cover-up their failure to create their promised land by blaming the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. Blaming the other is the normal game played by failed politicians. They will not take responsibility for their own incompetence, mismanagement, corruption and CBK-Ranil-made disasters.
Sirisena will come a cropper in the three main areas that he has promised to change : 1 the constitution; 2. corruption and 3. cost of living. As pointed out earlier, he already has, as his key strategist/partner, the most corrupt woman in post-independent history. If he is to make an impact on corruption he must begin by investigating the corrupt, ill-gotten accumulations of Chandrika Kumaratunga. Simultaneously, he must investigate, as a matter of urgency, the Ravi-Rajaratnam deal with links to the LTTE. Of all corrupt deals the Ravi-Rajaratnam deal is a direct threat to the nation’s security and territorial integrity. Sirisena so far has not uttered one word about cleaning up his own stables before cleaning the backyard of others. Exonerating corruption in his camp and poking his fingers only in his opponents camp is vindictive politics. Nor can he clean one part and leave the other part immersed in total corruption. So can the nation trust Sirisena to be honest, or even clean up corruption?
Wickremesinghe too will soon discover that the man whom he promotes to be the next president will be the first to let him down. A victory for Sirisena is a defeat for Wickremesinghe and, of course, Sajith Premadasa and other UNPers who are refusing to surrender to the failed and corrupt forces of the SLFP. If Mahinda Rajapaksa loses the UNPers will have to play second fiddle to the CBK-Mangala-Sirisena trio. With a weak leader like Wickremesinghe he will follow CBK-Mangala-Sirisena politics selling the UNP and the nation to the divisive/separatist forces. Their under-the-table agreement with the TNA will compel them to reverse the gains made by the self-sacrificing forces.
CBK-Ranil-Mangala are all birds of a feather ever ready to justify their failed past by reviving the P-TOMS and Ranil-Prabhakaran agreements in revised versions. They are not averse to dismantling the Security Forces, withdraw forces from the Northern bases still under threat from LTTE’s under-cover agents, in order to win pats on their back from the anti-Sri Lankan west. The proposed Coalition, in short, is another way of going on the reverse gear to the failed past when Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe surrendered to Prabhakaran.
As for Wickremesinghe his future was sealed the day he signed the MOU: he will neither have his way in the Coalition nor will he get the powers promised in the constitutional change. Since he hasn’t the guts to stand up for his end of the deal signed in the MOU – he has already lost the Ministry of Defence — he will have to run after the CBK-Mangala-Sirisena trio to survive in the Coalition. He can threaten to pull out of the MOU and break up the Coalition. But that would only confirm the fragility of the tenuous Coalition. It would also means that he and his Coalition can only go down the path to nowhere.
Of all the known coalitions this, no doubt, will be the worst. The very composition of its members, drawn from opposite extremes, will paralyze it. Only a pompous prima donna like Champika Ranawaka, will assume that everything is going to be hunky-dory in the Coalition. He can’t even keep his principled and committed colleague, Udaya Gammanpila, within his fold. So how does he propose to keep the donkeys, asses and mules in the Coalition – not mention his own self — together?
This Coalition, consisting of incompatible partners and antithetical political mantras, will be a disaster for the nation. It is a recipe for chaos and instability. Whatever the infirmities of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime may have been he never allowed the nation to slide down the greasy pole to unmanageable instability. Mahinda Rajapaksa had a firm grip on politics at all levels. His methodology may not have appealed to his detractors. But he delivered to the nation all that was lost in the 33 years of divisive politics and never allowed the gains to decline.
His politics of growth and development to lift the nation from the depths of disasters, caused primarily by the selling the nation to the Tamil Pol Pot, Prabhakaran, is a remarkable achievement by any international or national standards. No one in post-independent history has reached such monumental heights. He has planted the Sri Lankan flag at the peak of Sri Lankan history. When can pigmies like Wickremesinghe, Kumaratunga, Samaraweera and Sirisena ever get within even smelling distance of the new nation built from scratch, as it were?
The leadership qualities of politicians can be measured essentially by their achievements just as much as Kumar Sangakkara has been measured by the runs he put on the board. So what is the score put up by CBK, Mangala, Siirisena and Wickremesinghe? Why is it that they pose as smart asses only when they are in the opposition pavilion waiting to bat and fail miserably when they go to the crease? When did they ever score a century for the nation? Why are they promising to deliver always in the never-never future and never in the present? Who can trust them when they don’t trust each other either?
This temporary coalition made for their convenience is not going to be the answer to the nation’s future. Their main offer to the nation is simple : change the regime. They claim that power in their hands will solve all the problems of the nation. But the very nature of their Coalition, consisting of parties that have never got along in the past, will militate against all of them coming together in the future for the good of the people.
For instance, the yellow-bellied humbug, Champika, has campaigned to keep the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist UNPers out of power as long as I can remember. Now he is campaigning as if Wickremesinghe is his every-loving, long lost brother-in-law. Can you trust hypocrites like Champika to save the nation when he joins CBK-Mangala-Ranil-Sirisena forces knowing that they have always ganged up – and will continue to gang up — to sell the nation down the river?
Champika has jumped with both feet into the anti-national camp not to save the nation from sliding into another P-TOM or a Ranil-Prabhakaran deal but to bargain for a ministerial position for himself. His attempt to cover himself with a yellow robe to wangle a ministerial post in the Sirisena-Chandrika-Mangala-Wickremesinghe regime is a disgrace to Buddha, dhamma and sangha. His ministerial post will only strengthen and encourage Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe to go for another Ranil-Prabhakaran deal with TNA. There isn’t a bigger fool than the fool who thinks that he/she can save his cause by selling him/herself to the enemy.
In any case he is joining a Coalition consisting primarily of the anti-national forces. Furthermore, the chances of this bizarre Coalition surviving for long is very much in doubt. Without any ability to hang together as a solid political force they can never deliver good governance. Nor can they deliver their other promises. The change they are promising is change for chaos not for stability and growth.
The past record of coalitions has proved that a confused conglomeration of corrupt coalitionists can never give stability for peace, reconciliation and growth. Most of all, it is the business community that will have to face the consequences of the inevitable failures of CBK-Mangala-Ranil-Sirisena Coalition. The instability that will arise out of their higgledy-piggeldy politics will drive investors away and ruin the progress made by them so far. The nation will end up like their Coalition: in utter chaos putting the clock back once again by another fifty ears.
Can the business community afford this disaster?