By Ameer Ali –
With a single stroke of a pen Maithripala Sirisena has gone down in history as the President of a Democratic Socialist Republic for creating a dysfunctional government and a dislocated economy, both at the same time. A president who was a former village headman, and may be with some knowledge about how a village economy works, has been empowered by a Gaullist constitution with unlimited powers to manage the operation of a seventy year matured democracy with a complex but open market economy. Within a few weeks, this president has made the first dysfunctional and the second dislocated. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The parliament of the country is in limbo; there are two prime ministers and two cabinets; parliamentarians are either switching sides for money and positions or engaging in thuggery when they assemble; local currency is sliding rapidly in value; tourism has stagnated; and foreign investment has almost halted. In short, the nation is in political and economic chaos, while its ordinary citizens are left to their own fate and orphaned. All this in a country steeped in religious beliefs, rich in cultural traditions and blessed with unparalleled natural beauty and fertility.
What is ailing this proud nation now is a disaster brought simply by the personal hatred between two individuals, an elected Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe and an impulsive President, Maithripala Sirisena. Before they fell out both were collaborators in a series of financial and legal scandals and both ignored warnings from an economy running into unbridgeable budgetary gaps and current account deficits. Both equally ignored the mounting cost of living that was burying families under oppressive debts and encouraging suicides. None of them realised that the economic difficulties facing the nation were systemic and no patchwork measures are going to bring it back into black. The current crisis has worsened an already bleak situation.
In between these two adversaries is the former ruling family, Rajapaksas, and its cronies attempting to stage a comeback with support from a vengeful President through the back-door. Their avalanche of crimes and corruption committed when they were in power were about to be exploded through the nation’s judiciary, and the best and only way to avoid such a calamity for the clan is to capture power by any means. The President, with little knowledge about constitutional proprieties and with faulty advice, has invited the Rajapaksa clan with open arms to manage the realm. What an incredible achievement from the Gamarala from Polonnaruwa. Thank you Mr. President for making Sri Lanka a laughing stock.
If democracy is to survive in Sri Lanka an epitaph should be written on the Jayewardena constitution.
*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia