By Vishwamithra –
“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers.” ~Nikita Khrushchev
We are fast approaching the end of the first term of this Presidency. The lofty ideals expressed so abundantly on the Maithripala Sirisena/UNP platform have come out empty. The looming end result of efforts to establish Yahapalanaya seems not only self-destructive, it looks thoroughly unworthy to a set of politicians who have been nurtured and nursed by a culture so steeped in corruption, nepotism and incompetence. A nation that looked forward to a system of governance that could govern the country on the rule of law and ‘discipline of a monastic Monk’ is lamenting without a ray of hope.
Discipline of the mind is one of the greatest gifts man could grant to himself. That discipline, even though he is not born with it, needs to be cultivated and practiced by him with demonstrative dedication and without any reservation. If that discipline is practiced by politicians who profess to know the answers to all issues and problems the country confronts, Ceylon would have been a more tolerable abode for all its citizens. It certainly is no utopian dream to expect a nation to aspire to be led by sensible leaders with sensible practice of sensible policies and principles. What has flown out the window is that sensibility. An alternate sensibility has crept in. That alternate sensibility is dictating the lives and even deaths of politicos and their henchmen. That alternate sensibility was in evidence in the last decade of the Rajapaksa regime.
But the current administration now shows that this alternate sensibility has taken hold of them too. That taking-hold is absolute and final. As penned in my last column, that alternate sensibility is an integral part of the new culture that has set in. It is in this confused context that the performance of the current administration has to be viewed, criticized and judged. Nevertheless, while the judgment that seems to have been made by many a pundit and critic seems to be negative on balance, the verdict reached by the public at large is much harsher than the current rulers could take. Where did they fail? How did they fail? Or to look at a more fundamental question, was the voter-judgment given at the ’15 Presidential Elections flawed?
Let us answer the third question first: Was the ’15 Elections judgment flawed? The easy and obvious answer is no. The verdict reached by a margin of 3.7% is not flawed. 3.7%, more than half a million, in the context of a total poll of 12 million votes is no slender margin. Although this 3.7% is no landslide by any stretch of imagination, those who were elected after the rejection of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent, are bound to deliver on the various pledges they made on platform during the election campaign.
When the answer to the third question is an emphatic no, it becomes overwhelmingly palpable that those who have replaced the Rajapaksas need to get to work on an accelerated pace and with all the strengths and energies they pretend to have. Replacing a ruler such as Mahinda Rajapaksa was no mean task. This ruler, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had brought an excruciatingly painful war to a victorious end; amongst his exhibitionist development programs are, among others, developing road infrastructure, building an airport in the jungles of Mattala, constructing a port in the far corners of the land like Hambantota and erecting a sports stadium among the wild life in Deep South. Yet the people rejected this leader. Why? The fundamental argument against the Rajapaksas, the First Family and its wild henchmen and women, was corruption. The grand propaganda campaign that was launched by the practitioners of this insidious fallacy of all humans- corruption and its numerous attendant repercussions- could not be portrayed by its practitioners amongst fellow countrymen as a life-enriching discipline. Along with corruption and looting the national coffers and distributing it among the cronies of the First Family, the dangerous tendencies developed by one sibling who was purported to be handling Defense of the country, white van fear, alleged killings and sudden disappearances of journalists, callous disregard for accepted norms and traditional way of executing government policies, they all were defeated at the ’15 Presidential Elections.
In effect, the 2015 Presidential Elections were a referendum on the First Family. It was more a defeat of the corruption-ridden Rajapaksa era than a victory for the UNP-backed Maithripala Sirisena. When one comes to power as a replacement of a once popular leader whose policies and conduct of governance were clearly overruled by the people, his responsibility is enormous; he and his governing coalition has no time whatsoever to dillydally the machinery of government when delivering on the promises made.
This is where the writer comes to answer the first two questions in this column. Where and how did the current government fail in dealing with the central issue of delivering on the pledges made on platform? The current government is a two-headed instrument; one is the United National Party (UNP) and the other, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). The UNP is undivided and has accepted Ranil Wickremasinghe as its one leader, whereas the SLFP’s status is one of total confusion and disarray. Ninety Five percent (95%) of the SLFP voters voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa. Those SLFPers who opted to join the coalition government committed a national sin. Joining a government merely to hang on to power with the soul aim of self-enrichment is no noble trait of a politician. That is the common denominator of all politicians, barring a select few.
Pursuit of the Rajapaksa-slaughter of our national character and wealth is no task for a politician who promised to eradicate the nauseatingly stinking practices of the Rajapaksa practices of governance. Politics as a mere pursuit of power in exclusion to all other sacred practices is not only sinful, it is self-destructive. That aspect of self-destruction has already set in not only among the SLFP Ministers and MPs; it has crept into the skin of the UNP Ministers and their cohorts too.
Failure to pursue the prosecution of the wrong-doers of the last regime played a decisive part in the decision by the voters in the recently held local government elections. While the so-called ‘Bond-Scam’ was a very serious blunder which was rightly portrayed by the Opposition as an outright swindle, the lack of scrupulous attention given unto it by the Prime Minister too may have had a telling effect on the psyche of the voter. There is no meaning to an exercise of replacing one corrupt regime by another one. This is where the current administration failed so miserably at governance. The so-called ‘good’ managers (UNP) of the country’s economy became not only mediocre; they too were successful in attaching to themselves the badge of corruption and incompetence.
How they failed too is explained in the foregoing paragraphs. Although volumes could be written on these aspects of the current ruling mechanism, there is one inescapable fact that is destroying the current government and its effects are felt at the very core of its constitution. The breakdown of the relationship between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe is one element that is at the core of this coalition. The moment it breaks down, so does the very existence of the government. The promise of the ’15 Presidential Elections was shattered when this relationship could not withstand the pressures of politics. Human relationships are very complex and could be extremely agonizing when any measures are taken to resuscitate them. The bond between the President and Prime Minister seems to have burst asunder. It is in this context that the writer has been arguing in the last few columns that a new face is the only answer to the winning of the next elections. The UNP has such men in their fold. Both Sajith Premadasa and Navin Dissanayake have the name, prestige and necessary experience and in government to right this meandering boat. It had better be righted sooner than later.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org