By V. Kanthaiya –
Let’s start with a question. How do/did you feel when you get low marks during your school exams? And how do/did you feel when your best friend also got the same marks? My life has ups and downs. Very few ups and so many downs. And it is always comforting to see that I am not the only person in a chaotic situation.
My dear Colombo Telegraph readers, let me introduce Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, the president of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, who is in a complete chaos and openly announced that he is preferring to commit a ‘political suicide’ as he is very much disillusioned with the Yahapalanaya he promised to deliver us in 2015. This act of Sirisena has driven the final nail on the coffin of Yahapalanaya and exposed the naked truth that the good governance is a complete failure in Sri Lanka. This may be shocking to the rationalists. But one should understand that this is Sri Lanka, a country where the proven logical, economical, mathematical, political and philosophical theories go wrong.
First of all, good governance is a possible but not a feasible political model in Sri Lanka. The people and the media may like it, but not the politicians. I ask you another question. Do you think all the politicians are risking all their wealth and competing fiercely with each other, just to serve the people? The aggression and the brute force used by the candidates during the election would make me think that why all these ‘to be saviors’ are fighting among themselves; rather they can take the chance of serving the people one by one and try to redeem us from our political, social and economic miseries. Also if they are passionate about serving the people, they can simply do it even without entering into politics.
Like every professional & businessman, the Sri Lankan politicians are more concerned about their own career growth and the return on their investment. The good governance concepts, especially transparency, rule of law and right to information are something anathema to them. The UNP took the good governance concept not because the party was determined to bring a change in the entire political culture of the country, but they needed a differentiation factor to attract the voters. Sirisena was chosen for the candidacy not because he was a champion of the values of democracy, but just to split the SLFP and embarrasses the Rajapaksas. The key players of the 2015 silent revolution (?) had their own political goals, which did not align with the goals of good governance.
The political system of Sri Lanka which include getting the candidacy, getting the money to finance the campaigns, jobs to the supporters and the business contracts to the party donors cannot be done through a transparent and just political system where the public would have the utmost authority. One should note the fact that even though both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe came to power saying they would punish the corrupt politicians and the bureaucrats of the Rajapaksa regime, only a few were charged just with minor offences in the court of law and only two, Lalith Weeratunga and Anusha Palpitiya were found guilty and sentenced with rigorous imprisonment and then the duo was later released on parole. Yes! Miracles do happen, maybe not to you and me, but to the affluent and the politically powerful.
With the foundation of the Yahapalanaya being so weak, we need to look at the other factor, the Rajapaksas. No one can deny the fact that on 9th January 2015 most of Sri Lankans and the other concerned international stakeholders thought that the Rajapaksas have met their demise and gone forever, just like what happened to Prabakaran and the LTTE. But Rajapaksas are not Prabakaran, to wage a ‘do or die’ war. They are hardcore politicians. Politics is their family business and it is in their DNA. Many liberals and rationalists thought the strength of Rajapaksas is the political power and the authority. They forgot how the Rajapaksas came to power.
The real power of the Medamulana family is their ability to forge alliances. Mahinda Rajapaksas is a person who gives you what you want. He never projected himself as a policymaker, a statesman or an eminent economist. He just projected himself as a person who would deliver what the common man wanted. In 2004, General elections, he promised he would create 40,000 employment opportunities for the graduates. He promised the Sinhala masses in the south that he will protect the motherland and will not give the ‘Eelam’ to LTTE. He promised the Tamils that he is prepared to hold talks directly with Prabakaran and determined to bring peace. He forged political alliances with the Muslim parties and then with the Sinhala Buddhist ultra-nationalists. He made a deal with Prabakaran to stop the people voting for Wickremesinghe in 2005 presidential election. It is a known secret and the Yahapalanaya has failed to prove that even after they came to power. When the war started, they made deals with Karuna, Pillayan and the EPDP to crush the partisan movements in the government held Tamil areas. They made deals with India to effectively manage the western pressure on human rights. They made deals with China for the unlimited supply of weapons and ammunition. This was the success story of the Rajapaksas in short. They were really good at balancing the stakeholder interest very well. The fall of Rajapaksas in 2015 came due to a stakeholder mismanagement, when India together with the western world felt that the Medamulana family was taking them for fools and siding with China.
Even with their loss of power in 2015, the Rajapaksas never lost their vote bank and they still hold it. They are the one and only hope for the Sinhala nationalists who are always in a constant lookout mode expecting an invasion of Tamils from Tamilnadu or Canada or even from the Andromeda galaxy. For them, Rajapaksas are the god sent saviors and the warriors protecting the Sinhala Buddhists from the Tamils and Muslims.
Now with the final nail driven on the Yahapalanaya coffin, in the coming weeks or months we are going to witness the potential Sirisena-Wickremesinghe split and ensuing political circus to retain their political existence.
So what is going to happen to the attempt to establish the good governance culture and the future of Sri Lanka?
Well! My advice is not to talk about establishing the rule of law, corruption-free, transparent and efficient state in Sri Lanka in public. The general public would think you have gone insane. At this moment, they feel the threat to Sri Lanka is the Tamils and Muslims in the country. They are prepared to vote for any devil which would preserve the unity of the country and the Buddha Sasana.
The political culture of a country is just a collective reflection of the common man’s mind. We can’t try to bring a developed country’s political culture to Sri Lanka because in the developed country, the common man thinks the values of democracy are his fundamental rights. But here in Sri Lanka, the common man is frightened of people from other communities and think he is in an imminent danger and the state should protect his race and religion.
It will take Sri Lanka another two or three generations of time to move to a political culture based on the values of democracy. Until then, politicians like Rajapaksas and their cronies will thrive.