By Mass L. Usuf –
“The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority” – Will Durant.
When the history of contemporary Sri Lankan politics is written, the current period will be recorded as a crucial era of its political landscape. Firstly, the uniqueness of the 8th Parliament, a national government, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe; Secondly, the constant threat and evil foreboding from those outside the government. The salvos from the arsenal of the Joint Opposition against the government are unraveling itself in its multifaceted form each time. Its ultimate goal is to install a UPFA government. Obviously, the objective etched in their strategies is far from the greater interest of the nation and its people. Referring to the duties of the Opposition, the Universal Declaration on Democracy of the Inter-Parliamentary Union states in Article 11: “The opposition in parliament must show itself to be responsible and be able to act in a statesmanlike manner. It must engage in constructive and responsible opposition by making counter-proposals. In its action, the opposition must not seek to hinder pointlessly the action of the government but rather endeavour to encourage it to improve such action in the general interest”.
Compare this duty with the direct appeal of Dullas Alahapperuma, UPFA MP, to those who partnered with the national government to vote against the budget on the 19th of December. He did not mince his words and honestly said, “If you want a UPFA government”. It is said that in one’s life you either need inspiration or desperation. It seems that the joint opposition always gets the wrong inspiration which only helps in increasing its desperation. Who else would make such a plea after witnessing the second reading sailing through with a majority of 107 votes?
There are no long term friendships in politics. It will not be surprising to see the partners of the government jettisoning at the first sign of the ship becoming unseaworthy. All are just marking time like the proverbial make hay while the sun shines. Between the optimism and desperation of the government and the joint opposition are the people. They helplessly continue to watch each episode of the political dramatization being played out.
Generally, it is the majority that is known to be tyrannical exceptionally, the role has reversed. The so called joint opposition in the minority has never been so united before. They are well aware of the fragile nature of the unique partnership, first time in the political history of this country. The fluidity of the status quo is such that a united minority may triumph over a divided majority. If not machinations to create a crack is being conspired, one is certain that there is at least a watchful anticipation of a schism in the Maithri-Ranil partnership.
Those who could not successfully make into the national government had to content themselves as partners in a so called joint opposition. It seems they have generously mandated themselves with one thing which can be described in one word, criticise.
Never mind, if such criticism is unjustifiable, untenable, unreasonable or immoral. So if the price of green chilly escalates due to the incessant rain and floods, criticize the government for high cost of living. When the Prime Minister made a statement in Parliament regarding the (15th December) planned trade union action subsequently abandoned, UPFA MP, Vasudeva Nanayakkara stated that it was evident that they are fearful.
For some in this minority, religion is a medium of exploitation, social mores a game to be played to the gallery and honesty, sincerity, loyalty are tools of opportunism and exploitation. There is apparently no sense of patriotism in most of these ‘cardboard’ patriots be it in the partnership government side or the so-called joint opposition. Well, it is not surprising as politics world over is the same.
To sustain the daily dosage of virulent criticism, anything between sensationalism and ludicracy is fair game be it hypothesis, speculation, imagination or hearsay. The talent in some of our politicians would even make the Hollywood Oscar awardees look insignificant. Such are their skills at thrillers, comedy and fiction story telling. The finesse in their latent theatrical skills enables them to make a comedy a thriller or even a fiction a fact. To the discerning of course, these belong to the realm of the asinine and, rightly so. The danger is that not all citizens of this country are sagacious. It is clearly proven by some of these comic actors being returned to the Parliament at the recent general election.
We also have action movie heroes of the ‘Rambo’ style or the ‘John Wayne’ western genre. I am a bit confused if to call such ‘heroes’ or ‘villains’. A few ‘narrative’ trailers of the dialogue of some terrific actors may be of interest.
At a press conference (17.11.2015) a forecast was made by an infamous monk that “Several bomb blasts will rock Sri Lanka within a year”. The sinister prediction embracing the emblem of death was frightening especially, because it comes out of the tongue of a person whose vow is non-violence (ahimsa). Turning fiction to fact and vice versa is considered normal for politicians. It may not be so for a person who utters the fourth precept regularly and also teaches it to others, Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami, I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech. This country has seen enough bomb blast and there is no desire in anyone for more. What is disturbing is the degree of insensitivity and gross callousness towards the feelings of a wounded nation – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays and Burghers – that is being manifested by such heartless and inconsiderate statements.
In the realm of thrillers is the revelation made during the budget speech by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake on the debt level of the mismanaged Sri Lankan Airlines. A staggering Rs.158 billion is simply shocking. What is more depressing is the Finance Minister describing what was lost for the citizens. He said that this accumulated loss could have financed 45,000 buses, 25 fully fledged universities, 40 fully equipped modern hospitals and 48,000 houses. The joint opposition was blind to these facts. Their preoccupation at that time was in ousting the Finance Minister for whatever reasons deemed fit by them.
Finally, if the next one can be classified under the genre comedy, I do not know. Anyway, once said, the Economic teacher turned Minister of Education, “The Education Department runs student hostels in several schools where students have three square meals and two cups of tea a day for Rs.2500 a month. This is a clear indication that a family of three needs only Rs.7,500 for a month if they manage their expenses properly”.
Today, only an Hon. Member of Parliament, Bandula Gunawardane questions the danger in the 2016 budget proposal to amalgamate the Rs. 1.7 trillion, combined EPF and ETF funds. If his concerns were substantive and qualitative focused on due diligence, identity of the fund managers, the custodians of the fund, asset allocation, risk appetite of the fund etc. many would have applauded him. On the contrary, he is worried about the 2% or so management fee which is normal in fund management and alleges the possibility of corruption. Someone contextually asked MP Gunawardena where he was when the Rs.500 million EPF funds were invested in Mihin Lanka during the previous regime.
The continuing tyranny of the minority be it the joint opposition or trade unions is taking the masses for ransom. The doctors protesting on the car permit issue will only bring down the wrath of the people on them. People are suffering great hardships when it comes to health issues. The capitalist minded doctors are not going to receive the sympathy of a deeply hurt, agonised and distressed people. The same narrative is applicable to all others too – the government, the joint opposition, the trade unions etc. It would do good for everyone if these sensitivities are recognized.