By Jeevan Thiagarajah –
I rarely set out to write in the manner done with this piece. The last was in 2009. This land like no other has had three previous variations to the popular notion of an Arab spring. Under gruesome circumstances we survived. In the post 2015 era we tried to consolidate broadly the rule of law. 51.28 percent of Sri Lankan voters enabled it. The “palana kalaya” produced much “lihilvima” to the overall environment. The parallel was when Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was voted President first and as one Sinhala weekly Editor said there was a “lihilvima” from ‘beeshanya” then. The 2015 contestants added the phrase “lihilvima” from “dooshanaya” in the slogan of Yahapalanya.
The contest to control the SLFP brewed thereon as an equally important side show with the SLPP gaining ground. By 2018 the SLFP was playing catch up with the SLPP. A renegade group of 16 pro-Sirisena SLFP parliamentarians stood out- side their Ministerial positions. They needed office soon and the SLFP with the President needed to merge with the SLPP. The President likely wants to run for a second term. If he has guarantee to do so from the SLFP/SLPP one does not know. The current crisis is driven primarily by these sets of issues. A reset was required with events unleashed recently.
By first quarter 2018 the President openly spoke about his hope Prime Minister Ranil wickremesinghe would be replaced. The President set about destabilizing his own Government. It set in motion the events seen thereafter. One in the fore front of that failed move early this year was active in the efforts seen recently. In the taped phone conversation released to the public he speaks of the 117 they had which was prevented by the internal threat of a counter cross over from the SLFP.
We saw the Parliament with effective Committees chaired in several instances by MP’s from the Opposition, a vociferous opposition led by those in the SLPP, the Presidency and the coalition Government in bringing in a fair degree of checks and balances to the exercise of power in the country.
If one were reimagine conversations before May 2009, post and now what can one say? Where in heavens name are we?
A group of Sri Lankan students overseas in a part their release say, “Once more, power is being used purely for political gain rather than towards building people-centered institutions and an inclusive and democratic political culture. These acts damage the health of institutions and processes that sustain democracy, pluralism and rights. They will have a permanent impact on the future of Sri Lanka’s youth”.
Jayadeva Uyangoda describes his personal agony as one in which, “The damage done on October 26 evening and continues to be done thereafter to Sri Lanka’s democracy, and the democratic futures of the young generation to which the children and grand children of both President Sirisena and I belong, is a devastating personal setback to me.
Now on, recovery of democracy for Sri Lanka’s next generation is likely to be preceded by another phase of grave violations, setbacks, violence, resistance, and tragically, bloodbath. Thus, for me, political is the personal too.”
It’s hard to not agree with these two sets of views.
A hard look at so called politics, politicians and parties present a not so happy picture. For example where, what and who is the SLFP? The UNP does have a set of leaders below RW who could well present a different UNP. What of the Left? Parties representing minority interests? How long can they survive before being gobbled by lucre and more?
What happens to public service and most importantly the unfortunate hollow promises the Constitution presents to citizens?
At another level, we do need preferential tariffs and markets to trade. We need investments coming into the country. On both counts do we present ourselves with any sense of seriousness or decency before global markets ? Tamara has bemoaned the overt international scrutiny and potentially pressure. Not even during the closing stages of May 2009 did we see the kind of allergy to SL we are seeing now , expressed in very negative light.
The moral of this short piece is, “We need a third way of doing business in this island like no other”. For example if reform in a party is what is sought one does not cross over to do that. If issues are to be canvassed can a caucus if need be from both sides of the floor of the house not coalesce? If one were to vote according to ones conscience does it preclude sitting independently? All of this is premised on the basis we actually follow the rule of law. If we don’t, the precedent and example set for others to follow and the consequences are frightening. These maybe pipe dreams. The real world maybe all about money, prestige and selfish drives for power in Sri Lanka. Politics in this country stinks.
If 1983 broke the back of this nation, I am at a loss to lend words to what we brought on ourselves recently. We can’t possibly survive and assume business would be as usual hereafter. The wish is what ultimately replaces the current status quo would be different, setting a whole new trajectory for the better for the country.