By Ruvan Weerasinghe –
Today, 4th April 2018, is the date set for the ‘stoning’ of the Prime Minister of this country. Sri Lankans by now have become famous for seeking and finding a scapegoat on whom our troubles can be cast, that somehow magically solves all our problems! That is until we set our sights on another scapegoat.
To be sure, the Prime Minister of this country has indeed succumbed to the error of blindly trusting his friends and then covering up for them. This was clearly evident in the case of the former Governor of the Central Bank and the former Minister of Finance. As such he has indeed lost his credibility to lead the nation, or the party he represents.
The irony is that, this has been the practice in politics of most recent leaders of this nation: the former President and the incumbent included! The problem in the scapegoat-finding trait we have, is that often, once an appropriate scapegoat is found, all the others implicated are forgotten, even forgiven. In the present case, the culpability of the incumbent President in betraying the trust of those behind the Yahapalana movement, is arguably even greater than that of the Prime Minister. And yet it is he, who in more ways than one, who is the architect of the present crisis in government and the No Confidence Motion (NCM).
At a higher level, the main culprit of the present crisis appears to be the complete lack of experience of our political parties in consensual government. Of course it is easier to rule a country if one doesn’t need to consult anyone else. However, that is only appropriate for the mythical ‘benevolent dictator’ that Sri Lanka has never had – nor will have in the current political culture seeped in expediency and corruption. The President is again the main culprit on this front for ‘running to his mother (party)’ when the ‘marriage’ with the ‘other’ started hitting ‘rough ground’. Instead of taking seriously the mandate given by the majority for consensual government, he has utterly disregarded their voice and gone running back to the very faction of his party that the people rejected in 2015. Surely, a single term in consensual government was not too much for the people to ask for?
If the Prime Minister is unfit to lead the country, as he indeed has demonstrated, then neither is the President, who after all is the head of state. He has not only failed the people who elected him, he has also betrayed the party that brought him to power. He has also been the single most responsible person for the ‘break up’ of the Yahapalana government. While the other party has been mostly silent on his misdeeds, he has been very liberal in ‘exposing the faults’ of this coalition partner in public, even before the recently held LG Polls. Though with as much ‘sin’ as his Prime Minister on several fronts, he has chosen to cast the first stone at him, as though it would somehow ‘cleanse’ himself of any blame. Political expediency of the very worst kind!
This then would be the ideal outcome of today’s NCM: the Prime Minister scrapes through to survive the NCM, but is shaken and humbled enough to recognize that he’s lost all credibility of leading the party and the government; the then resigns of his own accord, to make way for a new leadership within the party and the country; the President as a result of this ‘set back’ to his push for the NCM is thereafter no longer held in any esteem in decision making by the new PM.
After this fiasco is out of the way, the country would need to be lifted out of the present mire that the government has brought it to. A new coalition would have just over a year and a half to ‘get their act together’.
Again, the ideal solution for the way forward is for the MPs in parliament to realize that the only way they could stop the country slipping back to the ‘bad old days’ would be to form a fresh and energized coalition with new partners (purging the old) and to plan for not just 2 years, but for at least 7. This country has had too much ‘party politics’ and short-term ‘runs’ for its own good. It is time to stop comparing our progress under different governments – we need to identify that the real benchmark is the progress of other countries ( at least in the region), and then to buckle up and set our sights for the longer term benefit of our country.
This would of course call for the best of statesmanship from MPs across all parties in Parliament to come together leaving behind their archaic affiliations and be willing to compromise on the non-essentials in order to focus on a longer-term plan for consensual coalition government.