By Malinda Seneviratne –
Spokesperson for the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA), staunch supporter of the Maithripala regime and shrill advocate of good governance Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri posed a question to certain individuals on Facebook. He wants to know what they think are the political meanings of a political force Wimal Wererawansa, Dayan Jayatilleka and Vasudeva Nanayakkara are putting together with Mahinda Rajapaksa as leader (“විමල් වීරවංශ, දයාන් ජයතිලක සහ වාසුදේව නානායක්කාර යන අය එක්ව මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂගේ නායකත්වයෙන් ගොඩ නැගෙන කදවුරක දෙශපාලන අරුත් පිළිබද ඔබගේ අදහස් දැනගැනීමට කැමැත්තෙමි.”)
In the comment thread Nirmal says that others gathered around slogans such as democracy and good governance they could agree with and asks what kinds of ideas could unite the likes of Wimal, Dinesh (Gunawardena), Dayan and Vasudeva. Today, the question can be posed, ‘of what worth are slogans (such as good governance and democracy) outside of mobilizing-utility?’
At the half-way mark of the much talked of ‘100 Days Program’ we find that the Good Governance Train has come to a grinding halt in the all-important matters of repealing the 18th Amendment, scripting checks and balances into articles pertaining to the Executive Presidency, re-instituting the independent commissions and electoral reform. While some of the action is certainly laudable (the decision on pictorial warnings on tobacco products) and while there’s encouraging news about others (the Right to Information Bill), the past 50 days have essentially been a media circus marked by vindictiveness, eyewash and disturbingly a focus on minnows while letting sharks get away.
The brouhaha over Wimal Weerawansa’s wife’s date of birth is a case in point. Wrong is wrong and wrongdoers must be brought to book. No argument there. Selective and overzealous pursuit of suspects is not the answer though. Shenali Waduge makes some pertinent observations in this regard.
She surmises thus:
If under the MR Govt a wife of a UNPer had been arrested on similar charges as Wimal W’s wife, the following would have happened: 1) Non-stop flow of statements issued by envoys of missions in Sri Lanka, 2) Women’s Rights Group holding successive press conferences condemning the arrest of a mother from hospital and taken to remand custody, 3) UN Secretary General releasing a statement on ‘human rights violations’, 4) UNHRC head releasing statement on the ‘declining state of human rights’ in Sri Lanka, 5) Threats by foreign nations to impose sanctions etc because of political victimization, and 6) Media – local and international – writing editorials and media releases on the arrest. She concludes, ‘Now that their puppets are in power… its silence all round….not a sound from women’s groups either.’
This is conjecture. There is exaggeration. There is truth too. And there is a palpable inconsistency in the way ‘good people’ (self-styled) respond to things this Government does and the way they went hammer and tongs at the Rajapaksas. Part of it can be attributed to ‘early days’. The new government does deserve some ‘teething-slack’ even though the President the people elected and the Prime Minister he appointed are certainly no novices in the political game. ‘Slack’ however is not a check people can cash any time they like. It has an expiry date.
It was the President who came up with this ‘100 Days Program’. It is Ranil Wickremesinghe, Patali Champika Ranawaka and others like Dewasiri who made out that President Sirisena was serious about it. It was they who sold the yahapaalana-prajaathanthravaada (good governance and democracy) idea to the voters. If policy reform was so important the Government should focus on getting reforms done instead of indulging in circus-distraction. As things stand we have to conclude that the spectacle of exacting revenge for wrongs done to various individuals (rather than righting wrongs against the people) is more important to the regime than instituting reforms that make it tough for wrongdoers. What is evident is a fascination with the ‘Deterrent Principle’ rather than correcting systemic flaws that forbid wrongdoing.
During President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term there’s a word that came to be parodied by one and all: aascharyaya (‘miracle’, after the promise to turn Sri Lanka into the Miracle of Asia). It became a joke simply because for all the ‘development’ there were so many other things that were wrong, disgusting and clearly turning Sri Lanka into anything but a miracle. The same thing is happening to yahapaalanaya. It is becoming a word used instead of ‘confusion’, ‘craziness’, ‘nonsense’ etc. If it were only a jab by the opponents one could dismiss it as ‘sour grapes’ but disturbingly we hear it outside of the political commentariat. It’s on the street. In non-political context in social media. All over the place. Just like ‘aascharya’.
That can happen only when skepticism grows beyond a certain point. Skepticism is being fed by this Government and that’s what is turning yahapaalanaya into another aascharyaya. It is fast become another one of those things that are too good to be true. The speed at which we are getting there is perhaps another important reason why Mahinda Rajapaksa is increasingly looking like a victim of the voters’ haste and ingratitude. An aascharyaya in fact. Ironically.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com