25 May, 2024


Yahapālana’s Three-Year Report Card

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Except restoration of democracy, government’s record is unimpressive

It’s the end of the year, nearly three years from 8 January 2015 and an opportunity to draw up two balance sheets. Today I will focus on the acts of commission and omission of the Sirisena-Ranil duumvirate and next week take a sharp look at Local Government (LG) elections slated for February. The latter will be a significant pointer, so I will keep you salivating for a week. Commentators agree that more than local administration hangs on the results, therefore I assure you it’s worth the wait.

A question frequently put to me is: “What do you now have to say about this government? Didn’t you canvas for the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa? Isn’t yahapalanaya a failure?” The question is directed at me because I am responsibile for originating the Single-Issue Common-Candidate concept taken forward by Rev Sobitha’s Just Society Movement, anti-Mahinda political parties and democratic and human rights activists. Most people cottoned on to the Common-Candidate (CC) strategy to facilitate the defeat of Rajapaksa, but few grasped the parameters of the Single-Issue (SI) concept. Let me explain this fine and nuanced line and clarify my mixed reaction to the shortcomings of yahapalanaya.

The CC strategy was pulled off by Sirisena, Ranil and Chandrika in a brilliant political coup. Hats off! The need to unite all who detested Mahinda-Gotabaya oppression, repression and slide to autocracy, was an easy idea to grasp. Millions cottoned on, refused to be intimidated by state power, resisted billions of rupees, and voted for a common candidate to drive Rajapaksa out of office. Bravo!

The more finessed point, SI, is that many, like me, who united to defeat Rajapaksa did so for one clearly articulated reason. The motive of those of us who voiced the Single-Issue concept was to pull Lanka out of a creeping dictatorship. This was the bottom line, the minimal agenda; anything more would be a bonus. Let me be clear; the purpose of SI-CC was to defeat MR-GR, halt the slide to dictatorship and abolish the all-powerful executive presidency. We harboured no assurance that much more would be achieved. Yes, there was hope on two related objectives; a constitution translating electoral victory into statutes, and second, vigorous action against corruption that had made Rajapaksa era abuse of power profitable. These were possible bonuses, but the minimum was to halt an erosion of democracy, dignity and human rights.

No illusions

This is crucial: There was no illusion, there could possibly not have been any illusion on the Left, that a government led by the ideological heirs of JR Jayewardene and a woolly headed erstwhile Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalist without an economic strategy, would fashion an economic programme to gladden the hearts of leftists, socialists and Marxists. Those of us who endorsed SI as a minimum do not have any right to be disappointed if this government pursues a liberal-capitalist economic strategy. Anybody who expected Ranil to make his beloved uncle turn in the grave was a dreamer. The tenor of explicitly enunciated economic strategies of the yahapalana government is true to its form and as expected. I will explain at the end why, buffeted by the gales of global realpolitik, the government has been compelled to buck its much-loved neo-liberal inclinations.

My first response to my interlocuters is: “I am pleased on the Single-Issue theme. The defeat of the Rajapaksa regime and clan has achieved what was paramount, restoration of a modest quantum of democracy. Those pushing the nation to despotism have been routed – no more state and semi-state extrajudicial murders, no more white vans and arbitrary arrests, no more intimidation of journalists, no more dread of the police and military in the heart of every Tamil and Muslim”. This does not mean that the UNP or the Sirisena-SLFP will win future elections; such dynamics are more convoluted as Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015 and Churchill in 1945 learnt the hard way.

To repeat: The overriding objective underlying SI-CC has been achieved. Anything more is a bonus, but before touching on bonuses let me add: The greater credit for restoring democracy belongs to the 8 January activists; only a lesser part can be credited to political leaders (I have already paid a handsome compliment to Sirisena, Ranil and Chandrika for translating the CC proposal into reality). I grant that though not perfect – where in the wold is a government perfect – yahapalanaya has, by and large, been supportive of democratic reforms (right to information, reconciliation, expanded media freedom and so on) but the government has been held on a short leash by its midwife, the January 8 forces, who can therefore claim a greater share of the credit for these reforms.

No bonuses

A new constitution, prosecutions to bring the multitude of Rajapaksa era crooks to book, and measures to stem corruption within the new administration, these are bonus dividends over and above the Single-Issue and would have been welcome. On these matters I share the public’s disappointment. Well, a new democratic constitution to replace JR’s abomination is, actually, more than a bonus; it flows from the need to cement the defeat of autocracy. It is a necessity to firm up the victory.

Indications at this time are that the constitution will fizzle out. The SLFP is a repository of Sinhala chauvinism and does not have the sentiment or the gall to support a modern constitution. It has advocated only Sinhalese interests for seventy years, its politicos are place-seekers who prospered as lick-spittle stooges of the powerful; think of (Dr) Mervyn Silva. Not one SLFPer, or for that matter Communist, Samasamajist or DLFer, opposed the 18th Amendment. What can one expect from such reptilian life-forms? The UNP too contains creepy-crawlies. Is this harsh? Maybe, but may I humbly ask you to pause and reflect on whether this is true. The truth, in turn, is a reflection of the Sri Lankan voter whose consciousness has not matured to pluralism and modernism.

Now you see my pessimism about two-thirds of these types of MPs supporting the abolition of the executive presidency, devolution of administrative power to minorities and many fine proposals contained in the six sub-committee reports. I hope I am wrong and that two-thirds will be forthcoming, but I am pessimistic. I have argued in this column before, and am willing to reiterate today, that if two-thirds can be found among the Kotte dunderheads, then the referendum can be carried relatively easily; high 50s and up to 60% support is conceivable even if Gota, Mahinda and GL Peiris stand on their empty heads.

There is universal disappointment, if not condemnation of the laws delays and insolence of office. Prosecutions are not filed for ages, cases are buried in the courts as deep as the Treasures of Tutankhamun, Ministers blame the Attorney General’s Department, the police are not allowed to do their job, and everyone agrees the judicial-legal system is ramshackle. Surely, part of the blame must rub-off on the government. If the system is buggered, doesn’t it have the power and the funds to fix it? Of course it has, but lacks motivation!

Explicit corruption charges against yahapalanaya big-wigs, Ministers and MPs are met with the defence that ‘sleaze is not as bad as in the Rajapaksa days’. Good heavens, what a minimal defence! The Bond Scam has done damage and established that the Prime Minister is not competent in the selection of persons of integrity and ability for key positions. Indrajit Coomaraswamy is an exception, but when else has the PM opted for excellence and expertise over old school tie, society types and sycophants? President Sirisena is not in the clear either. A proposal to buy a Russian Offshore Patrol ship for Rs 30 billion (three times the fraud alleged in the Bond Scam) is said by Muhammed Fazl (Colombo Telegraph, 22 Dec) to be a possible Sirisena scam. The Joint Opposition keeps deadpan silence on the matter, motivating Fazl to ask; is the scam in cahoots with the Rajapaksas? Though none of this, nor many lesser bandit stories about Ministers and MPs have been proved in court, allegations are many and the ‘ung okoma horu’ refrain has gained currency.

My minimal expectations, a) defeating the Rajapaksa Presidency and restoring democracy and b) abolishing the executive presidency, have been fulfilled, completely and partially, respectively. In respect of other expectations, those who were very hopeful are, understandably, disappointed, others like this correspondent who were only keeping their fingers crossed for a bonus pay-out, are not surprised. That’s the truth of it.

Backsliding on neo-liberalism

Not just Mangala but the government as a whole is schizophrenic on economic strategy. Ranil, Charitha and Manik chorus hosannas to free-market capitalism, serenade wild-ass liberalism and croon to the global and domestic private sector. The last named will, they say, ride in on a great white stallion to rescue the stranded UNP maiden. Neither knight nor stallion have, so far, been sighted. Global capitalism is in retreat and multinationals are reluctant to invest except in safe havens like China. Global FDI peaked at $1.9 trillion in 2007, collapsed to $1.2 trillion in 2009 and recovered only partially by 2016; FDI inflows to developing countries shrank by 14% from $752 billion in 2015 to $646 billion in 2016 (UNCTAD data). Lanka has not bucked the trend and FDI has fluctuated between $900 billion and $700 billion between 2011 to 2016. Global capital is in hibernation while domestic capital has shallow pockets and is overcome by stupor.

Actions speak louder than words. Every mega economic initiative of yahapalanaya has been state-to-state. Note the $1.1 billion Hambantota Harbour and economic zone, intended lease of the Matala white elephant to India, continuation of Colombo Port City, proposals for 1200 MW of coal power in a belated attempt to contain further aggravation of the Rs 220 billion Sampoor cancellation blunder, and the much talked of Economic Zone in the East with Indian participation. Where are the nourishing FDI inflows of private capital? Mangala can huff and he can puff and he can blow the House down in Sri Jayewardenepura, but the directive axis of foreign investment in Sri Lanka will remain state-led. Let them (Ranil, Mangala and the golden oldies) sleepwalk into it; no matter, so long as they sleepwalk in the right direction.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    A branched off group of socialists are racist. YOu are in that group and in your case, you are tribalist and perhaps religious hatred too. It is said, RAVI the LIAR set up the Monk sobhitha to take the leadership. Because monk at the front is easy to fool majority. Maithripala Sirisena also was a puppet of CBK-RANIL-MANGALA -foreign funded NGOs aka some civil society groups, of course you. Yahapalayaa became a disaster. Simply you are happy that Mahinda Rajapakse was chased out. but, you do not get the point. both the Mahinda Rajapakse govt and Yahapalana govt are the two sides of the same coin. Ranil wickramsinghe would have established orumittanadu if Sinhala people were sleeping.
    The stupidest part is you people are still hallucinated thinking you would fool majority and get the political solution. You do no want to understand that Sinhala people were slow moving but was alert always.
    What you should have done is fight for getting rid of all the corrupt politicians irrespective of Rajapakses or CBK/Ranil/Mangala Camp.
    I heard you are also a person who writes against them but await contracts from them irrespective of the govt.
    Your article shows that you do not like to accept defeat, disappoinment, lost feeling. Instead you promote yourself and lot of self-aggrindisement.
    I don’t know whether you are promoting yourself or Tamils. Either Tamils did not or do not win anything this way.

  • 4

    I think JVP should not hang onto their karl MArx theory. Just like china modified it, they also should put forward a good plan to make the country progress. IT should not have to be to build another europe, Britian, or USA. honest individuals, if any left, in those two major parties, Jackal opposition aka Pohottauwa are all same corrupt politicians, just recycling and looking for another opportunity to come forward. JVP and independent individuals if they make a govt or a completely a new party would be the solution. they can decide it their way. MY3 has shown that he is another failure for Sri lankan voters.

    • 1

      Jimmy the dimwit

      “I think JVP should not hang onto their karl MArx theory.”

      Don’t be stupid. What has Karl Marx theory got to do with JVP?
      I would say the failed would be “revolutionaries” subscribe to, justify and practice Mahawamsa fundamentalism. Mahawamse is the THE book, similar to red book, green book, …….. Tell us what are the differences between JVP and other Mahawanse parties?

      Please make sure fingers and hands are on keyboard.

  • 3

    Why all this fuss about this.
    Only solution for this is to vote for JVP .
    People are clear enough now to know the truth.
    I think 60% youth will vote for JVP
    Vote for JVP and see the difference

    • 1

      Singhalese pundit
      Vote NSSP and see the permanent difference.

  • 3

    Wish the following were achieved in the first three years:

    1 Reform of state enterprises including Sri Lankan, CEB, CPC, SLPA, Railways, CTB etc
    2 Pension reforms which are long outstanding
    3 Stop recruitment of party catchers to state institutions. Cannot afford to have 1.5 million employed in state sector. Rs 10,000 increase given by this govt costs the economy Rs 15 billion every month !
    4 Education reforms including university reforms which would hold academics responsible for unemployed graduates
    5 Clear export strategy to kick start the economy and FDIs have come to a grinding halt and need clear policy framework
    6 Should have restricted the cabinet to a reasonable number such as 30 ministers.
    7 Give clear policy guidelines to private sector to stimulate economic growth. Cannot keep changing goal posts every year.
    8 Some of the appointment to key institutions are shocking with kith and kin of politicians holding key positions in many institutions. CPC and SLT are examples.
    9 Judicial, legal and law enforcement have seen no improvement from the previous regime. No indictments after three years!
    10 No improvement in public infrastructure

    Thank you for achieving the following:

    1 Much better global relationships
    2 Getting rid of loss making debt funded assets such as Hambantota port and Mattala airport being finalised at the moment.
    3 reclaiming GSP plus from EU and lifting of fishing ban
    4 Appointment of the bond commission which exposed the UNP
    5 Making progress on Constituional reforms

  • 2

    Kumar David issued a report card to VP sometime in late 2009/early 2010. Needless to say there were lots of Ds. His assessment was perverse and one thought “Is this how they assess Peradeniya Students?”
    Expected to find Cs/Ds in the report card to the GoSL. None! Why? Kumar has retired.
    Signs of retirement? Kumar claims that the ‘Single-Issue-Common-Candidate’ of late 2114 was plagiarised by Rev Sobhita’s Just Society Movement. Plagiarised from? Kumar according to Kumar. Beware senility is cottoning on Kumar.
    We have two failed governments – one grade point average D Minus and the other D Plus.
    A glimmer of hope though. One disbanded white vans. This shows signs of a bit of law and order.
    Voters learned a good lesson. One built a fortress of corruption. The other did not even try to dismantle it. Now the reasons why one gets into politics is obvious.
    The brighter (not Peradeniya graduates) have realised that the language/religion-divide was a red herring.
    By the way Kumar claims ~ “Global capitalism is in retreat and multi-nationals are reluctant to invest except in China…………”.
    Halloa Halloa Halloa – China is a capitalist country Kumar David!

    • 0

      K Pillai

      “Halloa Halloa Halloa – China is a capitalist country Kumar David!”

      May not be true until SJ changes his mind and confirm it.

  • 0

    How SAITM is handled will be a major issue in the coming election scenario pumping up emotions of a gullible population already fed with lies and one sided accusations. “Free market capitalism and wild ass liberalism” are not understood except by the corrupt who swim in it. Rest want rice, coconuts, flour, dhall and sugar. I agree that reptilian life forms in neither land nor water cannot draft a viable constitution with possible reconciliation. We borrowed the US constitution of legislature, executive and judiciary based on belief that God is law giver, king and judge.

    The answer to the pressure to abolish SAITM which is gross injustice, has another voice among GMOA and radicals and that is to affiliate it to Wayamba so that they can grab the next set of admissions for Z scores at least 50% negotiable. SAITM is now a well established, much sought after medical faculty with irreversible court verdict of SLMC registration. Politicians need not try to re-establish what is already established. Deficiencies in all med. schools correctable.

    • 0

      Continuing the SAITM issue and the govt. , deficiencies in training and staff exist in state med. schools as well as SAITM. It depends on how much the students are able to cover the ground to complete MBBS which is a land mark turning point from pure student to doctor embarking on a career. It is insane, crazy, and weird for the SLMC to talk of further training except Internship. There is no legality for SLMC to take such action having duped all in HarshaPC on the fact that as Rajarata did not have Psychiatry, that whole subject was omitted from all state MBBS exams in 2016 to equate them. Ryan Jayalath now shouting about emergencies (which SAITM had in private hospitals) was in the MBBS without Psychiatry held in November 2016 and j started interning now. That even the insane might run from him is another matter.

      Can these SLMC deans who made such decisions, (UGC will confirm this) be trusted when making ARBITRARY, illegal, hospital training in GMOA Nandikadal trying to delay SAITM already trained for 8-9 years. These biased, malicious deans should even now align with the court verdict of interning already legally established for MBBS and which they cannot dispute and reverse, deceptively hidden from HPC. SLMC has no legal data to reverse court verdict one year ago but for Marxist blinded utopian. Stubborn SLMC must register SAITM MBBS to intern for life long training or explain the cheating of 1/5 state MBBS cancellation of Psychiatry in 2016.

      • 0

        Justice: I am told that the staff at the SAITM are the retired from the State Universities. How come that they claim that the SAITM quality is low? In which case the GMOA quality is also low.

  • 0

    Nonsense! BS! No brilliant political coup by Sirisena, Ranil and Chandrika……Obama-Clinton interfering in Sri Lanka election, is more like it. Together with Tony Blair of Great Britain, they pumped millions into Gerrymandering our Proportional Representation voting system, besides sending out adverse messages through our social media to demerit our then standing GoSL…….will carry on reading the article, but nah!……..no one’s salivating.

    • 0

      Justice: I am told that the staff at the SAITM are the retired from the State Universities. How come that they claim that the SAITM quality is low? In which case the GMOA quality is also low.

      • 0

        UW, open your eyes to understand that the issue is about private medical education. GMOA has to use an acceptable topic like “minimum stds.” SL didn’t go to gutter knowledge overnight with the same medical teachers. NOBODY understands that GMOA has produced a suicide squad better than LTTE bomb terrorists, who are foolishly brain washed and committed to fast for the welfare of their state children, where nothing will go wrong except delay when they strike. Dr. Harsha rushed in last to stop these oldies dying with Karl Marx also on stage. A fake ICU mobile is better. Now GMOA protest is against Harsha report. NO PRIVATE medical education and they want excellent SAITM for Z. SLMC evil deans want GMOA hospitals to swallow SAITM who have internship verdict.

  • 0

    Single Issue Common Candidate was supposed to be a professorial formulation. Wonder why didn’t he obtain a patent for the idea? (joking but cynical). Moment you deviate from the rule of law to have your own way, you are on the path of DICTATORSHIP. When the storm grows it has all the ills one can name: nepotism, corruption, abductions, extra-judicial executions etc. So Prof Kum! The single candidate won the election in Jan 2015. Has the chap of our choice ended the dictatorship or are we still in it with only changes in personality? Now if Prof Kum says that he mooted the concept of SICC only to defeat MR and his dictatorship and for the victors to do anything and everything then certainly why vote for a guy for five long years? In fact what was sold to the public as a noble concept was “Yahapalanaya”. That means in the process of governing on behalf of the people, whether it is legislative, executive or judicial it will be within that given frame-work. I too bought that concept and casted my precious vote accordingly. Now I look a damn fool, hoodwinked beyond limits. People like Prof Kum must understand that the present situation has caused a loss of confidence of the young on democracy. Election authorities have stated that many of them don’t bother to register for voting. The present actors are setting the stage for a change in expectation for a benevolent dictatorship by the young. My God! Will that happen? Our fellows only will make hay while the Sun shines.

  • 0

    So, Kumar David Should be happy his CLEAN man Ranil within 40 days of the Yahapalanaya emptied so many bank and the employee provident funds. Lost to the EPF alone is billions. HOw happy are you because your gang of thieves did well ? Is it because Tamils or the church or both ?

  • 0


    Your line……
    …..I heard you are also a person who writes against them but await contracts from them irrespective of the Government ……
    What sort of contracts Jim?
    Harbours, Highways,etc etc eh?
    Flying Kites in 2018 eh?
    You have redefined Slander!

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