Dark clouds were hovering over Sri Lanka as 2014 ended threatening grave crises for the country and people but eight days after the New Year dawned the major threat was removed enabling even moves to counter other crises.
One such threat was the UNHRC resolution over alleged war crimes and human rights violations which may have even resulted in international trade sanctions being invoked against this country. The result of accepting reality and astute diplomacy saw this threat receding so much that at the end of the year the avalanche of charges brought against the government by a frenzied opposition made not even a scarce mention of it.
The fear and hostility of the minorities, Tamils and Muslims, that existed at the end of last year too has diminished greatly and reconciliation is on the move with the main political party of the Tamils voting for the government in the budget debate.
These are two developments which opponents of the government paid scant regard in their fury after the approval of the annual budget with a thumping majority.
But there is no room for complacency because of the threat of racism surfacing when attempting to set up a judicial mechanism – as per agreement reached with sponsors of the UNHRC resolution – to investigate alleged war crimes, disappearances, etc. The racist drum beats are likely to be heard loud and clear when the provincial council elections are held in the New Year. But these solid achievements in nation building can in no way be jeopardized to accommodate demagoguery and fanaticism.
These unenviable legacies bestowed by the former Rajapaksa regime on this Yahapalanaya government have to be borne with fortitude in as much as the financial legacy inherited for which the government was lambasted during the budget debate. Bearing of unwanted legacies is the fate of succeeding governments.
The government had to backpedal on its budget proposals for two reasons: the parlous state of finances and the inherent defects of a coalition government.
President Maithripala Sirisena obviously does not have a firm hold on the entire UPFA of which he is supposedly the leader. While he has the backing of a fair proportion of the SLFP, the extremist non-SLFP minority party leaders appear to have an undue influence over the SLFP faction that far outnumber their followers. It is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.
These Marxist parties are those who cannot win a seat in an open election and are hanging on to the SLFP for political survival just as much as their revered leaders survived hanging on to the Saree Fall (Saree Pota) of Sirima Bandaranaike. They by no means can claim to represent the will of the people and are a perversion of democracy.
Whether the Yahapalanaya government went back on their original budget proposals due to their flexible democratic principles or political survival, this form of governance of the tail wagging the dog cannot continue. It is certainly not ‘good governance’, the political slogan of President Sirisena.
The revolutionaries who cannot win a seat on their own are on the march trying to topple the government comprising the two most powerful parties in the country. They have made it clear that they are opposing all moves that do not meet their approval and have threatened to come ‘on to the streets’ not only to defeat this government but to resurrect the president unceremoniously dumped by the people.
President Sirisena must use the carrot and stick approach – first use the carrot which he has used quite dexterously or the stick on those who do not like carrots.
The UNP cannot remain in a suspended state of animation. It was the UNP that carried Sirisena to power as their common candidate. Less than a handful of SLFPers walked out with Sirisena and supported him. UNPers have been in the political wilderness for 21 years and now want their policies implemented.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had presented a new economic plan which jump could start the economy out of the crony capitalist Rajapaksa economy clothed in tattered rags of socialism to a prosperous middle income country.
The frog-in-the-well colonial styled government service with pensions, a refuge for lethargic numbskulls, has to go into the dustbin but the revolutionaries are staging a back-to-the-wall defence of the system. The revolutionaries are even instigating the old guard medical Brahmins to stage sieges to protect their privileges by preventing entry of students from private medical colleges. Never mind if patients have to wait for long hours to consult the exalted Brahmins of Kynsey Road and Peradeniya after forking out 1,500 rupees for a consultation. Elected governments spend billions to maintain the health service but the Brahmins dictate to the government on what is to be done. This is another instance of the tail wagging the dog which cannot go on.
If Sri Lanka is to radically transform itself into a modern 21st Century nation, long cherished beliefs of Marx, Lenin, Engels and a few surviving Marxists in their dotage and their part educated acolytes should be dumped and their adherents sent into permanent retirement preferably without pensions.
In the New Year, the focus should be on the New Economic Policies proposed by Ranil Wickremesinghe and the New Constitution that is to be drafted by a Constituent Assembly.