Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said last week that a new party was required because those in the Opposition were supporting the government and that there was no real Opposition today.
Politicians have short memories. President Rajapaksa would undoubtedly like to forget many of his actions when he was ‘lord and master’ over Sri Lanka for nine years. However hard he tries to forget, he cannot erase from his memory the state of the Opposition during his term as president. Many will question whether there was an Opposition during his heyday.
He bought over 17 UNPers by offering ministerial portfolios with many enticing perquisites such as a thumping income, free housing in Colombo’s residential areas, luxury limousines, secretaries, chauffeurs , body guards, furloughs to world capitals (expenses met), jobs for family members and relations and much more. This was tantamount to bribery. Only a few honest legislators remained in the Opposition.
He can’t complain about the present government because his boorish attitude brought the Yahapalanaya government to power. His record of governance included: Scant disregard for law and order where conventions, regulations and laws of the land were thrown overboard and even vital provisions of the Constitution such as the 18thAmendment was shredded enabling him to be president for life.
These horrors apart, even more devastating to Sri Lanka was his build up of racial and fanatical religious forces in the belief that they could sustain him in presidency for life. This strategy misfired and the people rejected him twice. But Rajapaksa has not learnt his lessons.
In defeat too it is apparent that he is still hoping for Sinhala racism and Buddhist fanaticism to catapult him back to power. That fanatical group of hard core racists and religious fanatics dedicated to him are drumming the Sinhala – Buddhist racist beat in the hope that the third time they will be lucky.
Be it proposed constitutional amendments, implementation of the UNHRC resolutions, the national anthem being sung in Tamil or even a Sinhala song with strong nationalistic sentiments such as Danno Budunge are being sung in foreign cadences is given a communal twist and the blame heaped on the Yahapalanaya government. Blatant lies such as the removal of the provision in the Constitution giving a special place to Buddhism and that federalism is being introduced in the proposed constitution is being propagated.
The new party message is that the current government should be thrown out and a new government led by defeated president be installed.
This is a multi-purpose strategy. It keeps the convinced racists and fanatics happy and provides them a target for attack. It creates doubts in the minds of those who are not fully satisfied with the new government’s performance. It is the only possible line of attack against the Yahapalanaya government whose economic policies are basically capitalist oriented as the Rajapaksa government was.
The most important is that it sets the agenda for the government. Government leaders have to move fast to quench the flames of racism and religious fanaticism spreading fast. That results in the government’s time for development work being drastically reduced.
It is to the credit of government leaders, particularly to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that they have not succumbed to racist and religious fanaticism as many Sri Lankan leaders before them did. A good example was their unflinching stand on singing the national anthem in Tamil on Independence Day. It certainly infused confidence in the Tamil people.
It is undeniable that no significant development has taken place during the past year because of the difficulties in getting two rival parties to work together. It is only in January this year that the government officially got going. It is time to realise that there are looming problems ahead and political rhetoric should take a back seat and development gets priority.
Tamils who suffered immensely in the near 30-year-conflict need special attention especially in economic opportunities. The possibility of attracting expatriate funds for development of the north and east should be an obvious consideration.
While criticism and dissent have to be tolerated, a challenge before the government is to take on and rebut anti-government pseudo-intellectuals or pundits who now have no patrons in government ranks. This coterie of propagandists is hoping for better times if the Rajapaksa regime returns, having burnt all their boats with Yahapalanaya leaders… These intellectual frauds can easily be identified by their performances such as the opposition to the use of English as a medium of instruction or in administration while having surreptitiously sent their kith and kin abroad for higher studies.
Most of them have passed into the nether world but some still remain spewing out their venom against anything foreign, in particular the English language.
They are responsible for the thousands of poor unemployed undergraduates who went under water cannon in Colombo last week.