By Winston de Valliere
While Political parties and Trade Unions flex their muscles to observe May Day in just a week’s time, the enormity of the explosive emotions sizzling just beneath the surface of the two major political parties can be expected to manifest themselves in grandstanding such as that seen in the days of the Second WW by Hitler on the one side and Churchill on the other.
Make no mistake about it May Day in Sri Lanka is just an euphemism for venting political venom on one’s opponents with labour issues being exploited expressly for that purpose. That’s the moral low that Lankan political forces have got mired in. Funding will have come from numerous sources abroad to boost attendance at many rallies in this macabre show of force. Cash, food packets and drinks on the house is the name of the game.
This will be hailed as ‘proof’ of electoral popularity. One can logically, therefore, expect some disturbance of the peace on May Day of which I am not too far wrong in my assessment of the psyche of the masses at the lower spectrum of society who will comprise the majority of those attending some rallies.
The last few years have been used by losing politicians to imbue in the public mind, what they hope, is a deep hostility towards the government. People are made to believe that political decisions are consciously taken in the full knowledge that they are ‘anti-people’,anti-national [deshadrohi], and the populace is endlessly barraged with innuendo that they are to be overburdened with higher costs of living. The health, education and public administration systems are under siege by insiders in these institutions egged on by their political preferences and allegiances. In this maelstrom of iniquity it is perhaps unique to observe that the government’s leaders have been unusually restrained in their responses to being maliciously maligned in the absence of justifiable cause for such political vulgarity.
We’ve also in the few months of this year already seen politically backed forces fling abuse at Judges and the judiciary system, the Constitution of the country with a flagrant show of hostility born of fascist bidding.
Petty political hatred
This is the cauldron of petty political hatred and revenge that can be expected to manifest in the grandstanding and brinkmanship that defeated political leaders can be expected to unleash in vituperative language from some platforms.
Thankfully, the government has manipulated the art of governance in such a way that it has been able to find logical reasons for postponing the LG elections which were to have been held in early June, while some officials had even been placed on alert for a snap May 2016 LG Poll. Filtering to the party enclaves through the grapevines in ministries that seemed to snuff out much of the demands for early LG polls.
But this will feature high on Opposition agendas on May Day platforms. The President’s stern action on deterring VAT impositions on consumer commodities did much to de-fang the Opposition that would have been sharpening their swords to slash the government with, in May Day speeches. That move also blunted plans by trade unions to lash out at the government and generate anti-government fervour among the masses. Having had a relatively more comfortable time during the New Year season, compliments of the Rs 10,000 wage allowance increase and restoration of several freedoms, especially media freedoms, the Opposition is basically left with only the trumped up arguments of Sirisena trying to break up the SLFP and guns being turned on Ranil and Ravi Karunanayake on issues of consumer prices and fiscal management. They won’t tell the masses that it’s President Sirisena who holds power to use his newly manifested powers of ‘suasion’ to make that duo think twice about imposing any logical but politically devastating economic measures.
The stage seems set for political collapse of sorts. By this, I mean that President Sirisena goes to the May Day platforms with more weapons in his hands than those in the collective hands of the Opposition. The collapse I speak of will be perhaps the clearer identification of those sincerely committed to Sirisena’s rather ultra-idealistic objectives of good governance, and those who have been full of double-speak, living off Sirisena’s largesse, while being to all intents and purposes die-hard MR loyalists.
parting of the ways
May Day can then see a parting of the ways…the clearer demarcation of the lines between the MR camp and a new MR-led SLFP offshoot , and as I’ve always predicted, the inevitable ideological divergence spearheaded by Sirisena and those disposed to back him to the hilt. This means there will be a more permanent sense to the cracks on the walls of the SLFP. A deeper understanding of the baser instincts in most of today’s genre of politicians is what determines how far, wide and deep this split will be, over the coming year or two.
With Sri Lanka sending a powerful team to New York led by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake to negotiate a US$ 3 billion bailout facility, the need for any more consumer-negative, direct or indirect taxes can be put on hold. Sirisena is desperately juggling with attempts to keep Western lobbies at bay by fending off calls for a foreign element in the war crimes probes. But with the next UNHRC meet looming threateningly near, time is running out on that score. But, it will not be a May Day issue.
The see-saw battle continues and MR and Sirisena seem to be now entering a deeper phase in their diametrically opposite natures, principles and issues of political morality.
May Day will essentially see this new phase take shape in the battle of brains and wits between these two men… and this basically is what May Day 2016 has unfortunately come to mean in Sri Lanka. Others featuring in May Day rallies will be mere side shows.
This is where the clash of the giants will begin emerging in tangible form.