by Tassie Seneviratne
Much has been published in the media and also shown in TV Talk-Shows about politicians not honouring promises made during election times and rather than wiping out corruption as promised and bringing to book those who have resorted to corruption, there is unprecedented corruption on the part of the present ‘Yahapalanaya Government’. Whilst fully agreeing with these comments, I see another dimension beyond the usual politicians’ promises.
The Government we have now in Sri Lanka is not one elected on the merits and trustworthiness of the promises of the leaders of the two governing political parties as such, but stopgaps hoisted by ‘People Power’ generated by the late Sobitha Thera harnessing the numerous organizations, civil society bodies and religious leaders that ousted the MahindaRajapakse (MR) regime. They were voted into power trusting that Sobitha Thera who led ‘people power’ to oust MR will assert himself to ensure good governance.
Having achieved the main objective of ousting the MR regime, a government had to be put in place. That is how the present leaders of the Government were enthroned with a mandate to transform the political landscape into one that is orderly, fair and open, as spelt out by ‘people power’.
The mandate thus given to the new Government included abolition of the Executive Presidency and a return of the country to a Parliamentary system with a Prime Minister as its leader; repeal of the 18th amendment and reinstate the 17th amendment; reducing the size of the cabinet; domestic inquiry into war crimes and generally clean and responsible government sans corruption.
The leaders of the present Government thus hoisted – Executive President Maithripala Sirisena (MS) and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW), vowed to bring about the transformation that the people clamoured for. Their promises accordingly included abolition of the Executive Presidency; investigation of all serious allegations of corruption, especially misuse of public resources, irrespective of whatever political party the perpetrators belonged to, and take appropriate action to punish them; reduction of the size of the Cabinet; eschewing nepotism, family bandyism and cronyism; domestic inquiry into war crimes; MS also pledged that he would serve only his first term as Executive President and not run again, giving the impression that he will refrain from party politics.
But alas! What has happened? The Government has hijacked the power that was bestowed on it by ‘People Power’ and betrayed the people. Both the major parties are involved in dirty politics and are fighting each other. The so called ‘Unity Government’ is all but united. The rampant corruption in the Unity Government is too well known and needs no repetition, especially so due to space restrictions. The size of the Cabinet is massive due to bribing of opposition members with Cabinet Portfolios for crossing over to the Government, thus adding to the burdens on the people struggling to exist. Many so appointed cabinet members are those confirmed as corrupt, and some who had even been rejected by the people but accommodated through the national list. Investigations into major crimes including financial crimes, and prosecutions in courts are not as expedient as expected. This is perceived as due to both governing parties having skeletons in their cupboards. Nepotism, family bandyism and cronyism are the order of the day. The Most Venerable Sobitha Thera was so disappointed, dejected, and distressed that, as widely believed, it drove him to an untimely death.
MS’s pledge that he would serve only his first term as Executive President and not run again for the post is already seen going the way of politician’s pledges when they don’t suit their greed for power.
This great betrayal of the people is not the first betrayal that has become typical of MS. During the dictatorial regime of MR, MS as the General Secretary of the ruling party, backed MR to the hilt in every step he took, even the 18th amendment that gave the President dictatorial powers, without a murmur of disagreement. It is also well known that MS had been impatiently aspiring to become Prime Minister in the MR government, but started to lose hope due to family bandyism of the MR regime. Had MS been made Prime Minister in the MR government, it would have been a different story.
This frustrated heavyweight of MR’s Government was a clever pick as the common candidate to destabilize MR’s camp. That is how MS having enjoyed an egg hopper dinner from MR betrayed him soon afterwards and accepted nomination as the common candidate against MR leaving everybody flabbergasted. That is how the opportunity came to him to be hoisted to power after MR was ousted by people power.
Prime Minister RW a reputed Mr Clean has also been tainted by right royal cronyism and implicated (rightly or wrongly) in the mega corruption and financial crime scandal as widely stated in the media.
Now what is our way forward? My attention is drawn to a wag’s prescription of tonnes of Epsom Salt to be taken with politicians’ promises. The important thing is not how much to take of these promises – they all just have to be treated with the contempt they deserve. With utmost restraint applied on myself, I refrain from prescribing Nazi type gas to the parliament chamber. The medicine to be found is for the cleansing of the souls of our parliamentarians. High density purgatorial fire to purge their souls would be the right prescription. Only ‘People Power’ can sentence them to that.
(The writer is an advocate of People-Power.)