Happenings around are unenviable: zany events unfold in rapid succession; voters are bewildered, skeptical, disoriented. Worse- democracy is not standing tall, as desired. Corrupt practices remain alive and made sophisticated. Are we drifting aimlessly without a leadership? Loosing moorings is sailing towards a sunset unknown.
Time is insufficient to ponder. Corruption is endemic and was deemed inevitable during the last regime;present government has made it conclusive.In Parliament, the UPFA holds a disturbed and divided majority. Girls, boys and the monks in saffron hold on to their legislative seats,feeling a shade unsafe and insecure. At the SLFP, movement is away from their ancestral home at Darley Road taking the Southern Highway bound to Carlton House.
Events move rapidly, too fast to reflect. A new prime minister is sworn and rolls out a Cabinet without a proper head count taken in Parliament. Bluff works– posted in office as PM- without a majority-cause of many a problem at present that leads to short circuited compromises. Out of confusion comes a box of assorted biscuits of Cabinet size with the President’s men of varied political affiliations and a roll call of UNP MPs neatly packed.
The JHU – for ever enjoying Cabinet perks lashes out forgetful of collective responsibility in their stays in the UPFA and UNP Cabinets but will not jettison the accompanying privileges. Yet tolerated to retain a parliamentary majority. No cause to panic for the JHU as Rajapaksa’s scavenging services will pick any muck left in any dustbin. The JHU least follows the scripture they preach as such is religious bigotry.
President Sirisena is installed as the undisputed President of the SLFP, by virtue, acquires the UPFA. The title of the Leader of the Opposition is doled to a senior SLFP parliamentarian prepared to accept any office on offer.Parliament is made to look an orchestrated home and home match. People watch the unfolding events on TV at home in the evenings – bemused and baffled.
Let’s move the cameras along the constitutional route to Hultsdorf - where a chief justice is edged out without a damn for the constitutional process: another takes oath in between an interlude of a ceremonial send off given to one sent off unceremoniously on a majority vote in Parliament that included the vote of the present president. The ousted lady on return is not given time to bask in the glory of office under lights at an event that does not amount to a day/night match as she was sent home after a morning service without an invitation for dinner. She reveled in her a moment of grandeur without realising it was an event to satisfy the aspirations of local politics at the Bar Association,that never insisted on her continuity. the May Queen rides around the Maypole for a day. In our former chief justice’s case it was reduced to hours. She truly deserves better treatment, as she was a knowledgeable judge.
The out-going Chief Justice Mohan Pieris who was equally learned, is given the opportunity to have this event treated as a precedent, when his day of reckoning comes. We may have a replay of a farce enacted in the Supreme Court before helpless lordships and ladyships are sent to the parade ground in their velvet gowns.
It is becoming fashionable to boot chief justices out of office:in a sense it is justice if the appointments are made with political colourations. A word of praise for the present incumbent for his clean antecedents provided he does not foul his record, as did most of his recent predecessors, by falling on the knees of one or more of the executive presidents or presidential candidates. The shame, sadly, is transferred to the venerable Supreme Court.
Lo and behold a National Government is in place, plugged along with a part of a fading Opposition, before monk Sobhita could tie blessed white strings around undeserving wrists as the guardian of the government.
The UNP weds the SLFP to stand together for 100 days to conjure a new constitution. Politicians are actors of many parts but the ongoing show may not last long.Along comes the Ratnapura road show weaning MPs to Mahinda Rajapaksa; make the numbers in the SLFP outfit in the National Government look embarrassingly perilous; but the Rajapaksa regiments are irrational if they think victory is around the corner.
The mind of a simple voter cannot grapple with a bizarre situation where confusion is well founded.Which way is he to turn?
Government seems secure due to latent support of Uncle Sam and Mother India while Brother Wigneswaran provides a monolithic northern vote. The threesome would not desire a regime change, however, silly the government acts, as their vested interests need protection. It is on this tripod Sirisena sleeps soundly at night. It is an Indian- America carrying the name Athul Keshup, appointed as US Ambassador to Sri Lanka who had previously held the same post in New Delhi: following the footsteps of Ambassador Roberto O’ Blake who was in India previously as US ambassador. Did he not pussyfoot the LTTE?This message makes it obvious where US loyalties are firmly laid- India. And it is over represented in Sri Lanka.
Foreign interventions alone cannot reverse voting trends as much as the old guard of the SLFP does not prop a national government. It is the common man on the home soil that matters.
True, no Indian Prime Minister visited Sri Lanka under the Rajapaksa regime. Would Modi have dared to utter the things he did on Sri Lankan soil on domestic matters in times of Mahinda Rajapaksa? Diplomatically it would have been preferable for India if Modi stayed at home instead of leaving damaging imprints on Sri Lankan soil; he spoke words too many to make him a unwelcome guest.
President Sirisena too has lately developed a wander thirst carrying increasing minstrels with him on overseas sojourns (though not as sprawling as the retinues Rajapaksa weighted) fortunately on commercial flights. Travelling in luxury cabins is an infectious habit that hurts when it is not there for the asking. Ask any former foreign minister how they brave the loss of their air-borne luxury? They travel less with their unused free-fly miles.
Is there a likelihood of a comeback trail for Rajapaksa? Improbable if he brings back the same old team of corrupt palace guards as the workhorses. Neither do they work hard nor do their work look tidy, as misdeeds have circulated in the public domain. The Rajapaksa lapse was to allow them to free wheel and not probe the dirt in his backyard. His forte is public relations: his failing is in not attending to his homework – failure that dates back to the days he carried his books in a satchel.
In a short spam in adversity, he is unlikely to find fresh faces that will help him to obtain the needed face-lift. He appears to have no alternative but turn to his familiar ugly faces. Youth, the emerging vote base, does not tolerate impropriety with a vote in hand. If he emerges again, it is more on the governments’ negatives rather than on Rajapaksa’s positives.
For sure, the UNP/SLFP combine makes Rajapaksa stronger. And he has damaged the SLFP collaborators in the UNP Cabinet to the point of extinction in politics; if they stayed there too long.
Politics have queer twists. A strong candidate for the Colombo District is the former Defense Secretary Gothabhaya Rajapaksa. His proven track record in eliminating terrorism and uplifting urban development makes him a thoroughbred. He is an achiever - bu it works to his disadvantage. Was his entry into politics not welcomed by the ringmasters in Colombo of the Mahinda Rajapaksa circus? Why are Colombo’s UPFA high-fliers likely to leave its top vote getter out in the cold? Small timers carry still smaller minds. Being prime candidates of the Colombo District the ringmasters could not crack their whip and would pale into insignificance when the votes are counted if Gothabhaya Rajapaksa slots the number No 1 position in the result sheet and carries an overwhelming majority.If Gothabhaya Rajapaksa hailed from the Hambantota District, his presence would have been warmly welcomed.
Wherein lies the failure of the government? It’s more to do with Sirisena carrying an image of a split personality: wanting to bow to the UNP for gratitude for providing him the vote and veering to the SLFP to strengthen his office. Sirisena chewed both and became numb. It takes time for the voters to watch two households merge at floor level. The general elections are too close for such comforts to get lodged.
Ranil became PM in a constitutional coup without working the arithmetic in Parliament. In peril he agreed to a national government. It has become a fire escape for SLFP members to justify a trek to Medamulana. and the Cabinet might increase its numbers to prevent the outflow. The first to join will be the last to leave;most will leave. The JVP is sure to increase their miniscule vote base for keeping to its principles. How many people vote on principles?
Ranil Wickremasinghe and the UNP on their own was the strongest combine to defeat Rajapaksa and the UPFA and had the prowess to capture office, if Sirisena could. Both lacked confidence in assessing their strengths and potential. Not for the first time, the national government is in trouble; it’s becoming weaker.If not for Sirisena’s victory, many of the SLFP MPs would have made UNP their home of long stay voluntarily, that is if Wickremasinghe triumphed, like the former members of the UNP that made the crossing. Sirisena oscillates between two political parties and becomes a sacrifice between a hound and fox in the hunt for office.