By Gomin Dayasri
Symbolically the bloom has faded away from the national flower (“Nil Manel”), which grows in the mud in shallow waters. Beside sits Sri Lanka, stranded in such sludge in troubled waters. Rajapakse pulled a patriotic genie out of an iron helmet during the war but it’s fast becoming a fading gnome - unless an intense heart massage can revive the spirit of patriotism, which is the last trump in his pack of card tricks.
Navigating nationally, ground realities give a more kaleidoscopic visual than a statistical survey on the results of the last provincial council elections, which were staggered. Picture gets distorted, placed against the background of an election map spread across the country, on a solitary day’s polling round, as at a presidential election or general elections. A government with a 2/3 majority has a gait to look the size of a sleeping giant but its thought process carries the dimension of a teeny-weeny peanut. UPFA is a rainbow coalition created by an arranged marriage than a love match. Such a union needs weeks to assemble and days to disintegrate.
Sri Lanka’s immediate future lies on its way to bloom or gloom on the broad and slim shoulders respectively of regime’s apparatchiks- P.B.Jayasundera and Nivard Cabraal. The eye of the oncoming cyclone is focused on the economy. Coming close to a pre-empted election year, economic platform is set for a make or a break situation; never has the executive been dependent on so few for so much. Were the Two Big Lads – often at variance- hamstrung to decline the options available in deflecting the many obstacles they encountered? They have no choice but to take the nuclear option with the lights blinking red. Fate of a government hangs on their individual decisions.
Comforting thought is that the twosome in tandem steered the country skillfully through troubled terrorist times with minimal economic woes while shouldering a crippling war chest. Discomfort strikes on realization that the government is more geared to service a war zone than a peace precinct.
We are doing worse, in times of peace, and surviving mercifully on the gains made by entrepreneurial individuals by remittances or on successful ventures in their home bases, working on their skills to make money that circulates. Banks are in trouble finding their non-performance ratios fast widening and are rescheduling loans to avoid losses with a credit crunch online.
Public sector and the corporate private sector - with a few exceptions - jointly have let the country down. Yet, the public sector won a war the private sector had abandoned as a lost cause. The private sector hedges it bets to sail along with any winner for profit while the defence forces are held in esteem. We are into reality time.
Knives are being sharpened for the deepest spending cuts at next November’s budget. It is an appetizer before the main course. We have spent too much, cared too little for bookkeeping, lived beyond our means, plugged the gap by borrowing in order to enjoy a rich man’s life and conveniently dumped liabilities on the next generation.
The designed economy looks anaemic and deformed. There is stunted growth, ballooning fiscal deficits, troublesome current account, entrenched inflation, devalued rupee, spiraling oil prices and a spending profligacy. Placed in peril are health, education, energy, security and law and order that directly touch the public.
It means a reduced employment opportunities and lesser funding for poverty alleviation. Life is becoming meaner for their faithful voters mindful of a Presidential election is slated for shortly. Worse offs trekked to the polling booths to swell votes for the ruling party while the government they elected cohabits with a selected privileged class to protect the better offs.
The newly generated sycophants are thriving and displacing the vocal Colombians from the social circuit. It’s mostly those that carried placards in support of the government in 2005 that are found screaming slogans against of in 2012.
The fireworks will start in Geneva in early November before the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and hopefully lightning does not strike fatally in March 2013 when Sri Lanka will be taken for review. Are we ready for any eventuality with some nimble footwork? We presented a road map to US to please them. Their obvious query will be how much have you achieved? Road maps are worthless if there are no roads to travel on. Friendship roads don’t seem to be visible to the North or East.
Ranil Wickremasinghe is playing to a smart plan. He knows it is only the government that can destroy itself, realizing the limitations of his party and himself. He plays coy with the government that is waiting to see further cracks develop in the opposition; meanwhile watching hopefully for the good riddance of bad rubbish from his party; Ranil knows that will be additional muck to a government already with an overloaded garbage dump. The men who deserted him have already contributed substantially to the woes of the state. Wickremasinghe is taking the most comfortable route for himself of waiting for the government to fall into his lap- not to topple the apple cart is his style of politics. It sure could be a long wait and a risky gamble where events could by pass him. Ranil thinks he has no other option - some in his party will remain agitated being of lesser mind.
There is an invisible divider many fail to see but is deeply ingrained in the people. People place the obnoxious with the government and exculpate the President as a virtual sovereign: it translates into often blaming the government instead of the President, though he is collectively responsible, is still held reverently. It arises partly in gratitude to the man who is reckoned to have done the impossible of defeating terrorism comprehensively and the belief people have that he will not sell the country: partly because of his personality and the rapport established with the people by winning a war that has given their families the advantage of guaranteed security deeming him to be the centrifugal symbolic power that binds Sri Lanka.
Men in politics understand the reality that underlines an unusual phenomenon in Sri Lankan politics. Wickremasinghe has the intelligence to appreciate the importance of biding time in the waiting game.
This element surfaced significantly when the Judicial Service Commission decided to take on the executive. Naturally living in judicial isolation they did not appreciate the mood of the people, which is the ultimate litmus test. They failed to understand that people do not want a war hero caused distress over an issue that does not touch them. The possible route to dismantle the President and the Government is only through the economic front since it disorients the people. If the economy crashes it’s the end of the chapter. Knowing the logistics the President will call for a presidential election rapidly before a general election and take a patriotic route that judicial interpretations may provide of the Constitution. Ranil’s opposition was wise not to take a role by staying aside from the ongoing dispute and moving to the centre mindful that a hot potato was in the hot plate.
If Mahinda Rajapakse and Ranil Wickremasinghe are cloned that will produce the perfect misfit. Sri Lanka needs them both but with a space in between.