“When avarice takes the lead in a State, it is commonly the forerunner of its fall.”
~ Alexander Hamilton
Mahinda Rajapaksa along with the national media, the so-called ‘free media,’ which was nowhere to be seen during Rajapaksa’s regime, the media that was under siege time after time under the cruel determinations of the regime’s virtual second-in-command, Secretary of Defence, has assumed dimensions disproportionate to the actual, now seems to be controlling the national conversation. Not the government.
The so-called ‘joint opposition,’ the dregs of the last regime, the group of opposition MPs, some of whose financial and social integrity have come under a barrage of accusations, allegations and investigations and whose integrity is very much under scrutiny and question have taken the fight to the government’s front door. They have managed to set the government on the defensive and each and every time, in the parlance of sports, the ball has belonged to the opposition. It is certainly not a very pleasant situation for those who replaced the Rajapaksas.
On the other hand, the platform that the present government, Maithri/Ranil combo and party carried out the campaign on, seems to be crumbling down. The very charge of the then opposition, corruption and nepotism, has crept into the new personalities of the new government. It is time that the government of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe strapped their boots and took the ‘ball’ into their own hands, so to speak.
Addressing the ‘Progressive Congress Annual Strategy Summit’ on Saturday, Massachusetts’s Senator Elizabeth Warren began thus: “we are all gathered here in a moment of crisis; a crisis for progressives, a moment of crisis for Democrats and a moment of crisis for America.” There is an eternal truth about politics and people. People like Mahinda Rajapaksa don’t come to power when things are going right.
The voters, the victims, who put them in power must hold themselves accountable as much as the culprits. The voters simply cannot let themselves off the hook. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the ‘Common Man’s Party,’ which embraced bigotry and extremism, which embraced the uncommon rich man and his ugly avarice, was hijacked by the Rajapaksas and their loyal henchmen. The Bandaranaikes and Kobbekaduwas are forgotten. The Rajapaksas treated them like yesterday’s trash. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, with all his political weaknesses and expedient tendencies, kept the party at least away from the political imposters and charlatans. What happened to the SLFP after S.W.R.D.’s demise is another story altogether, yet the Rajapaksas have to be taken into account for the destruction of the image of the ‘Common Man’s Party.’ At least for the time being, Maithripala Sirisena appears to have wrested the party away from these political hooligans. But if President Sirisena continues to dilly-dally taking stern disciplinary action against those SLFPers who continue to disregard the party line and go astray, the dissolution of the ‘Common Man’s Party’ is imminent.
This crisis in the SLFP has indeed slowed down Maithripala Sirisena. But he must not allow that predicament to be built up to the level of a national crisis by abdicating his obligations to his voters in particular and his country at large. Failure of the current government will be seen as a landmark failure of the current system of governance. Yahapalanaya or whatever one might call it, it should not be allowed to fail. Accountability and transparency on the part of those who are vested with governmental power cannot be sacrificed for political expediency and administrative convenience. The corrupt practices that have been entrenched in a system for the last three to four decades, particularly the last twenty years will take over the system and overwhelm the national character. It may have already happened and if not, it is on the threshold of happening.
History is our witness. Time after time it has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt that a lethargic, apathetic public is the first cause of national decay. In this regard, the responsibility of the United National Party (UNP), the main coalition partner of the current political administration, cannot be overstated. As a political party which has been maligned and disparaged by its opponents, especially the traditional SLFP, after coming to a historic partnership with the SLFP, today willy-nilly is feeding the urban gossipmongers with enough material to keep its own head above the water level. The ugly image that is being attributed to the UNP and the resulting ill-effects of a politically-explosive financial swindle, such as the so-called ‘Bond-Scam’ could be devastating both in the short and midterm runs.
Making tactical adjustments, changing talking points, while embracing the same old barren policies and stinking principles would not help the UNP.
Ranil and his cohorts must realise that when the gauntlet tightens, it does not differentiate between the UNPers and SLFPers. Racial extremism stirred up by the Rajapaksas was tolerated by the UNP because they feared the backlash from the Buddhist clergy. It tightens all and sundry - it includes anyone close to the current coalition. The voters will not show any mercy.
At the same time, the voters must be continuously reminded of what they are enjoying today and the negatives of the past regime that they would gladly miss.
Following is a catalogue of such alleged misdeeds:
- Computer purchases for Mahindodaya labs in excess of Rs. 5.87 billion.
- Issue of 1,000 diplomatic passports during nine years of rule.
- Three PSD officers: Brig. Capt. and Major in money laundering during the MR regime.
- Transactions of Tourist Board officials: Rs. 5.7 million.
- SL Insurance’s re-involvement of a Doctor and ex-Minister.
- State Engineering Corp.: Rs.4.7 million transaction.
- Diary printing by an ex-Minister: Rs. 1.4 million.
- D. A. Rajapaksa Museum construction: Rs. 110 million under Def. Secy. Signature, undertaken by the Navy.