Even Cabinet ministers, leave alone ordinary government supporters will be unable to explain Sunday’s Cabinet. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa seems to have viewed it from a common man’s perspective when he described it to journalists in Kandy as a pointless reshuffle. With news that another Cabinet change involving the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ministers is in the offing, it is not clear as to why the government resorted to a Cabinet reshuffle in stages or on a staggered basis.
With speculation about a rearrangement of the portfolios of State ministers and the deputy ministers being floated by government leaders in the aftermath of the dismal performance of the two main ruling parties at the February 10 local government elections, no government leader of the government explained to the country of its purpose the basis on which it would be carried out. However, it seems the government expects to enhance its performance by the change of some of the portfolios assigned to some ministers.
However, against the background of the changes already made to the portfolios of the ministers on Sunday one might be at a loss as to how these changes would be a remedy for the setback suffered by the two main parties at the election or to the economic and social woes faced by the people of the country. It would be a remedy only if it would fulfil at least the short term aspirations of the people.
Politicians of all major parties tend to think that the masses are stupid and continue their attempts to hoodwink them. They distribute goodies and reduce prices of certain essential items during the election period rather than embarking on long term development schemes. If the government is genuinely concerned about why the people who voted for them three years ago have rejected them this time, it must first look into people’s long term and short term needs.
One of the reasons Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, had attributed was the soaring cost of living. But how did the cost of living have an upward swing? Was it a fault of a particular minister? Any student of economics would know that a rise in the cost of living is the result of insufficient local production or an insuffecient supply of goods and services. Did the government have or at least does it have now, after the February 10 debacle any strategy to boost such local productions or any plan to raise the people’s income and the employment opportunities for the youth. How would the Cabinet reshuffle serve these purposes?
It was mainly the new voters who had voted for the UNP and the SLFP led by President Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections. Being radical and youthful, they did not tolerate corruption, crimes and highhanded activities that prevailed at the time and they were also attracted by the promises made by the present leaders such as creating one million jobs within five years. However, within three years they felt that they were cheated. They might ridicule a Cabinet reshuffle without a proper programme that would address their concerns.
Had the government taken steps to penalize the corrupt politicians of the past regime within a short period bringing in necessary amendments to the prevailing laws while taking steps to address the economic woes of the people, the country would have been different by now and their won’t be a joint opposition or a Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Even if the government is prepared to take action against corruption now it might be counterproductive as the tide has turned quantitatively during the past three years and qualitatively following the recent elections.
However, if the government is capable of placing before the country a sensible programme that would address the basic needs of the masses the tide might be reversed. But the sands of the time are running out. Nevertheless, if such a programme is put in practice, with or without a change in the Cabinet, at least the country would be benefited in the long term, irrespective of what would happen to the ruling parties at the elections in two years.