A few days ago a die-hard UNP loyalist shared a story on Facebook. The claim was that the First Phase of the Colombo-Kandy Expressway would be completed in 36 months. There was a comment along with the post: ‘For the bayyas who are saying that the Yahapalana Government is not doing anything.’
How come good governance activists have missed this? Those reluctant to ‘name and shame’ and hold professionals, corporate and NGO bigwigs accountable for wrongdoing have clearly lost the moral authority to speak of good governance and any pretence to combat corruption. This is probably why successive governments do not take them seriously
The post captures the essence of this Government: Promises. It’s all future tense. In the early days (and let’s include 100 or even 300 days beyond the end of the first 100 days, i.e. of the ‘100- Day Programme,’ it was perfectly alright to be patient and call for patience. A friend of mine recently chided me for ‘not giving them (the new government) enough time’. Well, ‘new’ is a misnomer, but let’s say we did just that – ‘give more time’. The problem is that less than a year after the United National Party was elected to power (with the blessings and not so subtle support of the President they helped get elected a few months before that), it’s the die-hards of the yahapalanaya project that seem to have run out of patience.
Things they thought would get done were not only being shelved or forgotten and there seems to be a manifest fascination on the part of the Yahapalanists in doing the same-old thing. We have seen dismay being expressed by prominent individuals who had come out in support of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Some have expressed concern while some others have been horrified. Some are incredulous and wonder how the new government could do an about-turn on election pledges. There’s a feeling of betrayal.
A group calling itself the, ‘Purawesi Balaya’ whose spokespersons include prominent academics and NGO personalities as well as the ‘Sadharana Samajayak Sandaha Vana Jathika Vyaparaya’ which was led by the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, recently organized a seminar on this issue. They raised a question: ‘Is this the good governance on which we placed our hopes on January 8?’ On the same day, Harini Amarasuriya asks, in an article published by Colombo Telegraph, “Whither Yahapalanaya?” None of these people were ever Rajapaksa loyalists. They supported Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015 and in effect were forced to (let’s be generous) support the UNP in August 2015. One cannot fault these people for believing that they or their organizations played a key role in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat (I would say, for example, that no one worked harder on this project than Mahinda himself). As for the ‘hope’ of ‘change’ they talk of, well it’s an indication of political immaturity. We can call it innocence or naiveté (again, if we are generous) but it’s rather arrogant of them to think that those who voted for Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015 and for the coalition led by the UNP in August 2015 shared their sentiments and idealism vis-à-vis ‘Yahapalanaya’. Regardless, it is clear that they are upset or at least that they are claiming to be upset.
What this means is that such people have suddenly realized that Yahapalanaya was never taken seriously by their champions. It is strange that they didn’t know Yahapalanaya was scripted to be washed down the toilet at the first opportunity. Simply, you cannot expect good governance in a system where the architects, engineers and the ‘ath-udau-kaarayas’ don’t give a hoot about it and, worse, affirm by desire and practice its opposite.
The ‘saviours’ did have histories, after all. There have been positive changes of course. First and foremost, as in the case of any regime-change, there was an immediate change in the sense of freedom. Hope is also a healthy thing. But then again, was it because of the Yahapalana promise or the usual post-election honeymoon sweetness? Looks like it is the latter and therein lies the dilemma. Maybe our Yahapalana approvers were simply being too ambitious or aiming too high, quite apart from being sophomoric in reading the political scenario. When these worthies ranted and raved against the Rajapaksas, they dismissed questions such as ‘Are you saying these people (those who they wanted to place in power) are better?’ with statements such as ‘first things first – let’s get rid of this corrupt, dictatorial regime’. The first thing was done.
The problem is, the second step, out of many one would think, is not being taken. Indeed, it seems it cannot be taken. So, if this regime and its movers and shakers are as bad as the previous regime and its kingpins, it simply means that placing faith in politicians is no longer an option for those who truly want good governance. And it is not just about politicians. Amrit Muttukumaru in an article published in the Colombo Telegraph titled ‘Unaccountable accountants mock good governance,’ raises important questions for outfits such as Purawesi Balaya, their spokespersons and (blind?) followers:
“While holding no brief for anyone, I ask whether any of the alleged terrible corruption and abuse of power under the Rajapaksa administration could have taken place without the complicity of professionals – particularly chartered accountants, lawyers, economists and corporate bigwigs? How come good governance activists have missed this? Those reluctant to ‘name and shame’ and hold professionals, corporate and NGO bigwigs accountable for wrongdoing have clearly lost the moral authority to speak of good governance and any pretence to combat corruption.
This is probably why successive governments do not take them seriously.” The incredulous, ‘innocent’ and horrified at this point, following Muttukumaru, need to indulge in a lot of soul searching, no doubt. Perhaps this is why the above mentioned seminar was held. What’s pertinent to the political moment is that when these kinds of backers back off or back out, then it’s politics old-style that’s left. They are after all elements of the ideological apparatus. When such approvers leave the building it is ‘baahu-balaya’ and not ‘purawesi balaya’ that regimes have to depend on.
The honeymoon, then, is officially over. Yahapalanaya might offer a few crumbs, but in the main, ‘the system’ seems to have proven how robust it is. The future tense, then, is not about Yahapalanaya. The operative word is ‘tense’. Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer.
His articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com. Twitter: malindasene.