President Gotabaya Rajapaksa AFP
As most parts of Colombo are noticing subtle changes to the weather, which is turning from wet to hot, the country as a whole is also noticing bigger changes to the work culture in state institutes and plans made to celebrate political and cultural ceremonies.
Changes to weather are predictable, but the change initiating individual-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa- is proving to be someone unpredictable.
The president is maintaining a tight fist when it comes to spending money from Government coffers. One standout order he has given is to limit the motorcade that escorts him. This amounts to cutting costs in maintaining a president. And he has received accolades for such decisions. Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa has said that he would support all positive decisions taken by the government.
The present president must realise that Sri Lanka is a country driven by traditions and customs. We have already heard of plans made to reduce the number of participants at the upcoming national day parade by 30%. This news comes to us from the prime minister’s office. The Gotabaya Rajapaksa caretaker regime might run into problems if it makes drastic changes in administration if there is a trickle down effect on traditions and customs which have lasted for hundreds of years. The 71 occasions organised before to celebrate Independence were never short of the pomp and pageantry fit for such an occasion. The new regime’s decision to make cuts on who would not be part of the traditional parade might draw the wrath of monks and performing artistes.
Right now no one would appose the incumbent president. This is because he has done much to raise the work rate or output of state institutes. Gotabaya seems to know just how much nuts and screws need to be tightened in state institutes and an entire government workforce seems to be afraid of the acute sense this ‘engineer’ has to raise the work culture in an institute.
Tourist arrivals to the country have increased slowly after the April 21 bomb attacks. The president has left no leaf unturned in this endevour and appointed people with proven track records in the military field to key positions in handling national security. Minister Dullas Allahapperuma had lamented on the ‘calm situation’ in the country and asked a gathering in Matara ‘Isn’t this the change you wanted?”. He had also harped on the fact that the police were working independently akin to how the government was working.
Gotabaya seems to know just how much nuts and screws need to be tightened in state institutes and an entire government workforce seems to be afraid of this ‘engineer’
But such statements are being made following decisions taken by the caretaker regime to restrict overseas travel of over 700 CID officials who are either named as witnesses or prosecutors in various cases.
Whatever said and done we have room to suspect whether the regime is on a witch-hunt to punish aggressive or capable lawmakers in the opposition. Up to now members of the opposition like Patali Champika Ranawaka, Dr. Rajith Senaratne and actor turned lawmaker Ranjan Ramanayake have had brushes with the law. Thanks to the status they enjoy as members of parliament their stays in custody were reduced to a mere few days.
In the years gone by an individual who was shrewd, had the gift of the gab and served himself while engaging in politics was considered as someone fit to be a ‘good’ politician. Individuals who entered politics and spent their hard-earned earnings on the less affluent and ended up suffering economically were considered as ‘bad’ politicians. There were also some who thought of them the other way around. It’s interesting to know what definition the incumbent president uses to describe a ‘good’ politician. In this country lawmakers get away with doing dubious deals. As much as the present regime is hellbent on raising the output of state workers it must also show the same enthusiasm to bring to book lawmakers who have engaged in dubious deals and denied the government of revenue it is entitled to.
Speaking at the inauguration of the fourth session of the eighth parliament President Rajapaksa underscored the economic challenges before the country. The incumbent president said that he wishes to see the country raise its annual growth to 6% (which was hovering under 3% earlier) and also double the present per capita income from the current US $ 4060 by the year 2025.
Right now the only lawmaker who is opposing President Rajapaksa is former Army Commander and present parliamentarian Sarath Fonseka. The latter is displeased that the president has made comments amounting to racial remarks (that the government can be formed without the minorities) and also because he cancelled a guard of honour which was traditionally part of the ceremonial opening of the parliament session. For the record the president had also said that he rejected ‘the role played by minorities as kingmakers’.
What needs to be underscored is that we have a president, not a traditional politicians, who insists on deviating from tradition in creating a system that not only works and serves the people, but also helps to put a stop to the mounting debt burden.
Those who oppose President Rajapaksa must remind themselves of a saying by Joseph de Maistre ‘Every nation gets the government it deserves’.