Sri Lankan politics is becoming increasingly acrimonious, yet again. There is a deepening polarization among the UNP and President Maithripala Sirisena on the one hand and the Yahapalanaya Government as a whole and the emboldened Rajapaksa acolytes of the joint opposition on the other hand. The President is openly undermining the Prime Minister. Now that he has implied his plans to run for the presidential election in 2020, this tenuous relationship would get worse. Mr. Wickremesinghe has his fair share of inner party troubles.
Within the Tamil politics, the Tamil National Alliance is facing a fratricidal war -- one if unchecked could produce another Prabhakaran sometime in the future. Northern Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran has resorted to the time tested strategy of the Tamil leadership of the past, who used Tamil nationalism and trumped up grievances with a devastating efficiency to undermine each other, and to drive a wedge between the Northern electorate and the mainstream national politics. Sometimes, one tragedy is not enough for people to learn lessons. Southern youth were duped twice by the same megalomaniac to wage war against the states under similarly trumped up grievances.
With a bit of nudging by the Northern political leaders and perhaps a helping hand from the RAW, it would not be hard for another charlatan to drive some quarters of Tamil youth back to Nandikadal. Extensive military presence would obviously have a deterrent. But, it took 15 years of a gap between the first insurgency and the second in the South. Till the time is rife, messrs Wigneswaran, Gajendrakumar, Ponnambalam and so forth can keep the pot boiling.
Within the Tamil politics, the TNA is facing a fratricidal war -- one if unchecked could produce another Prabhakaran sometime in the future. Northern Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran has resorted to the time tested strategy of the Tamil leadership of the past
The only political group that seems to be cohesive at the moment is the joint opposition of Mr. Rajapaksa. That unity itself portends a danger to the country, but it has thrived because all other people, who ought to have untied against this common threat are at each other’s throats.
Mr. Rajapaksa should now be thinking if 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad can make a political comeback, why not he. At the rate of deterioration of public trust in this government, he is not being overly ambitious. This government has failed seminally, perhaps with the exception of restoring a semblance of democracy. But democracy in the absence of economic prosperity and order is void. In both counts, the country is worse off than under the Rajapaksas, and much hyped remedies to economic malfunctions that the government claims to have inherited from the Rajapaksas have not made a dent. They have not worked because there is no political courage and determination to take political decisions that should go along with mandated micro and macro-economic reforms. Countries such as ours have a sense of urgency and policies and political actions should be aimed at achieving set goals, and should not be overly obsessed with rule following. Those latter kind of governments are good on NGO books, but are generally losers in the eyes of their own people.
The economy is getting the worst hit. The plan for a second terminal of the Katunayake Airport has reportedly been shelved because our engineers think they could build it at a two-third of the cost of JAICA estimates (though our experience in complex engineering is as extensive as cricketing experience of our new ODI team). A new tender will be called and the project will take another five years and then it would be a miracle if there is no price appreciation commensurate to delay.
And, the government is sitting on the blueprint of the Hambantota Economic Zone. That is one singular opportunity that can create wealth and change the face of the deep down South. But political vacillation is killing it. In this culture of procrastination, those who know how to milk the system like the former Chief of Staff of the President’s office Dr. Mahanama is making a quick buck.
Mr. Rajapaksa should now be thinking if 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad can make a political comeback, why not he. At the rate of deterioration of public trust in this government, he is not being overly ambitious. This government has failed seminally, perhaps with the exception of restoring a semblance of democracy
The government has even failed to resolve the seemingly peripheral issue of SAITM. Whether that is because its spinelessness is exploited by the interested parties, or the individuals within the government are reneging on the previous agreement is open to question. Elsewhere, the GMOA has threatened to launch a 24-hour strike this week to protest against the proposed free trade agreement with Singaporeand the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement with India. If the government outsources its policy decisions to trade unions, the country does not need to have a government in the first place. A weak government that vacillates over key national decisions does more harm to the nation in the long run than a proactive tyranny that has eyes on the long-term national objectives.
This indecisiveness wouldn’t be confined to economy alone. A government that cannot enforce its will on SAITM is unlikely to be able to champion the new Constitution that the TNA and the Tamil political leaders have placed faith on. It will be checkmated by a few hundred rabble-rousing fanatics. On the other hand, if Mr. Rajapaksa can get a two-third of Parliament vote for his dynastic project, and remove presidential term limits, anything is possible for a strong government in this country. Unfortunately, this government is not that one.