The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which all but supported Maithripala Sirisena at the last presidential election has now accused the Government of going easy on wrongdoers of the former regime. They are not alone.
In a country where crimes and criminality have gone hand in hand with politics and politicians respectively for decades it cannot be easy for even the best intentioned Government to get things right overnight. However, there is palpable dismay among those who sided with Maithripala Sirisena regarding the lack of direction and will with respect to ‘cleaning up’.
It appears that the Government has a touch-me-not policy on the biggest crooks. Appointments made by the Government have also fed disillusionment – there are so many with shady pasts finding favour that people cannot be faulted for thinking that campaign rhetoric was nothing more than eyewash. Worst of all there has been little or no action in correcting flawed systems which the shady have exploited for years. The politics made of give and take, highhandedness, reappointment of ‘old hands’ goes on. And on.
The reason for this state of affairs is not hard to figure out. There is of course the difficulty in bulldozing through all the obstacles to bringing to book criminals.
The two major parties, the SLFP (whose leader is the all powerful Executive President) and the UNP (whose leader is the Prime Minister) have problems of their own which have generated their own anxieties. The UNP is a minority although it is calling the shots. The SLFP, officially ‘defeated’ has the numbers and has as its leader the winner. The one has the power but not the numbers and the other has the numbers without clout. Naturally, both parties have to worry about how things might pan out if and when elections are called.
This is the main reason for the political impasse. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe clearly wants to shift to election-mode with more powers. Ideally, a pruning of presidential powers without electoral reforms, he would think. Why should the SLFP give in to his step-by-step reform process that gives him an edge?
But what are the options for the SLFP? They are caught on the wrong foot and despite making the President the leader of the party remain wrong-footed. The MPs badmouthed their leader not too long ago and cannot expect President Sirisena to have forgotten. The President cannot be blamed for being wary. For all the number-weight, the SLFP MPs were not cheering on the morning after the election.
The people however cannot wait on the anxieties of politicians. Hope was created in massive quantities after all. Burst the bubble and they will immediately compare and contrast. A simple question will be asked ‘What’s the difference?’ If the answer is ‘not much’ or ‘nothing’ then the conclusion will be obtained fast: hoodwinked.
The two parties have governed this country for decades. They have to share the blame for a lot of things. Having been party to all the ills that the Government promised to resolved and knowing that past crimes are quickly forgiven and forgotten by an electorate that stumbles from one hope-caravan to another, these parties can be complacent.
This time around, however, it is not one or the other but ‘both’ that will be charged with incompetence. It’s a two-party system that we have and not in the classic sense of the term.