At the end of 2017, we in Sri Lanka have rather little to report to the world if it is progress that we are reporting on to the world. In 2015 there was great hope but rather like the post Brexit vote in the United Kingdom the events after the amazing have caused consternation and confusion – leaving the situation to pose the question if indeed we are better off now than we were pre 2015.
It appears that we have exchange a harsh regime of a virtual police state where everything was interfered with – and fixed by the government who had fortuitously purchased their mandate in parliament by the expedient method of buying support from a motley collection of politicians interested only in the potential for deal making rather than in serving the demands of democracy.
We appear to have exchanged that somewhat repressive position for a regime that is also authoritarian and autocratic upon proper observation.
We say that because this lot are experts at painting a rosy picture perhaps through their rather slick PR expertise. After all the Wickremesinghe led party last enjoyed their own mandate prior to Chandrika Kumaratunga who herself was elected on a bandwagon of promises which included eradicating the excesses of the UNP and also to usher in peace. In the intervening period the UNP have had plenty of time to perfect the art of highlighting fault lines of their friends in government. Indeed they are masters at that.
So much so that they persuaded several foreign powers that they simply must help them to return Sri Lanka to within a democratic framework. It’s an open secret that this coalition so-called good governance group came into being thanks to a concerted multinational effort. We do remember the well-designed ploy of Wickremesinghe the going to the MIT in Boston to accept a long standing invite was how it was then painted.
Now that they have scraped into power thanks to some effort by their so called common candidate Maithripala Sirisena, all they have done is to increase the debt burden of the country by Rs 2.2 trillion, raised interest rates largely due to the incompetence or deal making of Mahendran and his family and failed miserably in almost everything else that is of significance bar a few matters of significance which can be viewed as having a collateral purpose.
They have ensured that media are free to speak their minds although the PM involves himself from time to time to berate the private media. By and large Pugh by permitting the media to be “open” the PM and his merry boys have a super carte Blanche PR tool to use. They do use it regularly too!
At every transgression that is uncovered the RW team are quick to use THAT very too, to claim and announce their innocence.
We say this because in none of the matters that the media has raised issue with – BONDGATE, Outer circular highway, Central Expressway, Hyatt project, port City project, Sri Lankan airlines, supply of coal, supply of tabs, holding local government polls, has this government acted incisively and decisively. Their actions whilst holding the reins of power are at sharp odds with their actions during the long years they were in opposition bar a few months when they held sway in parliament.
Instead we have seen legislation passed that face charges of being partial and slanted towards their own members and lackeys. Tongue in cheek they propose to return Sevenagala sugar company to their one time funder when in the first instance in their short period of office in 2002/2003 the TEC making the award was filled with their own members who even today in is government hold on to renewed reins of power. We said it then and we say it now and we will say it tomorrow Sevenagala was a tainted transaction it was the deal of the century.
There is not a whimper from this paragon of democratic values Ranil Wickremesinghe about his party’s deputy leader Ravi Karunanayake and the money that was found in a safe at a corporate office connected to his family members now that a deed of trust is in place since they came into “power”. Will there be bribery charges against him for the fact that his rent was paid by an interested party? Why is RW giving him an office in temple trees? Has he not brought shame upon the party with his unholy links to the bond boy? Did he not against government policy ask the state banks and institutions to bid low? The PM himself under oath says there was no such policy? Is this not a classic case of “Bombay looking Calcutta”?
And what is President Sirisena up to in all of this? Is his apparent nonchalance driven by some need to exert humiliation after humiliation on his former boss? Is that why he is pandering to his prime minister who it is abundantly clear cannot deliver good governance for all his pronouncements to the contrary.
It is a sad report card one which is embarrassing for us to write. Because in the eyes of the world Sri Lanka is not some tin pot despotic international basket case of a country. We are a country with one of the highest levels of literacy in South Asia, The quality of our professionals are upheld all over the world and we are noted for our liberal and balanced lifestyle. Up until recently our cricketers were held in awe and high esteem but the status of governance in Sri Lanka has been in abeyance for a very long time indeed.
It is shocking that Messers Sirisena and Wickremesinghe managed to hoodwink the people of this nation promising not rice from the skies but manna from heaven in terms of graft, politicial patronage, nepotism and the rule of law.
Instead we have an abysmal disregard for all that is considered democratic norms in the rest of the world especially in the so-called decadent ‘West’. They have taken leave of their democratic sense all because they themselves are bowed to the much talked of ‘floating ethnic vote’ in their own democracies – therefore willing to overlook serious departures from what they themselves know is ‘democracy’.
In that context we in Sri Lanka will wish ourselves all the best – for God knows we will need it – to protect us from our own politicians and from those outside who paint their concern with high ideals but no real action.