Sri Lanka

Waiting for Godot?

Jan 20, 2018
Some Joint Opposition stalwarts, it appears, are on cloud nine after the Supreme Court determination that President Maithripala Sirisena’s tenure would be confined to five years. For the likes of MPs Keheliya Rambukwella and Wimal Weerawansa, both against whom there are serious corruption cases pending before the courts, the verdict has become a countdown of sorts before D’day in early January 2020. Rambukwella addressing the media stated that they had withstood all difficulties and harassment of the government for three years and waiting another 18 months was no big deal.
 
Weerawansa, on the other hand, has decided to make the countdown from the day the pohottuwa wins the local government elections, at least in the mind of the Colombo district MP. He said, from February 11, after the results are announced, government administration will cripple, with government employees refusing to take orders, the police similarly ignoring instructions and the military personnel turning their backs on the directives issued by their superiors. For WW, therefore, the whole process of sending the Yahaplanaya Government packing and installing Mahinda Rajapaksa back on the throne is going to begin with the pohottuwa victory on February 11. The likes of Weerawansa and Rambukwella, no doubt, are holding fast to the belief that the present conundrum in which the government has found itself in has sounded it’s the death knell and brought about a finality of Yahapalanaya rule.
 
The duo being seasoned politicians cannot be unaware that a lot can happen in politics during the course of 18 months, as certainly a lot can happen between now and February 10. Politics is known for its ebb and flow and fluidity. Situations that obtain today can drastically change tomorrow and those sitting pretty one day can plunge into the abyss of despair, as is the nature of politics.
 
The UNP government of JRJ, in 1987, had to contend with humongous opposition to his rule, with daily street protests and general agitation, the norm, over the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord. Hundreds were shot dead opposite the Janadhipathy Mandiraya, itself, at the time of the signing and the entire country was engulfed in flames, with lengthy curfews imposed to control the situation. At the time, like now, the constant refrain of the critics of the government was betrayal of the country rata paava deema, to India. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was rifle butted by a naval rating during a guard of honour inspection prior to the latter’s departure from the country, suggesting that the armed forces as a whole were set to turn its guns of the government, that saw two Indian warships dropping anchor just off Galle Face. To say the popularity of the government was at its worst nadir would have been an understatement, what with even senior ministers like Gamini Jayasuriya resigning and Prime Minister Premadasa and Lalith Athulathmudali boycotting the reception accorded to the visiting Indian Premier.
 
\Yet, hardly one year following the turmoil and turbulence in the country, where anti-Indian feelings ran high, and the government squarely blamed for surrendering the country’s sovereignty, the UNP won the Provincial Council elections including in the south, notwithstanding that the PCs were an Indian creation aimed at devolution of power to the Tamils.
 
Not only that, the Premadasa era that followed was marked by even worse conflagration, with the second JVP uprising unleashing a bloody campaign by both the insurgents and the government that saw mutilated dead bodies strewn on streets and a rash of student protests ala the SAITM campaign. The tail end of the Premadasa regime also saw the Grand Old Party disintegrating, with the exit of Lalith, Gamni and Co.
 
However, the UNP prevailed at the PC elections held the same year following Premadasa’s assassination, winning four of the six Provincial Councils in the south.
 
Hence, the Joint Opposition’s celebrations at the expense of the government’s, obviously, temporary setbacks, at present, is premature. The picture could well change by the time the main elections are due, if not in the coming days. True, the Bond saga has had its negative fallout, damaging the government’s Yahapalanaya credentials.
 
But the public are aware that positive action has been taken by the government to deal head on with the complaint. Ministers were hauled before the Commission and the Prime Minister, no less, summoned to clarify issues arising out of the alleged fraud.
 
In contrast, they are aware that Mahinda Rajapaksa swept all swindles, corruption and sleaze under the carpet, and, what is more, protected the crooks, rogues and the plunderers.
 
The JO campaign to rouse the public that the end of the Yahapalanaya is nigh is bound to lose steam once the details of reports on the 34 acts of corruption, now with the President, comes to light. The boot then would be on the other foot, with the JO worthies implicated in these swindles, running for cover. There are only 18 months, as Rambukwella and Weerawansa say, they have to wait. It certainly is going to be a very interesting 18 months, without doubt.
 
Daily News, January 20, 2018

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