Gomin Dayasiri (Daily Mirror)
Caption is a query raised without consulting an astrologer or a suggestion from a wild buffalo. Voters expect too much in return from a country that is near broke. Politicians make offers beyond their means to gain power. Nation has to beg and borrow to live another day. Whoever is in power from 2017 to election date is the likely loser at the next presidential or general elections.
Any ruler in office is ineffective in a sagging economy unless corruption is slackened and administration tightened. Neither is on mend. Route Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe picked was nullified by minions in the government as seen in the Development (Special Provisions) Bill, shot down by his buddy President Maithripala Sirisena and his provincial marauders. Same fate, thankfully awaits, the controversial Constitutional Amendments that would gather dust on the shelf. Naturally, these are scatterbrain schemes. Unseen saboteur is the President, studies the ground situation rationally, more than Ranil, living a planet away. Knows opposition could coalesce on a sentimental issue that is attractive to the fast expanding middle – income groups that carry voting strength.
Middle-income, middle-class strayed from the government as the economy started tickling them. Tickle turned to a scratch and became a wound that did not answer to any antibiotic. They were the bulwarks of the 2015 elections.
Middle-incomers, after the victory over terrorism led a more comfortable life style (travelling around Sri Lanka in vans on pilgrimages to the hill country, up north, improving home conditions, purchasing mechanized two, three or four wheelers and sending kids to more tuition classes!) acquired wealth after the chapter on terrorism was firmly nailed. They presently live in discomfort with ‘luxuries’ pruned down.
Billboards on road side advertise expertise from dressing brides to repairing computers to perming hair in their homes in proof of an emerging economic class where the income is tax free, earned without paying rent or incurring transport charges. These homes had more than one income earner and parked more than one vehicle. Roads naturally are clogged with vehicles with the ‘middle-tons’ on the move.
Public officers in this category, if convinced, the government is frail and vulnerable, as at present, would accelerate the rate of destabilization in search of their advancement. Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR)’s apparent fizz is not self-induced but coincides with the unpopularity of the Ranil-Maithri combine. A coalition between UNP and SLFP cannot function smoothly as they tread different paths with competing MP’s having an eye on re-election. Presently, Ranil is trying cheap gimmicks to make the economy tick without luck, as his vintage administrators are an elitist bunch forming the establishment that misled him with their unfriendly policies that undid the UNP between 2001-2004.
Daydreaming of manufacturing a Volkswagen vehicle locally failed miserably, Ranil has not succeeded in attracting a maker of dinky toys to set up a factory, notwithstanding having the best finance minister in the world as determined by a banking magazine. The economy is the live issue, relegated at the last election to the background, while good governance was made sugary sweet by the NGOs’ whacky armies; genuine few, in disgust, sought fresh pastures in anguish, regretting their misguided exercise was badly fractured.
Ranil and Maithripala enjoyed an easy ride to office without an Economic Master Plan (J.R. Jayewardene’s bags of cereals –‘Ata atta’ or R. Premadasa’s dole assured every poor household a bounty of Rs. 2,500 per month) to keep the poor out of despair awaited patiently for the arrival of a miraculous go-dot. An absent Santa makes the‘fed-up’ rate grow swifter. Good governance kids unwittingly caused the government to engage in disastrous ad hoc economic policies, on being underprepared.
The former President peaked in popularity with the war victory, became a sitting duck unable to respond to the cry for good governance with rampant corruption marching hand- -in-hand at the elections; voters knew and know the culprits of then and now. Mahinda’s toadies made him look regal. Being a silly mortal fell into their trap in believing that ‘King can do no Wrong’- fiddled like Nero while the country was on the mend, then fell into an insurmountable hole on public debt – the encircling albatross of economic development.
Restrictive phase where general elections are tabooed for 12 months after the previous, was by Constitutional Amendment extended to 54 months; needed a simple majority of one in Parliament to revise the prohibitive period, now requires a 2/3 majority. Silly surplus, as no MP is prepared to shorten his parliamentary lifeline? These are the achievements of the 19th Amendment that could unsettle the present government. Draconian provisions were extended without the 5/6th majority enjoyed by J.R.Jayewardene.
Therefore, a general election could be held after February 16, 2020. Yet governments could change hands in persons and parties without the exercise of the franchise – the issue is the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Siripavan evaded answering in the 19th Amendment. Justices are answerable some day, somewhere, since the issue causes havoc. All that is needed is a show of hands in Parliament. The 19th Amendment kills the good work of good governance with one stroke! Mahinda promises an early return to power by this queer process with his old familiar unfriendly faces. New government, if any, will be virtually the same that lost in 2015, back in the saddle knowing well this is their last hurrah, multiplying corruption.
Some sail with President Maithripala and continue to hold ministerial appointments. Such are not wanted for a parade before the FCID that has failed to lead any evidence in any court on any corruption charges. Mahinda has to play with these past masters till 2020; many cheated him. Maithripala, champion at pole vault, holds a whip in hand, against possible ‘double crossing-tons” with or without sharing a hopper; others will say bye-bye to the FCID, already in toe with the tortoise, would parade different faces; tempting more from the UNP to join the Mahinda’s bandwagon, to be secure. Has a new insurance policy been designed exclusively for MPs?
Tired Sinhala Buddhist nationalists trek to learn thorny constitutional issues under the tutelage in the home of unblemished Prof. G.L. Piers. Tolerance in Buddhism makes it possible to forget and forgive. Prof. Pieris has artfully won over a hostile constituency. Now dressed as a Sinhala Buddhist zealot is ousting the old guard in the MEP, JNP, SLFP and JHU that stood loyally in difficult days when waltzing Prof. Pieris, with the UNP evolved federal structures with the LTTE and produced a Package for the SLFP in the company of Neelan Thiruchelvam of the TNA. Selling names attracts dodgy funding. Good Health and Long Life to those seeking a place in the sun in their last days. Sulking dears may surface in round two, poorer with sour faces sadly muddied for life. Sad to say they are purchasable for a sandwich and an outing being long without recognition sought desperately.
Prof. Pieris is a treasured asset for Mahinda, as he is a master of the English language (quality sadly lacking in the joint opposition) supposedly “knows the law”, is no threat to Mahinda, flexible to vary directions, has space to set up a clubhouse to varied and conflicting causes of persons with excess free time and provide refreshments to all and sundry. Such a combine together with culinary skills cannot match gallons of tea and lumps of jaggery offered by the MEP, JNP or JHU or SLFP ‘patriots’ as they fall by the wayside against a buying office well funded.
Pieris is Mahinda’s on/off Anagarika with western flourishes as he doubles as latter’s principal spokesman in the English-speaking to foreign dignitaries in different tongues. Mahinda wants to enjoy power with his manageable old stock that provides him a free hand. Mahinda needs 75% of Sinhala Buddhist support, not necessarily as votes, since there is no election – to counter the oncoming economic upheaval responding with the shrill cry of a divided nation to keep him afloat in the south, without a team of any re-known. Minority vote is not his constituency but fortifies the majority vote. People abhor terrorism, learnt lessons at their doorstep. Maithripala’s SLFP too needs the Sinhala Buddhist vote to survive. Vote as you desire; don’t make Sirisena a foe for he can be a friend to offset Ranil’s wild desires, with his presidential powers. Think of the nation, my friends, not of politicians that provide a tasty bite.Be your thinking machines and no particle of any politicians’ Seeya/Archie Armies.
Ranil in his wisdom may craftily manoeuvre a shift to the opposition by having him outvoted in Parliament or more likely dissatisfied parliamentarians may shift loyalties and outvote him in parliament leaving the country in the hands of Mahinda and his merry men to fumble. Reminded of a story of treading angels and rushing fools.
More likely, UNP may return without Ranil or the SLFP without Mahinda, whichever or whoever is out of power, in 2020: reaction to a bored leadership. Generation gap between an aged leadership and youthful constituents is expanding – forced retirements may be a mutual feature.
A timetable to remember – A) Presidential elections must be held on any date before the 7th of January 2020 B) General Elections must be held between February16 and the August 16, 2020. The President has to determine the dates of both elections. Both elections cannot be held on the same day, much to Maithripala’s disadvantage due to the artificial datelines. Which will he hold first? Will he as promised gracefully retire than be sure defeated as the permanent fixture of hard times and search a corner to sulk?