End of yahapalanaya?

Island Editorial

The yahapalana administration has unwittingly admitted that there is only one person with a backbone within its ranks. Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told the media on Wednesday that the government had decided to prove that it had a backbone vis-a-vis what he called politically motivated protests. President Maithripala Sirisena would, he said, put Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in charge of the armed forces and police to bring order out of chaos.

The government has apparently got cold feet perhaps due to strong public criticism as evident from Minister S. B. Dissanayake’s claim that something President said at a Cabinet meeting in a lighter vein had got blown out of proportion. If so, a statement to that effect should have been issued by either the President’s Office or the Cabinet Spokesman.

Even those who hold Fonseka in high esteem for the role he courageously played in ridding the country of terrorism may look askance at the President’s decision. Fonseka has consented to accept the new role the President wants him to play. A former unsuccessful presidential candidate, he must be happy that he has got an opportunity to boost his image.

The government has demonstrated that it is ready to go to any extent to overcome the so-called wimp factor troubling it and hold on to power. Here is another instance of the yahapalana regime acting in contravention of people’s sovereignty. Voters rejected Fonseka at the last parliamentary election. The UNP brought him to Parliament through the backdoor and made him a minister with no heed for the will of the people. Now, President Sirisena has decided to get him to tame trade unions etc. Thus, people will soon have their right to protest suppressed at the hands of a person they rejected at the last general election!

Now, it is clear that the yahapalana regime has so far acted with some restraint in dealing with protests etc because of its inability to crush them with might and main and not out of any concern for people’s democratic rights. The Rajapaksa regime branded anyone who opposed its autocratic rule a traitor in a bid to justify the suppression of his or her right to dissent. The yahapalana government is using the label, ‘conspirator’, for that purpose. (Isn’t it true, editor? -TW)

The self-proclaimed champions of good governance flayed the Rajapaksa government—and rightly so—for ‘militarising society’ by deploying the army and police to curb protests. But, today, they are emulating their predecessor; they have decided to task a former army chief turned minister who still wears military uniform to deal with protesters.

Time was when the yahapalana leaders raked Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, (who left the army much earlier than Fonseka), over the coals for acting like a military person in handling civilians. In fact, he thought and acted like a soldier; he amply demonstrated his demolition skills as the Defence Secretary. He had no qualms about having unauthorised houses pulled down. He simply bulldozed his way through. Now, they want Fonseka to play a similar role under the present dispensation!

The yahapalana regime and its immediate predecessor are Tweedledum and Tweedledee where corruption is concerned. Former Central Bank Deputy Governor Dr. W. A. Wijewardena, who was a bitter critic of the Rajapaksa government, has told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing bond scams that the bond rackets have cost the state coffers Rs. 10 billion. The Central bank professionals have revealed that the Employees’ Provident Fund has also suffered a loss of Rs. 10 bn due to bond scams. But, the culprits are still free and there is no end to probes though there is irrefutable, incriminating evidence against them. The only discernible difference between the two governments is that people have so far had some freedom to express their dissent. The champions of yahapalana are now all out to deprive the public of that freedom.

Fonseka stands accused of his involvement in attacks on journalists. It may be recalled that the UNP, making a special statement, told Parliament in 2008 that Fonseka as the then Army Commander had under him a special army team which carried out attacks on media persons under the Rajapaksa regime. Crimes against journalists in the past are being probed at present. Doesn’t President Sirisena think his decision to put Fonseka in charge of the armed forces and police will lead to a conflict of interest?

Fonseka has had no experience in handling public protests democratically because he has never faced such situations as a politician. True, he is back in Civvy Street, but the fact remains that he still walks like a soldier, talks like a soldier, thinks like a soldier and acts like a soldier. How he will try to bring order out of chaos is not difficult to guess.

It is hoped that at this rate the much-dreaded White Vans which the previous regime was notorious for won’t make a comeback with a ‘vengeance’.

Cartoon from Divaina

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