‘Bud’ bungling begins

Island Editorial

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which scored a stunning victory at the recent local government (LG) polls has started bungling from the word go. President Maithripala Sirisena has proved, once again, that he is made of sterner stuff. Everybody expected him to tuck up his sarong and run all the way to Polonnaruwa when the LG polls results were announced (not by the Polls Chief and his panjandrums but by Mark Zuckerberg via much-maligned Facebook.) A wag says that if Zuckerberg, too, had got as drunk as a skunk, on the night of Feb. 10 all Sri Lankans would have been kept in the dark as to who had actually won the LG polls. The SLFP/UPFA, whose campaign President Sirisena led, had to compete hard with the JVP for the third place. But, he not only outfoxed victorious former President Mahinda Rajapaksa but also made the runner-up, Ranil Wickremesinghe, cringe and cower before him. He craftily set the SLPP against the UNP. Thus, he survived the immediate aftermath of the SLFP’s worst ever electoral disaster.

President Sirisena also wilily got the SLPP to offer him help to form an SLFP-led government so that he could claim that the SLFP dissidents had faith in him. The SLPP unwittingly helped the President absolve himself of all wrongs of the yahapalana government and scapegoat Ranil. However, Sirisena’s problems are far from over; his enemies will be at the gate before long. Opposition politicians who get a chance to savour power are like a shiver of killer sharks which smell blood; they can be ruthlessly aggressive.

However, it is not the SLPP’s failed efforts to bring about a rapprochement with President Sirisena that we actually intend to tut-tut. Instead, it is a despicable practice which is antithetical to democracy, nay, a savage assault on people’s sovereignty and franchise. The SLPP has announced that it will appoint some candidates, defeated at the recent LG polls, via the so-called Additional List. It has sought to cushion the crushing blow to democracy with a promise that they won’t be made heads of local government institutions. There is nothing called full rape or half rape as it were. Rape is rape and what the SLPP is trying to do is to rape democracy. Parliament is full of political rejects brought in as MPs through the National List. Worse, these elements, whom people didn’t consider fit enough to represent them, are currently in the yahapalana Cabinet. Such failures have become the pillars of Sirisena’s SLFP and that may explain why it fared so badly at the recent election. The UNP is no better and the JVP is no exception. Now, the LG bodies, too, will be burdened with political rejects.

Democracy suffered the same treatment as the LTTE at the hands of the Rajapaksa government; it got a severe beating. Its survival was nothing short of a miracle. The heavy guns of the former regime seem to have resumed their mission to eviscerate democracy even as the SLPP headquarters is running red with wine.

Mahinda lost elections twice—in 1977 and 2015. He worked himself into the ground and bounced back by winning elections. So, why can’t the defeated SLPP candidates be asked to follow suit? The despicable practice of political parties abusing the National List and the Additional List to appoint political rejects must cease forthwith. Shame on the SLPP leaders as well as their counterparts in other parties, who are toying with the idea of doing likewise! It is a pity that an outfit, consisting of polls monitors and other NGO activists has welcomed the SLPP’s decision to appoint political rejects, brought in via the Additional List, heads of LG bodies! Anyone who cherishes democracy and respects people’s will, which finds expression in their votes, must oppose the practice of abusing the National List and the Additional List tooth and nail instead of commending errant politicians for their propitiatory actions.

One of the reasons why Mahinda had a grand pratfall in 2015 was that he, intoxicated with power, did not care to pick the right people to run his administration; square pegs in round holes were legion. He was so cocky that he went so far as to appoint Mervyn Silva his Media Minister. The irate members of the Fourth Estate had to fight quite a battle to knock some sense into Mahinda, who later changed his mind and removed Silva from that post. Is it that Mahinda hasn’t learnt from his blunders?

Mahinda has to refrain from repeating his previous blunders, consolidate his electoral gains and strive to win back those who still don’t trust him if he is to clear the next hurdle––the provincial council elections due in a few months. People are fed up with the incumbent dispensation and even ready to boot it out given half a chance if the recent LG polls results are any indication. But, on seeing the SLPP’s deplorable move to appoint defeated candidates, even those who backed Mahinda, to the hilt, at the last election, must now be wondering whether the Bud they voted for is really that of a lotus or a stink lily, which emanates a foul smell when in full bloom.