If one might be permitted to adapt Shakespeare’s word this was the winter of the peoples’ discontent made a hopeful spring by a political shock. Much has been said by many about the recent local government elections. Some have claimed to be the proud prognosticators of exclusive predictions. As the hours go by with no [...]


Lessons taught but will they be learnt


If one might be permitted to adapt Shakespeare’s word this was the winter of the peoples’ discontent made a hopeful spring by a political shock. Much has been said by many about the recent local government elections. Some have claimed to be the proud prognosticators of exclusive predictions.

As the hours go by with no firm decisions announced as to who will do what and when and even more attractive wagers offered at betting houses where asses put their money on horses, the betting kind are enticed into putting their money into where their mouths are.

In the meantime every political pundit and his third cousin are on the small screen or writing to newspapers or social rags parading as respectable news media predicting new political formations, internal party squabbles leading to rearrangements if not perceived sackings or demotions.

There are of course the traditional games like the ones played at Sinhala and Tamil new year. These gain greater currency when national politics is given a good shake and the old game of crossing from one side to the other, double crossings and even treble crossing become more than a parlour game but one of survival induced by the profit motive. So they try to make space for themselves or strengthen their positions by slating friend and foe in the struggle to get to the top.

There are those who think it is the time to throw their hats into the ring and hope that others will recognise their talents if not their ambitions which should be made of sterner stuff.

Post poll dilemmas of which coalition will be the victor remain

So without speculating on what might happen between this writing and its publication which is better left to the pundits, pseudo-pundits and those who watch the stars it might be more fruitful to look back at what made yahapalanaya stagger to the finishing line despite all the pre-election promises three years ago exploited to the full by those who wished to oust the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime from coasting into another six-year term.

As it is, arithmeticians, mathematicians and others with similar aptitudes are calculating using different formulae to show that the adherents of yahapalanaya have actually been far more successful than what their opponents say from wherever they are located at the moment.

Others resort to their own kind of calculus which says that it is sheer poor political logic to compare national elections for parliamentary control with pradeshiya sabha and council elections. How could you, they say, summoning enough hauteur, compare chalk and cheese. I mean it is sacrilege to even think of Beaufort D’Ete or Epoisses by Germain in the same breath as blackboard chalk.

So while this battle goes on in the playing fields of politics and some try to derive whatever satisfaction is possible by resorting to their own means of analysis, there are the lessons to be drawn from what happened a week ago when the people went to exercise their franchise after being left in the lurch for three years.
Responsible ministers and their official lackeys were racking whatever brains they had to find ways and means of putting off the local government elections until they could devise a system that would best suit their needs.

It took years for the minister in charge to get piecemeal constitutional amendments prepared and passed. Their incompetence or deliberate nonchalance only made an already angry people even more irate at those who promised good governance but could not provide any governance.

Some of the responsibility for the less than expected support for the governing parties could be traced to long drawn out and ‘fixed’ attempts by some yahapalanaya ministers to deny the people’s democratic right to choose those who should administer their districts by using devious means to keep them away from the polling stations.

It was not long before even those not particularly versed in politics came to realise the game that was being played at their expense. It seemed that far-fetched stories, but with a little more finesse, were used to convince President Sirisena of the need to put in place the new electoral system before elections could be held.

The result was that those at the lower levels of governance who had lorded over the people those past years were given another lease of life by extending their terms of office and, by implication, more opportunities to enhance their bank balances and other means of fattening themselves at the expense of an increasingly antagonistic populace.

It seems that the Colombo elite and those who have become a part of it have forgotten that Sri Lanka is an agricultural nation. Earlier leaders and seniors of the UNP were well aware of this. Those like Dudley Senanayake, M.D.Banda, U.B Wanninayake and other UNPers understood this and worked assiduously to meet the needs of the peasantry. But the modern day UNP is more Colombo-centric and west-leaning.

So when the millions of farmers already seriously affected by a long drought preceded by incessant rain and floods or the other way round were clamouring for fertiliser they seemed to have been promised wi- fi.

The peasantry might have been offered the opportunity or contacting their fellow farmers in the next village. That might have meant much to the denizens of the Colombo elite but would hardly have fascinated the hard working farmers who are trying to eke out a living battling the vagaries of the weather and our finance ministers determined to make fertiliser prices unreachable.

Not only have the major faction of the yahapalana unity government shown such disregard for the farming community of this country by increasing the price of fertilisers and then depriving them of the opportunity of buying them at the higher prices, they like Marie Antoinette, offered them wi-fi.

At least it might be said for the French nobility that it offered an alternative food even if it was out of the reach of the poor French masses of the day. The UNP’s wi-fi was hardly edible. Wi-fi might be for the hi fi, not for the farmers of Rajangana.

While the west-leaning UNP is intent on turning Sri Lanka into some kind of hub from which to radiate or whatever they do from such hi fi places, knowledge and great thoughts to the region if not the world, the poor Sirisena faction of the SLFP unable to keep pace with the Wickremesinghe-Samaraweera-Samarawickrema troika’s plans to make Sri Lanka an outpost of that trumpeter in Washington, have lost faith in their partner in power.

It was so obvious from the earliest days of yahapalanaya that the UNP which had grabbed the ministries that provided entre to the west, would begin their kow-towing from the first moments.

An unforgettable scene was the foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera being at the airport to greet a middle- ranking US State Department official named Nisha Biswal. She seems to have disappeared into the thicket now but in the early days of the unity government she was in and out of Sri Lanka as though she had a holiday home here.

While the UNP faction was paying pooja to the west, especially the US and the UK, they were conspiring to string us up at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva sponsoring highly antagonistic resolutions which we in our wisdom or as lickspittles of the western world, co-sponsored.

But the promises we made to the international community — which we were told the government had won over with its adroit diplomacy and would bring hordes of investors with bagsful of foreign direct investment — have turned into a sick joke. So where is the FDI that we were told would pour in like accumulated rain water at Thunmulla roundabout.

Oh yes, the European Union has revived the GSP plus trade concession. But what was conveniently glossed over was the promises we have to keep in order to retain GSP plus such as the repeal of the PTA. How badly we have slipped up will be revealed when the delegation from the European parliament turns up here at the beginning of April.

Of course, these are all lessons we have been taught in the last three years when the UNP tried to turn us into another Singapore (and how many times have we tried that nonsense when Junius Richard tried to do a Lee Kuan Yew).

They are now talking of a cabinet reshuffle. Great. What was that Sinhala saying about changing pillows to cure a headache. Why not get rid of the whole ruddy lot.

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