Is the Government losing control? This is probably the question uppermost in the minds of people when observing the goings on in the country at present. The cost of living is sky rocketing and shows no sign of being controlled. On the contrary the actions of the Government seem to suggest that they are giving [...]


The Government in a mess of its own making


Is the Government losing control? This is probably the question uppermost in the minds of people when observing the goings on in the country at present.

The cost of living is sky rocketing and shows no sign of being controlled. On the contrary the actions of the Government seem to suggest that they are giving up on all efforts to ensure that the basic food needs of the people are met and that prices are kept at levels that the people can afford.

A previous Government in which Dr. N. M. Perera was the Finance Minister, was accused by its political opponents  of using the Government  Gazette instead of the annual budget to increase prices. The current Government is now putting  the Government Gazette to different use.

The maximum retail prices of basic goods such as rice, sugar, milk powder, gas, green gram etc. are announced through the Gazette  and then after a week or two another Gazette is issued revoking the previous Gazette and thereby removing the price control on these goods.

In the meantime the beleaguered people are forced to endure untold hardships in the form of shortages of these goods. In the past several weeks this has become a regular occurrence and long queues are often seen outside outlets with people lining up to purchase such goods.

The reasons for these back and forth gazettes are difficult to deduce and when Dr. Bandula Gunawardena and Lasantha Alagiyawanna, the two ministers handling these subjects, are questioned by the press they appear non-plussed and offer incoherent answers that do not shed any light on the matter.

Added to this are the allegations of corruption that dodge  these issues. In the early days of the Government, the reduction of the tax on sugar imports gave rise to a massive sugar scam.

There have been allegations of several other scams which have ultimately  burdened the people.  One such scam is the garlic scam involving Lanka Sathosa.  Thushan Gunawardena, the former Executive Director of the Consumer Affairs Authority, is one of the Government officials who has resigned due to an inability to see eye to eye with Government policies. He was sceptical that the ongoing investigation into the garlic scam would yield results.

Gunawardena, a Viyath Maga stalwart who backed the present Government, is one of many who are disillusioned over the path the Government is following.

Many of the Government’s actions defy both political sense and common sense. The total mishandling of the fertiliser issue has created new enemies for the Government with the entire agricultural sector in turmoil. The laudable goal of switching from chemical fertiliser to organic fertiliser has been botched up to such an extent that already the negative effects of it are being witnessed.

According to Minister Ramesh Pathirana the tea plantations are already reporting a drop in production.  In a bid to pacify the protesting farmers the Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has assured them compensation in the event their yield drops as a result of using organic fertiliser.

But the Government and the Minister seem to have lost sight of the fact that a drop in the yield will also have a much larger social impact in the form of a national food shortage.

If all this is not bad enough the import of organic fertiliser from China has placed the country at risk of several bacteria entering the country through such fertiliser. The wisdom of importing nano fertiliser from India is also being questioned by experts who claim that the product is in the early stage of development and  sufficient research has not been undertaken to determine the efficacy of such fertiliser and whether there are side effects that can result in harm to the soil.

Apart from the widespread protests and disquiet among the people with regard to the shortages of consumer goods and the fertiliser issue, the Government seems bent on making things difficult for itself.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s appointment  of Venerable Galagodathethe Gnanasara thero as the head of a Presidential task force to implement the “one country, one law” concept has been widely criticised by all sections of society.

This was reflected at a meeting last week of multi-religious leaders including senior Buddhist monks organised by the Collective for Ethnic and Religious Harmony headed by former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. Mr. Jayasuriya’s remarks highlighting  the importance of unity among the diverse communities and the need for religious harmony to engage in nation building  was echoed by the clergy of all religions present at the discussion.

Another front opened up by the Government is the alienation of its allies numbering  11 political parties. One of the continuing complaints of these allies is that the President and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna  (SLPP) give them step motherly treatment in the affairs of Government and that they are not part of the decision making process.

The Government’s decision to sell 40 percent share of the Kerawalapitiya Yugadhanavi Power Plant to the US-based New Fortress company has caused consternation among the Government’s allies. With the trade unions expressing their opposition to the deal and the rest of the agitation in the country they began to feel the heat.

Their frantic attempts to get a meeting with the Government leadership finally bore fruit when they met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa  and aired their woes.

However the fact that they held a meeting the following day under the auspices of the Mahajana Manthrana Sabhawa  to “complain to the people” is indicative of the fact that they are still nursing their grievances.

The Government allies are learning to their cost that the Executive Presidency prevents them from influencing the decision making process of Government. With the SLPP treating their smaller allies with contempt the situation is made worse.

It seems that by supporting the 20th Amendment the SLPP’s allies are now hoisted on their own petard.


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