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22nd August 1999

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Corruption, thuggery it's all there

Point of view

By Krishantha Prasad Cooray

Sri Lankans don't overthrow governments on constitutional technicalities or moral high grounds. Of the two landslide defeats by a party in power since independence, one was motivated by race and language in 1956 and the other by the shortage of food and provisions in 1977: a telling testimony to the concerns and the mentality of the electorate. It maybe argued that the PA's rise to governance (a landslide by the previous electoral system) was a result of the JVP suppression, corruption, and plain boredom with the status quo.

It seems apparent that in this possible election year there is no mass conversion from the PA to the UNP, at least on a scale that could overwhelm the inherent advantages for a party in power. Till we see either bodies on the road or long lines for bread we, en masse, see no reason to change the party affiliations handed down to us by family or by favour.

Whether we should wait till a crisis explodes violently to act is a matter we as a state and people should probably consider carefully. Atter all, we are surrounded by unmanageable problems that we often say could have been solved if only we acted on time. Responsible voters must learn to see the small but alarming signs of any authority that may lead to intractable deterioration. The voter must act early. After all, a people have the government they deserve. Is the PA showing such alarming signs of decay?

It seems that it is showing such alarming signs. They are threatening to debase the government to the level of the previous UNP administration. Of the few driving forces that led to the fall of the UNP regime, all except the'87-'89 terror, have re-emerged within the PA. The crux of the case against the former greens in the people's court: corruption, thuggery, election fraud and abuse of power have all returned. .

Are there positive signs in the PA that could overwhelm the negatives? Sri Lankas improved image vis-a-vis the LTTE is probably the government's most significant achievement. Salute to Mr Kadirgamar, Mr. Dhanapala and Mrs Kumaratunga. Winning policy opinion in the west is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a settlement to the conflict. Mr Ratwatte must de-politicise the war effort if we are to consolidate the victories in the diplomatic front on the ground. It is a cliche but intercoolers for officials and no batteries for soldiers is simply unacceptable, especially after the PA harping so much on the UNP's extravagance while they were in power.

What of the greens?

Citizen pundits of all strata seem to agree that Ranil Wickremesinghe is too patient for an impatient country and people. Somewhat like a driver who stops at every pedestrian crossing when all others will even use the pavement to get to where they need. The same pundits, ten minutes later will proclaim that it is petty politics among "Sinhala politicians" that exposed them and allowed the LTTE to pick off leaders one after the other. Conscious voters will have to decide on one and only one side: either the reality of our political state or the desire to change what is wrong about the existing reality. If we choose the latter then Mr. Wickremesinghe has taken a prudent approach at least till now.

The country needs to know whether Mr. Wickremesinghe thinks fulfilling Mrs. Kumaratunga's promise of abolishing the presidency is useful for the country. If so what does he propose to change? The presidency cannot be considered in isolation. It needs to be looked at in the context of government stability, minority representation, and electoral accountability. For instance, the PR system cannot exist without a strong executive, unless we want regular changes in government. Mr.Wickremesinghe the voter needs a more cohesive argument from you.

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