Political cross currents for the ‘good of
Political crossovers have been
part and parcel of Sri Lankan politics since Independence. Even
though such political manoeuvring has been the order of the day,
for so many decades, once in a while the sheer hypocrisy and the
blatant callousness with which a people’s mandate is embezzled
by those who claim to represent the voters continue to shock us.
This week Edward Gunasekera, one of the UNPers who made a grand
cross over to the ruling party a few months ago, citing many
shortcomings and undemocratic practices by the party leadership,
bowed his head, made an apology and made his way back to the UNP.
When he joined the government with the ‘reformist’ group of the
UNP led by Karu Jayasuriya, he along with the others made sure
the country knew that this was all ‘for the sake of the nation’.
There were noble causes cited: consensus on the ethnic issue,
anti-corruption, good governance, pro-poor development etc.
It was not too long ago when the most unfortunate campaigner in
Sri Lankan politics, Anura Bandaranaike made a similar
holier-than-thou statement that he wish not to be a part of a
carnival of clowns. That was on the occasion when he and deposed
Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi were
sacked by President Mahinda Rajapaksa for brewing dissent within
the party. However, before a week had lapsed, Bandaranaike had
begged his way back into the fold of ‘clowns’, gleefully
accepting the crumbs which were thrown at him in the form of the
National Heritage Ministry.
He too claimed that his decision to return to the government was
for the good of the people. To be sure, there have not been such
noble politicians born anywhere else in the world. For the good
fortune of our little island, the noblest of them are only born
of this soil. And pigs can fly too, we suppose.
The greatest tragedy in all this political double crossing and
musical chairs is the assumption of politicians that the
intelligence of the average Sri Lankan man on the street is less
than that of a goldfish. The likes of Gunasekera and
Bandaranaike may live in denial that the people of the country
are not politically savvy enough to assess the political
crosscurrents accurately. But time and again the people of this
land have given their verdict, as silently as it may be by
casting their votes to the many political pole vaults. The
pathetic numbers that attended a rally organised by the UNP
cross over group also amply showed the verdict of the people for
those who claim that they accepted the privileges and luxuries
of government ‘for the good of the people.’
Worse still but each time crossovers take place, back and forth,
it makes an absolute mockery of parliamentary democracy, further
strengthening the hand of the executive and making the people
look to him rather than to the legislature for answers to their
problems. If this were to continue, with parliament having been
undermined severely as it is, we could soon, as a nation, bid
goodbye to a system of checks and balances (in whatever
miniscule degree) and settle to be governed almost exclusively
by the executive.
Even as the politicians play their merry games, dancing their
way to power or out of it, the people must soldier on. While the
only thing that matters to Sri Lanka’s ‘leaders’ is their perks
of office, the Sri Lankan people must struggle to get by –
hemmed in on all sides. They are challenged by a war in the
north east that are leaving thousands homeless and displaced.
Poor economic development in the south and a soaring cost of
living has rendered the common man barely able to lift his head.
To add to the burden, an all pervasive sense of insecurity that
a recent spate of abductions, extra-judicial killings, massacres
and of course, not to forget air raids has settled and does not
appear to be lifting any time soon. The Sri Lankan citizen has a
large amount of problems on his plate and while he may gain the
temporary satisfaction of watching the Sri Lankan cricket team
performing splendidly in the Caribbean, chances are his elation
will be short lived.
The great question is, to how many crossing and ‘uncrossing’
politicians, does all this matter? The media will do its part in
highlighting the things that ail the country, but in the end, it
is akin to pouring water down a duck’s back – our leaders
neither care nor have any desire to effect change. The media
cannot exceed its mandate – ours is not the job of implementing
solutions or ‘fixing’ problems faced by the people. If the media
could do that, we would not need governments. But we have been
shouting ourselves hoarse and it has only fallen on deaf ears.
Politicians, drunk with power or blinded by power-lust, care
only to secure their personal futures. Our people have long
since stopped expecting them to do anything else.
Indeed, on the eve of this New Year’s celebration, we are a
people with very little hope left. One party pins all its hopes
on the April prophesies and the other remains determined to
cling to power for as long as possible. To which party should
the Sri Lankan citizen turn? Neither would be the only answer
available to us. It’s every man for himself – for a long time to
come, we will all have no choice but to just grin and bear it.