A people double-crossed
Come hell or high water,
Sri Lankans are assured of one thing –political flittering about
will continue unabated. Her people could be bent over double
with skyrocketing living costs, shaken by insecurity and
instability, but Sri Lanka’s politicians will go dancing merrily
on their way, making and breaking deals hither and thither. The
deals struck (and broken) of late, in the political scene, are
almost as ubiquitous and numerous as all those pledges from
There have been crossings and double-crossings. Several UNP
members broke ranks less than one year into President Mahinda
Rajapaksa’s term in office, claiming to do so for the greater
good. And then more recently, the fiery
Samaraweera-Sooriyaarachchi duo crossed over to the Opposition
after being sacked and harassed by the present administration
for raising dissenting voices. Now, in the mother of all deals,
the Grand Old Party, the main opposition UNP has struck a deal
with Samaraweera’s SLFP Mahajana Wing, with a pledge to work
together, to usher in a brighter tomorrow for the Sri Lankan
people. Signing ceremonies, mass rallies, a government that
reacts to these moves towards mobilising popular opposition –
these are all signs, it would seem that Sri Lanka is a thriving
democracy, with leaders and politicians vying for the best
opportunity to serve the people.
It is a sad story that over half-a-century of deal making has
left the average Sri Lankan citizen empty handed, disappointed
and disillusioned, time and again.
Dissidents – both UNP and SLFP have made the move to switch
sides based on one claim, in the recent past. They have claimed
that their motivation has been an apparent tendency towards
dictatorship on the part of the party leadership. In the case of
Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi, they claimed
that Mahinda Rajapaksa and his administration were an emerging
tyranny and one in which democratic principles would not have a
place. The 17 reformists that crossed over to the government,
made a similar claim about Ranil Wickremesinghe’s leadership of
the UNP. How, the average person might wonder, would the two
splinter groups manage to function under similarly tyrannical
reigns on either side of the divide? What Mahinda Rajapaksa was
to Mangala and Co, Wickremesinghe was to Karu and his team of
‘reformists’. How then, do Samaraweera and Jayasuriya bite the
bullet and deal with the undemocratic practices of the leaders
they have now aligned themselves with, with the shift in
Both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe are leaders who could easily
be tainted with the same brush. Neither of them have been able
to take a single step against corruption within their ranks.
There is blatant corruption within the current administration
and yet, the President has remained mum; much like
Wickremesinghe adopted a ‘see no evil’ policy with regard to his
own errant ministers, back when he was Premier between
2001-2004. The best example of this lack of action would be the
continued tolerance of the likes of Colombo District MP Mervyn
Silva who has more or less violated every law known to man in
the years he has held office and is open about his links to drug
lords and underworld characters. The irony is that if Rajapaksa
were to sack Silva tomorrow, Wickremesinghe would undoubtedly
welcome him with open arms – and vice versa if the situation was
reversed and Wickremesinghe was the one doing the sacking.
Both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe are guilty of nepotism –
sickening nepotism at that. They are incapable of allowing
anybody but their nearest and dearest into decision making
spheres of party or government. Worse yet, they show no shame or
remorse in adopting this highly undemocratic practice.
The problem, it would seem that whether it is SLFP or UNP,
Mahinda or Ranil, Chandrika or well, Ranil, all we really get is
a different slice of the same vile pie. This is what we are
forced to swallow at every election that comes round; it is not
about making a decision as to who the better man is, but
instead, it is a choice between the bad and the worse.
Politically, Sri Lanka is more bankrupt right now than its
national treasury. Our greatest tragedy is that even in this
time of great need, we are rendered leaderless and powerless
from that lack of leadership.
Perhaps the old adage is true. We deserve the government we get.
If we are made to elect and re-elect corrupt leaders, the onus
is upon us, as a citizenry, to awake and demand change.
Unfortunately, ours is a strange and elitist nation, in which
the rich and educated, the only ones truly capable of effecting
change, choose to be aloof, criticise only from the comfort of
their dining room chairs and shake their heads in despair, while
the country slides further and further into anarchy and
destruction. To enter the fray, to do something about the dismal
state of things, would be beneath them, this elitist class.
And yet, despite this home truth, a quick survey of our
political landscape, leaves us wondering whether Sri Lankans,
collectively, haven’t really got an exceptionally raw deal.