Testing time for Yahapalanaya | Daily News


 

Testing time for Yahapalanaya

 

The government and its constituents seem to be in a happy mood. For them this is the time of celebrations. Who could blame them when their party and even personal birthdays have fallen in the beginning of September? Besides the Police, or the Sri Lankan Police as it is called now also celebrated its birthday with pomp and glory. On line are many more dates to commemorate this month, including the birthday of President J R Jayewardene and the anniversary of the death of Premier SWRD Bandaranaike. None would disturb their happy mood except perhaps for the so-called Joint Opposition whose antics and gimmicks cannot be forecasted with precision.

Our attempt today is not to disturb this happy mood but to remind the government that this is also a time of testing for Yahapalanaya. Nor do we doubt the sincerity of the bold dreams that are woven on political platforms by the President and the Prime Minister as to the plans they have for the country. We have also passed the first anniversary of the consensual government. It is already over 18 months since the Presidential election of January 8th 2015. Hence it is not too early for stock taking.

Independent media

Let us compare the change that was to be with the change that has been. Comparisons are always relative. Whether anything or anyone is good or bad, tall or short, sufficient or insufficient etc. are all expressions of comparison in which there exists a third element. For example, the clock tower is short relative to the Church spire but tall relative to the lamp post one could say.

How can we assess Yahapalanaya? Naturally comparisons were with the status quo ante in the immediate aftermath of the formation of the new government. It gave a positive evaluation of the new government since it has guaranteed freedom from fear, fear of the then ubiquitous “White Van”, an independent media, relative independence of the judiciary and partial restoration of the law and order situation et al.

However, now that two years have passed in the Sirisena Presidency comparisons with the status quo ante are not sufficient. Time has come in which comparisons have to be of necessity with the change that has to be, with the change people desired and rulers promised at the time of elections.

Criteria for assessing the change then have to be different. They comprise essence of yahapalanaya or good governance people expected. Take for example the rule of law. Much more changes are desired. The process of investigations into financial and other cries and malpractices of the bigwigs of the former administration are proceeding at snail’s pace. Suspects are given differential treatment with kid’s glove treatment for certain politicians. Charges against some others are not even talked about.

Corruption or abuse of power

Among them the then First Lady seems to have acquired immunity or granted indemnity. Person’s against whom charges of massive corruption or abuse of power are bailed out instantly while those charged with ordinary or minor offences are remanded with vigour. For two years not a single case of corruption has been completed. It is only now indictments are being served and at the speed with which our judiciary operates it would not be able to complete most of them before the next elections that are due in three years.

According to the media instances of apparent corruption under the present government are also emerging. Tender procedures are dispensed with citing various excuses. There is often no explanation to allay the fears of the public, leave along investigations. The Central Bank Treasury bond issues, the renting of premises for the Agriculture Ministry, the appointment of corrupt officials of the previous regime to high positions are all matters that worry the public mind.

One of the major deficiencies of the consensus government seems to be the lack of consensus even on minor matters. Members of the Cabinet of Ministers flout Cabinet responsibility and engage in verbal duels among themselves to placate the gallery. There is no consensus on many national issues though arriving at such consensus was one of the main conditions of the ‘marriage’ of the two main political parties. What is worse is that certain members of the government are going public with views that prevent any virtual agreement, for example on the National Question. While the President and the Prime Minister are conscious of national reconciliation some other members of the government seem to be carried away by the propaganda of the communalists led by the so-called Joint Opposition and are competing to be better “patriots”.

As pointed out earlier in this column several times the government is either taking the support of the public as granted or considers that it is omnipotent and does not need public support. Instead of mobilizing the public they have opted for mobilizing only the party supporters. In fact certain Minsters have openly expressed that they must “serve their party men” as they are in power. What is the position of the vast majority of non-party people, the bulk of the public?

Education policy

The Minister of Education has openly said that matters of education policy are the business of the government and University students should not demand policy changes. This is archaic feudal thinking. Democracy means that view of all stakeholders should be taken. It is the students that need education. It is their right. How it should be is also a concern of theirs much more than of bureaucrats and politicians.

In the same way Ministers could say that trade unions should not take up policy matters such as privatization. It is because policy matters affect their lives that they take up such issues not because they love to parade on the streets or risk repression. No right or facility was delivered to the people on a platter without a struggle. Every victory won by the people, including the overthrow of the former regime was a result of mass agitation and protest. Two years is too short a period for Ministers to forget it.

The Ministry of Finance seems to have forgotten its home work, as was evidenced from many fiscal measures that had to be withdrawn due to public protest or judicial decisions. The fate of the last budget is a good example of its impotence and confusion. Let us hope that saner counsel would prevail in preparing the next budget.

The government must be told that much remains to be desired in its performance when the comparison of its performance is taken relative to be the change that people wanted. Of course it has spelled out bold dreams but our politicians have been doing that for the last half a century and more. Remember the tsunami time.

In the wake of the tsunami they dreamt of a new railway line parallel to the existing coastal line. They have been talking about a mono-rail project and cable car projects for decades. Exporting electricity to India was another of their pet dreams. None have materialized so far. At the end bold dreams turned out to be mere fantasies or hallucinations of deranged minds. Let us hope that at We wish it good luck.

 


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