Extending nonagate ad infinitum | Daily News

Extending nonagate ad infinitum

Tomorrow is Sinhala and Hindu Tamil New Year. And the nonagate (the period in which there are no auspicious times) will begin and end. However, in a wider context nonagate or the period of relative inactivity has already begun with the results of the local government elections. The No Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister was the do-all and be-all for politicians as well as their followers since then. Country was virtually paralyzed, notwithstanding even the anti-Muslim mini-pogrom. Even after its defeat in Parliament the nonagate continues, with the Cabinet itself paralyzed by the SLFP boycotting its Sessions. Strange times and strange behaviour, indeed!

Some argue that the nonagate is much longer and that it started soon after the first 100 days of the Yahapalana Government. Whatever it is, the state of inactivity continues with no end in sight.

No Confidence Motion

Those who stand for the abolition of the Executive Presidency say that the incumbent President by his force of example has proved that the post could be dispensed with no loss to the country. He has failed to deliver. Fighting corruption, reinforcing Rule of Law, ensuring a decent standard of living to the masses, forging national unity and defeating chauvinism, eliminating nepotism and political interference in administration etc., - in each of these counts he has failed to deliver. His whole time was and is still devoted to chasing a mirage –unity of the SLFP, starting perhaps in good faith but deteriorating later to seeking perpetuation in office with an eye to 2020 elections.

Vacillation, inconsistency, irrationality, betrayal and speaking untruth were characteristics that the people abhor in a leader. The 6.2 million that voted for change in January 2015 was no different. They had placed their trust in President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. As things stand today that trust placed in both of them has been shaken.

The defeat of the No Confidence Motion gave them another chance for redemption. The electoral defeat and the unscathed survival after the No Confidence Motion could have brought them to their proper senses. Instead what we see is a perpetuation of the status quo ante.

In an extra-ordinary twist of moral principles the President seems to oppose the resignation of Ministers who openly displayed their no confidence in the Prime Minister (and hence the Government too). It is much more honourable for the official SLFP to resign from the Government and let the UNP carry on with a minority government rather than staying in the Consensus government and ruin it from within.

One could recall that most of the 16 Ministers and MPs of the SLFP who voted for the No Confidence Motion were not elected to Parliament on the popular mandate that brought President Sirisena to power. They actually campaigned against him and the principles that he then stood for. They are more like thieves who dine and wine in a house that does not belong to them (or they have surreptitiously crept in).

How much better would it be, if our politicians learn to guard their wide mouths? At one instance, they wax eloquent on their abhorrence of corruption and vow not to sit with them in the same Cabinet and in the next instance invites them to join in the formation of a Government.

Questions have been raised about the discussions the Tamil National Alliance had with the United National Party prior to the No Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister. They have openly unabated. Those discussions were about demands of the people they represent but there was no written agreement. Even a written agreement is not an unusual practice in politics. For example, prior to the 2015 Presidential election President Sirisena gave an undertaking to make Ranil Wickremesinghe the Prime Minister. However, attempts are being made to give a communal twist to the discussions alleging that the country has been “betrayed” to separatists.

With the JO /SLPP taking the lead in the crusade against this so-called “betrayal” with overt and support from what remains of the official SLFP including its leaders, an early solution to the national question as well as Constitutional reforms is impossible before 2020. Thus the nonagate will continue unabated.

Man-made obstacles

The focus of the government will obviously be on the Provincial, General and next Presidential election as is already evident from the sayings and dealings of politicians and the enthusiasm shown by sections of the media in opportunistically promoting candidates. Hence any governance, leave alone good governance, will be not among their priorities. The result would be anarchy and disorder. Meanwhile, trivial issues will be blown up disproportionately to keep the followers amused and perplexed at the same time.

As far as the economy is concerned, balance of payments as well as the balance of trade will likely deteriorate while the devaluation of the rupee and the escalation of the payment of debt and interest are inevitable. It is doubtful whether the setbacks in the agricultural sector due to natural factors such as the unprecedented drought and man-made obstacles such as the non-punctual availability of fertilizers and the high prices of agricultural inputs could be reversed in the interim period before the next presidential or parliamentary elections.

Experience of the last three years does not justify any new confidence in the ability of the Government to implement a crash economic recovery programme that Minister Champika Ranawaka and others speak of. A clear understanding of the strategic path of economic development and the policies to be followed should precede such an action plan.

Whatever it is, there will be no dull moment in local politics. Re-alignment of political forces is already on the cards. There will also be many lateral movements or crossovers across the political spectrum. Vertical movements or leadership changes would be rather cosmetic. Nor will there be any reduction in the antics of politicians whether it is lying prostrate in the middle of the road, fake suicide attempts such as hanging from ceilings, staging fast unto deaths albeit with surreptitious feedings etc.


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