Street dance antics to halt corruption probes | Daily News

Street dance antics to halt corruption probes

Janasatana Paada Yathra. Picture by Susantha Wijegunasekera

Politics of the walk, apart, which was far removed from the announced opposition to the high cost of living, the VAT, opposition to proposed constitutional change, against federalism, and the politics of revenge, it is necessary to discuss the stuff of this walk, which was far removed from any serious political walk of protest this country has seen so far. It was especially a mockery of that Paada Yathra in 1992, when Mahinda Rajapaksa took the lead, and brought him to the forefront of politics in the country

The echoes of the Paada Yathra are still around in the politics of government, with the SLFP having to take note of the lead up to and consequences of this attack on the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena; and little to do with the cost of living, constitutional change and other issues, in this walk of political rivalry.

There was an interesting blend of the role of Police and the Courts in the reality of the Paada Yathra, showing a considerably high degree of judicial independence, with several courts turning down requests by the Police to prevent the walk going through some major towns. This was in sharp contrast to how such political protests were wholly or substantially disallowed during the days of the Rajapaksas, who were the organisers, managers and directors of this demonstration of inner party rivalry being brought out to the streets of the country.

There is no doubt that the Joint Opposition (JO) did obtain good crowds at many of the towns where the walk was halted each day, and also along the walk, but it was certainly a far cry from the big boast of one million coming to Colombo on the final day, as stated by Dinesh Gunawardena. A million walkers in Colombo was certainly a political exaggeration for publicity purposes, but such exaggeration should have taken into consideration the reality of numbers expected, and given a more acceptable figure. The much smaller presence in Colombo on Monday evening was proven by the JO refusing the use of Campbell Park, and using the Colombo Town Hall and Lipton Circus for the finale of a chimera of crowd sourced political rivalry.

It is necessary to note that the government, or SLFP strategists, did show a lack of understanding of the political impact in refusing Hyde Park for the final Paada Yathra rally, after it had been booked by Vasudeva Nanayakkara. The talk of ground repairs and restoration did sound hollow, digging into foolishness, and exposed their own fear of a much larger presence of JO walkers at the end of the walk. The strategy of offering Campbell Park instead, came with the UNP’s political thinking, and helped ride over the Hyde Park fiasco.

Infantile dance

Politics of the walk, apart, which was far removed from the announced opposition to the high cost of living, the VAT, opposition to proposed constitutional change, against federalism, and the politics of revenge, it is necessary to discuss the stuff of this walk, which was far removed from any serious political walk of protest this country has seen so far. It was especially a mockery of that Paada Yathra in 1992, when Mahinda Rajapaksa took the lead, and brought him to the forefront of politics in the country. Media reportage and as seen by people along the way, removed this from the stuff of any walk of political protest, where there is good discipline, and strong slogans among the walkers, sending a message of solidarity with the people, which earns the respect of opponents, too. What we saw here was a charade of political campaigning, moving on to the infantile dancing of political foolery.

While Mahinda Rajapaksa gave the lead to the main show, age causing him to walk little, and move more by vehicle, the key organiser, his son Namal, taking over from uncle Basil Rajapaksa in Merchants Ward remand, changed the Paada Yathra to a “Maga Rangana” a dance on the road. He did it with much more display of body and muscle than any stuff of the brain. His example was eagerly followed by many others in this dance-walk, with little cause to doubt that his father’s one time policy of “Mathata Thitha” or “Full Stop to Inebriation” was wholly forgotten, giving place to “Mathata Mul Thena” – First place to inebriation.

Party and discipline

If the street dancing of his son brought ridicule to what was said to be the path for Mahinda Rajapaksa’s unreal expectation of a return to power, there was a more serious situation when those in the walk decided to hoot and make abusive calls when passing the SLFP’s office at Darley Road. These shouts were largely directed at President Sirisena himself, the leader of the party, with recollections of what MR has often referred to as the final hopper meal with the one who became the Common Candidate against him.

The efforts now being made to say these shouts were by outsiders and not by SLFPers, are not borne out by media evidence, and it is strange to believe that outsiders could have moved into the walk as it was so close to its finish, and right in front of the SLFP Headquarters. This does put the SLFPers in a major crisis situation, and pushes further the call for disciplinary action against those who organised the Paada Yathra, directed against the SLFP.

This will certainly be a major issue at the SLFP Central Committee meeting being held as I write this, to which JO organisers of the political walk have been asked to come. The issue that stands out is how and what type of disciplinary action is to be taken or could be taken against those who were clearly engaged in an major political move directed at a break up of the party.

The General Secretaries of the SLFP and UPFA, Duminda Dissanayake and Mahinda Amaraweera, have never been clear on the situation of disciplinary action on those who break party discipline. They evaded the issue after the Hyde Park rally earlier this year and the Kirilapone May Day rally chaired by MR. The lame excuse trotted by those who participated in these was that they were against the UNP and not the SLFP. But, that argument cannot hold water anymore. In the Paada Yathra, the slogans on the way and the behaviour in front of the SLFP HQ were clearly anti-SLFP and the party leader. Even a little child on Namal’s shoulders was made to shout anti-party leader slogans. One has to wait and see the actuality of the SLFP’s commitment to discipline, the lack of which will only help strengthen the Rajapaksa faction. It will certainly cause major issues for the intended continuity of the unity government till 2020. Wait and see may pay off for a limited time, but such delay is not the stuff of decisive politics, which is the need of the hour, amidst a rivalry of increasing rancour.

Behind the walk

Although MR’s main words at Lipton Circus were “we are coming back not to go”, which is unreal in current politics, but certainly close to the never to go policy of the Rajapaksa Regime with the 18th Amendment. This verbal demonstration of the autocratic tendency also raises what the people who voted against the Rajapaksa Regime continue to look forward to in facing up to the politics and street walk antics of the Rajapaksas. It is the strengthening of democracy and the continued and much stronger, and speedier fight against corruption, fraud and crime within governance.

To break or seriously disrupt this fight against corruption is the actual aim of the Paada Yathra, by a breakup of the SLFP, and through that a weakening of the Government’s policies against corruption. There is certainly a certain expediting of the government’s moves against fraud and corruption, and a widening of its scope, too. But, that is not the stuff that underlined the call of the people on January 8 and August 17 last year. This government may well last till 2020, or a little before that under the law. But such existence will be of little service if the fight against corruption, fraud and crime in governance does not become faster and more impactful, in keeping with the rule of law.

The call for a special court to hear cases of corruption and fraud, strengthening of the Attorney General’s Department to meet the increased demands on it, from the Rajapaksa Regime, and possible issues coming up in this government too, are matters of urgency.

Even if the SLFP fails in its efforts at party discipline, faster and more effective legal action against corruption and fraud by the Rajapaksa catchers and hangers on of that family tree, will be a much more effective disciplinary step; certainly pleasing the people, leaving no room for street walk antics of political rivalry.

As the first year anniversary of this unity and consensual coalition approaches, there may even be the necessity to consider passage of new laws to give strength to the fight against corruption, the independence of the Judiciary, the Attorney General and Auditor General. This may even call for certain governmental changes, which the promise of Good Governance should not hold back, and are in keeping with the declarations of strength made by both the President and Prime Minister.

Such thinking can truly break the back of street dancers who made a mockery of politics of the Opposition. 


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