The Sinhala and Tamil New Year holiday season, where the nation symbolically pauses all activity during the ‘nonagathaya’, also offers a lull in politics and governance, providing an opportunity to reflect on the year that was and more importantly, the year that is yet to be.

If the year that just ended began with the corona virus pandemic at the top of the country’s agenda, it had ended with the pandemic hardly on anyone’s mind. It appears that the government has given up the ghost in trying to manage the outbreak- but not before some ridiculous pitfalls on the way to where we are now.

Initially, it was all ‘lockdown’. As a result, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year last year was ‘celebrated’ minimally as was Vesak. The masses didn’t mind. The lockdown kept the virus away until late last year. There were even comparisons as to how the preceding ‘yahapalanaya’ government would have messed up the issue had they been in power. Everyone praised the President for his tough stance.

The government though was doing all this through gritted teeth. Twice, in April and June last year, they had to postpone the general elections which were finally held in August. They were rewarded for their due diligence in handling the pandemic with a near two-thirds majority. They should also send a ‘thank you’ card to the ridiculous Ranil Wickremesinghe for clinging on to the United National Party (UNP) leadership thereby ensuring the opposition was wiped out at the poll.

With the general election wrapped up in their favour the government’s attention focused on what was the item at the top of their programme: repealing the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and replacing it with the 20th which gave Gotabaya Rajapaksa powers that even J.R. Jayewardene never had.

The government would have got the amendment through Parliament anyway but the fact that eight Parliamentarians elected on the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) ticket decamped and voted with the government, including their assistant secretary Diana Gamage rubbed salt in the opposition’s wounds and only exposed how fragile the SJB really was- a hodgepodge coalition of convenience rather than a strategic alliance based on strong policies and common goals.

With the election and the 20th Amendment both comfortably under their belt, the government began showing its true colours. Instead of the professional politics that Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised, what we got was more of the Mahinda brand- cronies and hangers on cashing in on their new found taste for power. The only difference was, this time around, in addition to Mahinda’s usual suspects, there were retired military men in abundance too, Gotabaya’s comrades in arms. Why else would Shavendra Silva head bodies that ultimately control the corona virus pandemic and Sri Lanka Cricket?

Slowly but surely, the cracks began to emerge. The government encouraged the marketing of a potion produced by a charlatan that guaranteed a cure for the corona virus- when other nations were rushing to place orders for a vaccine. As a result, Sri Lanka is today going from country to country begging bowl in hand, pleading for a few million vaccines. The vaccination program is a shambles and has all but come to a grinding halt. A ‘third wave’ looms large.

In diplomacy too, Sri Lanka has adopted the same ‘bull in a china shop’- or rather, a ‘bull in an India shop’- behaviour. They antagonised India by reneging on the agreement regarding the Colombo Port and then publicly said that they won’t be hostile to us at the United Nations Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva. They did- by abstaining and

ensuring that their ‘bloc’ votes against us. The result was a humiliating defeat at the Council. Now, the threat of sanction looms large.

There are other issues the masses expected the government to resolve, the Easter attacks being one of them. The government has tied itself in knots after promising ad nauseum that it will ‘find the culprits and punish them’. The chief culprit, identified by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena is Sirisena himself- and he is a member of the ruling coalition! So, despite the PCoI making unequivocal recommendations and Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith demanding justice, the government is pussyfooting around this issue because punishing Sirisena would cost the government the support of his fourteen parliamentarians and thereby its two-thirds majority.

There is a new issue added to the mess the government has created over the past year almost daily. There were scandals involving the import of both sugar and coconut oil which reek of corruption in the highest places. There are similar issues about environmental damage and deforestation. None of these issues have been addressed or resolved in a satisfactory or transparent manner.

Looking at the government from whatever perspective you wish to, it is no wonder that ‘government failed’ has become a catchphrase. Sri Lankans were enamoured with Mahinda Rajapaksa- and rightly so- when he won the Eelam war. So, they trusted him with another term and that cost them dearly. To get rid of him, they then elected Maithripala Sirisena and that cost them even more, so much so that, at the end of his term, they invited another Rajapaksa to take over. Now, they are twice bitten.


What has saved the government in the past one year however has been the abysmal performance of the collective opposition. The UNP is dead in all but name, the SJB is still struggling to finds it feet and the JVP is still not by any means an alternative government. Therefore the government soldiers on in the manner of the one-eyed man being the King in the Land of the Blind. Until and unless the opposition get their act together- and 2024 is not that far away- the country can get ready for at least ten years of another Rajapaksa era. The SJB is the best bet to stop this, but they have miles to go before they can get there.

Little wonder then that, in the lead up to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the entire country forgot about the state of the nation and focussed instead on who the real Mrs. Sri Lanka was. It can be a short step from the sublime to the ridiculous but at times like this, it can provide some welcome comic relief!




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