People are disgusted and disgruntled after having placed their utmost faith in political leaders
to steer the country since independence.

They feel they were let down blatantly by every political entity, be it the United National Party (UNP) or the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the two main parties in the country’s political history which have emerged in various avatars from time to time.

With the exception of a few, the same lot who represented the SLFP in parliament, have surfaced in the guise of the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna(SLPP). A majority of the sitting parliamentarians at one time or the other identified themselves as loyal members of the SLFP. The composition changed with the advent of Maithripala Sirisena as the executive president of Sri Lanka. The old guard of the SLFP could not remain in the party under Sirisena who craftily maneuvered his way to become the leader of the country. Eventually, the rest who despised Sirisena gathered to form the joint opposition which finally became the SLPP. The master mover behind the creation was Basil Rajapaksa who delivered his maiden budget speech as the minister of finance in parliament on Friday.

Parallelly, the UNP was also shedding its establishment for the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) to emerge.  

True or not, the Sri Lankan voter calculatedly outwitted the more traditional parties by voting in the SLPP and the SJB to take charge of the government and opposition benches.

The pertinent and more relevant question is whether both these parties live up to the people’s expectations.

It is clear that the main opposition SJB has more similarities with the UNP, the grand old party which was resurrected from extinction by the late J.R Jayewardene in 1956.

In short, a majority of the UNPers have found refuge in the SJB after falling out with its leadership which has been held by Ranil Wickremesinghe for well over twenty-five years now. The general perception is that the duration is too long for an individual to hold on to the party leadership. Even staunch UNPers feel that enough is enough and that Wickremesinghe must let loose the stranglehold he has had on the party for so long.

It is time for the UNP membership to do some soul searching into how the party has fared all these years under Wickremesinghe’s command and take a step forward from their stagnation. It may receive approbation from the people who do not want to see the party reduced to litter even more than now and finding a place in political oblivion. It will be the brutal truth, but it will also be the only way to revive and revamp the UNP which still has its appeal to the people in the hinterlands because of the likes of D.S Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, Sir John Kotalawela and J.R Jayewardene. They lived up to the expectations of the people, with whom they had an affinity.

The enumeration of the people is that no government in power has done anything substantial to sustain and achieve economic goals following independence from the British Raj. It is somewhat difficult to gauge their assumptions. Most who make such accusations have not lived through the years to arrive at a clear conclusion.

If one talks about the short spell of the first Prime Minister D.S Senanayake, no one will deny that his services to the agriculture and irrigation sectors were enormous. However, in Sri Lanka’s long political journey of seventy-three years there have been strategic abrogations in the name of social reforms bordering socialism. The political passage has not been a healthy one, especially with the denial of opportunities and timelines to find a durable solution to the ethnic question which has plagued the country since 1958 following the catastrophic decision to implement the “Sinhala Only Act”. The decision has had an immeasurable number of implications and drawbacks in the country’s economic progress but also in keeping together its social fabric. Countries in the region that were lagging behind Sri Lanka and looked to her as an economic model have, through sheer dedication, surpassed Sri Lanka.

Wrong nationalisation policies and the theory of self-reliance, a concept popular among the socialist countries, have contributed to the economic woes. English could have continued as the medium of instruction in schools without going into populist moves. The fault lies within the parochial decisions of political leaders who are heavily dependent on the popular vote for the election. Whipping up communal passions or expressing anti-racist sentiments have been in plenty during election campaigns that confined the masses into ethnic compartments during these periods. Hence it is incumbent upon the electors to realise that the system needs a change for secularism to create a better world for posterity. They will, without a doubt, arrive at the correct judgement where we should have been in the past and the formative years.

Even at this late stage people should be able to fathom that political patronage for the growth of religious sentiments coupled with unabated and rampant corruption have unequivocally contributed to the unimaginable mess politically and economically. The unbridled ambitions of politicians have been to thrive on any national calamity, whether it be ethnic riots or a natural disaster such as the tsunami or any other tragedy. It is regrettable that the people are in the grip of political opportunists who make a living by being political scavengers exploiting the masses.

It is in this context that people who are interested in political satire made a mockery of the recent appointments by the government to the topmostposition of the main seat of learning in the country-the University of Colombo. Though it is ceremonial, this position with high stakes is only suitable for academics who have distinguished themselves in their relevant disciplines and can bring distinction to the institution. Instead, the appointment as Chancellor of the Colombo University went to the Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thero, a trade unionist who heads the nurses union in Sri Lanka. The government made a similar appointment to pacify another Buddhist monk, Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkitha thero, the chief incumbent of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. On top of it all, the most absurd was the appointment of Ven. Galagodaatthe Gnanasra Thero as the head of the Presidential Task Force on One Country -One Law.

During a You tube interview, Murutthetuwe Ananada thero shammed. His ready answer to the question of whether he has the requisite qualifications to hold such a distinguished position was that the president may have seen some capabilities in him. The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), already known as an entity that plays the role of a lapdog to the government, has written to the president about the appointment and said it is unworthy of consideration because it lacks credibility. The venerable monk, in a separate announcement, took swipes at the GMOA President Dr Anuruddha Padeniya. He spilled the beans about how Padeniya went on his knees before him and begged for his support to secure the post of secretary to the ministry of health.

These appointments at the whims and fancies of an administration are unprecedented.

The president while addressing a public gathering said he appointed Ven. Muruththetuwe Ananda thero as the chancellor of the University of Colombo because the Ven thero played a crucial role in getting him elected.

In the recent past, Ven. Muruththettuwe has made several remarks. He lamented that Sri Lanka was groping in the dark under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The monk, from time to time, launched diatribes critical of the president and quoting his patrons. At one point, he lampooned the president and called his close associate Mahinda Rajapaksa to take over the reins once again. He then claimed the country needed a leader with Ranil Wickremsingh’es brains and Mahinda Rajapaksa’s agility. Eventually, the president made a strategic move to shut him up. Now it is a different story altogether where the Ven. thero is left in the lurch to answer his critics, including theGMOA’s Padeniya, rather than looking at the ills of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration. Despite the political machinations, many believe the appointment of the prominent Buddhist monk was an act in the wrong direction. People say it is an insult to the right-thinking people of the country.

No doubt the country will go from bad to worse with this kind of appointment, not to mention the other similar appointments made by the government, mainly to offset the criticism levelled at it by certain monks as well as others for showing unconditional political patronage.

Be that as it may, there is an occasional spell of criticism against the attorney general for allegedly having failed to act independently as the position demands.  Questions are being raised whether he is carrying out his duties impartially when cases against people who are a part of the regime come up before courts. He may also be feeling it with the build- up of public opinion against the Attorney General’s department. Now it is incumbent upon him to at least show that he acts independently. As a move towards dissipating doubts from the public mind, he decided to proceed against the Almanac case against Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa. Counsel who represented the Attorney General in court asserted that the Attorney General will proceed with the case leading fresh evidence available.

On the previous occasion, when the matter came up for hearing, he said he would announce his stance at the next hearing date and hence the decision to proceed.This aphorism is not a new phenomenon. A majority of the court reporters covering this case have already sensed what is in store.

Besides, the latest revelations in parliament on the Easter Sunday attacks has enabled the opposition benches to shed new light on the matter.

The catholic church is engaged in a relentless effort to unearth the truth behind many stories floating on social media despite verbal tirades at the church by a few Buddhist monks propagating nationalism, and their concern for national security. The opinion expressed by many is that they are holding a brief for the current administration and expecting appointments to positions. Opposition MPs Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara inflicted considerable damage to the government and the Minister of Law and Order Sarath Weerasekara during a parliament session. Fernando asserted that Zaharan’s wife had said he met with intelligence officials which sent shock waves among MPs. He queried about a senior police officer from Colombo holidaying in the easter in Arugam Bay on Easter Sunday when there was an alert about an impending attack. He revealed that the audio clip was the subject of discussion among higher officials in the Vatican and the Archbishop of Colombo. Minister Sarath Weerasekara however denied any knowledge of the existence of such a clip. Fernando, who vouched for the video clip, declined to reveal where it is.

Amidst all this, there was a sigh of relief among the catholic clergy when the attorney general gave an undertaking that the CID was not planning to arrest Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini. Director of Military Intelligence Major General Suresh Salley lodged a complaint against the priest for making remarks allegedly defamatory of him during a webinar conducted by a catholic organisation. The priest made it a point to file a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court seeking anticipatory bail.

Two buddhist monks representing a nationalist organisation heavily backed Suresh Salley against the catholic priest, stating that he should have gone before the CID to record a statement if he was telling the truth.

The move appeared to be a political project undertaken by the buddhist monks, indicating unabated undercurrents running through the system.

It may cause hiccups to the peaceful co-existence among religious communities.

All in all, the country is not only heading towards an economic abyss but also a social catastrophe.

It demands meaningful steps to resolve all outstanding issues without them being swept under the carpet.

In the final analysis, one may feel the need for an honest leader with integrity and political will to redeem the country from the current bunch of corrupt politicians and governance. ALAKESWARA



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