All’s well that ends well
Posted on September 2nd, 2015

By Rohana R. Wasala Courtesy The Island

Time will say nothing but I told you so

Time only knows the price we have to pay;

If I could tell you I would let you know.

  • W.H. Auden If I could tell you”

At long last, Sri Lankans may be arriving at the moment of truth in the history of artificially imposed ethnic politics that has dominated the affairs of the nation state for well over one hundred years. The influence of deus ex machina manipulation of events from outside seems inescapable. Somehow the emerging trend makes it look as if the islanders will soon be able to say with a degree of resignation perhaps: All’s well that ends well”. It was today’s Island editorial (August 27, 2015) under the title Of that shotgun marriage” about the proposed  national government project” of the two major national parties, with its (i.e., the title’s) suggestive overtones, that stirred my ancient literary memory of more than forty-five years and called to my mind the name of the classic Shakespeare play. In Shakespeare’s tragi-comedy All’s well that ends well”, there are more old characters than young. Those moribund old characters including a king, a countess, and a clown populate the background to the dauntingly laborious struggle of the beautiful young commoner Helena to win over her caddish, hence unworthy, husband  Bertram of princely descent. She finally triumphs in her love’s labour only by dint of strategic contrivance. The play could be cited as a perfect metaphor for the developing scenario in the new Lankan political domain, which might prove initially controversial, but eventually constructive, though probably not in the manner envisaged by the major players.

From my layman’s point of view, it was the case that the election was simply a test of strength between the newly set up yahapalana camp – the UNP-led United Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) and the SLFP-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) that was defeated in January this year. The inclusive national character that both the leading parties share ensures the containment of the few communalistic sections among the minorities. In this election, at another level, the contest was actually between those two parties (the UNP and the SLFP).  The contending forces were personified respectively by the Ranil Wickremasinghe-Maithripala Sirisena duo and by Mahinda Rajapaksa. On the part of the former, the whole campaign was geared to thwart the return of the latter to power in the form of prime minister, which post has now been invested with enhanced executive authority following the 19th Amendment. Since his own position as president was not at stake, Mr Sirisena pledged to remain neutral during the run-up to the election. However, neutrality apart, had he been genuinely and seriously committed to the victory of the party (the SLFP) which he had left in high dudgeon to challenge his erstwhile chief as the common opposition candidate, but over which he demanded and got ex-officio control after he won the presidency, he would have been caught up in a Catch-22 situation, being drawn between two opposing loyalties. Yet, as the D-day approached, it emerged, as no surprise, that he was not wracked by such a torturous dilemma. His commitment to the yahapalanaya agenda revealed itself as uncompromising and his determination to frustrate a Mahinda come back as equally firm. In pursuance of his objectives, he seemed to be forced to resort to certain extreme measures in his capacity as leader of the SLFP and the UPFA (which are so well known as not to need reiteration here). As the Latin saying goes extremis malis extrema remedia” Desperate times call for desperate measures”. His efforts have been rewarded with success. Whether that personal achievement is really good for the country or not, only time will tell.

The electoral race was very nearly a dead heat. The two alliances share 201 out of the 225 seats in the national parliament: UNFGG (elephant symbol) 106, and the UPFA (betel leaf) 95.  Neither side has got an absolute majority (a party/group must have more than 113 seats in our parliament to have an absolute majority), and therefore the opportunity to form a government is theoretically open to both. The indecisive verdict given by the voters is a warning to the incoming government that they cannot entertain nationally unacceptable policies in order to accommodate extremist ideologies inimical to the country’s interests. Legal experts say that a national government of the UNP and the SLFP together will be in contravention of the constitution, because they contested the election, each only as a partner of an alliance, but not registered for the election as independent single parties. Anyway, such a coalition might be deemed a national government in the existing ‘emergency’ circumstances; its backers may be expected to tacitly subsume it under the desperate measures” category that I arbitrarily postulated above. Considering the ideologically as well as ethnically mixed composition of the two parties and of the alliances of which they form the major constituents, there is no difficulty in a UNP-SLFP cohabitation arrangement being regarded as a national government. If the government thus formed chooses not to be dominated by the few habitually opportunistic SLFP turncoats whose only contribution to the alliance is the blue fringe that borders the green expanse of the UNP, and if it successfully negotiates and secures the cooperation of the opposition that is going to be controlled (if everything goes well) by the majority of the UPFA parliamentary group, such an arrangement will be in the interests of the country. The ideal situation would have been for the UNFGG to form the government and for the UPFA to go to the opposition.

It is an indisputable fact that all the 95 UPFA MPs owe their election, to a great degree, to the public’s tacit acknowledgement of Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa’s unofficial leadership of the party and the alliance it leads. Hardly any of the  non-Mahinda loyalists were returned. The rare survivors eked out thin majorities. If suitable individuals from among the eminent persons nominated in the original lists submitted to the elections commissioner by the respective political parties/groups before the election are appointed instead of the rejects to be in parliament, it will serve the interests of democracy. To ensure that this is done as early as possible is a duty that devolves on all responsible politicians. The blatant abuse of the UPFA national list has left out of parliament such honourable, incorruptible veteran leftist politicians as Mr Dew Gunasekera and Prof. Tissa Vitharana, while taking in certain obnoxious characters who have been kicked out by the voters; this does not augur well for the country.

I have a hunch that the future will depend very much on the interaction between the two statesmen who vied for the prime ministerial position.

2 Responses to “All’s well that ends well”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    UNP-UPFA marriage will end in court.

    Democracy has FAILED SL. We need an alternative.

  2. Independent Says:

    We live for a short while
    In this world, til he comes with your file
    you can’t stop him – or show your rile
    take the file and keep your bile

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