Tunnels and lights
Posted on September 6th, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

A movement named Eliya [light] was launched, yesterday, with former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as its leader. Its goal is to torpedo the yahapalana government’s efforts to introduce a new Constitution, we are told. With only a couple of more years to go for the next presidential election, yesterday’s event has come to be widely seen as the launch of the Joint Opposition’s campaign for that crucial electoral contest. It looks as though Gotabhaya had thrown his hat into the ring.

The question is why a mass movement has sought to flog a single issue—scuttling the government’s new constitution project—whereas the country is beset with a plethora of problems. Perhaps, the brains behind Eliya have singled out the aforesaid issue as a rallying cry with a view to broadening the focus of their political project gradually? But, if they fail to do so their movement is bound to end up being a mere pressure group with a limited lifespan.

Interestingly, the launch of Eliya coincided with some damning revelations before the presidential commission of inquiry probing the Treasury bond scams. Confidential telephone conversations among Perpetual Treasuries bigwigs, who are under a cloud, were disclosed yesterday. Now, it is clear that there is an open-and-shut case of insider trading, a criminal offence. Why nobody has been arrested so far is the question. All those who tried to make light of the bond scams and even went so far as to defend the racketeers openly in Parliament and elsewhere stand exposed. It wouldn’t have been possible for anyone to carry out two bond rackets of such a magnitude without political backing. Evidence that has emerged before the bond probe commission has the potential to ruin the UNP’s chances of winning the next few elections even if no action is taken on the the commissioners’ report to be submitted.

The Joint Opposition (JO), the real driving force behind Eliya, has sought to soft-pedal the bond scams, an issue it is duty bound to take up in the national interest. The JO leaders are apparently wary of exploiting it because they don’t want to provoke the UNP into ratcheting up its hostile campaign against them and their kith and kin. They and their political enemies responsible for the bond scams are behaving like Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un; both are threatening fire and fury but their bark is worse than their bite! Besides, the JO worthies don’t want to weaken the UNP, and thereby, help strengthen the position of its bete noire, President Maithripala Sirisena in the government. Will Eliya also choose to ignore the biggest ever financial fraud in the country and other such mega issues?

On several occasions, we have seen the light (eliya) at the end of the dark tunnel of Sri Lankan politics and each time we leapt for joy, but it turned out to be the headlight of a moving train. Experience has made us cynics who are sceptical about lights and dawns.

The leaders promising us ‘light’ are in the Opposition at present because they did not care a damn for the people while they were ensconced in power. They were busy feathering their nests without heeding the issues the media shone the spotlight on. They have suddenly become pro-people and so caring thanks to the sobering blows they received from the irate public at the last two elections. You get good politicians only in the Opposition. Vote them into power and they lose their heads in next to no time. It may be recalled that the yahapalana leaders came to power, promising to grant economic relief to the public among other things. Today, they are busy trying to implement a set of draconian tax reforms which will enable them to wring some more money out of the hapless public. This is why people must ensure that all politicians in power get electoral shocks so as to keep them reminded that they won’t go unpunished for their sins against the citizenry.

The success of any mass movement hinges on the ability of those at its helm to convince the public that their intentions are genuine. Whether Eliya will be able to live up to people’s expectations, grow and shine remains to be seen.

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