Bouncing back from LG election drubbing
Posted on February 21st, 2018

By Colonel R Hariharan Courtesy Ceylon Today

After Mahinda Rajapaksa’s fledgling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) handed out a shocking defeat to both the UNP and the SLFP in the Local Government (LG) elections, the three-way political power game has become more complex than before. A gloating Rajapaksa, past master in political manoeuvring, is demanding fresh elections after dissolving the Parliament, though he knows it would not happen as both the SLFP and UNP would never oblige him.

For President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, more than power, credibility has become the main issue. They are trying to retain their credibility on multiple fronts – as leaders of the unity coalition that set out to provide an alternative to Rajapaksa’s autocratic rule, to survive as leaders of the party in the face of challengers making deals to dethrone them and to show the people that they can still deliver on what they promised before the end of this term.

Avadhānam

The current situation faced by the three leaders – Rajapaksa, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe – may be aptly described as ‘wheels in wheels’ – a number of different influences, reasons and actions which together make a situation complicated and difficult to understand, as Collins dictionary says. But, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo has a bigger burden than Rajapaksa, who is at the barricades, heckling them from the periphery.

Notwithstanding their internal party leadership compulsions, the skills of both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe will be tested on many aspects in the coming months as political uncertainty looms large in the horizon. LG election results show, their rule has raised a whole lot of questions in the minds of people of all hues – Sinhalas, Muslims, Tamils and others who believed them and voted them to power. Both of them need to answer these questions.

Perhaps, both the leaders need the multi-tasking ability of Avadhānam practitioners of ancient India. Avadhānaṃ used to be a popular literary entertainment performed in ancient days in India. It is still performed in isolated pockets of Andhra and Tamil Nadu. It involves the partial improvisation of poetry using specific themes, metres, forms, or words.

The two performances of Avadhānam I had seen in Tamil Nadu were performed in Tamil, though originally it was the preserve of Sanskrit scholars in ancient India. In Andhra Pradesh it is still in vogue. In both the performances I saw, the scholars showcased their mastery of cognitive skills in observation, memory, multitasking, recapitulation and logical reasoning in literature, poetry, music, mathematical skills and solving conundrums – all at the same time! Typically, the second line of a verse from a Tamil classic like Tirukkuralor Kamba Ramayanam was quoted by the questioner (Prcchaka) and the Avadhani countered it with the first line of the verse. At the same time the Avadhani had to keep count of cowrie shells, continuously thrown on his back, while another questioner posed a mathematical problem on the black board. Surprisingly, the Avadhanis came out with very impressive performance.

After the LG election, the first priority for both the leaders is to consciously reassure, not only their followers, but also people who brought them to power and that their alliance was not one of convenience, but to deliver value.

Walking the talk

The second, but perhaps the most difficult priority is walking the talk. Most of the initiatives they had taken are held up due to pulls and pressures or tangled in bureaucratic maze. Nearly forty cases of corruption, misuse of power, human rights violations, economic crimes, cronyism and even murders, are stagnating in various stages of investigation or prosecution.

They need to be taken to their logical conclusion. People have been waiting for answers to serious allegations made by responsible ministers that Rajapaksa family members and others had indulged in many of these crimes. And three years is a long time. As we say in Hindi, time has come for Doodh ka doodh aur pani ka pani (making things crystal clear). Otherwise, when Sirisena and Wickremesinghe go to the hustings again, people would not believe them. In this context, the duo has to speed up the prosecutions of the accused in Bonds scam; then only the Unity Government can refurbish its tarnished image.

The third and equally difficult priority is to draft the new Constitution now before time runs out. There is need for some honest soul searching on this issue among the leaders of political, civil society and media. They should help speed up the process for an equitable constitution. Otherwise, the lessons of the civil war in which over 100, 000 Sri Lankan shed their blood would be wasted. A business process approach of transparency in interactions among the stakeholders including the people and encouraging periodic interaction to take the public into confidence will create a less politicized environment for evolving a new Constitution.

In the early days leading to World War II, when Russia’s attitude to the brewing conflict was not known, Sir Winston Churchill speaking on the radio in October 1938 said, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. The key is Russian national interests.” The Sri Lankan situation may be compared to Churchill’s Russian conundrum. Sri Lankan politicians would do well to remember that whatever they decide has to be in national interest; all other considerations are peripheral to this fundamental responsibility.

(Col R Hariharan, a retired MI specialist on South Asia, served as the head of Intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka from 1987 to 90. He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the International Law and Strategic Analysis Institute, Chennai. E-mail: [email protected] Blog: http://col.hariharan.info)

5 Responses to “Bouncing back from LG election drubbing”

  1. Nanda Says:

    We should see how JO behaves when this bill is presented

    Cabinet approved National Audit Bill will be in Parliament soon: Amunugama

    The new National Audit Bill has just been approved by the Cabinet, and would be presented to Parliament soon, according to a senior minister, who stressed on the importance of quality audits in Sri Lanka.

    “The Audit Bill, which was hanging over the fire for a long time, and causing the Auditor General great concern, was approved by the Cabinet and will come to parliament very soon,” Special Assignments Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama said.

    The minister, who was speaking at the 12th Inspection Workshop of the International Forum of Independent Audit Regulators this Monday, said that the Auditor General was yet to be given the good news.

    The bill was initially expected to come into effect by March 19, 2015 under the 100-day programme of the coalition government, which came into power in January 2015 based on a campaign of good governance, with anti-corruption, transparency and accountability as cornerstones.
    However, conducting quality audits, which are essential for minimizing corruption, and maximizing transparency and accountability, faced resistance.

    Following protests made by some politicians and ministry secretaries, amendments to the bill were approved by the Cabinet last October, which saw the removal of provisions in the bill, which allow the Auditor General to impose personal surcharges on public officials for financial misconduct. Some of the worst insider trading, financial mismanagement and corrupt activities in recent times, costing the public billions of rupees have been brought to debate in parliament this month, while investigations are ongoing into many others, including one of the biggest scandals at SriLankan Airlines.

    Dr. Amunugama said that Sri Lanka is now transitioning to a private sector driven economic agenda from the public sector dominated economy of the past, when audits were difficult.

    “We are transitioning from a period where the government ran almost all the major enterprises, and there I think auditing was a superhuman task. It was not easy because there were no shareholders. Only the government, which was insisting on performance, dividends and returns. Rather than that, these corporations would look to the Treasury to fill in the gaps,” he said

    Dr. Amunugama said that at a time when Sri Lanka is clamouring for attention from foreign investors, providing properly audited financial statements by both the state and private sector are paramount. “The government, whatever we say, however much we go and promote the need for investment, go all over the world, have special meetings, promotional meetings, all that sort of things, asking people to invest, but then they want to know the status of the economy, the facts, the state of health of our corporate entities,” he said. He added that if Sri Lanka is to achieve a breakthrough in economic growth, improvements need to be made in the area of auditing for Sri Lankan corporates to attract investments and joint venture partnerships.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    A load of nonsense! Sri Lanka doesn’t need any mythical nonsense practiced in Impoverished India to resolve problems. We have better practices based on Buddhism, science and knowledge.

    It was the new constitution that runined the UNP, SLFP, UPFA and even the TNA. Pushing it any further cannot save them. It will totally ruin them. SLPP campaigned on a strong anti-new-constitution platform.

    For the record, Sri Lankan national interest, on most occassions, is anethema to India just like all neighbors of India. Maldives is a new example. Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Burma and Kashmir are other examples.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    I agree with Dilrook that this is a SHIT LOAD OF ARRANT NONSENSE written mostly to PROMOTE the National Interest of India, and NOT the National Interest of Sri Lanka.

    Let us remember who this Col Hariharan is. He is one if those seriously flawed Indian Pundits who pontificated that the LTTE can NEVER BE DEFEATED and predicted with their superior “great power” military knowledge that Kilinochchia
    would become the Stalingrad of the Sri Lankan Army. They had to eat their words, and have never forgiven us for providing g them UTTERLY WRONG!

    Here too, he is again making the Yamapalanaya case that it is not delivering on their promises that undid them, whereas the Yamapalanaya was UNDONE at the Feb 10, 2018 Local Govt Elections by all of their TREACHEROUS ACT to dis integrate destroy and sellout Sri Lanka and it’s beloved war-heroes, even as they destroyed our national e on my and lined their pockets with MAHA PARIMAN THEFTS never before seen in Sri Lanka.

    The patriotic citizens of Sri Lanka know now that all of their charges against the MR/UPFA Govt were false, and that the Yamapalana Govt is doing criminal things they NEVER VOTED FOR!

    That is why VERY SOON the Yamapalanaya will be KICKED OUT UNCEREMONIOUSLY by the Patriotic Citizens of Sri Lanka into the political wilderness for decades! No amount of mercenary contracted Foreigners will be able to stop or change that with their holier-than-thou UTTERLY UNTRUE SPINS!

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    TAMIL NADU CHEN-NAI is written all over Col R Hariharan. That is enough to REJECT his free advice. He was with the IPKF and JN DICKSHITT that invaded SL.

    IF My3 and RUN-NIL take his advice they will LOSE even bigger next time (IF there is a next time). But SL will suffer in the process.

    Endian fixes don’t work for SL. Keep your Avadhanam in Chen-nai. In SL we have “balu kaputu daanam” made of federalists.

  5. samaraweera Says:

    “Balu kaputu daanam” is a feast for dogs and crows. Very popular among the rural folk in Sri Lanka. May be the colonel must have watched them during the IPKF days. Otherwise we can ask him to come with Sampanthan one day.
    Sampanthan made a speech in Parliament yesterday and tried to take the shine off the SLPP victory !

    P.A.Samaraweera

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