The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Posted on July 17th, 2020

By Rohana R. Wasala Courtesy The Island

The SLPP has called off  its scheduled  propaganda rallies for the time being in view of the rising threat of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Its national organizer Basil Rajapaksa has instructed all party organizers to abide by this decision. This must have been a difficult decision to take in a context where the strategically scattered yahapalanites are trying to hoodwink the electorate to elect them back to parliament (I say ‘strategically scattered’ because they are probably planning to gather into one camp once again after the election). At a recent election gathering, Ranil Wickremasinghe expressed his unconvincing disinclination at repeating the yahapalana experience by partnering with (presumably) Sirisena’s SLFP  (curiously though the latter has got Pohottuwa nomination). This was probably a Freudian slip on Wickremasinghe’s part: it could be an unconscious giveaway about at least two contrary things occupying his thoughts: his feeling of guilt about having formed and led a dysfunctional coalition government with a fragment of the SLFP that spelt disaster to the country, and on the other hand, secret hopes of leading a grand post-election alliance with his former partners, now fighting the election severally, against the SLPP, either as the opposition, or the government (This, of course, is just a gut feeling of mine). No doubt, the seasoned politicians of the Sri Lanka Freedom Podujana Alliance (SLFPA) led by the SLPP have more than an inkling of the survival instincts of the former yahapalanites.  

There is bound to be an evenly matched contest in the minds of the SLPP leaders between the conflicting demands of their understandable preoccupation with an indispensable two thirds majority at the election and their genuine commitment to beating the Corona epidemic; the outcome of the mental dilemma  stands doubtful  ‘As two spent swimmers that do cling together – And choke their art’ (that is, both the exhausted swimmers get drowned by clinging together, as the Sergeant in the Shakespeare play ‘Macbeth’ informs Malcolm, bringing the latest news from the battlefront where the armies of Scotland and Norway are engaged in mortal combat). However, finally, anxiety over potentially rampant spread of Covid-19 seems to have trumped concern with the hoped for result of the election in the government camp. No other electioneering party or faction has announced such a suspension of mass campaign rallies for fear of spreading the virus infection yet (July 16) as far as I can gather from internet sources.

The opposition’s approach seems to be the opposite of this. Apparently, they are not concerned with anything but regaining power to deliver the coup de grace to the unitary state as required by their foreign masters. SJB leader Sajith Premadasa and JVP’s Vijitha Herath have both vowed to continue holding their propaganda rallies, while hypocritically blaming the government for its alleged failure to deal properly with the pandemic from the very beginning and for its alleged haste to go ahead with the election for securing a two thirds majority even at the cost of lives lost to the corona virus. The UNP too seems determined to follow suit. Its leader acknowledges that the government’s management of the pandemic has been effective so far, but finds fault with it for ignoring his call to increase testing. But it seems the government appointed task force started doing that well before the idea occurred to the former yahapalana pm. He challenged the minister of health to account for the Covid funds he alleged the government had got from ‘friendly’ foreign countries like those of the European Union (no hint of a prick of conscience about the Central Bank bond scandals during his guard). The minister answered him ‘by return of post’, as it were, in her characteristic trenchant style. Wickremasinghe charges that the government is trying to exploit its initial success in its Covid-19 operation for hastening the holding of elections and for pursuing its two thirds majority bid.  The opposition’s tactless, politics driven targeting of the government over its handling of the emergency caused by the totally unforeseen global pandemic cannot be to the liking of the ordinary people, who are actually appreciative of the effective leadership provided by the new president and prime minister pair of brothers and the selfless dedication of the health and military and intelligence personnel working under their unobtrusive but effective direction. 

Spokesmen for the health and security services tasked with the management of the pandemic emergency (Director General of Health Services medical specialist Dr Anil Jasinghe and Chief of Defence Staff & Commander of the Army Lt Gen Shavendra Silva, respectively) have expressed confidence that it is still under control, and assure the public that there is no need to panic. According to the Covid-19 Situation Report of the government for July 16, 2020 by noon,  the total number of cases stood at 2674, of which 656 were active cases. At the Kandakadu and Senapura Treatment and Rehabilitation centres for drug addicts, 533 inmates had tested positive the previous day. But the Kandakadu cluster is being successfully contained, according to the authorities. The infected health personnel are from various places across the island such as Maravila, Rajangane, Ratnapura, and Kundasale. The DGHS said that contact tracing has found over a thousand persons potentially exposed to infection as the health workers involved have used public transport to commute between their hometowns and the workplaces; all these have been directed to self quarantine. Though there was a danger of community transmission of the disease due to this, the strict observance of the health guidelines including wearing protective face masks, avoiding physical touch during greeting, maintaining constant hand hygiene, and keeping proper social distance in crowded places will minimise this risk. Lt Gen Shavendra stated that intelligence personnel have been deployed across the country to immediately respond to emerging cases if any, round the clock. Dr Jasinghe expressed his opinion that the election could go ahead as scheduled provided the stringent health requirements laid down are met.

Former Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya is still head of the Constitutional Council. He has urged the government to gazette the health guidelines issued by the DGHS in order that they become legal; he believes this will enable the public officials and law enforcement authorities to impose compliance among the public for containing the possible rapid spread of the pandemic. Mahinda Deshapriya, the chairman of the Election Commission, also joined him in making this call. The prejudicial, idiosyncratic behaviours of some members of both these institutions have gravely compromised the independence of those statutory bodies and rendered the genuineness of their intentions highly suspect. EC member Ratnajeewan Hoole didn’t want the dysfunctional yahapalana parliament to be dissolved making way for elections to be held. He was later reliably reported to have advised  Tamil voters in his hometown Jaffna not to vote for the SLPP. At a recent NGO event, attorney at law Javed Yusuf, one of the three civil society members in the CC, took the liberty to make the entirely reprehensible partisan comment that, had it not been for the timely intervention of the EC, the present government would have gone ahead with the general election, originally slated for April 25, despite the deadly coronavirus threat. All these people are balking at the emergence of an opportunity for the lawful assertion by the Sri Lankan people of their democratic right to escape from the evil legacy of the yahapalana nightmare. 

For such an opportunity to emerge, it will be necessary for the SLFPA to get a two thirds majority at the forthcoming election. That will be in order to abolish the ill conceived 19A, in terms of which, by the way, the EC was created. 19A is responsible for having allowed the dysfunctional yahapalana government to complete at least the first four and a half years of its full five year term despite strong public disaffection with its performance, landing the whole country in the present misery that is being deepened by the effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the overhanging Sword of Damocles of the secretly introduced MCC Compact. Javed Yusuf made his questionable statement at an event organized by the new civil society grouping called ‘Freedom: People’s Collective’ in the New Town Hall premises in Colombo, as reported in The Island of July 15, 2020 (‘Fresh civil society project: ‘Forward. Not Backward’ launched ahead of Aug 2020 polls’/Shamindra Ferdinando). Mangala Samaraweera, who has left the SJB, sat in the first row of seats, while M.A. Sumanthiran was on the stage with others. But Shamindra says Mangala Samaraweera is fully committed to the this latest project. The new outfit is determined to thwart the Gotabaya-led  incumbent government’s attempt to win a two thirds majority at the August 5 polls with a view to abolishing the 19A. Among the backers of the new cabalistic clique are Sinhala professor Sarath Wijesuriya of the National Movement for Justice, Gamini Viyangoda of Purawesi Balaya, and others like them. Why spend our precious time and this paper’s valuable space by writing more about these individuals, when I can  easily and aptly quote Shamindra’s concluding sentence: Their call to place Defence and Law and Order, under Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, after him having accused his own Army of killing thousands of Tamils, seemed as ridiculous as the TNA voting for the war-winning Army Chief at the 2010 presidential poll. Politics and NGOs, in this country, are obviously dabbled in by many an opportunist and scoundrel. The forthcoming parliamentary poll is no exception”. 

The SLPP-led SLFPA is set to win the coming election. But the forces that engineered the unwanted regime change of 2015 and squashed the burgeoning hopes of the Sri Lankan people just freed from the separatist terrorism of thirty years seem to be conspiring again to frustrate their democratic efforts to restore normalcy; for them the global pandemic is a godsend. May the people be wise to their dissimulations this time and vote in those who are committed to the real national interest. 

One Response to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

  1. Gunasinghe Says:

    I have seen both Sajith and Ranil talking in meetings. They both looks like fools. I have in they have started mud sling campaign in social media. I hope they can not fool people this time. I hope SLPP will win handily.

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