Of those political marriages
Posted on July 26th, 2016

Marriages are said to be made in heaven. For, one cannot foretell who will marry whom. This may be true of political marriages as well to some extent, one may argue, but, we love to think, they have nothing to do with heaven; they are made in Abaddon or the underworld region of lost souls.

The UNP and the SLFP, the other day, made a big show of ‘extending’ their political marriage of compulsion for three more years. Their much hyped union has all the trappings of a same sex marriage in that there has been no ‘delivery’ for the past one-and-a-half years!

The UNP and the SLFP (Maithri Faction) may sing from the same hymn sheet on matters concerning their common enemies, but they are at daggers drawn on crucial issues. Their marriage almost broke up and their political project came to grief over the issue of appointing the Central Bank Governor a few weeks ago.

Nobody is going to dislodge the present government until 2020, some ministers have bragged. Let them be reminded that nothing is so certain as the unexpected in this world. Like the gentlemen’s game, cricket, the rowdies’ game, politics, is also known for glorious uncertainties. Whoever would have thought Mahinda Rajapaksa and British Prime Minister David Cameron would suffer devastating pratfalls prematurely?

The Rajapaksas cherished a delusion that their government was invincible. In fact, their administration was on a roll with the chances of then Opposition making a comeback looking very slim. Cocky, they opted for a snap presidential election and the contest looked a one-horse race. And, then, the fat lady sang, so to speak, and the competition took an unexpected turn; the Rajapaksa fortress came crashing down like the Walls of Jericho! The rest is history.

Losing an election is a worrisome proposition for the incumbent dispensation. The boot will be on the other foot if it loses power; the much-dreaded FCID, other special investigation units and the courts that strangely remain open till midnight to remand the Opposition politicians will all be used against them in such an eventuality. Hence, their urge to remain merged for a few more years!

The Rajapaksa government lost because it did nothing about rampant corruption, abuse of power, nepotism etc its leaders and henchmen indulged in. Bills were steamrollered through Parliament to make draconian laws and those who belonged to the ruling coalition enjoyed legal immunity. People were left with no one to turn to. JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP has said the present government is following in the footsteps of its predecessor. He is being charitable, we reckon. It has already outdone the Rajapaksa government in some respects. The mega bond scams may serve as an example.

The Rajapaksas systematically weakened the Opposition and suppressed the media thereby causing public consternation to well up for years and burst forth in the end, triggering a political tsunami. The present government has made a malleable tool of the official Opposition which it created through a process of political manoeuvring; its leaders are issuing veiled threats in public to the media in a bid to scare independent journalists into submission. (Thankfully, the Rajapaksa loyalists who have banded together as the Joint Opposition (JO) to safeguard their own interests vis-à-vis the government’s hostile campaign against them are functioning as a counterweight to the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime.)

If the government thinks it can sweep under the carpet all corrupt deals, instances of abuse of power and acts of nepotism and cronyism on its watch by neutralising the Opposition and suppressing the media it is mistaken. That exactly is how governments, given to the arrogance of power, dig their own political graves. People at their tether’s end tend to kick such regimes out of power given half a chance. The present-day potentates had better learn from the mistakes of the Rajapaksa government which thought no end of itself if they are to avoid an electoral disaster before long.

Why the government is scared of facing an election is understandable. What has really jolted the UNP and the SLFP (Maithri Faction) into extending their power-sharing agreement is the JO’s Pada Yathra to be held, which, it fears, will mobilise the irate public against it. There have been many protests against the unconscionable VAT increase in all parts of the country during the last several weeks. The scheduled Pada Yathra is likely to tap public anger and snowball into a mass protest campaign unless the government prudently effects a course correction and fulfils its election promises to ameliorate the people’s suffering without further delay. Efforts to thwart Opposition protests are bound to be counterproductive.

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