President’s poser
Posted on August 30th, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

President Maithripala Sirisena is reported to have asked at his meeting with media heads yesterday what would have happened to the country if the outcome of the 2015 presidential election had been different. Answering questions in the conditional perfect tense can be tricky in that it involves counterfactual thinking. However, we can’t resist the urge to field the President’s poser. We believe that if there had been no regime change two and a half years ago, there would have been a political witch-hunt of unprecedented proportion with wheels of justice spinning madly and Sirisena would have found himself behind bars just like Sarath Fonseka, who dared challenge the Rajapaksas politically in 2010. Police bigwigs would have gone all out to conduct various probes against the very yahapalana leaders, whose boots they are currently licking very faithfully.

One may also argue that if the status quo had remained in 2015 the Rajapaksa government would have been emboldened to do more of what it had been doing and people would have taken to the streets by now, calling for a regime change! Internationally, western states and their Asian lackeys would have turned more hostile towards this country and even manipulated the UNHRC to bring the Rajapaksa government to its knees; they would have even gone to the extent of making the Sri Lankan economy scream to achieve their objectives. True, the West has softened its stance on Sri Lanka to some extent owing to the ouster of the pro-Chinese dispensation, but the yahapalana leaders should not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of complacency. It is a mistake to assume all is quiet on the Geneva front. So long as the yahapalana leaders remain servile to their western masters they may be free from pressure to implement the 2015 joint UNHRC resolution which, inter alia, calls for a hybrid war crimes tribunal, but if they step out of line, by any chance, they will be forced to honour its Geneva commitments and commit political hara-kiri in the process. Perhaps, their western masters have chosen to soft-pedal the war crimes issue for the moment as they don’t want the present government to face any more trouble on the political front vis-à-vis its enemies’ relentless efforts to topple it.

The Rajapaksa government ruffled the feathers of western powers by getting too close to China and the latter gave the political enemies of the former administration much more than moral support to effect the 2015 regime change. Today, the yahapalana leaders have given China much more than the Rajapaksa government did. In fact, China couldn’t have asked for more! Having got a strategically important port close to its vital energy routes for a song besides a foothold near the Colombo Port, China is likely to gain control over Sri Lanka’s expressways, according to the Opposition. Neither the West nor India has taken kindly to yahapalana leaders’ policy U-turn; in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election they sought to humour the West by vowing to nix the deals that the previous government had struck with China including the Port City project.

The government may ask hypothetical questions about the 2015 regime change, which it makes out to be a victory for democracy. But, it should not lose sight of the current situation. Most people are in very straitened circumstances with the cost of living rapidly increasing. Champions of good governance stand accused of bribery and corruption. People’s franchise is blatantly violated. Draconian tax laws are in the pipeline. National ventures are being divested instead of being developed and turned around. Public opinion is totally disregarded and precious little is being done to curb bribery and corruption. The culture of impunity remains to all intents and purposes. Opposition politicians who allegedly misused vehicles while they were in power are arrested and remanded, but no one has been taken in and remanded over the biggest ever financial frauds in the country––the bond rackets.

President Sirisena has also told the media heads he will ensure that the current administration continues until 2020. The question one can’t but ask oneself is what will happen to the country if the present government remains in power until such time. People’s answer to this question will be known if they are allowed to exercise their franchise this side of 2019.

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