Consensus is a dire need of the hour | Sunday Observer

Consensus is a dire need of the hour

9 January, 2022

An eventful year for the nation has come to an end. After a few gruesome experiences, the forthcoming year sets off with feelings of optimistic hope. However, 2022 will be another enormously challenging year, not only for the Government but also for the entire citizenry. Many numbers of nationally important quandaries remain to be resolved effectively and urgently.

Sri Lanka has undergone dreadful catastrophes such as a thirty-year civil conflict, a tsunami disaster, two civil unrests in the south, an Easter Sunday bomb attack, and so on. The frequency of these incidents perhaps surpasses that of many countries in the world. Yet, historically, the country has emerged victorious thus far in almost all of these calamities.

Merely months into the office, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to confront the Covid-19 pandemic of which the impact worldwide was regarded as the worst since World War 2 according to analysts. Humanity throughout the world has learnt numerous lessons from the pandemic.

Like every country, Sri Lanka has experienced the hugely negative effects of the pandemic. It is true that the current President has faced more challenges than any of his predecessors since independence.

The pandemic crisis was managed extremely well by the Government and other stakeholders, particularly the health sector and tri-forces with police. Sri Lanka’s performance on pandemic control is recognised in the world as better than many rich countries’.

Although some of the current public issues were created by decisions of those inside the Government itself, most were unprecedented and occurred due to unavoidable circumstances. Regrettably, whatever the good deeds of the Government did during the past two years were mostly forgotten as the ongoing issues are far more sensitive to the general public as they affect day-to-day life.


Public distress is genuine and also hypersensitive. Hence, the Government should have given justifiable explanations to them more quickly. However, the response of the Government to criticism from all quarters was clearly inadequate and most often late as usual.

The credibility of most of the politicians appearing in the media to explain or describe a troubling situation is questionable to the common people. Seemingly, the intention of most of them is to improve their own image by issuing contradictory statements rather than help the Government to enlighten the masses.

It is visibly clear that some of these speakers are more interested in boosting their image aimed at the next election.

Some of these politicians who belong to the alliance of the SLPP are conscious of the timing and aware that a decisive election is almost four years away. They know that if they leave the Government at this point, the privileges and perks they have enjoyed will be lost.

Adding fuel to the fire, social media misinformation and disinformation are spread across the country without any regulatory mechanism. Hearsay, arbitrary opinions, and intentionally fabricated stories against the Government are commonplace occurrences. Apparently, there is no effective attempt by the Government to effectively counter these constant scathing attacks.

There is no doubt that the Government’s media machinery is well equipped to respond promptly to any of these allegations if they are false, bogus, or phony. Nevertheless, for unknown reasons, the Government’s reaction is lukewarm and slow. The common belief is that President Rajapaksa, even with enormous power behind him, by nature, is not a person who seeks unethical means to counter-attack with malice, by using immoral methods.


However, considering it as a resolution in the New Year, it is time for the Government to implement an effective and efficient media drive to educate the masses about the real situation without any more delay. It is a known fact that when the true story is revealed, the fake news is ineffective.

The legendary Italian philosopher, Niccol Machiavelli, quoted in his famous book “The Prince,” “Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number of people who are not good.” Taking a cue, the Government’s media machinery must react more responsively towards false criticism. In the same vein, the entire country expects President Rajapaksa to be more forceful instead of the current mild stance he adopts on bureaucrats if they are attempting to disrupt public-friendly projects.

Unquestionably, there are pressing issues that have to be resolved immediately. The explosions of LP gas-related equipment, unbearably escalating food prices, inadequate quantities of chemical fertiliser and pesticides, and shortages of milk powder are enormously susceptible and touchy common issues for the general public. Hence, the Government must provide urgent and immediate solutions to these issues before the situation deteriorates further.

Public opinion is that the Government is not giving adequate attention to settling these burning issues. However, the reality is that every relevant institution tries its best to provide solutions. Obviously, no conscious official or ruling politician intentionally delays a solution to an important public issue. Therefore, instead of allowing politicians to issue media statements, the Government must educate the masses through relevant professionals. The public hardly ever trusts politicians any longer.

The recurring public outcry provides excellent ground and plenty of slogans for the opposition parties to discredit the Government. As always takes place in Sri Lanka, they habitually criticise every action of the Government, when in reality, they have also acted similarly during their tenures in similar situations.

For example, recently, a speaker belonging to a petroleum trade union publicly declared that there would be an imminent fuel shortage that may last for weeks due to the non-availability of adequate fuel stocks. The statement created an instant panic among the general public. Long queues were seen near petrol stations despite the announcements from the Government rejecting the claim. The speaker was directly linked to the main opposition. The statement was a hoax and it was a clear political move.


The current crisis of foreign currency reserves is an extremely tough challenge for the Government. The reserves were down to exorbitantly low levels. The calls to approach the IMF came not only from the opposition but also from inside the Government and also from a fraction of prominent economists.

However, the Central Bank was not in favour of such a move and kept pledging that the reserves would be in the range of US $3.0 billion by the end of the month. As promised, they have managed to obtain a swap from China and the reserves have risen to US $3.0 billion, giving breathing space to the country.

The current wave of trade union actions on various demands is another burning issue that has to be firmly dealt with immediately. Since the trade union action by the teachers and principals, numerous other state-sector institutions have waged war against the Government.

Whenever there is a strike, the Government is blamed. In particular, the strikes of health sector workers such as doctors and nurses create enormous hardships for the general public. Whether the demands are reasonable or not, the strikers often attempt to blackmail the Government, taking the general public as hostages. Strong public opinion is that all these public sector workers are paid for by taxpayers’ money and they should find alternative methods to meet their demands without harassing innocent bystanders.

In reality, both 2020 and 2021 have been a painstakingly troublesome period for the country in many spheres. It is a fact that the first two years of the governance of the incumbent Government were forced to sail through the most damaging health crisis that affected global trade opportunities, commodity price escalations, unexpected and unplanned medical and health expenditure, and many other negative factors.

Political consensus is a dire need currently for survival. The Government must initiate dialogues with the opposition and other keen well-wishers to obtain support for future planning and actions. On the other hand, the Opposition political parties must dump petty political rivalries and work hand-in-hand with the Government if they are genuinely passionate about the citizenry.


For the sake of the country’s future, it is time to abstain from the customary practice of opposing any new reform or policy change. The country desperately needs new reforms, new thinking, more dynamic public service, a more vibrant private sector, and a visionary political philosophy.