Grim reality of instability | Sunday Observer

Grim reality of instability

15 May, 2022

No reminder is needed to declare that a full-blown and grave political, economic, and social crisis in the country is unfolding. The common opinion is that this is the most gruesome crisis situation country has confronted in contemporary history.

Nevertheless, except for a few, none of the Parliamentary Members has still realised the gravity of the situation despite numerous explanations from intellectuals, professionals, and a few of their own colleagues. Up to now, the valuable and very expensive Parliamentary time is wasted on petty politics and mudslinging.

Displaying the country’s strange but realistic political dubiousness, the main Opposition leaders and its members are reluctant to take on the challenge of taking over the Government despite a number of offers from the independent group and several others in the Parliament that they will support the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) proposed “No Confidence Motion”.

Actual outcome

Although they have shown somewhat positive responses to the proposals suggested by the Bar Association, taking its leader’s past reactions into consideration, the actual outcome cannot be predicted and is still doubtful.

The media reports revealed that SJB membership has many different opinions about taking over the Government. Their lame excuse is that the public voted for them to be in the opposition until the next election according to the leader and many other party seniors.

The irony is that they stage many protests, rallies, and protest marches spending colossal amounts of funds and time asking the Government to step down. What is the intention of these protests if they are not ready to oust the Government and form a new one?

The obvious answer a neutral citizen comes up with is that they are fishing in the troubled waters aiming at the next election oblivious to the grave hardships the common people are facing today.

Similarly, the Jathika Jana Balavegaya led by the JVP also has not come up with any viable solution as yet. They too attempt to make hay while the sun shines. After a massive media circus, they have presented hundreds of files containing acts of malpractice and corruption of their political opponents. They have presented the same documents during their political campaign in 2015 when they subtly supported a certain candidate.

Previous regimes

After the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2015, they formed the powerful anti-corruption secretariat against the corruption that prevailed in previous regimes. The movement had strong backing from both the President and the Prime Minister of the “Yahapalana Government”. They were even allowed to operate from the “Temple Trees” showing the power they have enjoyed at the time. However, despite the alleged 33 million rupees of public funds being wasted, the result was a big zero and no fruitful action was taken against alleged wrong-doers.

Therefore, the public opinion is that these dubious elements are staging a political drama to obtain public attention. Attracting public attention is perfectly legitimate and something that any political party ensures to increase their vote base.

However, the pertinent question is whether the time is correct. If these elements are genuinely interested in solving the burning issues, they can provide a set of proposals through the Parliament.

Instead, seemingly, they are instigating chaos in the streets. The only suggestion they make is that a general election is held regardless of the unbearable cost that is said to be a staggering 1.2 billion rupees to State coffers.

Another factor both Government and protesters conveniently ignore intentionally or otherwise is that the outside forces that are discreetly and subtly attempting to discredit the country on fabricated human rights violations and further tarnish the image of the country are still active.

For example, in a recent Al Jazeera “Inside Story” program, three Sri Lankan INGO members who appeared aired views that may be detrimental to Sri Lanka at a later stage. They have tried to paint an exaggerated grim picture of the oppressive action of the Government against protesters.

In fairness, the Government has not used force against public demonstrations for over two and a half years. There were hundreds of such campaigns by farmers, teachers, railway staff, and many other Government institutions due to various reasons.

Using force

It is a known fact that none of these was disrupted by using force. In reality, at times, everywhere in the world, including Western countries which boast about democracy are compelled to use force on demonstrations.

In truth, humanitarian aid and assistance friendly countries offer on a temporary basis is not sufficient for a country with a population of 22 million. The country needs more solid financial assistance from institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. However, all these institutions are urging political stability in the country before making their decisions.

Hence, a Government cannot just walk out and abandon the political functioning merely because of anti-Government protests. If the Government ceases to function, the entire system of administration will collapse which can lead to anarchy. With the ongoing gruesome financial crunch, the entire country will be pushed into lawlessness as the majority, of the citizenry, including protesters, will be deprived of their basic day-to-day needs.

The trade union leaders who organise the protests obviously are aware of this fact, yet hide it from their lower-level memberships. Also, almost all trade unions are affiliated with politics and follow the ideology of a political party with or without Parliamentary representation.

Also, the vast majority of trade union members are in the public service and draw monthly salaries irrespective of the general financial situation of the country.

Direct taxes

Therefore, when they go on strike or participate in a demonstration, they continuously get paid through the taxpayers’ contribution. The irony is that the said taxpayer can be a rich businessman, a corporate executive who pays direct taxes, or an average self-employed person living with daily earnings who pay through commodities they purchase.

The former Finance Minister seems to be proactive and genuinely attempting to draw the attention of the international community, donor agencies, and international lending institutions.

On the other hand, he seems to be telling true ground reality to the general public without giving bogus hopes. Also, he has successfully started setting the wheels in motion with the IMF, ADB, World Bank and other friendly nations.

However, the salient question is whether he will remain in place if the Parliamentary position changes. If the Finance Minister is displaced, the process that was initiated would be slowed down until a new Minister takes over and establish him or her.

At this point, a delay of even a day can produce more damaging results. As the new CBSL chief said, Sri Lanka is sliding down a hill fast and breaks must be applied to control the descent before crashing. Therefore, an imminent action plan is required in the event a new Government is formed shortly.

The recent circular by the Central Bank to the public service was one of the most important messages communicated in many decades.

The Central Bank, in no uncertain terms, instructed all Government institutions to cut down all needless expenditure and limit expenses only to extreme necessities. Thus far, from time to time, such requests were cordial appeals that were largely ignored or neglected by both officials and politicians who run those Government institutions.

The general public also has similar sentiment about the enormous but unjustifiable enormously huge privileges enjoyed by the politicians, their associates, siblings, relatives, and financiers.

The public outcry for the past many decades is that these privileges for which the public pays should be completely eliminated.

The public outcry for all politicians to quit is reasonable although it is not practically possible. The solution must come through a democratic process that can be initiated and implemented through the parliament. Nevertheless, politicians have no more room to play political games and drag the country and its citizenry through existing hardships any further.

Hence, both ruling and opposing politicians must unite to find a solution.

The tumultuous political environment must be stabilised extremely urgently, firstly to pull out from the imminent danger of societal calamity and secondly to obtain much needed financial support from the world.

So far, responsible neutral citizens, political parties, and many others who are concerned have put forward a number of options to break the deadlock. The situation has already reached the point of no return. Therefore, it is time for all politicians to choose one of the proposals and implement it.