Anchor this ship ASAP | Sunday Observer

Anchor this ship ASAP

15 May, 2022

At the time of writing, the volatility of the ground situation in Sri Lanka demanded quick and effective answers. However, politicians were failing to deliver. In many instances they were not to be found. The houses of several former ministers has been torched, and their occupants seemed to be hiding from public view.

The nation has several sticking points going forward, and among them is the need to investigate throughly the circumstances of the attack on peaceful protestors at Galle Face on Monday. 

The power vacuum was becoming apparent at the time of writing. It would not bode well for the urgent task of getting the spiraling economic crises under control. 

But already, there is a political climate in which people have lost faith in those who are close to the vortex of power. 

What is the fate of the struggling tourism industry when there are strict curfews and shoot on sight orders to dissuade looters and destroyers of public property? The president seems to acknowledge that there is a need to form a substantially multi-party Government with as much non political players in it as possible, that could be brought in through the national list.

But there isn’t the political will to do it. So, the political leadership on all sides of the political divide is remiss in delivery, groping in the dark and trying to make sense of the pubic anger that is directed at everyone, particularly the ruling party that was still nominally the ruling party as this comment was being written.


The unravelling has been comprehensive, and the idea of dynastic politics is in tatters. What was the out of touch Temple Trees crowd thinking? That they could pummel the Galle Face rebels into submission and bring clarity to the uncertain political situation? It was like waging a nuclear war to clear the air of a fog. Those such as Johnston Fernando, ex-Minister, seemed to be so out of touch that it defies explanation. 

His speech at Temple Trees before the crowd set off to Galle Face, is loud and clear. He says words to the effect that the ‘task should be be given to us, and we will clear out Galle Face.” This is the same individual that had previously said that all that was needed was to “kill one crow and hang the carcass.”

Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa would find it extremely difficult to shake off responsibility. There were more than shades of theatre similar to the Capitol Hill attacks in the United States on January 6 2021. The question was whether former President Donald Trump willfully instigated the violence on the Capitol with his strident rhetoric in a speech that has been seen as a thinly wield invitation to wage war, physically, against the establishment.

There is an ongoing Congressional inquiry into the matter, even though the former president has so far not been held culpable or been legally held accountable for the violence. 

Monday’s situation here in Sri Lanka was vastly different considering that the support base of the former Prime Minister was so badly eroded. But yet it did not stop him from busing-in a motley crew of hoodlums who were willing to descend on the protest site armed with rods, and hell bent on attacking the protestors in broad daylight. 

As a political miscalculation, it was truly bizarre. Eventually bar none, all of the offending supporters seemed to get hunted down and attacked. The scenes of attackers seen subsequently being huddled in the waters of the Beira would be the lasting image that would come to signify the infamy of the onslaught.

As a result, the Rajapaksa presidency was further undermined. The opposition is not willing to work with the president particularly in this backdrop when the regime has an additional oppressor label stuck to it after the bizarre events of Monday on May 9.

Whichever way this turns out, the call for apolitical actors to contribute to an interim administration have become strident. The British Guardian carried an article claiming Sri Lanka is the first domino that had fallen in an international debt crisis. If that was so, that crisis was far from being addressed here on the ground, because the country was mired in political turmoil which nobody seemed interested in seeing a resolution to.

Even though the President’s calls for calm have been backed by similar appeals from the Army Commander and the defence Secretary, this did little to assuage anxieties all-round that there was an all enveloping power vacuum in the country. 

The point is that not only was there no cabinet at the time of writing, there was absolutely no consensus on what sort of a interim administration should be in power. All politicians were in retreat save perhaps those of the JVP, and though the call is for an apolitical interim administration by and large, there was no meeting of minds of politicians who are able to decide that. Most of the Legislators were busy being in hiding.

It is incumbent on all in positions of power to ensure that the power vacuum is filled promptly. At the time of writing it was already too late. The army was however out in full force in the city of Colombo making every part thereof look like a garrison city.  

Even though it was laudable that law and order was being maintained, if the military seems to be in charge and there is a severe leadership vaccum at the centre, the optics are bad, and the consequences could be dangerous. Though ironically, in several quarters it has been speculated that a military intervention could be in the offing, there is no chance the military would take over either.


The economic issues facing the country are so complex that the military would be comprehensively out of its depth if there is a takeover of any sort. Besides that the military has no appetite for usurping power when the outlook for the country looks so negative at the moment.

It has been widely speculated that there would be a civilian administration fronted by the military i.e that the present President would rule with the military in charge, and himself pulling the strings from behind. No military would acquiesce in such a bizarre arrangement, least of all the Sri Lankan military which always played second fiddle to civilians. The top brass won’t take up the reins for themselves and so it is inconceivable that our current crop of Generals would be fronting for someone else.

The leadership vacuum has for the most part occurred however not merely because there is nobody willing to take over at this point in time. It exists also because the correct conditions are not being created for an interim administration.

Such a Government that would last say for six months should be seen as legitimate and effective and should not be subject to any type of taint. The conditions are not being created for such a viable administration.

Most of all there is no sense of urgency. The economic issues facing the nation are severe and extremely serious. But there is a relaxed attitude among the ruling classes who seem to be entertained, even, by what’s going on. Perhaps they have more houses if one of theirs is set on fire.

If right from the apex downward the powers that be are not inclined to offer quick remedies, the country could be in terminal decline.

It’s why some politicians in neighboring countries such as India, such as Subramanium Swamy are suggesting that the Indian army intervenes to stop foreign elements from having ‘indue influence on the affairs of the country.’

Even though Swamy by no means equates the Indian Government, his suggestion shows things have already slid down a steep precipice to an extent that in neighboring countries, it is thought that the Sri Lankan centre cannot hold anymore.

By the time you the reader would see this article in print, some of these issues may have been resolved. But the likelihood is that they would not be, and we would still be seeing that dangerous power vacuum in which our economy would be facing some kind of terminal implosion.