Unified governance instead of trial and error | Sunday Observer

Unified governance instead of trial and error

16 July, 2022

It is no secret to the world that Sri Lanka is currently in a dire financial, political, and social crisis, the most gruesome turmoil in recorded history.

Also, it is a cinch that the most crucial aspect for the country’s economic survival is urgent foreign assistance for economic survival. Evidently, most of the friendly countries are watching the state of political stability to provide such assistance.

Regrettably, even genuine and nonpartisan protestors and their sympathisers are unaware of the dangers ahead. Those who joined the protests later with opportunistic political agendas completely ignore this salient fact and do not let the protestors understand the gravity. Seemingly, they are concerned about unscrupulous political benefits, aiming at either the next election or establishing power in the current Parliament.

Rebellious movements

No doubt that the protestors have achieved a feat which no other group has been able to attain since independence. All previous social upheavals and rebellious movements were suppressed by the then ruling Governments. Yet, the peaceful protests that started in Galle Face Green in April managed to oust a Prime Minister, a Cabinet of Ministers, and a powerful President.

However, a few weeks into the protest, now popularly known as “Aragalaya”, has subtly been taken over by two political parties, namely, Janatha Vimukthi Perauna led by Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB) and the Frontline Socialist Party (FLSP) led by Premakumar Gunaratnam alias Kumar Gunaratnam. The Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF) has manipulated and influenced the protestors and instigated forceful and fierce actions.

The peaceful nature of the protest campaign has been altered drastically since then. Most of the youth who are engaged in the protests are university students who have not contributed much to the national economy and are obtaining a free education funded by the country’s taxpayers.

While accepting that the participants of “Aragalaya” have won all their key demands, the alarming factor is the escalation of current lawlessness prevailing in Colombo and its suburbs.

As the secret political message described in the popular American children’s book “If you give a Cookie to a Mouse”, then he will ask for a glass of milk, and then a straw, and then a napkin, the protestors, manipulated by dubious political fronts, are asking for more and more.

Opportunistic, sly, and self-centred leaders of these political parties are seemingly under the illusion that the protest is a socialistic revolution. The July 9 incidents that led to the ousting of the President now have a thousand fathers. However, no legitimate Government can or will succumb to unwarranted and unjustifiable demands.

Remorseful situation

It is abundantly clear that the main reason for the present remorseful situation is the continuous scarcity of essential day-to-day needs of the general public, triggered by enormous foreign exchange shortages.

While those who are responsible, particularly the so-called economists in the Central Bank, cannot be forgiven, the foremost priority of the entire country is to make the maximum effort to get the economy back on its feet as soon as possible.

Despite the opinions of economists, academics, and scholars, a vast majority of the citizenry is seemingly under the impression that everything will be rosy after the unceremonious departure of the ill-advised former President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

All his good deeds during the battle against terrorism and afterwards have been forgotten, thanks to his so-called consultants. Perhaps the situation will further deteriorate due to the prevailing power struggle between all political parties, inside and outside of the Legislature.

Regardless of numerous calls by intellectuals, religious leaders, social activists, and scholars to unite, almost all Parliamentarians still do not seem to realise the importance of such unity to confront the dark future ahead of the country.

Instead of coming out of the dire situation, they are presently only concentrating on whether they can grab power. Instead of common consent, each of these parties individually vies for the presidency and the premiership. Although not official, more than five names have already come out for the presidential appointment. Despite a number of discussions among the party leaders, no accord has not yet been reached as of now.

Political stability

Hence, a great deal of uncertainty prevails regarding the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance. Political stability is one of the most important conditions required by the IMF. Hence, it is clear that a properly functioning Parliament is a must for a democracy to seek foreign financial assistance, IMF or otherwise.

Therefore, as some of the protestors demand, one cannot shut the Parliament down and send all its members home. Political parties that claim ownership of the “Aragalaya” must explain this factor to their cadres. Unless the Constitution is completely discarded or changed to the whims and fancies of the protestors, no outside help will come to Sri Lanka’s rescue.

Leaving aside petty political ideologies, the entire country must stand together in this dark era of the country. Now that the President has vacated his post, those who have joined the protests must return to their workplaces and engage in economic activities.

It is certain that job losses will take place in the near future due to the downturn in the economy and the continually spiking cost of living. The self-employed fraternity in retail trade will have a bleak future as the disposable income of the general public will diminish drastically.

Merely because the President resigns and a new Government is formed, the current situation will not change. The dismal shortage of fuel will hamper the transport sector, affecting many industries and businesses. The revival of tourism is not in sight as yet.

Although the export performance is creditable currently, fuel shortages and electricity may disrupt its functionality. Without a steady supply of fuel, the supply of electricity will be disturbed and longer power cuts will be imposed. The irony is that the masses have not yet properly felt the pinch except for the shortages of essential needs.

Public service salaries

The Government has already subtly and unofficially indicated that public service salaries, totalling a staggering 29 billion rupees for the month of July, will be delayed. As the Cabinet is currently defunct, even printing money is an issue, as per the Central Bank sources.

If such a delay occurs and if the public service goes into trade union action, negotiations with the IMF may be delayed and the country will suffer more. In addition, the general public will be in further trouble if public service becomes dysfunctional.

Considering all the facts, the country needs a unified Government sans petty political agendas. The factions, such as the Frontline Socialist Party (FLSP), who delicately indicate that they are seeking power outside Parliament must be stopped at all costs as their intentions are selfish. The country has witnessed three such attempts in the last thirty years and experienced dire hardships. Public statements of such political parties are completely misleading and encourage violence and unlawfulness in youth who follow them.

The current needs of the country are a consensual Government that can address immediate public issues and provide solutions. Some political parties pledge immediate solutions. They should come forward with viable plans instead of giving popular public statements to mislead the masses.

Protesters also must stand down and help rebuild the economy instead of asking for a pound of flesh. A sound, viable, and practical solution must be found through the democratic process without any further delay.