Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Politics and Governance

Mangala’s party and the Citizen’s dream

I begin my article with some quips and observations from friends and colleagues on Mangala’s new political party and his political vision as articulated by him to the media recently. Clearly, the field is not united in their appreciation of Mangala – some see him as a bold new visionary, others see old wine in new bottles. What is clear however is that his dramatic statements of late have created a stir in polity and society and people are talking about what this all means to the future of government in Sri Lanka as we know it today.

What is the true direction of Mangala’s aspirations? Is it possible, as reported in today’s Daily Mirror, that one can really expect “major” political changes in the near future and an alliance between Ranil and Mangala?

Recent history suggests that the Mangala-Sripathi combine, as they themselves have admitted, were in one way or another involved in interactions with the LTTE on behalf of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Clearly then, their hue and cry about about the UNP – LTTE secret pact sounds a tad hollow. Mahinda Rajapaksa however managed to turn the same conspiracy theories against Mangala, Sripathi, Tiran Alles and others – and how!

Just as Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that all is fair when combatting terrorism, responsible journalists need to ask whether all is fair in the pursuit of political power. Mangala wasted many opportunities and broke many promises to reform the media – the abject degeneracy of State media today is a responsibility Mangala has to shoulder in large part. Tragically, someone he once held in high esteem and now Editor of Dinamina regaled him with a sexual slur that reminded me of what he wrote against the FMM a few years ago.

But clearly, in light of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s growing authoritarianism and intolerance, Mangala’s role in expanding and strengthening the democratic debates must be welcomed. On the other hand, one would be grossly disappointed if he pegged his vision for democracy with Chandrika – who as I note in my article was a blemish on democracy that we cannot easily forget. While we welcome his discussions with and overtures to the UNP and Tamil political parties, we are not entirely clear to what end he does so? If it is to examine why and where the SLFP went wrong – that would be a wonderful discussion to partake in. I recall that a degree of this introspection and retrospection occurred from 1992 – 1994, and yet it was the Mangala’s and SB Dissanayake’s who prostituted that dream of a new beginning and a new democratic culture.

Clearly, the lesson here is that a new power centre can only ever be created on the foundation of genuine change. Perhaps this is the central challenge to a citizen’s dream of stronger democracy in Sri Lanka?

Read my article in full here (written in Sinhala).