Colombo, Elections, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

We can believe in NO candidate in 2010. What’s new though, right?

The big day is fast approaching, and every water-cooler, tea/cigarette break, meeting intermission is a hive of discussion on the latest thoughts on the election. But the whole run up to the election seems familiar, ridiculous and sad. For Sri Lanka there will never be change we can truly believe in. It will always be politics as usual.

Sarath Fonseka (SF) has said he will abolish the executive presidency, but is now flip-flopping on that too, and said the country may need it for a while longer, and may decide to hold some key powers if he wins, including keeping some key ministries for himself. After the war ended it was SF who said we need to keep the IDPs locked up in camps longer without release. During the war it was SF who said that this country belongs to the Sinhalese. Minorities should learn to deal with it, and not make undue demands.

Now he is positioning himself as the glorious saviour of the IDPs, castigating President Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) for delaying their release. He is claiming to have the interests of the minorities in mind, and has struck deals with minority parties under conditions we don’t even know yet. He is being supported by an LTTE-proxy which was his sworn enemy during his time as first Jaffna commander and then Army commander. He has teamed up with this group, the TNA, which still has demonstrable links to LTTE sympathisers in the Diaspora.

Sri Lanka is probably the most ideal, living, breathing example of the saying – ‘politics makes strange bedfellows’.

SF has also teamed up with Sivageetha Prabhakaran (Batticaloa Mayoress), who I am familiar with personally, and is one of the most capable and moderate tamil politicians I know. But she has flitted from party to party and is clearly unpredictable. From the TMVP-Karuna faction, to the TMVP-Pillayan faction to the UPFA to now supporting the SF-led UNP-JVP camp.

The MR camp, though, is no different. In fact, they were the first who tried to woo the very same TNA to get their support. But now the govt is spinning the SF-TNA agreement as a ‘secret deal’ that will ‘betray the country’. People have crossed over to the government and are now bashing their former political home, e.g. Johnston Fernando and S.B. Dissanayake. Less because they truly believe in the cause, but more often than not because they received between Rs. 180- Rs. 500 million to make the switch. Some opposition MPs were heavily in debt, and got ‘’rescued’’, in turn for their support to MR. The government accuses SF of dodgy arms dealings, but won’t utter a word when asked about their own dodgy dealings on the MiG aircrafts, the Mihin airlines debacle, the pharmaceuticals disaster, the Deniyaya family mansion, the tens and thousand of lands forcefully or unethically obtained from private persons, the illegal contributions and the list goes on.

The MR camp is getting desperate and will resort to anything and everything. The level of corruption within the MR government is perverse. The wastage of public funds is repugnant, at a time when public funds are at its lowest ebb in decades. The lack of a debate on issues, but instead a game of mud-slinging, is disappointing but I guess we’re used to it.

A neglected discussion: has anyone thought of what happens AFTER the presidential elections?

If SF wins, together with his motley crew of backers – the UNP which hates the JVP which hates the UNP which loves the SLMC which hates the TNA which hates(hated?) SF, what’s next for Sri Lanka? We will have a situation like during the CBK Presidency – Ranil Wicks govt back in Dec 2001 onwards. What will happen at the next general election in April? Who will be the opposition? The UNP-JVP-TNA-SLFP(M)-SLMC-CWC breakaway etc etc.? But how could they POSSIBLY agree on a common platform for a parliamentary election. They’ll all vie for their different objectives, and pull in their own different directions. If such a platform does in fact succeed and such a government does come in to power, what then is the future for policy formulations? The whole business of ‘governing’ will be in disarray, it will be a ridiculously fragile coalition, where nothing would ever get done – because agreeing on something would be harder than when a woman decides what to wear for a party.

What if MR wins? We go back to the ridiculous nepotism, family-rule, corruption and graft of the last 4 years. Media freedom stifled. Political freedom stifled. Detractors and opposition actors jailed, killed, mysteriously vanquished. Millions more of public money ending up in the hands of a corrupt few. Poor economic management. Degrading international perception.

People I ask say, “I dunno man, making up my mind is tough this time. We’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea”. Or ‘I dunno man, this time we’re caught between a rock and a hard place’.

The Sri Lankan people, once again, have ridiculously sparse options for their highest representative. Hobson himself could not have had a more measly choice.