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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2740

Post Rajapakse Era in Sri Lanka: first-hand experience of a passive spectator

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from Colombo…

I was in Sri Lanka on a private visit during the second week of this month, when low-intensity tremors of the massive political earthquake could still be felt across the various strata of social hierarchy of the contemporary Sri Lanka society.

During my short stay in Colombo, Galle, Kandy and Kurunegala, it was clear that most people did welcome the change. Even those who voted against the former President Mahinda Rajapakse, still admired him as a person, while blaming the electoral debacle on those who were around him, including certain family members.

Thanks to the relentless exposure of what the opposition consider as misdeeds of the Rajapakse administration on TV and other electronic media, there were clear signs of the traditional Rajapakse vote hill being eroded, though. In these circumstances, Mr Rajapakse can still breathe a sigh of relief by noting the fact that no significant figure of his administration has been charged so far in a court of law.

Even some members of the government showed their concern about the lack of progress made in investigations. The government did not officially accept that was the case; it, however, could not conceal its frustration owing to the complex nature of the investigations. On the other hand, it does not want to be seen doing things on impulse either.

Ordinary people welcome the drop in food items, including vegetables. They were happy that at least part of the drop in global oil price has been passed on to consumers. They hope in a few weeks’ time they will be able to feel the real change as far as the cost of living is concerned.

Since blockade of web sites have been lifted, even in rural areas, people can get instant updates on current political developments. The move, which was long overdue, has the potential to curtail the spread of corruption at government level to some extent, owing to instant exposure, although it could not completely eliminate it.

The trend has left the traditional printed newspapers in the lurch. Although, they may not disappear any time soon, they have been forced to adapt themselves to new, inevitable, ground realties, in order to survive.

Non-political players, meanwhile, are also flexing their muscle in the presence of new-found media freedom. In this context, the government is not in a position to be seen lethargic in the face of many short-term hurdles.

The JVP, which under the leadership of Anura Kumara Dissanayake, played a key role in exposing the misdeeds of the previous government, is slowly, but surely evolving into a significant political force, while extending tentacles beyond the traditional vote base. Although, they have not officially abandoned Marxist policies, the party is earning respect even among the industrialists as a reliable force for good.

At a general election, the party may perform much better than they did in the previous elections, if the two main parties diverge from the burning issues faced by ordinary people. At last, the JVP is talking the language that the masses want to hear, while slowly discarding the outdated revolutionary rhetoric that hindered their progress on electoral front.

The government is under tremendous pressure to deliver on things that it promised during the election campaign. It is quite clear that self-imposed 100-day deadline is gradually becoming an electoral headache rather than an ingenious political calculation.

In this context, the political earthquake in Delhi may be a shot in the arm for the new administration. Unless the government makes the masses feel the change, there is a strong possibility of a third party, like the JVP, coming forward to fill the void, exactly like Aravind Kejriwal did in India, despite being wiped out from the electoral map less than a year ago.

- Asian Tribune -

Post Rajapakse Era in Sri Lanka: first-hand experience of a passive spectator
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