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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 106

Forthcoming Presidential Election in Sri Lanka: the foggy spectacle of an emerging shepherd

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

With the presidential poll just 11 months away, the two main parties – or the satellite parties that revolve around them – do not appear to have made a firm decision on the respective candidates that they are willing to put forward.

Judging by the elusive answers they often give, when journalists raise the issue, it’s clear that the task is much more Herculean than we thought it is.

As for the incumbent, the challenges are mushrooming wherever he scans the gloomy, political landscape.

The latest setback emerged when the SLPP members at provincial level decided not to support the candidature of President Sirisena if he decides to come forward as the opposition candidate. In addition, he seems to be struggling to take his own party forward on his terms.

It remains a mystery how the provincial politicians made such a crucial decision, when the top echelons of the party are refusing to disclose the party line. The declaration was unanimous and the intensity, with which it was delivered, implies that the provincial folks are not for turning – and a force to reckon with.

The talk of the proposed new constitution provides both camps with a red herring: the struggle that the lawyers went through in interpreting the 19th amendment, despite it being studied extensively and debated intensely, just shows the potential disaster that may come about in future – in the event of being brought up in a rush.

Perhaps, it may be a feeble attempt to appease the minorities, in addition to do away with the current presidential system, if it’s feasible at all; the fact remains that they normally do not work, though: the way provincial council came about due to intense Indian Pressure in the 80s and the war continued unabated further for over a decade is a case in point.

Of course, minorities have major issues and they need to be addressed. Appeasement, however, does not work. The issues must be discussed with the minorities at ground level, not just the elected – or selected – ones, in order to gauge their true feelings and then come up with solutions.

The atmosphere at present is conducive for such a move in the regions where the minorities mostly live: they live in harmony with the majority in the country in these regions and they work together in calamities as one family.

They way how the Southerners came forward to help their northern counterparts during the recent floods explicitly demonstrated that the communities do live in harmony and peace now – unless a hyperactive politician changes the status quo for questionable political gains.

The UNP-led government, which was deeply unpopular before the prime minister got sacked, miraculously energized itself during the infamous 51 days, thanks to the movement - and involvement - of the rank and file of the UNP.

Unfortunately, the party is losing the momentum once again, having been in government just for few weeks; the gap between the government and reality seems to be widening to that of pre-crisis level.

The decline of the rupee against dollar goes on with fluctuations that are not in our favour; reserves are depleting; new loans are sought after in order to settle the existing ones. Moreover, controlling imports to keep the dollar demand at a manageable level seems to be the forbidden word in the political realm.

In short, these catalogue events do not seem to be stemming from a sensible strategy, economic or otherwise.

Both politicians and bureaucrats just appear to be going with the flow.

Only in the field of health do we see some movement. Most of the politicians, if not all, more often than not, appear to think that the combination of decibel-rich rhetoric and pointing to the pie in the sky can win the masses in order to keep them in power.

In another ominous sign, unprecedented infighting is now in the open, as if the orders for exercising restrain had fallen on deaf ears – hardly an inspiring political impetus.


Who wants to shoot in the foot, when the need is a shot in the arm?

Although, we are not out of the woods yet, the fall in oil price has become manna from heaven in these circumstances. Manna, however, do not fall from above on regular basis.

When the leaders of the main parties are exercising extreme caution before embarking on their win-or-stay-irrelevant mission to be our next shepherd, the flocks are evolving while defying Darwinian time scales, thanks to the advent of social media that more or less makes the established media redundant in the contemporary politics.

If the current leaders underestimate this aspect of the scenario, the emergence of a stranger once again is inevitable and the competent political planners on both camps are pretty active right now, while sensing the direction of the turbulent political winds and testing the same waters simultaneously.

It’s déjà vu all over again!

- Asian Tribune -

Forthcoming Presidential Election in Sri Lanka: the foggy spectacle of an emerging shepherd
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