Change of heart and mind could upset presidential race apple cart

Thursday, 5 September 2019 00:57 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

THE ONLY CONSTANT? – They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. But one or two courageous champions of genuine transformation would make a world of difference in a tried and tested political game that has failed the polity time and again. And one can only hope that a sea-change into something rich and strange has been launched of late…


I AM BY NO MEANS SANGUINE about politics as the practice of the possible. We have invested too much over the years in this art of the attainable to let it go to rack and ruin now. But time and again the men, the machines, and movements we have trusted in have let us down as predictably as national selectors for sporting sides have. They have given us only the end of a silver string, asking us to wind it into a golden ball, but found that we’re left holding a dead rope…

We could change all that if only we – unlike so many if not most of our elected representatives – had the courage of our convictions. Where once we voted for party and policy for example, we could now start voting on principle rather than in response to personalities? That is not likely to happen anytime soon; so mired are we as a polity in the mud of custom, tradition and convention. And in the short to medium terms, it is up to the folks we still like to think of as national leaders rather than contracted servants to make the most of the opportunities given to them to change Sri Lanka’s destiny.

For example, by changing the hideously hidebound into something rich and strange! This sea-change could make all the difference between our beloved island being a strategic seaport buffeted between fair winds and fouls, and the pearl of the Indian Ocean being a prize beyond possession by any unworthy would-be owner or abuser. 

Well we can dream. 

What dreams may come…

We can well dream, for instance, that the UNP would please get its act together and come to the rescue of itself and the demographics (moderates, minorities) that depend on its brand of democracy. 

Ranil, for one, could grow up and grow a pair; and step down or sideways in favour of someone with less character and more charisma. Sajith, for another, could stop staging petty palace coups and start acting more like a solid statesman than a sorry schoolboy who hasn’t been made a match steward yet. Karu, last but not least, could surprise all of us by breaking ranks with the effete oligarchy of which he is still effectively a part (for all his aplomb in dealing with parliamentary hooligans) and make his intentions to abolish the presidency (if he is elected) clear. 

Do the greens have a strategy? What is it, while we’re all waiting? And will it be a corker when it comes – like Karu as an independent national candidate with TNA/JVP backing to break the bank of the executive through 20A – or something lame and limp as often than not? 

We will do well to re-imagine a world in which none of this happens and the Grand Old Party of Sri Lankan politics fields the usual failure-prone suspect again. That would be far less a calamity than if the birthday boy of this week has another attack of inspiration and persuades his cronies to let him aspire to the purple for a second term. Far less convincing things have transpired in the four years since constitutions were raped by promiscuous coups. We’re not amused, dear. 

We could also hope for a change of nomination by the ‘Pohottuwa’ camp. For there is a sneaking suspicion that the leader of the SLPP would be happy to express a change of heart and mind if only the party of his second part – of part of his second party – would allow him to do so and live. This is not wishful thinking. Maybe MR’s heart has its reasons of which his mind knows nothing. David wept for his son: “Absalom, O Absalom!” 

…must give us pause

We might not be giving to airy nothing a local habitation and a name if we laid the ghost of past victims of war and its vicious vicissitudes to rest and gave GR a snowball’s chance in hell. A gremlin in the engine of the civilised psyche might yet prove to be the engineer of growth in a manner that neither Mahathir nor Lee Kuan Yew were able to do for their own nations as they were then on the cusp of either greatness or great ruination. But I would be kidding you if I told you that the leopard could change his spots at the wave of Mahinda’s magic wand… much as that charismatic magician would wish to mutter “Abracadabra” – and hey, presto, it was 2025 already.

We should also not be fantasising if we envisioned a country run by reformed rebels or revolutionaries someday. As long as ‘the real JVP’ remains in the shadows and lets the likes of AKD strut their stuff and champion the reformist agenda abandoned by RW and gang.

And it’s not superficial change of governors we’re agitating for. But the prevailing egregious political culture.

Well pigs might fly. The more things change, the more they remain the same? Maybe it’s time for us dreamers to get real. It is clear that the doers and those who dare are getting with the programme. If all else fails – fact, legal fictions, fantasies, fond hopes – we still have the fist. To essay critical engagement; give a thumbs-up to principled yet pragmatic candidates; or the rude finger to usurpers of the people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of simple island pleasures.

(Journalist | Editor-at-large of LMD | Writer #SpeakingTruthToPower)

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