Can ‘Fonny’ fix faulty governance?

Saturday, 29 April 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



According to the loquacious logician of the ‘Yahapalana’ Government, Minister of Health Rajitha Senaratne, the President has requested Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka to quit his ministerial portfolio to become army commander or overall commander for two years to discipline the country. 

The idea is comical, senseless and monstrous. The signal it sends out is outrageous. Yet, the undeniable and evident truth that we must squarely confront is that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duumvirate is exhausted and has outlived its patch and purpose. 

No doubt, in due course, there will be the usual back peddling and claims that rambling Rajitha misquoted and or quoted out of context. There will also be further explanations of the envisaged role of the Field Marshal. 

Amidst the many mistakes, this Government has made some progress. The Economist Intelligence Unit has made the following prognosis. “The risk of political instability will be high throughout 2017 as strains within the governing coalition, such as over a proposed new constitution, are set to increase. Fiscal austerity measures and tax increases implemented under an IMF programme will further dampen public support for the government and weigh on business sentiment. A new exchange-rate and inflation-targeting framework will support macroeconomic stability, but will come at the cost of a depreciating currency.” [ Lanka] 


Dismantling tyranny 

The common candidate elected President of the Republic on 8 January 2015 was entrusted with the task of dismantling tyranny. That was, and still is a complex task. Untitled-17911

The painfully-prolonged investigations into the disappearances, abductions and murders during Mahinda’s watch, demonstrate the resilience of the deep State political police apparatus that Gotabaya Rajapaksa installed after the end of the civil war. 

The Rajapaksa dictatorship was a modern form of political domination. Gotabaya Rajapaksa perfected a political police that became the overarching instrument of governance. 

Post 8 January 2015, our sanguine view of the future blinded us to the reality that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s predominant instrument of power that helped neutralise opposition was not only intact but was functioning in high gear in a new survival mode. 

That made President Sirisena discover the inviolability of the ‘Ranaviru Honour’. It compelled Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha to find hitherto hidden facets of judicial integrity. Meanwhile the Prime Minister and the better part of his Government found itself mired in an unbelievably stupid bondage.

Even before the parliamentary elections the UNP got working. It was their ‘Janayugaya’! They got going with their own modern economic growth theory – of giving value to financial assets issued by their handpicked elite. 


Good governance

The idea of 8 January 2015 was to move from the rule of a privileged few to the rule by a selected group vetted by the movement for a just society headed by the late and much lamented Venerable Sobhitha Thero that was accountable to the people.

The idea was to move from the rule of three brothers, Mahinda presiding, Basil procuring and Gota protecting to a new form of consensual rule by a coalition. A coalition where Maithripala presided and Ranil administered an accountable and transparent form of ‘good governance’. 

But things did not pan out as we hoped. The new President decided that securing his political base in the SLFP was priority number one. The new Prime Minister decided that his top priority was to reward his cronies and party loyalists in that order for the years that they spent in opposition. 

The regime transformation of 8 January 2015 only changed the intermediaries between the people and the regime. Instead of the brothers and their flunkeys, we now had rule by two cliques one fawning on the insecure President and the other commanded by a beleaguered Prime Minister.

The autocracy has been replaced by a chosen group of politicians to whom politics is business as usual. Instead of the Rajapaksa autocracy we have a ‘parasitocracy’ that falls far short of honest democracy that we voted for and the genuine meritocracy we hoped for.

This ‘parsitocracy’ is the direct outcome of the current convergence of the two main political parties. Even before the convergence, the two parties held similar views on matter economic and deferred on some nuanced cultural issues. 

The politicians of ‘Yahapalanaya’ worked for no one but for themselves. The current comic opera in the SLFP is demonstrative of the self-serving governance objectives of the false messiah that we elected on 8 January 2015. The current SLFP Parliamentarians stand neither for the party nor the constituency they claim to represent. The entire circus is centred on getting elected to Parliament by resorting to whatever method that will win elections. 


The harsh truth

If the retired Lieutenant Colonel is to be replaced with a Field Marshal, it is time for us to confront truth in all its harsh facets.

Hannah Arendt, the Political Philosopher, in 1967 wrote an essay published in the magazine ‘The New Yorker’ that was titled ‘Truth and Politics’. Arendt, who experienced Nazi tyranny first-hand and later watched liberal democracies practicing deceptive democracy, had a deep sensitivity to truth in public affairs. 

“No one,” she wrote, “has ever doubted that truth and politics are on rather bad terms with each other, and no one as far as I know, has ever counted truthfulness as among political virtues. Lies have been regarded as necessary and justifiable tools not only of the politician’s or the demagogue’s but also of the statesman’s trade.”

Arendt offers a solution to our present predicament with our faltering hopes for good governance and Rajitha’s strange logic. 

“Only the occasional liar will find it possible to stick to a particular falsehood with unwavering consistency; those who adjust images and stories to ever-changing circumstances will find themselves floating on the wide-open horizon of potentiality, drifting from one possibility to the next, unable to hold on to any one of their own fabrications.” 

Rajitha Senaratne presumes that we are a bunch of imbeciles immune to his lack of factual objectivity. He described Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka as being eminently suitable to infuse discipline to our dysfunctional democracy. 

Rajitha Senarathne and Wimal Weerawansa formed an entertaining duo during the presidential election of 2010. They were the most vociferous critics of presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka whom they accused of wrong doing in the ‘Hicorp’ affair and profiteering with his son-in-law. Rajitha Senaratne belongs to a political class that is convinced of their unique and hegemonic ‘right to rule.’ 

Making the gruff Field Marshal maintain public order is an appealing proposition even to this writer who is sorely tempted to smash the TV screen whenever the nasal-voiced Secretary of the GMOA appears on it. 

That said, the solution lies elsewhere. This make-believe coalition Government has lost its credibility. This Parliament should resolve to dissolve itself and allow a true realignment of contending forces. People decide on constitutions. Writing constitutions is not the business of do-gooders.

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