By Kusal Perera
Reading through Groundviews especially during the recent past, one would note that most contributions were in fact raising serious concerns over the core issue of governance as it is in Sri Lanka and the regime’s ideology in finding adequate answers for socio economic ills, the system itself carries as endemic.
One could safely assume, though Groundviews exposed and writers to Groundviews condemned the most recent Dambulla incident of insulting and depriving religious rights of the Muslim people, wanting reasonable and justifiable answers from this regime, there will be none. There were no reasonable answers for and culprits dealt with, in any of the previous attacks on churches and on the Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura in September, 2011. Every single such attack on other religious places had been instigated on a call from a Buddhist monk, or they have joined the religious mob parade, in the name of Buddhism. Funnily, Buddhism can only be “owned” by the Sinhala people within this island.
It runs on that awfully dominant social psyche created for waging war, now used to keep the military intruding into civil administration and the daily life of people, not only in North and East, but elsewhere too. It is the politicising of the whole State on this intimidatory Sinhala Buddhist politics with military power, that makes LLRC Recommendations anathema to this Rajapaksa regime. This type of power cabals can not provide any decent and disciplined governance, even to the racist constituency it uses for usurping unrestricted power, extending beyond the Constitution.
Hence the dismantling and muting of all institutions responsible for law and order in the country. This regime needs it to push and straighten its muscles and its goons the way it wishes. A disciplined and a “law and order situation” would not allow Mervyns, Dumindas, Muthuhettigamas and goons to continue with a Secretary to the Defence Ministry whom the foreign media tags as “the most powerful Secretary of Defence”, though Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is the most inefficient Secretary to the defence ministry since 1948.
The media avoids discussing Gotabhaya’s performance as Secretary to Ministry of Defence, which is appalling. Beginning in January 2010 which is post war, the police web site says, 877 out of 894 abductions reported, were accepted for investigations. The first quarter of 2011 has 235 abductions reported to the police, says the police web site. The GV noted in early April that according to media reports, February and March this year (2012) witnessed 29 abductions, while during the past 06 months up to April, there had been 56 abductions reported in the media.
In such context of mass abductions, police stations are mobbed and attacked by local citizens for custodial killings. Murder, rape of women and sexual abuse of children have all gone high during this Rajapaksa regime. Police and army personnel are accused of contract killing. There is also an increasing rate of suicides and homicides in the security forces, while every year since the war was declared victoriously over, the defence budget was consistently increased, at the expense of education and health. That defines the efficiency of this Secretary to the Defence Ministry, having taken the police department too under the ministry.
There is more to this regime, as to why it should be changed. Never has a Governor of a Central Bank (CB) played politics dirty and low as the present Governor Cabral. Never had one whose business into “Pyramid schemes” investigated by the CB, been appointed as its Governor. Never had any regime before, handed over the Treasury to one who was found responsible for big time fraud and was asked to leave public service by the Supreme Court for such fraud. And never had any Supreme Court allowed such proven guilt to be pardoned over a personal appeal to allow that same culprit to assume office as before. Now the two most important positions for the country’s economic survival and growth, are left at the hands of two, whose integrity and efficiency are beyond discovery.
This is no accident and not without political reason. Massive frauds are not possible, if a regime appoints clean and principled men to key positions. It is here worth noting that no ministry would have any mega corruption issue, IF the Secretary to the Ministry, who is the Chief Accounting Officer in the ministry and under whose signature all financial transactions take place, stands on his or her own integrity and open administration. The Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) is far from moulding righteous men or women.
This country, after 64 years of unrealised independence and people’s robbed sovereignty including over 06 years of Rajapaksa rule, can not be put to right with change of faces. Politics that decides power with mega corruption has BOUGHT OVER the whole State, justified by and continued as such with Sinhala Buddhist supremacy. The whole system of governance has now come to live as a Sinhalised corrupt system that needs total overhaul. That needs a democratic programme with a democratic leadership, not just a regime change. That’s where a decent, democratic “Left” programme could stand the test of social necessity.
Wickramasinghe, a political schemer though no public leader, seems the only Sinhala leader who understands this political dilemma. This Sri Lankan political dilemma is not in for any “Spring”, Arab or not. Not for now. For now, its the next parliamentary or presidential elections, hopefully in 2015 or 2016 if not earlier, that still holds hope for a regime change. Its for that elections the UNP leadership with Ranil Wickramasinghe (RW), is now gearing for. Its for that elections he is building bridges for a Sinhala – Tamil alliance. Wickramasinghe is hopeful, there would be a substantial Sinhala middle class drift, away from this Rajapaksa regime in the coming year or two.
He is not too far away from such possibility. The economy is turning out to be a major factor that decides allegiance of the Sinhala middle class; the academics, the professionals, public officers in districts outside Colombo and the small time service providers in urban and rural towns. RW is also well aware, the Colombo centred trade unions have turned away from supporting the Rajapaksa regime. In fact the workers go on record as the first organised sector that successfully challenged and defeated the government on the Employees’ Pension Fund Bill and on salary increase demands.
The UNP is being dragged to add the extras on to the growing slice of the disillusioned Sinhala vote, RW believes he could now muster. He believes the North – East Tamil and Muslim vote and that of the plantations, could tilt the balance in his favour. He may not be wrong as Rajapaksas are now facing mounting pressure from many fronts; international, economic and from the Indian side.
Yet what remains unanswered is, can RW and his UNP provide answers for all ills ? UNP can only talk of “corruption free” economic management. How true would such promises mean with the type of men RW could have in his cabinet ? Even if he runs with a small cabinet of ministers with “good people”, what is his development programme ? His neo liberalism, yet to be told is not what he advocated through “Regaining Sri Lanka”, is now a discarded model, worldwide. Well, yes ! The next man (or woman) bidding to head the SL government should now say where he or she stands on economic policy and social development, before asking for power.
Mitt Romney the next Republican prospect for US Presidency, accused Obama for leaning towards “Euro Socialism” in his efforts to turn around the ailing US economy. “Socialism” has already entered presidential campaign jargon. Two working papers (12/64 and 65) released by the IMF on 01 March, 2012 though not representing official IMF positions indicate, it was those few countries with strong protective labour laws that withstood global recession this time. This rubbishes the claim that SL has too rigid labour laws for growth, the cry of the second generation neo liberals.
Launching his latest book in Colombo, January this year, “Marx’s theory of Price and its modern Rivals”, the Hague based business consultant Prof. Howard Nicholas said,
The US and European Central Bank have together printed US$ 20 trillion in three years. Where is inflation? More money has been printed than was in the last 50 to 60 years in GDP terms. But you open any economic text book, what is the fundamental principle; inflation follows too much money. But where is the inflation? Neo classical economist cannot get out of this. Keynes tried to get out, but he never left a theory of price, resulting in an equally redundant theory of money. You have to come back to Marx.
He then said [quote] I became so impressed with Marx’s economics, purely as a scientific analysis of capitalists society, that I wanted to translate it into plain English. I want to butcher neo classical economics, the idealogical nonsense misleading generation after generation. Marxism does provide that alternative [unquote].
There is certainly an opening for a “Left Agenda” now. One that would propose a far reaching democratic agenda than what RW and his alliance with even the TNA could possibly offer. Serious reforms, this country needs for post war reconciliation and development. That agenda certainly would have to revert to a nationalist economy, that would guide the market on terms and conditions required for selective growth in the economy. It would not be a “free for all” economy and it would not be a “State owned and controlled” economy either.
It would be democratic to the extent, the whole development process would be within a “National Development Policy” that would go through a serious social dialogue, before achieving legal status through parliament. That national policy would define and decide the shape, size and colour of education, health, public transport, industry and agriculture for at least a 10 year period.
What is seriously more important should be, the total State Reform the “Left Agenda” has to offer, that RW and the UNP can never offer. This Sinhala State can not be changed with a few “independent commissions” though campaigned for as transitional issues against the Rajapaksa’s 18 Amendment. This centralised State would give no meaning to the 13th Amendment, even if it is given the colour of full implementation. It is too heavily centralised in many ways, for such implementation. This State therefore needs a complete overhaul with the abolition of the heavily centralised Executive Presidency. There can not be and will not be any worthwhile devolution of powers, even under RW, if centralised power is allowed in any form.
It is therefore important, the “Left Agenda” takes upon itself the responsibility of pushing through the proposal in the “Final Report” of the APRC, handed over to President Rajapaksa in June 2010. This proposal, though in the absence of the UNP and the TNA, brought together the widest consensus possible in the Sinhala South. It got all shades of Sinhala chauvinism to agree for power devolution within a Constitution that gives back a bi – cameral parliament, the powers now enjoyed by the Executive President. It is a new solution, the UNP and the TNA can not politically oppose. It thus could be campaigned for as the post war solution for Constitutional reform, with the strongest possible consensus among the Sinhala South, the Tamils and the Muslims.
Such far reaching changes on State Reform and economic development would not be offered by the UNP and Wickramasinghe, but in the present context, RW and the TNA can not afford to ignore such reform, if campaigned for. That provides a “Left Agenda” more space now in SL, despite the fact that there is no serious and credible “Left” political party or movement to lay claim for such an initiative.