Propaganda ghouls have announced driving the Nth+1 last nail into the Yahapalanaya coffin but the government is not dead as they may have wished and is quite alive and kicking.
Most democratic governments have their debacles but they cannot be counted out. In the United States, six months in office, President Donald Trump can’t get legislation through the Congress even though the Republican Party of which he is the president is in the majority. Theresa May, the British Prime Minister called for an election certain of a sweeping victory but just managed a razor thin victory. She continues to govern Britain through these tumultuous times. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor in a massive humanitarian gesture permitted entry of a near million refugees into Germany and appeared to be the point of being thrown out for that but is back in the saddle after a year and is the favourite in next year’s election for the German Chancellor. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sacked by the country’s Supreme Court on charges of corruption but his government remains in power and has elected another Prime Minister.
It does appear that in present day democracies where dissent is permitted and the Opposition permitted wide liberties, governments are shaky. Not so in countries ruled by strong men like Putin of Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Narendra Modi of India.
In Sri Lanka a united opposition presented a common candidate and succeeded in ousting strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime from power. Rajapaksa had broken up the most significant political parties opposed to him, absorbed their renegades into his administration, and had a firm grip on the armed forces with his brother Gotabhaya as Defence Secretary. The independent media came under attack from unidentified forces widely believed to be proxies of government. His ouster is widely attributed to these strong arm tactics, nepotism, corruption, interference with the judiciary and the overall dictatorial environment he created.
The Yahapalanaya government was the antithesis of all what Rajapaksa stood for.
The right to dissent, freedom of the media, and freedom of assembly and public demonstrations were some of the immediate changes that were brought about.
And those freedoms are being exploited by the defeated president and his followers to destabilise the government. Devastating attacks on the media, particularly on TV, massive demonstrations, false propaganda have stalled the government’s progress.
There are the crippling economic legacies left behind such as the billion dollar debts, loss making state institutions absorbing a greater part of government revenue but being stoutly defended by the opposition. The political legacy left behind in the main has been the Human Rights violations condemnation in the form of UNHCR resolutions which could even result in UN economic sanctions imposed on this country.
The Yahapalanaya government too has contributed its own quota to its problems because of the failure to impose standards of good governance within the coalition. SLFPers and UNPers are not seeing eye to eye. Some SLFPers, who appear to have longings to get back to their former leader, are cause of some intra coalition squabbles. Quick and immediate action on the alleged Bond scam could have stalled the Opposition blowing it up to a major issue.
The challenge before the government now is to turn a Nelsonian Eye to problems created by the Opposition and instead get down to implement a plan which can yield results in two-and-a-half years – not long drawn out strategies that can materialise after 2020.
A new plan with short term gestation having limited but achievable objectives should soon be formulated and implemented. The objectives should be few but realistic. The lines of well known martial arts artist Bruce Lee should be the inspiration: I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
One such move should be to create employment for GCE-OL and AL qualified in vocational training where jobs will be available… Attempts to provide university education would be futile because the time taken for graduation would be three to four years and on graduation they would be still unemployed and in search of high quality employment not readily available.
The government should immediately revamp their propaganda outfits. The propaganda should not be lies of Goebbelsian proportions and be credible. While ministers and others have chosen their own journalists who are loyal to them, their ability to get the message of the government should be considered. Reviews of propaganda conducted by virulently anti-government Private TV channels and privately owned newspapers with the state owned media will demonstrate the point we are making. Government propaganda is wishy-washy and their programmes resemble ineffective moral crusades while the Opposition programmes are hard, punchy and draw in audiences young and old.
Finally both the SLFP and UNP need new leaders. Most frontline leaders are wizened warriors who have lost their clout and even their teeth. The Yahapalanaya was led to victory not only by Wickremesinghe and Sirisena but also by outsiders like that remarkable monk Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero who unfortunately passed away soon after he led the party to victory. Such leaders cannot be manufactured by the media but they are essential if victory is to be achieved.
Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena are seasoned campaigners who are aware that much can be achieved in the second half of their term of office. A good development strategy, functional propaganda machine, fresh and new leaders and the determination and confidence to complete the second half of the race in grace and style are required.