Aug 07, 2017

Oh! This Noble Land of Looters

Was just wondering if any contestant in a TV singing competition would come on stage to sing that once famous patriotic song "Loken uthum rata Lankavayi…." (Lanka the noblest country in the world). In this noblest of all countries, Presidential Commission investigating into the Central Bank's (CBSL) Treasury Bond Scam has opened up a huge stinking cesspit that makes the 09 year Rajapaksa rule "a bearable stink". PM Wickramasinghe who went all out of his way to defend Arjuna Mahendran's tenure as Governor of the CBSL and tried his best to close up the scam, now stand complicit, unless the 'PM' mentioned in short messages exchanged between former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Mahendran's son in law and businessman Arjun Aloysius refers to a 'Post Master' or to a 'Para Medic'.

There now seem little chance of damage controlling. "Yahapalana" side-kicks nevertheless shamelessly murmur, it is "Yahapalana" rule that allows even a powerful minister like Karunanayake to be investigated. First, it is "yahapalanaya" that allowed robbing big like the Rajapaksas or even bigger, making "yahapalanaya" and "Rajapaksa" the same. Second is that it was being covered up and denied for almost 02 and a half years by none other than the PM of this "yahapalana" unity government. How it broke out into the open is not because of "yahapalanaya" but due to growing political conflicts within the unity government.

President Sirisena was almost forced by his own SLFP ministers to investigate the bond scam. They were pushed to prove their bona fide as SLFP in their own anti UNP constituencies. Though in government, pro Sirisena SLFP ministers in this unity government have to prove to the SLFP voter, they are "anti UNP".

'Bond scam' was the most dubious deal that remained continuously in front page news reports and as first news in TV channels from March 2015 to date. President Sirisena was therefore compelled to investigate the bond scam in satisfying his own men in the SLFP. When it was constituted to investigate the bond scam, this Presidential Commission too was taken as another sham in covering it up. Yet it became aggressive beyond what no one ever expected from a 'presidential commission'. Investigations have now moved from Arjun Mahendran as Governor of CBSL and his son in law's Perpetual Treasuries to RaviK and others in CBSL who were involved in the scam with even the PM seen as complicit.

Although RaviK was only called in for a statement and have not been indicted as yet, he is seen deeply involved in the scam with huge kickbacks going his way. There were also statements to the effect unaccounted for money bags were kept in the safe of the family company, the daughter is also a director with her mum. And that money had also been used, though the daughter asked "why only my dad?" RaviK's and Aloysius's involvement in financing the 'Sunday Leader' newspaper also came to light by way of short messages quoted. Proof that media is also where black money is laundered.  

Unable to roll back the commission's probing, it has dragged President Sirisena into a quagmire he cannot possibly climb out from, without serious new crises in his own political life. He cannot this moment shun the UNP to go it alone as a SLFP government. That needs Rajapaksa, he is awfully afraid of. His political 'Guru' Chandrika would go any distance to keep Rajapaksa from entering the scene. President Sirisena nevertheless needs a quick fix to the crisis that is brewing not only within his unity government, but in society that now questions the moral of a "yahapalana" government promised at two consecutive elections.

His and some of Wickramasinghe's allies in Colombo elite circles seem to believe, asking RaviK to resign or removing him from his ministerial portfolio could get the government out of this political crisis. It is the government that is already screwed, not RaviK alone as an individual politician. Thus getting him to resign or removing him from the foreign affairs portfolio will not leave this unity government clean and credible once again. Removing RaviK will also not conclude investigations into the bond scam. In fact this is the first bond scam and the second remains to be investigated.

This bond scam investigation and what had already been thrown open, cannot be covered by talking of Rajapaksas anymore. Dumb politicians like Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy Ajith P who now say it’s the Minister of Justice and Buddha Sasana who stalled investigations into Rajapaksa corruptions only make matters worse for his "yahapalana" government. He sounds as if Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa is a minister in a different government. IF his "yahapalana" government was serious about cleaning up corruption and bringing to book everyone found guilty during the Rajapaksa era, why wasn't Minister of Justice Wijedasa Rajapaksa then asked to resign when Minister Marapona was asked to resign over a statement made in parliament in relation to Avant-Garde corruptions? Marapona after all was only the legal counsel to Avant-Garde before becoming a minister in this government. Wijedasa Rajapaksa was not so. He was directly accused in parliament of having very close personal connections with the Avant-Garde boss under investigation and that amounted to a conflict of interest.

Added is the fact that Minister Rajapaksa is also openly racist, cultivating relationships with extreme Sinhala Buddhist groups, no serious leader of a government that talks of "reconciliation" and honouring "Tamil aspirations" would ever tolerate. But he continues as a cabinet minister from the same UNP that Deputy Minister Perera is from. If the "yahapalana" government is as serious as Deputy Minister Ajith P says, Justice Minister Rajapaksa would have been removed at least when the cabinet was reshuffled in May this year, 03 months ago. But he still continues, proving this "yahapalanaya" is not what it means in Sinhala language. And Ajith P actually says by innuendo is this "yahapalana" government is not only in serious conflict between the UNP and Sirisena's SLFP bloc, but also within his own party, the UNP.

With such amateurish politics, that cannot even match the "political authority" (not meaning the almighty power wielded over State officials) Rajapaksa had over the SLFP and over the State as President, this "yahapalana" unity government is not seen and perceived in society as one that can make the State run the way it wants. It is also perceived as one that has no vision and development programme of its own. It is a fact that it runs on everything borrowed from the Rajapaksas and is wholly stuck with China, more than even Rajapaksa.   

In such socio economic and political context, the government is unable to contain any of the conflicts erupting as anti "yahapalanaya" campaign. It has allowed the anti SAITM protests to take to streets, every time more rebellious than the previous time. The government is being cowed down by the GMOA that cannot even launch a token strike with half the medical doctors in public service. Having declared fuel distribution an essential service, use of goons and security forces to crush the petroleum workers' strike, pushed some of the trade unions that were "anti Rajapaksa" to go "anti yahapalanaya".

With clear signs of social de stabilising and serious loss of faith in the "yahapalana" government, this society is once again looking at Rajapaksa as the next possible leader to form a government. They talk of different scenarios in how Rajapaksa could come to power. Most practical presumption is that Rajapaksa would change the equation in parliament with a few cross overs from the UNP, as the bond scam investigations implicate more in the UNP leadership.

Yet the sad fact is, this Sinhala society has no real, viable alternative to replace this "yahapalana" rule. It has never been working on political alternatives based on a programme. Alternatives have always been personality based and political party alliance based. During this 40 year neo liberal economy as the bond scam now exposes, both political parties and their leaderships are equally corrupt. Both political parties are driven by crony capitalism drowned in black money as much as the media is. This society, especially the urban middle class and its professionals from medical doctors to the legal profession, including Accountants, Academics and Engineers are part of the problem. They don't need an alternative to this free market, in which they can also earn as much as they wish. They therefore cry for changes that are only cosmetic and short term.

In short, these professionals cannot contribute to break out of the intellectual poverty the society lives with. They thus leave Rajapaksa as the next option, where most now keep saying, "Rajapaksa robbed while doing some work. But this government robs not doing anything for the people".

The crisis that this society is gradually sinking into, even if there is no change of government immediately will not provide any serious and worthy alternative at the next elections, two or three years later, if we survive that long without much anarchy, but joking about all what has to be seriously discoursed.

Kusal Perera