23 June 2016

The approvers are leaving the Yahapalana building

A few days ago a diehard UNP loyalist shared a story on Facebook.  The claim was that First Phase of the Colombo-Kandy Expressway will be completed in 36 month. There was a comment along with the post: ‘For the bayyas who are saying that the Yahapalana Government is not doing anything’. 

The post captures the essence of this Government: promises.  It’s all future tense.  In the early days (and let’s include 100 or even 300 days beyond the end of the first 100 Days, i.e. of the ‘100 Days’ Programme’) it was perfectly alright to be patient and call for patience.  A friend of mine recently chided me for ‘not giving them (the new government) enough time’.  Well, ‘new’ is a misnomer, but let’s say we did just that – ‘give more time’.  The 

problem is that less than a year after the United National Party was elected to power (with the blessings and not so subtle support of the President they helped get elected a few months before that), it’s the diehards of the yahapalanaya project that seem to have run out of patience.  


Things they thought would get done are not only being shelved or forgotten there seems to be a manifest fascination on the part of the Yahapalanists in doing the same-old, same-old.  We have seen dismay being expressed by prominent individuals who had come out in support of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe.  Some have expressed concern and some have been horrified.  Some are incredulous and wonder how the new government could do an about-turn on election pledges.  There’s a feeling of betrayal. 

A group calling itself ‘Purawesi Balaya’ whose spokespersons include prominent academics and NGO personalities as well as the ‘Sadharana Samajayak Sandaha Vana Jathika Vyaparaya’ which was led by the late Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, recently organized a seminar on this issue.   They raised a question: ‘Is this the good governance on which we placed our hopes on January 8?’  On the same day, Harini Amarasuriya asks, in an article published by Colombo Telegraph, “Wither Yahapalanaya?”

None of these people were ever Rajapaksa loyalists.  They supported Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015 and in effect were forced to (let’s be generous) support the UNP in August 2015. 

One cannot fault these people for believing that they or their organizations played a key role in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat (I would say, for example, that no one worked harder on this project than Mahinda himself).  As for the ‘hope’ of ‘change’ they talk of, well it’s an indication of political immaturity.  We can call it innocence or naiveté (again, if we are generous) but it’s rather arrogant of them to think that those who voted for Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015 and for the coalition led by the UNP in August 2015 shared their sentiments and idealism vis-à-vis ‘Yahapalanaya’.   

Regardless, it is clear that they are upset or at least that they are claiming to be upset. 

What this means is that such people have suddenly realized that Yahapalanaya was never taken seriously by their champions.  It is strange that they didn’t know Yahapalanaya was scripted to be washed down the toilet at the first opportunity.   

Simply put, you cannot expect good governance in a system where the architects, engineers and the ath-udau-kaarayas don’t give a hoot about it and, worse, affirm by desire and practice its opposite.  The ‘saviours’ did have histories, after all. 

There have been positive changes of course.  First and foremost, as in the case of any regime-change, there was an immediate change in the sense of freedom.  Hope is also a healthy thing.  But then again, was it because of the Yahapalana promise or the usual post-election honeymoon sweetness?  Looks like it is the latter and therein lies the dilemma.  Maybe our Yahapalana approvers were simply being too ambitious or aiming too high, quite apart from being sophomoric in reading the political.

When these worthies ranted and raved against the Rajapaksas, they dismissed questions such as ‘Are you saying these people (those who they wanted to place in power) are better?’ with statements such as ‘first things first – let’s get rid of this corrupt, dictatorial regime’.  The first thing was done.  The problem is, the second step (of many one would think) is not being taken.  Indeed, it seems it cannot be taken.

So, if this regime and its movers and shakers are as bad as the previous regime and its kingpins, it simply means that placing faith in politicians is no longer an option for those who truly want good governance.  And it is not just about politicians.  Amrit Muttukumaru in an article published in the Colombo Telegraph titled ‘Unaccountable accountants mock good governance’ raises important questions for outfits such as Purawesi Balaya, their spokespersons and (blind?) followers:

“While holding no brief for anyone, I ask whether any of the alleged terrible corruption and abuse of power under the Rajapaksa administration could have taken place without the complicity of professionals – particularly chartered accountants, lawyers, economists and corporate bigwigs? How come good governance activists have missed this?  Those reluctant to ‘name and shame’ and hold professionals, corporate and NGO bigwigs accountable for wrongdoing have clearly lost the moral authority to speak of good governance and any pretense to combat corruption. This is probably why successive governments do not take them seriously.”

The incredulous, ‘innocent’ and horrified at this point, following Muttukumaru, need to indulge in a lot of soul searching, no doubt.  Perhaps this is why the above mentioned seminar was held.  What’s pertinent to the political moment is that when these kinds of backers back off or back out, then it’s politics old-style that’s left.  They are after all elements of the ideological apparatus.  When such approvers leave the building it is baahu-balaya and not purawesi balaya that regimes have to depend on.

The honeymoon, then, is officially over.  Yahapalanaya might offer a few crumbs, but in the main, ‘the system’ seems to have proven how robust it is.   The future tense, then, is not about Yahapalanaya.  The operative word is ‘tense’.  
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com. Twitter: malindasene. 



Toyiya said...

Mind telling us who YOU voted for on Jan 8??

Nothing to worry mate. No white vans will come after you now.

I of course voted for HE MY3. :-)

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Jan 8, MS.

And courtesy the MY3 i lost my job. hehehe.

Anonymous said...

You lost your job at THE NATION is it??

But that is a PRIVATE newspaper. How on earth can you loose your job on "political grounds"???

PS: I don't think the Yahapalana "approvers" are LEAVING it. They are actually criticizing it and trying to correct it. This is something that never happened during the time of the Maha Rajaano. Just take the case of the CBSL governor issue. It the Yahapalana "approvers" did not criticize and protest Arjun Mahendran would have been re-appointed. But now somebody better has been appointed.