The Opposition top guns promise a salvo on Tuesday in Anuradhapura. Another protest (Virodya) is scheduled for Thursday against soaring prices, political victimisation and what they describe as the threat of division of the country.
The government has gone the whole hog to keep the PA at bay. Many of its prominent members are languishing in remand prisons. Several others are being pursued. The PA was driven to the ground at two elections in quick succession. Several of its firebrands have deserted the party and are now in the fold of the UNF. But it is fighting back. How has this been possible?
The initial euphoria created by the regime-change has fizzled out. The people see no end to price hikes. Little gets done on the economic front.
Obviously, the government is preoccupied with the peace process much to the neglect of other duties expected of it. It looks as if the government wanted the people to wait till peace is achieved for their day-to-day problems to be addressed. But can the people wait till the cows come home?
The people threw the PA out of power as they desperately needed solutions to their economic problems, which the UNP promised before the general election. The PAs ignominious defeat has also been attributed to arrogance of power. But the people would still have put up with it had the economy been doing well with benefits trickling down. Only the naive would attribute the fall of the PA to its efforts to militarily defeat the LTTE without opting for peace talks. Instead, it was the PAs failure to prosecute the war properly that cost it a large number of votes in the south.
What the people expected of the regime that stepped into the breach was basically to ease their economic burden. For the UNP is supposedly a better manager of the economy than the PA. The UNP-led UNF, it should be recalled, promised to bring relief to the people within one hundred days of assuming office.
But going by the doings of the government, it has failed to read properly the mandate given by the people. Hence its claim that the people have given it a peace mandate. Worse still, it has sought to justify, with the help of this claim, the surfeit of concessions being granted to the LTTE with a view to bringing it to the negotiating table.
The possible deproscription of the LTTE, the domination by the LTTE of the peace process, the wide spread fear of confederation being a likely solution etc. have provided the Opposition with ammunition for an effective political battle with the government outside Parliament. The high cost of living will help the Opposition mobilise the people.
The UNF has failed to learn from the mistakes of the PA. The PA during its seven-year rule neither made peace nor fought the war properly nor built the economy. And finally it engineered its own downfall.
That an MoU is in force is no guarantee that there will be a lasting peace. Even the Minister of Defence has admitted in Parliament that there is an 'element' of risk involving the peace process. There is nothing new about what is going on. The LTTE has agreed to cessation of hostilities in the past and peace talks have been held. There has been even Norwegian involvement in the peace process before. But peace remains a distant dream. Although the government cannot be faulted for trying to give peace another chance, it is disastrous to be oblivious to reality.
Central Bank figures and various other cooked up statistics and doctored reports may be flaunted by the government claiming that the situation has improved since it took over. But the man on the street will tell them that he now pays more for fuel, food, electricity, communication, water and transport. This is what matters in politics and strengthens the hands of the Opposition.
Whether the Opposition protests will be a success is yet to be seen. But the fact that a wounded Opposition is slowly rising to its feet so soon should cause the government to take a long hard look at its performance for the past six months.
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