Tail wags the dog

Yesterday the leader of the CWC, Mr. Arumugam Thondaman’s supporters in a disgraceful demonstration of thuggery and vandalism brought life to a standstill in the picturesque environs of the Nuwara Eliya District. The demonstration titled ‘ Court arrest’ apparently was intended to be on the lines of a Gandhian Satyagraha but the intimidatory tactics deployed and vandalism practised made it a far cry from the passive resistance demonstrations of the Indian sage.

About 200 trees had been felled and placed across the rail tracks to prevent trains from plying while boulders had been rolled on to the highways to block traffic. Most of the businesses were forced to put up shutters. No doubt Mr. Thondaman would claim ‘ success’ of his demonstration and the support of the people for his move against the Kotmale Hydropower project .

But according to reports the 478 families that will be moved out, if the project goes through, have no objections at all because the housing promised will be a much greater improvement on the line rooms they are now accommodated in. Our report said that even Mr. P. Chandarsekeran, the Minister of Estate Infrastructure is not opposed to the construction of the Kotmale Hydropower reservoir.

Mr Thondaman has certainly the right to protest against the project on various grounds such as the destruction of the environment or on humanitarian grounds. But is he doing so as a humanist, environmentalist or a politician who wants to assume the powers of a potty Raj of the Thottam? What is grossly objectionable is that he is a minister of the cabinet and is protesting against a government decision! This kind of action brings Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, the government and the country into to utter ridicule. When cabinet ministers demonstrate in public against their own government and its decisions, they earn epithets such as a Banana Republic and a Failed State for their countries. People should not tolerate such ministers in office.

Mr. Thondaman’s grandfather the late Savumyamoorthi Thondman too staged demonstrations against governments of which he was a minister but at least he had the finesse to call them ‘ prayer meetings’ and did not involved violence or acts of vandalism. Thondaman, the younger, however appear to have a penchant for the wild west such as walking into police stations and ordering police officers about.

Mr. Thondaman, however, is a neophyte to politics. There are others, holding key positions in the state machinery who work at cross-purposes to the interests of the state and the nation. Yesterday, The Island reported President Chandrika Kumaratunga saying that the armed forces had only ammunition sufficient only for ten days, if the LTTE launched a sudden attack. This is indeed not a statement that should have been made by the head of state who is also the commander- in- chief of the armed forces. Perhaps the president attempted to justify the statement by saying that she was disclosing this because it was no more a secret to the LTTE. But what of the effect of this statement on the morale of the soldiers out in the North and East? . If the situation was that bad what she should have done was to have conferred with Prime Minister Wickremasinghe and Defence Minister Marapane and taken immediate remedial measures. But when the president of a country makes a public pronouncement that the security forces have only ten days of ammunition if fighting breaks out and does nothing about it, she will not be taken very seriously by foreign nations and the country becomes the laughing stock.

The president’s statement should also be considered in the context of another statement of hers published last Friday where she had proposed 50 per cent pay hike for public servants. A government that could not have purchased ammunition, most probably because of the parlous state of finances, could it afford to give a 50 per cent pay hike for public servants? And this after she gave up control of a bankrupted Treasury 18 months ago with the economy registering zero growth!

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s sin has been that he has let the tail wag the dog ever since he took office. Be it the LTTE, CWC or the SLMC they have been getting away with what they want while the Prime Minister has been desperately trying his best to keep the parliamentary majority intact

How long will this national tragedy go on? It will continue as long as political opportunism prevails over national interests and people continue to vote on party loyalties. What they should to do is to abandon party loyalties and spoil their votes en-masse at the next major election indicating to their leaders that this political skulduggery cannot go on forever.

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