Mud-slinging a sign of desperation



Today Sri Lanka is facing, arguably, its worst survival crisis since independence, following the two armed JVP insurrections (1971 and 1986-90) and the long drawn armed LTTE separatism (1976-2009), both terrorist movements. A considerable number of good but ill-informed or misinformed young Sri Lankans believe the past seven decades of independence have seen nothing but a steady degradation of the country as a nation (in terms of governance, economy, and social standards, etc.) due to something intrinsically wrong with the established (political) system and the alleged depravity of all the politicians of the country having been given to corruption and abuse of power without any exception.

But the truth is that there were and there still are good honest politicians, though they have traditionally been surrounded by a host of very bad ones. See how the worst characters who were close to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, and abused his inborn kindness and rather naive trust in them as a cover for their dishonest practices, have now decamped to the government side, and how some of them are making fake videos to sling mud at him and his brother Gotabaya.

A series of mudslinging videos due to be launched in the social media on the 14th and 15th against Gotabaya, as some Joint Opposition MPs have already forewarned, is an indication of the utter despair and frustration of his opponent’s camp. Such tactics are bound to earn the disapproval of the politically literate Sri Lankan electorate, and are ultimately counterproductive for the perpetrators. Already, a few of the bigwigs of the government have been caught red-handed and exposed through the media. Large sums of money from local or foreign sources (more likely from the latter) are suspected to have been spent on this. One can reasonably wonder what they have done other than Rajapaksa bashing for the past five years. The speakers on government campaign platforms sound as if they are the Opposition and try to absolve themselves of all wrongdoing, meanwhile transferring all blame to the Joint Opposition. Mud-slinging is usually indulged in by opposition elements against their opponents in other countries, but with the Yahapalanaya it is different.

The speeches that the UNP presidential candidate makes and the obviously impractical election promises he dangles before audiences, suggest that he has strategically forgotten that he is a powerful minister of the government with the ability to have demonstrated his credibility (if he has any and if he wants to); by actually doing something about at least some of the problems that he pledges himself to solving (like looking into what is happening at Muhudu Maha Viharaya and Kuragala, or by doing something constructive about it or by ensuring that the impoverished workers on the Upcountry tea estates get the Rs 1000 daily payment they have been demanding for so long).   

Belittling of the country’s past achievements by his secret promoters is another mean tactic.  Sri Lanka has succeeded in introducing a number of positive changes through parliamentary democracy under both the original UNP and SLFP-led governments, the most conspicuous of these being those made in 1956, 1970, 1978, 1994 and 2009. (The regime change engineered with foreign involvement in 2015 that replaced the best performing post-independence government Sri Lanka had until then cannot be included in this list.) The negative assessment that Sri Lanka made no progress because of the depravity of politicians, therefore, is not totally valid, though superficially it may appeal to the young sections of the electorate who tend to generalize on the basis of what they have been experiencing in the name of ‘good governance’ during the past four and a half years.

That is, this most pessimistic verdict on post-independence politics up until now is largely a reaction to the Yahapalanaya, which may be described as an absolute ‘kakistocracy’ (rule by the worst people) unmatched by any government that ruled before. Paradoxically, the indiscriminate judgement might make the democratic dislodgement of the most undemocratic and corrupt administration ever in post-independence Sri Lanka more difficult than it should be in the prevailing circumstances, and it is being slyly promoted by the Yahapalanaya’s erstwhile supporters who are hellbent on preventing the patriotic forces now poised to replace it from doing so. 

Patriotic forces have a clear vision for the country and a definite plan of action, especially appealing to the tech-savvy young generation. Their concern is with the survival of the Sri Lankan state as a vibrant single entity. Their opponents are only worried about their own survival in politics. Now that the voters are wise to their pretensions, their desperation can be easily understood.

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