Uyangoda on Sri Lanka’s future

Jayadeva Uyangoda is an astute critical examiner of Sri Lanka’s politics. In this piece in Groundviews he offers a disquieting prognosis of the country’s current predicament:

“Particularly sad is the ways in which President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe are ruining whatever little that remains in the political potential of their yahapalanaya (’good governance’) regime. President Sirisena is doing it with a little loyalty to the constituencies that enabled him to win the presidential election in January 2015. He has been going after the mirage of establishing his leadership over the SLFP, which fought tooth and nail to defeat him at the last presidential election. The Prime Minister is doing it by deploying a deadly combination of personal arrogance, managerial incompetence and school-boyish skills for trivialising crucial issues of governance.

Meanwhile, ever since the Sri Lankan voters toppled the Rajapaska regime January last year, the possibility of the autocratic, corrupt and unrepentant combination of Rajapaksa brothers defining again the path of the country’s politics as well as the terms of political discourse is now becoming real.

In parallel and certainly more seriously, less than two years in power, the dark side of the yahapalanaya regime is getting gradually institutionalised and also increasingly exposed.

Looking at Sri Lanka’s current politics with a definite sense of unease, I detect four disquieting trends in the country’s current politics.

The first is the regime’s unchecked alienation from its own constituencies. This process has been hastened by the continuing disregard that the government’s two leaders and their ministers – actual number of the latter is anybody’s guess – demonstrate towards the mandate of reform and good governance which the electorate gave them at the presidential and parliamentary elections, held last year. The shallowness of the regime’s commitment to its own promises can no longer be concealed.

The second is the lack of political direction for the regime which both the President and the Prime Minister have failed to provide. Judging by their regular public speeches, one can only conclude that these two gentlemen do not seem to have the political and intellectual capacity even to comprehend their own failures in power. Worst, they seem to be rejoicing over, and even proud of, their inability to be self-critical.

Third is the re-emergence of the defence establishment as a key and silent player in re-shaping and undermining some crucial public policy commitments which the yahapalanayaregime made last year. If the regime change last year re-calibrated the lopsided civil-military relations in Sri Lanka in favour of some measure of democratic equilibrium, that crucial good governance trend is now halted, largely, as it seems, at the behest of the presidential secretariat.

The fourth is the increasing possibility of the Rajapaksa brothers, backed by a remobilisation of Sinhalese nationalist constituencies within both the state and in society, pushing the regime to a state of paralysis and chaos. The yahapalanaya leadership does not show any capacity, or even willingness, to counter this threat.”

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