4th July, 2004  Volume 10, Issue 51




















Three Months Up, And Down The Pallang

It is three months today, since the April 2 general election. Three months: that's all Chandrika Kumaratunga said it would take to deliver on her jobs for all unemployed graduates, freeze on the cost of living and have the government put back on the rails. In next week's issue, we will publish a report card on the Alliance's progress these past few months. To be fair, we will judge them by the standards they set for themselves, not the expectations of the people, which are a tad higher.

If there is one thing for which Kumaratunga should express gratitude to The Sunday Leader, it is for not making public her school reports from St. Bridget's Convent, which seat of learning must share at least part of the blame for producing this abysmal President for us. The days when she pranced about the school playground in pleated skirts - and who knows, perhaps even a donkey fringe and pigtails - are long past. However, were the Mother Superior of her times to report on her progress now, heads would be shaken and lips pursed: "Young Chandrika's performance," she would write, quivering in her habit, her brow bedewed with indignant sweat, "has been far from satisfactory. She has failed to do her homework, and been playing truant. A greedy, vain and indolent girl who would do well to pull up her socks and do some honest work, rather than gadding about the world at state expense."

Kumaratunga's policy of "grab in haste and repent at leisure" has put the entire nation in a tailspin. Starting with her constitutional coup last November 4, she worked her way into winning the April 2 election by making a series of mouth-watering promises to the nation's poor. We said at the time that she was lying, and now it is clear to everyone that indeed, she was, true to form of course. Kumaratunga has been slow to deliver on the plethora of promises she made: indeed, among the few things she appears ever to have delivered with any success at all are her two cherubic children.

That Kumaratunga lied when she made all those elaborate promises is no surprise to anyone, for our worthy President is adequately on record as being a fluent and habitual liar (a part of her character that cannot have won her brownie points from the Mother Superior). But where the country is poised to suffer as never before is in the quality of governance - or lack of it - that her Alliance government offers. In three months, government has come to a standstill. The ministries have lost interest. The four JVP ministers, who were slated to be the blue-eyed boys of the new administration, are clearly at a loss. Indeed, the JVP has been shown to be every bit as corrupt as the SLFP before it, given the shameful conduct of JVP's MP from Matara in having the rules waived to smuggle his son into school. Not only that, but the fact that the JVP's leadership has endorsed this disgrace by coming to the MP's aid saying that he was only exercising his privilege as an MP. And we thought all along that communists were against privilege in any form!

The secretaries to almost every ministry make no secret of the fact that their ministers don't know if they are coming or going. The Finance Minister has been virtually shut out of his ministry by his own secretary, who happens to be a crony of the President. The Prime Minister has been reduced to gracing social functions, with no role to play in the government. The country is in effect run by a kitchen cabinet comprising of Kumaratunga, Wimal Weerawansa and Mangala Samaraweera. And this has so irked the rest of the cabinet that most ministers have resolved simply to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their office rather than attempt to do any work.

And not least among those living for pleasure alone is Anura Bandaranaike. Little did he realise what an ass he was making of himself when he cancelled a recent trip to Singapore by officials of his ministry on the ironic grounds that it was a waste of funds. Ever since Bandaranaike took office, he has been gallivanting almost non-stop, absenting himself from the country even for the visit of Singapore's Prime Minister Goh. In fact, Bandaranaike at the time had headed off to London at state expense merely in the hope of showing his face at his niece's convocation, from which however, he was pointedly excluded. And we the taxpayers had to foot the bill for the nation's burly First Brother trying to muscle in where he was not welcome.

While not delivering on its false promises is one thing, jeopardising the peace process is quite another. While the Alliance's propaganda machine might fool some of the people some of the time, it has clearly laid an egg when it comes to the LTTE. The Tigers have, after the passage of so many months, satisfied themselves that it was indeed the army that gave refuge to Karuna; the fact that the government tried to cover this up sadly implicated the Alliance as being hand in glove with the rebel leader. Sadly for Kumaratunga, the Tiger's seem inexplicably reluctant to believe everything they read in the Daily News. So much so that even the truth told through that medium is almost universally presumed to be a lie. Indeed, Mangala Samaraweera was right when he said that all it takes is a bottle of arrack.

With the peace process on the rails, no unbelting in sight of those 4.5 billion dollars, the rupee weakening by the day and parliament effectively frozen, the country has slowly but surely shifted into reverse gear. Kumaratunga will undoubtedly have one more stab at establishing a life support system for herself in the form of a Constituent Assembly, and should that fail, treading water until early next year when she can once more dissolve parliament in the hope of securing a majority, be it ever so slim. For its part, the opposition has its work cut out in getting a motion of impeachment into the Speaker's hands before then, for only that can thwart her plans.

Not only would a third general election in three years be unpopular with the country, it will also be unpopular with the Alliance's MPs, for the country is steadily losing faith in the electoral system. Next week's provincial council elections are expected to bring a record-low turnout of voters, many of whom are disgusted with the system. While the Alliance may well win the provinces being contested, it is now certain that voter disapproval of the government will be expressed largely through many people boycotting the election. The fact that the number of public servants seeking to vote by post has been reduced by half in just three months is symptomatic of voter apathy in general, and that alone, if nothing else, is a telling indictment on the government. Things are indeed set to get a lot worse before - and if - they ever get better.

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