Sri Lanka is recognised internationally as a country that regulated and curbed the spread of the pandemic. The General- Secretary of the WHO congratulated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for acting with a sense of responsibility in a timely manner. Yet politicians play a different and dirty game. The opposition never seems to be satisfied with anything the Government does nor matter how good it is!
Politics is a dirty game in any part of the world. As far as Sri Lankan politics are concerned, a Presidential Election takes place normally, followed by a General Election to establish a new Government within the framework of democracy. The seventh President in Sri Lanka was Maithripala Sirisena whose term of office ended on 9 January 2020.
The incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa won with a majority of 52.25 per cent, polling a total of 6,924,255 votes (nominated by the SLPP -Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna). To the disenchantment of the NDF (The New Democratic Front), Sajith Premadasa managed 41.99 per cent with 5,564,239 votes. Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the leader of the JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) contested under the NMPP (National Movement of Progressive Party) and ended up with 3.16 per cent receiving only 418,553 votes.
As the seventh presidential Election campaign was getting stormier, the NDF party members expected Sajith Premadasa to become the eighth President of Sri Lanka. Such theories were based on some of the reputed astrologer predictions, backed by an eminent yogi whose forecasts had never flopped before! Sri Lankan soothsayers earned a lousy reputation when Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President, depended on astrology and decided to hold the seventh Presidential Election two years before his term ended and faced a misadventure.
A new trend developed among a few religious people who dabbled in the Universal Forum. They amplified a message perceived by them, which said the country was failing both economically and morally. To resurrect the deteriorating situation ‘Universe itself will choose a suitable leader’. They came up with Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s name as the chosen one from the ‘Universe’ to bring goodness and harmony and direct the country towards progress. This message went viral in Social Media. Meanwhile, critics came up with all kinds of damaging slogans against Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They said he was a ‘military man’ and what the country could expect of him was an autocratic military rule; they also alleged he was an American citizen, but subsequently, their American theory got squashed, ruling out all the rivalry.
The new President’s noble qualities became crystal clear from the very first official swearing-in ceremony. The President-elect appeared in a plain white cotton bush-shirt in the presence of all foreign diplomats dressed in western outfits. After taking oaths, he began to fulfil his promises to the Nation. First, he banned imports of all luxury vehicles to Members of Parliament and other officials; withdrew the convoy of cars travelled behind VIPs; brought his lunch from home (creating history), and never occupied the Presidential Palace in Colombo. The expression of such humble qualities made the entire Nation to adore him and realise Sri Lanka is blessed with a caring leader.
The President, after consulting legal luminaries, dissolved the old Parliament in preparation for a General Election. Unfortunately, as things were taking shape, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, affecting the global economy.
The President’s experience in administration and forward-thinking capacity managed to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was accepted internationally. He consulted the Director of Health Services, and appointed a special National Operation Committee (NOC), comprising 22 members, for the Prevention of COVID-19. The Commander of the Army was appointed as the head the NOC. In turn, NOC liaised with the three forces, the Police, STF and a full spectrum of administrators, including medical officials and PHIs and ceaselessly worked day and night for nearly three months to save the society from the death threat.
This preventive system reduced the number of deaths to only 11. Those eleven victims who died of COVID-19 were either brought the bug with them from foreign countries or infected their family members and friends circularly and ignorantly. The Sri Lankan operation to diminish the spread of the pandemic continued with the full cooperation of the people in the country guided by the Government, whereas the death figures and affected numbers in foreign countries increased by tens and thousands. Sri Lankans living in foreign countries made desperate appeals to the President to bring them back home. Naturally, all of them in foreign countries (affected by COVID-19) were convinced that their mother country was the safest sanctuary during the pandemic.
The first batch to return came from Wuhan in China, followed by Italy and other countries systematically followed through. Altogether, 16,279 Sri Lankans arrived home from 74 countries, up to the time of compiling this article. The Bandaranaike International Airport was closed for commercial flights during that time, still, the President arranged special SriLankan aircraft to fly and bring those ‘desperate’ Lankans in foreign countries out of his humanitarian stance. In doing so, SriLankan aircraft had to fly empty, one way, after the aircraft was disinfected (before and after each flight). In every instance a plane took off and returned, the whole crew needed to go through PCR Tests and were quarantined for 14 days.
Opposition suffering from Alzheimer disease
The opposition political party members suddenly appeared to suffer from progressive dementia, as if they were living in a different planet, having seen the extent of the Government’s efforts to save lives. They started to criticise the Government deliberately – maybe they had to come out with something or the other to keep sane, just before an impending General Election! The general public was fully aware to what degree the Government attempted to mitigate the spread of the virus by imposing several restrictions and even declaring curfew.
Therefore, such utterings from the opposition may not hold water at the forthcoming General Elections on 5 August. Sensible citizens will realise that opposition members have suddenly developed Alzheimer disease symptoms because some opposition political party members keep coming up with pathological lies. Such statements will only register with those who wear tinted glasses. The general public has seen to what extent the Government strived to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Sri Lanka is recognised internationally as a country that regulated and curbed the spread of the pandemic. The Secretary-General of the WHO congratulated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for acting with a sense of responsibility and in a timely manner. Yet, politicians play a different and dirty game. The opposition never seem to be satisfied with anything the Government does no matter how good it is, instead, they would prefer to point their finger at the Government forgetting the three fingers that are bent pointing back at them. What a National tragedy?
As General Election fever temperatures rise, the behaviour of all political parties seems to be in total disarray. 90 per cent of the UNP has left and formed another alliance called SJB under the leadership of Sajith Premadasa. The group that left the UNP sought legal advice from the appeal courts was turned down even before the petition was taken up for consideration.
The cat is out of the bag. The UNP maintains they aim to form a new Government, whereas the SJB’s intention appears to grab Siri Kotha. Amidst the hullabaloo, the UNP continues to argue in retaining their traditional symbol – the elephant, while the SJB tried hard to use the elephant and gave up. They have now sought refuge in the Telephone. SJB wanted to use the colour blue in their political campaign.
Blue however is a long-established colour of the SLFP. The SLFP now intends to file legal action against the SJB for using their party colour. Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, General Secretary of the UNP, is reported to have forwarded an official complaint to the Election Commission against the SJB in trying to use the UNP’s official colour green in Election propaganda. What a mess for the SJB.
Some members of the SLPP are protesting about Maithripala Sirisena’s Chairmanship of the SLFP, despite the existence of a signed agreement between the SLPP and SLFP. It is also reported that the former President’s intention is to back down from the Chairmanship of the SLFP after the General Election. Minister Prasanna Ranatunge made a scathing and an open attack on Maithripala Sirisena, the former President, who is contesting in the General Election on 5 August from Polonnaruwa to be elected as a Member of Parliament.
Politics within politics is only common in Sri Lanka, but the youth who are voting for the first time are quite knowledgeable and alert, unlike the older generations. One could only hope for the sake of the country’s future that voters on 5 August 2020 will make a sensible choice to ensure that no corrupt politician is sent to Parliament.
Picture credit: Getty Immages, google photos