President Mahinda Rajapaksa is being given a dose of his own medicine. He pioneered mass protest campaigns like Pada Yathra and Human Chain in the early 1990s to make life miserable for the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Today, he has his political rivals resorting to similar tactics. The current Opposition campaign to dislodge his government is gaining momentum. As if the mobilisation of the humble humans were not enough, the Opposition politicians are seeking the help of even divine beings to oust the government.
A few days ago, the UNP held a deva kannalawwa in Kegalle to evoke the blessings of God Dedimunda to achieve that objective. Dedimunda is said to be brave and strong, dedi meaning tough and munda head. He, according to true believers, is the wrong god to go to, if a supplicant`s intention is revenge.
It is not gods that politicians of all parties should approach in a bid to destroy one another but devils or yakas, with whom they have many things in common. During an election, they can seek the help of Mahasona to intimidate their rivals and Riri Yaka?riri meaning blood?to be in charge of their bloody campaigns.
The Opposition has every right to stage any democratic protest that it may deem necessary to capture power. But, it shouldn`t lose sight of the fact that though this country is said to be home to 330 million deities?thistun kotiyak devi devathavun wahansela?in the mundane affairs called politics it is the 19 million lesser human beings who matter.
The UNP, which is all out to make a premature comeback, lost power in 2004 not because it failed to secure the help of deities. Nor was it due to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who sacked the UNP-led UNF government on false pretext. It really lost because the people endorsed President Kumaratunga`s undemocratic act at a subsequent general election, where they returned the SLFP-led UPFA to power. So, without dissipating its energies on things that are beyond the realm of practical politics, the UNP should try to figure out why the people, having elected it barely three years back, sided with President Kumaratunga in 2004, despite her blatant abuse of executive powers to dislodge the UNF administration?something that she regrets now.
Toppling a government is one thing but winning an election is quite another. In 2001, the UNP was lucky. It not only brought down the PA administration by engineering defections but won the election that followed. However, the question is whether the UNP is capable of a repeat performance because the people have rejected its policies as evident from the 2004 election results.
We refrain from venturing any guesses on this matter. But, if the UNP is desirous of winning a future election, it will have to clear some doubts in the public mind, which it created between 2001 and 2004, and prove that it is capable of being a viable alternative to the incumbent government. Here are some questions that it should answer in that regard:
How does the UNP propose to bring down the high cost of living? Will it abolish taxes on fuel? If the answer is in the affirmative, why didn`t it do so when it was in power? Will it revive its policy of depriving new recruits to the State sector of pension rights? Or, will it stop recruitment altogether?
The UNP makes no bones about its opposition to war. If it comes back to power how will it counter LTTE atrocities such as killing civilians and military personnel, child recruitment, political assassinations, extortion, abductions etc.? How does it propose to counter the LTTE`s air capability, which poses a threat not only to Sri Lanka but India as well? How will it handle the issue of the de-merger of the North and the East? Will it hold a separate election to the Eastern Province, as the present government has promised? What will it do with Thoppigala, which it claims, is of no strategic importance? Will it abandon that terrain?
The LTTE walked away from talks under the UNF government, which bent over backwards to bring it back to the negotiating table but in vain because of the LTTE`s insistence that an ISGA be granted for talks to resume. How will the UNP revive peace talks? Will it resume talks on the ISGA? Else, how is it planning to bring the LTTE back to negotiations? A revival of the CFA will entail the military being confined to the pre 2001 positions. Will the UNP agree to do so in the East, where the military will have to forgo its battlefield gains in such an eventuality?
Most of all, even if the UNP manages to oust the government and win a general election, it will be without the executive presidency, which will be the biggest roadblock on its way. The country will inevitably revert to the 2001-2004 situation characterised by a ruthless power struggle between the Legislature and the Executive President constitutionally empowered to dissolve Parliament after one year. How does the UNP propose to overcome that kind of situation?
The biggest challenge before the UNP is not toppling the government but winning back the electorate by proving that it is capable of being different from the present political dispensation. Else, there is the likelihood of the people thinking like that proverbial fox (in an Aesopian fable), which, stuck in a rocky cleft in a stream, turned down the offer of a small animal, which lacked the strength to pull him out, to remove the bloated ticks covering him, with these words: `They are now quite full and they can suck no more of my blood but if you remove them another set will take over and feast on me until I am dead!`
As such, the Opposition may be given this unsolicited advice: `For God`s sake, let deities and devils be try to win over the masses.`