UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is known for his interesting turn of phrase, which unfortunately does not serve him well in electoral politics, when he speaks in Sinhala. For, he strains for effect and, in the process, leaves room for his expressions to be taken out of context and twisted.
Recently, a technology savvy Ranil drew a clever analogy between his party and computer software. Addressing a meeting at Kahawatte, he said President Mahinda Rajapaksa had a computer but it was the UNP that had the software for that machine.
We are not too sure as to whose ware is hard or whose ware is soft. Anyway, the UNP leader seems to think that his coalition has the potential to capture power in Parliament and the President would be at its mercy after April 08. Ranil`s analogy stirs up our memories of how the computer of government, so to speak, malfunctioned from 2001 to 2004 with President Chandrika Kumaratunga who had `hardware` and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who possessed `software` refusing to cooperate at all even on matters of national interest.
The UNF government with software in its possession resorted to a computer jilmaat, as it were to use a phrase JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe coined to describe an alleged computer fraud and manipulated the system of government to undermine the executive presidency. Some members of the international community bombarded the system with malware to gain remote access. They used a trojan horse (read a CFA) for that purpose. Those `hackers` used a great deal of spyware and almost succeeded in taking over government. Nay, they ran the country for three years to all intents and purposes!
It was the Rathu Sahodarayas who finally coached President Kumaratunga on how to use the firmware the framers of the 1978 Constitution had installed for the elimination of corrupt software and malware in 2004. She sacked the UNF government. Shall we call that process also a computer jilmaat? Thereafter the country was able to take hackers off its back and repair the system. (The machine had to be reformatted and software installed anew. The rest is history.)
Do we need a similar situation again with `hardware` (executive powers) in the hands of the President and the `software` (legislative powers) in the hands of UNP leader Wickremesinghe? Such an arrangement may work in advanced democracies but it will prove to be disastrous in this country. The UNP and the SLFP do not see eye to eye on anything and go for each other`s jugular at the drop of a hat to hell with the national interest. When Prime Minister Tony Blair went to war in Iraq, his political rivals stood by him but when President Rajapaksa declared war on terrorism, the Opposition not only refused to co-operate but also went all out to throw a monkey wrench in the works. Their co-operation is pie in the sky.
The problem with those who claim to possess `hardware` and `software` in power politics is that they do not believe in shareware and network environments or give a tinker`s damn about the so-called liveware or the people.
However, if the `hardware and software` personnel engaged in a bitter battle for supremacy in politics think they could carry out computer jilmaat taking no heed of opposition from the liveware or the real owners of the hardware and software that they flaunt, they are mistaken. It is the public who will decide who gets the software , on April 08.