Malinda Seneviratne, in his very own blog where the title is “Yahapalanaya: congenital flaws and their discontents”
The burning political question of the day appears to be who and how many Parliamentarians received money from Perpetual Treasuries Ltd (PTL) for their respective election campaigns. In a political season marked by scandalous memory-loss some have claimed that they didn’t always know who was depositing money in their accounts. Meanwhile the full list of beneficiaries is proving to be elusive; first it was said that PTL had funded the campaigns of 116 politicians, later the number was upped to 166 and now it stands at 186.
What is interesting, as Shamindra Ferdinando of ‘The Island’ recently pointed out in a television discussion, is that no one is talking about the money that the Government of the United States of America has pumped into certain political campaigns here in Sri Lanka. The then US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that his Government had spent US $ 582 million ‘to strengthen democracy’ in Sri Lanka, Burma and Nigeria. The Sri Lankan chunk was ‘invested’ in the run up to the change-of-government in January 2015. The US Embassy in Colombo has not responded to a request by Ferdinando to reveal the amount relevant to Sri Lanka.
Now ‘democracy’ is a good word and sounds decent too, but it has been prostituted so much and by no country as much as the USA, that it’s become a global joke whenever the USA is involved: ‘Do as we say!’ says Uncle Sam, ‘or else we will bring democracy to you!’ That could mean anything from drone attacks, a civil war, an devastated economy and misery lasting years.
What is relevant however is that even if those political friends of Uncle Sam got just 10% of this democracy-fund it is still about 7000 times more than what any of the politicians that PTL helped out during that election. PTL is under a cloud, sure, but then again the sky above Washington DC, metaphorically speaking, has been jet black for centuries. Sorry, that’s been overly generous. Washington DC is not under a cloud, because that indicates the possibility of innocence. The point need not be elaborated. The question that Shamindra raises is pertinent: if these politicians erred in receiving bucks from PTL, what of the parties (and individuals) that were bucked by the State Department?
Given all this, maybe someone can argue that Russia, if that country got involved in the first place in the US Presidential Election, ‘was only strengthening democracy’ since the giver can use the word regardless of intention and regardless of the color of the particular currency (robbed, plundered, swindled or printed).
Let’s get to the burning political question of the past three years: Yahapalanaya or lack thereof. What we are seeing almost on a daily basis is a scenario akin to thieves falling out. It’s now a blame game about inefficiency, incompetence, wrongdoing and rank stupidity. The problem is that separate entities though they may believe themselves to be, while the Yahapalana knot stands, praise and blame accrue to all constituent elements of the coalition.
The problem about taking pot shots at one another in this case is that the assailants happen to be twins, joined at their political hips. It is too late in the day to breakaway because any surgery will result in both being wounded and will leave both with a limp that will be a decisive handicap in any political race.
Yes, we are talking about Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Yes, we are talking about the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United National Party. Yes, we are talking about the entire Yahapalana Government. Whether or not reduced circumstances and fear of sojourn in a political wilderness will force these twins to recognize the reality of their congenital fate we do not know. What we do know is that they are sorely lacking in political choices at this point.
Things are so bad that quite contrary to Wickremesinghe’s message to the UNP, ‘focus on solving the problems of the people’ all constituent parties of this government and their backers are betting on distractions.
The issue of PTL funding politicians is a good example. The focus of a true yahapanalist (yes, the lot swearing by that term are patently fake) should be the issue of transparency and accountability in campaign finance. An individual yahapalanist politician, even at this late date, would say something like this: ‘from this day forth I shall accept donations only on the condition that the name of the donor and the amount will be immediately made public’.
If any Yahapalanist was truly concerned about politicians being funded by a company that was accused of benefitting from as scandalous a scam as the one associated with Central Bank bonds, then such a person would also take issue with the interference in domestic affairs by the USA. But no, they never had issues with such things back in 2015.
Therein lies the problem. Wrongdoing is not an issue. Wrongdoing by those who are not with them can be an issue whereas wrongdoing by someone in the family becomes a problem only when the integrity and political future of the clan could come under threat.
That’s Yahapalanaya in a nutshell, folks; rather the UNP-SLFP version of it.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: malindasene.