THE idea of a national government has been bandied about in the past, often to facilitate crossovers. It is a concept that helps parliamentarians save face while defecting for personal gain. While going through my old files, I stumbled upon this column I wrote in the Lakbimanews of December 2, 2007. It was another time; a another national government. Here is a slightly edited version of that column.
Our chieftains are blithering again about a national government. Strictly speaking, this is not news – because there is a national government founded every year.
You see, a national government is very much like a suppository. It is cheap. It can be easily inserted into the Sri Lankan psyche where, just moments later, it brings instant relief to a multitude of painful symptoms. (Does not cure the ailment, but it covers the symptoms).
And like every good Sri Lankan national government, a suppository melts and dissipates in minutes. It is, therefore, not uncommon for various politicians of various hues to start gibbering about a national government when things get a little sticky.
Not to imply that Mahinda Rajapaksa is stuck in a pot of glue or something. But it cannot be nice lingering till December 14– twiddling the proverbial thumb–to see whether his government will make it through the third budget vote.
After all, Ranil Wickremesinghe (in moments of rash bravery) has been boasting about toppling the Rajapaksa regime. Unlikely as this may be… what if it were TRUE?
The ground situation is also politically precarious. The war may be going Gotabayesquely well but, even at the best of times, war is such an unreliable political gimmick. Success, one moment; abysmal failure, the next.
More importantly, the cost of living has become a symptom that even a suppository is hard pressed to appease. Bandula Gunawardane, who knew more economics than Adam Smith while he was in the Opposition, is proving more of an economic disaster in government.
The Central Bank says the economy is doing great. The ordinary man (clichéd as that sounds) only knows it would be cheaper to DHL a cow than to buy milk powder. And that the Government wants him to starve himself while they splurge money on themselves without accountability.
On top of this, the JVP has gone inconveniently mutinous. The CWC and a few other parties, who are being heavily wooed by the Opposition, cannot be trusted. And Tamil millionaire Charles Gnanakone is reportedly lurking in corners with bags of money to lure members from the Government to the Opposition on the orders of the LTTE.
So what better suppository than a national government to cure the symptoms? To banish the fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, verbal or otherwise.
Just talking about the possibility of a national government brings with it a degree of relief. It makes the public think that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be a train. It fools them into forgetting those unnecessary, sticky issues that a government cannot solve. And, it might even encourage the opposition to mull over something other than the defeating of a government.
We hear that it is the UNP breakaway faction, led by Karu Jayasuriya, who is mooting the idea of a national government this time. After decamping en masse–and piling portfolios upon themselves like cheap tinsel on a Christmas tree–they have now generously offered to campaign for Ranil’s appointment as prime minister in a future national government.
Luckily, our Wickremesinghe has not been fooled by the latest ruse. One reason may be that, the last time he decided to experiment with a national government, he got–not a suppository–but a kick up his backside.
The 2006 deal he signed with Mahinda Rajapaksa became the double-crossing joke of the century. The president smilingly flourished the agreement to the international community while simultaneously sneaking out UNP members from under Wickremesinghe’s very nose. One hell of a national government that was.
So here we are, heading towards yet another budget vote as if there’s no other business in the country that requires attention. Bombs explode as the war continues; corruption goes on as the MPs get richer and richer; inflation is ballooning as the prices climb higher and higher… and all they can offer us is a cheap, miserable suppository.
Welcome to Sri Lanka. We wish you a pleasant stay.