“Well fix it, dear President….” is the call as issues thwart developments in Sri Lanka

Hole in the BucketWhile many people  in North and East provinces are taking today as ‘A Day of Mourning’ in memory of those who lost their lives during the final stages of the civil war;  government is facing many issues that are hindering development and the people are calling “Well fix it, dear President……….” The call reminds of a frequently-sung song “There’s a hole in the bucket…” without knowing what it’s all about. “There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza…” is the first line, followed by “Well fix it, dear Henry…” it’s a novel concept in these throwaway times. “With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza…” and Henry doesn’t have much gumption. There are a lot of ways of fixing a hole in a bucket, and Liza’s solution doesn’t sound very practical: “With straw, dear Henry…” Poor Henry, seems to be somewhat feeble: “With what shall I cut it?  Dear Liza…” Liza would probably have used a sledge hammer to drive in a carpet tack, since she responds, “With an axe!  Dear Henry.” Alas, soon dear Henry is back with another problem. “The axe is dull, dear Liza.” Pause Liza is getting a little testy new. “Well hone it dear Henry…” That is, sharpen it on the grindstone. Henry’s next crisis occurs when he finds the stone is dry. A leaky can suspended above the grindstone is meant to drip water on it, wetting the dusty grit so it will sharpen tools more effectively. “Well wet it!  Dear Henry…” “With what shall I wet it, dear Liza…?” “With water, dear Henry…?”  “But how shall I get it? Dear Liza…..”, “In the bucket, dear Henry…..”, “But there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza…, dear Liza, a hole. “Well fix it, dear Henry…” and the kids’ song goes in a circle. Sri Lankans are like Henry and Liza in the song, may GOD help them.

Sri Lanka has seen this before in the fifties, again in the seventies and nineties in the last century and in 2009 and in 2015, where the country was placed on the path to develop and on each occasion it was halted by poor governance by leaders who knew nothing about leading a multi-national nation, who were guided feeble men and women. Last was in the presidential election of 2015, the incumbent President was challenged by a cabinet minister from his own party. What resulted was a crazier circular political path that has brought the country back to the same point it was in the ’50s, when a cabinet minister on leaving his party, opposed its leader to become the Prime Minister with executive powers. For the first time the election forged an unusual collage of political ideologies and contradictory ethno-religious perspectives into a joint platform to defeat the President; yet they all did not join the government. Today, by choice the President of the unity government has ended with a restricted executive presidency holding on to defence, provincial council powers and overall supervision of governance, yet like all previous governments before has created space for the dominance of the majority community and has demonstrated that they are not interested to accommodate the minorities on equal terms. They have however, to demonstrate that there is no discrimination of the minorities, have ventured with the top down based projects to cover all provinces. Any benefits the Tamil speaking people received since 2015 are basic facilities what the rest of the population are receiving, as decided by the central government. Any specific program to uplift these people impacted by the war is planned and executed by the central authorities are like throwing bread crumbs, that is not sustainable and they are not integrated with the total program. It is not that the TNA leadership is clueless of the plight of their people and knows well of the difficulties incurred by them by the war. Like any other legislators in parliament they have received all the perks that comes with the job; yet they are unable to get the government to do nothing to uplift their people by the fact they are in opposition. Nothing has changed substantially for these people who are still living with these problems. This at a time relatives world over of those who died at the end of the civil war in 2009 are today remembering collectively to keep their spirit alive, that leaves the rest of the Tamil population in a predicament, particularly the TNA legislators who by choice opted to stay in opposition and give unconditional support the unity government. Naturally, the Tamils in North and East provinces are getting agitated as the result; are today in an impasse once again like “There’s a hole in the bucket…..” song goes having gone a circle starting with hartals of the 1960s are back again to staging hartals and strikes, that has led their legislators in parliament to the point of blaming each other. It is not that Tamil leadership is clueless, for there are many ways of addressing the issues of the Tamils than going back to hartals, for it never took them anywhere only did worsen the problem driving a wedge between the people and the state, like fixing the hole in a bucket. But the leadership seems somewhat feeble in the eyes of their opponents, whereas it at a time like these opponents must work as a team and make a strong representation in parliament, even if it means sacrificing the “ceremonial” Leader of the opposition post held by the TNA leader and supporting every action of the government. If all minorities can face the government as a single unit there is a great chance for success a point missed out by the all leaders of the minorities, will they come out of their doomed mindset to enjoy perks and ministerial positions they are getting from the government to unite as one body?.

In addition to this ethnic related issue that needs to be resolved, there are many other issues that affects the total population and are made more complicated by the joint opposition, who are hell bent to destabilise the government at every available opportunity. The other issues includes: Changing the constitution, System for Holding Elections, Reviving the economy, Job creation and so on. Yet the government is facing crisis after crisis with some left unresolved and inherited from the previous government and the rest caused by a government that is divided on many matters, even on matters that appear trivial like garbage disposal with one wanting to recycle the Meethotamulla garbage while another was proposing that the garbage be transported to another area. The most unsettle matter for the people is listening to various government spokesmen speaking in different voices on many issues, which makes it a mockery of the unity government, the latest being the long anticipated cabinet reshuffle, where few changes are desirable. “Well fix it, dear President….” is the distress call from the people to the head of state heard many times before in the past too. But simply calling the President is not going to solve any issues, unless all communities come out of their respective doomed mind set to participate positively in a joint effort to put the nation on the development path. Unite to resolving all the issues stated at the earliest is the only way left to take the country forward with advantage of the export boost given by the GSP+ offer from EU, the reactivation of Tank Farm in the east and other ventures offered by India and the fallouts from the plan to rebuild the ancient Silk Road by China.