Ranil’s 75-Day Legacy

0
133

Today marks the seventy-fifth full day since UNP leader President Ranil Wickremesinghe created a record by joining the SLPP Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, first as the country’s Premier on 12 May and subsequently as its President, since Wednesday (20 July) to date. SLPP leader Rajapaksa’s party commands 145 seats in the 225-member House.

A hallmark of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe regime, which enters its fifth ‘full’ day since Wickremesinghe’s election as President, by the House and the 75th day since his appointment, earlier as Premier is the continuation of record high inflation and cost of living, shortages, rationing, queues, queue deaths, nepotism, hours long daily power cuts, schools’ and public office closures, cronyism, bribery and corruption, inherited when Wickremesinghe’s immediate predecessor, Rajapaksa’s younger brother Gotabaya was President from 16 November 2019 to  last Wednesday (13 July) before he fled the country amidst public protests over the above socioeconomic ills.

The current Premier is the SLPP’s former Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena, appointed to this position by Wickremesinghe, together with a new Cabinet three days ago on Friday.

Vis-à-vis, the above ills besetting the country’s socioeconomic landscape since last year, Wickremesinghe also added a negative political dimension no sooner he was made acting President after Gota fled the country last Wednesday, by declaring a state of emergency.

The deleterious political and socioeconomic environment bedeviling the country is a mirror image of the political and socioeconomic  landscape that dominated it 45-52 years ago, from 1970-1977, with additional negative features like queue deaths, fuel and cooking gas shortages, power cuts and the closure of schools and Government institutions, absent in the 1970-1977 era.

The 1970-77 period was an era where the then Government practised Marxist-Socialist policies, where free enterprise and foreign investments were anathema and nationalisation and a state of emergency imposed from 1971 to 1977 were the order of the day. 

The cause for the current socioeconomic malaise besetting the country is due to a mix of corruption and bad economic policies that has led to a US dollar shortage in the country, beginning with Mahinda’s near 10-year Presidency from 17 November 2005 to 8 January 2015 and again, after a near five year hiatus, from 16 November 2019 to 13 July 2022 during younger brother Gota’s Presidency.

Countries and regions rich with the greenback and which have the strength to bailout Sri Lanka are the USA, EU, Japan and China. But, due to geopolitical and ideological differences, USA, EU and Japan sit on one camp and China in the other.

The Rajapaksas distanced themselves from the USA, EU and Japan due to a mix of corruption and human rights (HR) abuse for which offences, China, like the three proverbial monkeys saw no evil, heard no evil or spoke no evil, diametrically opposite to the stance of the West and Japan which not only values transparency, accountability, democracy and the observance of HR, but are also vocal about those, unlike China.

Paradoxically, these developments took place when the West is Sri Lanka’s largest merchandise export, tourism and IT, and IT enabled services export markets, whereas China is among the country’s top two merchandise import markets, the other being India.  Japan is the largest bilateral provider of concessional aid to Sri Lanka.

In the backdrop of these developments, today also marks the twelfth full day since Wickremesinghe has been holding the reins of the country, first as acting President and now as President, post 13 July.

But, instead of rebuilding broken bridges with the West and Japan, Wickremesinghe attacked peaceful protesters at Galle Face Green and the Presidential Secretariat Colombo by unleashing the armed forces and the Police on them on Friday, especially after those protesters had earlier promised to vacate those premises in the afternoon of that same day.

However, as, that which is the farthest from the minds of the West and Japan of causing further socioeconomic harm to ‘Citizen Silva’ by imposing sanctions on the country as a whole, instead, there is a likelihood that if the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe Government does not mend their ways, individual sanctions may well be imposed on them and their immediate families by the West and Japan.