Sri Lanka: Democracy, narcissism and playing hide and seek with IMF

 Should our Loan Rangers go round the world with the begging bowl in hand borrowing from Comrade Xis and paying Modi Shris and vice versa soon after? Why don’t we stabilise the situation by working with the IMF instead of playing hide and seek games as revealed last week?

by Gamini Weerakoon

An unknown political yokel made the news recently when he advised President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to extend his term of office by two years because the Covid virus had stalled his Vistas of Splendour and Prosperity for Sri Lanka for the same period.

The President, who had been at the Dalada Maligawa when this encounter took place had complimented the unidentified young political visionary and had remarked that he was fit enough to be in one of his political think tanks, reports said.

Whether President Rajapaksa intends acting on the advice of this unknown political local yokel we are not aware of but constitutional pundits see a simple ‘methodology’ of enacting this proposal: Advise the time proven trusted lawyers now labouring over a new constitution which Rajapaksa had called for, to include the proviso that the five-year term of office of a President now specified in the constitution be extended by the period of time that stalled his development plans caused by natural forces/Acts of God or gods/ viruses or mosquitoes etc.

However, a GMOA rebel fully decked in a Covid 19 white ‘space suit’, in a hospital corridor whispered to us while passing : Psst… Psst… Covid 19 is going to be endemic in Lanka for a long, long time like TB and malaria. It can’t be wiped out soon. So, the Presidency may last as a long as the pandemic lasts … and may go on for a long time. It could be an ‘Endemic Presidency’.

The political wisdom of this unidentified political visionary at the Maligawa, we see, has a global potential. Since most countries were affected by the Covid pandemic, those leaders too may consider it a bonanza and want their terms in office extended.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Lankan yokel are on the same wave length. In very hot water for holding booze parties at his official residence, Johnson tells parliament, ‘Never mind my parties but what about the work I have done?’ Johnson claims to have controlled the pandemic better than all other European political leaders.  He vaccinated a greater percentage of the population than any other European country.

Haven’t we heard Rajapaksa supporters claiming that Sri Lanka is among the high ranking countries that have effectively controlled Covid 19? Doesn’t our percentage of vaccination leave many other developed countries behind? Pity that those international organisations that keep statistics on the spread of Covid-19, don’t report these facts.

This Covid-19 Bonanza may be contagious. Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Dueterte, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and many more who have to face elections soon will want to be declared ‘Endemic Presidents’ and postpone elections.

Constitutional subjects are indeed of relevance at the time these thoughts are being written — one day before the 74th Day of Independence. Overhead Air Force planes are droning — practising their runs for Independence Day Celebrations while we are wondering whether there would be an immediate power- cut knocking out the only fan which keeps us going in the 31 degree C heat and 80 percent humidity or it will come later at night plunging us into gloom and doom on the eve of ‘Independence of the Nation’.

This current economic crisis has produced the best of tragi-comedies in our lifetime and could even be taken with a sardonic smile if not for visions of disasters ahead.

The Minister of Energy has no energy for the Minister of Power and the Minister of Power without energy can’t produce electrical power. And the all-powerful President with executive powers which perhaps no other president has had, can’t do anything about it because he has no money — no hard currency for fuel to power generators.

Despite all the vigorous public arguments between engineers, scientists, trade unionists, economists, journalists, politicians and con-artists at talk shows going late into the night to find out the real reason for the debacle, they are not saying it loud and clear: No money. Sri Lanka is bankrupt and has no hard currency of its own to buy energy generating fuel: Oil, coal or gas.

The Loan Rangers with their white Covid Masks are galloping on the Internet and claiming to have raked in massive dollar hauls.  But the money has not yet come and so there is no oil, coal or gas but only blackouts. Why have the dollar hauls of our Loan Rangers not arrived? Are the Shylocks demanding their pound of flesh — Sri Lankan property, the ‘National Treasures’ (Jatika Vastu) the patriotic Rajapaksas and supporters swore would never be sold to foreigners like what the Yahpalanaya government did in leasing the ‘Most By-passed Harbour in the World’ to China to pay off mounting debts incurred mostly by the Rajapaksa government.

Can a nation go on from blackout go blackout, with still no regular supply of gas to cook, thousands unemployed and even the cheapest packet of rice and curry now over Rs 300?

Should our Loan Rangers go round the world with the begging bowl in hand borrowing from Comrade Xis and paying Modi Shris and vice versa soon after? Why don’t we stabilise the situation by working with the IMF instead of playing hide and seek games as revealed last week?

Is it a problem of narcissism: Not wanting to lose face by having to go back on one’s word? Narcissus, it is said fell in love with his face after seeing it as a reflection in a pond of water. In these days of photography, films TV and mass media some individuals see their faces ever so often and love their faces or images. This love is interlinked with one’s ego. Military dictators who loved their faces — history reveals — have galloped into disaster together with their peoples and countries.

In democracies when a society is endangered, narcissism and egoism have to take a back seat. Narendra Modi, a supreme egoist in contemporary times, gave in to India’s farmers after rejecting their demands for one year.

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