Power and happiness
According to the 2016 World Happiness Report,
Sri Lankans have become happier in the past year compared with the
previous year. The latest Report, which covers 2015, places Sri Lanka
117th in a list of 157 countries assessed, with Denmark as No.1, the
happiest nation and, Burundi as the most unhappy, at 157th. Sri Lankans
can take little solace from being just ahead of India, at 118th and
war-torn Afghanistan at 154th, because most of South Asia is ahead of us
although all are below the mid-level of the Index, with Bhutan, the
happiest South Asian nation, ranked only at 84th despite being the
nation that invented the 'gross national happiness' index.
Nevertheless, compared with life in 2014, for Sri Lankans, life in
2015 seems to have become happier.
For some politicians, though, life seems less happy, now that they
are out of governmental power. So we have millions of rupees and
thousands of ordinary Sri Lankans mobilised in a kind of a continuous
political roadshow by some politicians of the previous regime in their
attempts to keep voting blocs on their side.
First we had the poojas at numerous temples around the country that
provided convenient platforms for anti-government rhetoric and communal
rabble-rousing propaganda. Then we had occult rituals of vengeance and
ill-will by these same politicians against the current unified national
governmental leadership. And in-between, tens of thousands of followers
are bussed in to venues for mass rallies that are then shown up as
'popular' support for those that have been booted out of power.
The propaganda content of this particular political opposition
grouping remains the same. It is a dangerously vague appeal to
nationalist sentiments and phobias that, being articulated almost
entirely in Sinhala, cunningly resonates with an insular ethno-centrism
inherent in the social dynamics of a country and society yet pulsating
with inter-ethnic rivalry and tension. It is dangerously vague because
only such vacuity enables the mobilising of emotions over rationality
and civil propriety.
Such vacuous political mobilisation is also notable in some of the
public discourse of aspiring candidates in the on-going US presidential
race. In the US, however, we are yet to see serial violent attacks on
minority religious sites as we have seen in our own little island.
Significantly, our local religious hate-mongers immediately lost steam
the moment their political patrons were thrown out of government. What
happened to those violence-inciting, so-called clerics who would enact
their own claim to be 'police' of the public good by invading government
agencies to attempt to force officials to toe their line? True, some of
them are now pre-occupied with legally defending themselves against
criminal charges. But, surely, if their so-called 'movement' is genuine,
then their followers should continue with those 'public policing'
Their political patrons, meanwhile, continue with their attempts at
political mobilisation to retain popular support. Last week's meeting at
Hyde Park was the latest exercise in support retention.
But their political goals remain vague and they seem to move from one
venue to another rather than from one policy issue to another. A couple
of months ago, the country was kept awaiting an imminent announcement of
a new political party. That campaign was kept up for weeks until it lost
vigour. The ostensible 'issue' for the Hyde Park rally was the proposed
Sri Lanka-India economic agreement. But hardly any speaker dwelt on that
subject at length. They could not have because the proposed agreement is
still on the drawing board and there is little substance yet for debate.
Hyde Park was nothing more than a mere 'show of strength' by these
The very name by which they call themselves symbolises the sheer
duplicity and vacuity of their politics. After all, how could there by a
opposition' in Parliament if that 'opposition' grouping fails to
include major opposition political parties, especially the parties whose
heads are the Leader of the Opposition and Chief Opposition Whip?
Indeed, how could the bulk of MPs in this 'joint opposition' even claim
to be in parliamentary 'opposition' when their own political parties,
the SLFP and the UPFA, are formally coalition partners in a historic
National Unity government? If these 'joint opposition' politicians
genuinely wish to be in parliamentary opposition, they should resign
their current membership of governing coalition parties - the SLFP and
UPFA - and either form their own party or join the TNA or JVP.
This very duplicity and pretence is enough to disqualify their claims
to future government. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself, in
attending and speaking at Hyde Park last week seems to be aligning
himself with this rag-tag band of political has-beens in a manner which
does not resonate well with his own status as a senior statesman. And
how can the former President claim that the current government is
'failing' when the people of the country, in the latest Happiness poll,
has informed the world that they are happier under the new regime as
compared with the former?
Meanwhile, we continue to swelter in the unprecedented heat and await
the next announcement of electricity stoppages. True, the weather
imposes twin pressures on the national power grid: higher power usage
due to the heat and humidity on the one hand and, on the other, a
drought that has reduced the hydro-electric generating capacity.
What needs addressing immediately is the state of the national power
supply capacity as well as the efficiency and viability of the power
While the bureaucracy and the technicians debate over their share of
the blame for the current sudden power outages, the government must
comprehensively review the country's general power production and
distribution system and devise whole new systems and a renewal of
infrastructure to deal with intermediate and long-term energy needs. It
is to be hoped that, unlike in the previous regime, financial kickbacks
and nepotistic gain will not play the same dominant role in such