Wijith DeChickera regrets that people of the republic continue to make a mockery of true accountability by looking for convenient fall guys

Traditional ‘new year’ is a time for assessment of 365 days past, prospects ahead and present stocktaking. Some civilisa­tions identified a scapegoat on whom a nation’s sins in the recent twelvemonth were heaped. It was then driven into the wilderness to wander and die in expiation for the shortcomings of a people for whom it represented an atoning sacrifice.

There are many such scapegoats shaping up for a solitary sojourn in the political wilderness of Sri Lanka today.

From unpopular past presidents to untried and untested present opposition politicians, these span the gamut from the arrogant and incompetent, through the authoritarian and corrupt, to the absurd and comical – often descending from the sublime to the ridiculous, depending on who’s doing the stand-up comedy or designing social media memes for public consumption.

It’s the only relief 22.4 million people have – and no sacred cow is spared.

Former chief executive Gotabaya Rajapaksa had the whole caboodle of our entire unprecedented economic crisis laid at his door… often by the very people who once paid homage at the shrine of his ostensible technocracy and alleged all-round competence, supposedly thought capable of delivering the goods Singapore-style.

Now they’re paying lip service to the coming of wisdom with time… their own enlightenment after the horse bolted. Of course, although hindsight has 20/20 vision, there’s no doubt that the erstwhile bureaucrat turned administrator bungled a powerful job badly.

But behind the effigy burnt in public on Colombo’s streets nine months ago – a time associated with bundles of joy being brought forth – there’s undoubtedly a cabal of prominent politicians, craven bureaucrats and opportunistic businesspeople who propped up a regime that was more propagandistic than governmentally competent.

And perhaps puppet as much as puppet masters ought to be held accountable and brought to book?

For we’re left holding the baby and bath water – bankruptcy and begging bowl – no one wants!

Then there’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe – a canny politico who, if there’s anyone to be held accountable for the vicissitudes our republic has faced for 45 of 75 so-called ‘independent years,’ embodies that particular avatar of the typical scapegoat.

The incumbent has been portrayed as the putative saviour of a nation state facing crises on all fronts as demons­trably never before and parodied for being the chief joker in the pack. Is he neither or both?

Look around you: QED!

Our wisecracking would-be statesman has only himself to blame for being vilified. He appears not to have learned his predecessor’s bitter lesson that they who laugh last laugh longest.

Stop joking in the house at the people’s expense, Sir! Shame also on the hyenas in parliament whose mirth comes at the expense of hungry citizens!

Other political actors have rendered themselves suitable for being shuffled in the deck of scapegoats-to-be.

The main political opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), which vilifies the president today, has forgotten that it once defended the indefensible on his behalf when it hemmed and hawed at the legal intricacies of the Central Bank bond scam.

Today, its former colleagues – including the president, by dint of his immunity from prosecu­tion in 106 cases related to the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks and his erstwhile lieutenants – are being let off the hook. No scapegoats in the ‘perpetual game’ of political cronyism!

Also sticking its neck into a pot fit for breaking is the resurgent Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB). This reconditioned Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), presenting more genteel credentials in the socialised couture of the National People’s Power (NPP), has provoked a fierce rearguard action from corporate Sri Lanka and its backers, in the corridors of power and influence, at its burgeoning popularity. The kleptocrats are falling foul of the NPP’s toothless tiger, it would seem.

But for as long as our chambers of plutocratic commerce and industry hold sway, Marxist proletariats – no matter how diluted the bloodstained red shirts of their politburos may appear to Colombo liberals sipping pink champagne – are unlikely to be the toast of rural voters (perhaps suburban though?).

The cosmopolitan internationalists, and even common or garden electorate, see through wolves in sheep’s clothing despite desperate flirtations with naive socialism’s dangers at chronic intervals.

Also in the running for vilification and consignment into the desert spaces of public imagination is a new contender; a previously much maligned international organisation with which Sri Lanka had 16 trysts before – none of which ‘close encounters of the fiscal kind’ have stood our cash-strapped nation in good stead or forestalled financial ruination, to the extent of declaring more than mere bankruptcy.

For was it not the chief joker who made a scapegoat of the IMF for Sri Lanka’s inability to conduct a Rs. 10 billion election because of there being no US$ 2.9 bailout at the time?

Well, the joke’s on you as it finally came through and local government elections are scheduled for April.

I discovered serendipitously who government’s scapegoat for all that ails Sri Lanka today is. Look in the mirror, and you’ll see who it is too.

When will we ever learn?