THE BIG PICTURE
THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW?
Viewpoints: the president’s first 75 days in high office in a nutshell
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s first two and a half months in high office have been marked by simplicity, a hands-on modus operandi and a penchant for ‘getting things done’ – and that includes a track record thus far of meeting a number of his lofty election pledges.
Like it or not, the people of our land chose to vote him into power and they must surely have seen common ground in his election manifesto.
The president has also acted in a manner that suggests he wants the nation and its people to wake up from their slumber, and get down to business. Pomp and pageantry are being scaled down like never before – Rajapaksa scrapped the traditional motorcade and guard of honour on 4 January when he attended parliament to deliver his inaugural speech, his attire is simple and casual, and he appears to be willing to react when the people voice their opposition to actions taken (or not taken, as the case may be!) by the public sector.
And in what has been widely hailed as a winning formula to revive the state sector, the president has appointed an independent committee to recommend high calibre businesspeople and professionals to chair institutions that have been mismanaged to such an extent that they’ve become white elephants – they have as we know accumulated massive losses and are costing the nation a fortune.
There was also the ‘Swiss embassy affair,’ which had critics jumping the gun and crying foul; but the manner in which it was handled – and speed at which investigations proceeded – is commendable.
“The responsibility of ensuring that parliament once again becomes an institution winning the respect of the people lies with the members who are in this house,” the president stated in his address.
But while he has defied convention and thankfully appointed only 15 MPs to his cabinet, the fact that a number of them were caught on camera behaving like hooligans during the constitutional crisis at the end of 2018 isn’t only mind-boggling but leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Also on the negative side of a presidency that is still in its infancy, there have been signs of late that the old scourge of nepotism could be finding its way back into the system although a few such appointments have been justified on the grounds of having the qualifications for the job.
Questions are also being asked about why alleged wrongdoers who are rightly being hauled into the courts and to you know where thereafter, are all from the opposition benches.
Does this mean that there aren’t any such politicians in government ranks who are worthy of investigation? If the answer to this is ‘no,’ the people may well view proceedings as a witch-hunt.
And last but not least, there’s the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which he and his administration want to scrap despite the popular belief that it is about the only success of the former government’s five year rule. Certainly, this will make Rajapaksa’s resolve to revive a nation that has lost its way a lot easier but what if the next head of state happens to be his predecessor’s kind? Would we then not have recourse to justice when for example, there’s a repetition of what transpired in late October 2018?
There is hope among even people who didn’t vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa; and at the same time, there are a handful of burning questions too.