by Shamindra Ferdinando
Former General Secretary of the Communist Party, Dew Gunasekera, yesterday (02) found fault with political parties, represented in Parliament, for failing to address the rapidly developing political-economic-social crisis at their May Day rallies.
The participation of genuine workers seemed to be almost nil, the former cabinet minister said, adding that May Day rallies, held in Colombo and Kandy, reflected further decay in the political party system.
Both the government and the Opposition should be ashamed of their pathetic response to the growing challenge, the former lawmaker declared, alleging main May Day speeches reflected the shoddy handling of the worst economic crisis by Parliament, regardless of its responsibility on public finance.
Almost a year after UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe accepted the premiership and subsequently the finance portfolio, the government was yet to address fundamental challenges, the former CP leader said.
Having first entered Parliament, in 2004, Gunasekera resigned from the post of CP General Secretary, in late August 2020.
The veteran politician said that political parties could have used this year’s May Day to emphasize the gravity of the situation thereby preparing the population to face the deepening crisis. Instead, all of them engaged in meaningless rhetoric, the ex-MP said, adding that he was quite surprised by how such useless propaganda received prime time television coverage as well as covered by Sinhala, Tamil and English print media.
Commenting on this year’s UNP’s May Day vow to achieve status as a developed country, by 2048, the former minister said that the public wouldn’t be deceived by such rhetoric, under present circumstances.
The UNP leadership should realize that the much touted export economy status hadn’t been achieved and the changing global order would make it impossible for us to reverse the situation with the latest IMF intervention, the former National List MP warned.
Referring to as much as USD 12 bn International Sovereign Bonds (ISBs), obtained during UNP-led Yahapalana administration (2015-2019), the UNP and the breakaway UNP faction, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), couldn’t absolve themselves of the responsibility for the current crisis.
The former MP pointed out that of over USD 15 bn in ISBs obtained by Sri Lanka, USD 12.5 bn were taken at high interest rates.
Gunasekera noted that while President Wickremesinghe addressed the UNP meeting, at the Sugathadasa International Indoor Stadium, via zoom technology, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena joined the SLPP rally held with the participation of former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa at Campbell Park, Borella. SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa, too, attended the rally.
The former CP General Secretary said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was yet to educate the public of the severity of the crisis. Instead, USD 2.9, promised by the IMF, over a period of 48 months, was being touted as a panacea for all our ills, the outspoken one-time COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) Chairman said.
“At least after we accepted, officially, our inability to service international debt in April 2022, Parliament should have made a realistic re-assessment after consulting the Central Bank and the Monetary Board. Unfortunately, Parliament seems to have failed its primary responsibility,” the CP man said, urging the government to take remedial measures, without further delay, or face the consequences.
The political veteran said that Sri Lanka should take into consideration critically important global developments, such as Saudi Arabia-China opening a new chapter in their relationship, as US wanes in the Middle East. The recent Saudi involvement in the political and security bloc Shanghai Corporation, that includes both China and Russia, should be an eye opener for Sri Lanka decision-makers, the former Minister said.
The respected political analyst urged political parties, represented in Parliament, to study developments, pertaining to BRICS – a group of nations that depicted themselves as global south, and an alternative to G7.
The ex-lawmaker asserted that our political parties were kind of lost in global developments as countries realigned themselves against the backdrop of waning US influence and the continuing war in Ukraine. “I do not think our pundits at least bother to peruse reports on the continuing crisis in the US banking system. The recent seizure of First Republic Bank, by regulators, and the transferring of control to JP Morgan Chase, underscored the risks involved,” he said.
US media reported yesterday that the First Republic Bank failed to recover, in spite of receiving USD 30 bn lifeline from nearly a dozen banks. It is the third big US bank to collapse in recent weeks.