Presidential predicament For a patch up he would have to grant some drastic concessions to Rajapaksa

24 November 2017 12:00 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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It is not clear whether the President’s apparent blowing hot and cold in respect of mending relationship with Rajapaksa group indicates the Catch-22 situation he is in or he is attempting to hoodwink the Rajapaksa camp at a time when the latter is picking up candidates for the local polls.

With a nationwide election approaching, the vulnerability of the official SLFP seems to have left its members restless and insecure. This, in turn is applying pressure on the President to court the dissidents.

The possibility of mending fences by the two factions of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the incumbent president Maithripala Sirisena is quite remote, despite several people attempting to bring the two factions together, especially to contest the forthcoming local Government elections.
It was the Mahinda Rajapaksa faction that wanted a patch up between the two groups earlier in 2015 and 2016, with a view to circumvent the so-called anti-corruption drive of the Yahapalana Government, but the Maithri faction did not show much interest then. However, now the two groups seem to have swapped the positions with many SLFPers in the Government approaching the Mahinda faction seeking a restoration of relationship.


This is explicable in the light of the delicate situation of the group led by President Sirisena in respect of the forthcoming elections.


The mindset of the grass root level members and the supporters of the SLFP is not clear or seems to be more favourable to the former President.


With a nationwide election approaching, the vulnerability of the official SLFP seems to have left its members restless and insecure. This, in turn is applying pressure on the President to court the dissidents.

Hence, some of the SLFP Ministers were seen recently making desperate attempts to get a conciliatory word from the former President or anyone of his close subordinates.
Minister Susil Premajayantha whose heart has always been with Mahinda Rajapaksa even after he joined the Government had recently gone to meet his former boss with reported blessings of President Sirisena, while the Parliamentary group of the Joint Opposition was in session.


However, his frantic efforts had gone down the drain.


There were reports two weeks ago that Western Province Chief Minister Isura Devapriya who is a close ally of President Sirisena had unsuccessfully approached leader of the Joint Opposition and the Mahajana Eksatha Peramuna (MEP) Dinesh Gunawardene with a suggestion to contest the local polls jointly in their area, Maharagama. Another report said that Minister Wijith Wijayamuni Zoysa has also declared that the SLFP would face the elections with Mahinda Rajapaksa. His statement was seen ironic and was ridiculed as it was he who once soon after Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated at the Presidential election had proverbially said that nobody would keep his father’s body at home after his death.


Now he also had tried his hand in reconciliation with the same “deceased father”. The allegation that the SLFP led by President Sirisena attempts to delay the local Government elections announced by the Election Commission to be held in January has also to be viewed in this light


However, Mahinda faction that has made up its mind to go solo at the forthcoming elections seems to be firm in their demand that the SLFP group in the Government should sever links with the United National Party (UNP), if the two factions were to jointly face the polls. This is a demand that is impossible for the Maithri faction to meet, as they know that it would be suicidal for them, especially for the President, not only politically but also literally.


The President would have to grant some drastic concessions in the event of a patch up with the Mahinda faction such as withdrawal of major legal actions taken against the leaders of the joint Opposition, especially those against the members of the Rajapaksa family.


On the other hand, it would strengthen Rajapaksa’s hand while pushing President Sirisena to an awkward position as he would be totally left to Rajapaksa’s mercy.
It must be remembered that during the last Parliamentary election President Sirisena had stated that once Rajapaksa becomes the Prime Minister the Presidency would be at a bullet’s distance to him (Rajapaksa).


And the relationship between the two leaders has been such that the President had also once observed that he would have been six feet under the ground had Mahinda Rajapaksa won the Presidential election in 2015.


Days after Premajayantha met the former President, UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema and General Secretary Kabir Hashim had met President Sirisena and asked whether he was getting together with Mahinda Rajapaksa.


It was reported that the President had asked “Mey sarama endagena eka karanna puluwanda? (Can I do it wearing this sarong?).  


However, it was said that Premajayantha went on the peace mission with the blessings of the President.


It is not clear whether the President’s apparent blowing hot and cold in respect of mending relationship with Rajapaksa group indicates the Catch-22 situation he is in or he is attempting to hoodwink the Rajapaksa camp at a time when the latter is picking up candidates for the local polls.


Yet, the relationship between the President and the UNP is also not without problems. The best indication of it was the media conference that was convened by State Minister Sujeeva Senasinghe where he said he was badly disappointed with the President after he (the President) appointed the Presidential Commission to investigate into the controversial Central Bank bond issue.


He went onto describe the move by the President as a conspiracy against the UNP. It is ironic that a man who was in the forefront against corruption calling a probe into a scam a conspiracy and not the very scam.


The Sunday Times reported in its last issue that the President had ordered Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundera to stop an investigation ordered by Minister Sagala Ratnayake and conducted by a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) into the Financial Crimes Division to determine whether there was any inaction on its part that delayed taking action over high profile cases.


The President while stopping the probe had observed that internecine rivalry at the highest levels of the police was causing serious problems.


However, the report further said that two days after the President’s order Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had appointed an official committee to probe delays at the FCID and the Attorney General’s Department.


Earlier the President had reportedly accused a UNP minister for the delay or stalling of investigations into high profile cases and the Prime minister had denied it while claiming that there was multitude of other reasons for the delays.


It must be recalled that the President accused his partner in governance, the UNP in last July as well, claiming that allegations of high profile corruption against the leaders of the last regime, including the Rajapaksa family are being gradually swept under the carpet.


It is interesting and in a way pathetic to note that the two leaders at the highest level of the Government, even nearly three years after they had taken over the reins of the country, were clueless about the delays in the investigations into the major corruption cases.


Whatever in his mind may be, the President seems to be in a quandary in moving ahead as the leader of the SLFP.


On the one hand the pressure within his party to patch up with his dissidents is mounting while the UNP, as being his real strength, is pushing him on the opposite direction. If contested future elections on its own, the SLFP led by the President would run the risk of ranking third among major political parties.


But on the other hand a patch up would not be in his favour but in his main adversary’s and it would sometimes be the beginning of the end of his political as well as personal fortunes.


It would really be interesting to see how he as seasoned politician is going to overcome the situation very soon at the forthcoming local Government elections.   

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  Comments - 2

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  • Peter Friday, 24 November 2017 05:24 PM

    Everybody knows that President Sirisena is a goat, his name suggests that. We can now confirm that you are a crook too with the gang of thieves of the previous regime. That is why none of them have been charged in court and sent to jail for their crimes to date as you too had financial gains with the privious regime. Your play for SLFP is a game you are playing to pull the wool over the peoples eyes, is not going to work.You have ruined the country and it is time for you to get out and become a Buddhist monk for your sins and redemption.

    Alfred Grero Friday, 24 November 2017 09:15 PM

    This is interesting, it was just yesterday we learnt from the learned SB that Wijedasa Rajapakse is a donkey, how could he tell is another matter, in that case the reference will not stop only with Wijedasa but go further to include the entire clan. To cut a long story short in other words who are we, to have been ruled decades by donkeys and goats...what a dilemma.


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