Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe in conversation with Leader of the Opposition and TNA R. Sampanthan during a parliamentary session while Yahapalana regime was in power (AFP)
President Maithripala Sirisena restored a shaky and unhealthy political situation in the country to a certain degree by reappointing Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.
Political analysts term this move more as the need of the hour rather than accepting Sirisena’s explanation that the reappointment was done to honour parliamentary traditions. If the political impasse continued under the Sirisena-Rajapaksa regime there was a threat that this nation was heading for a government shutdown’ because of the impending failure to get the 2019 Budget approved in Parliament.
The country’s citizens learned many lessons during the 52-day strand-off. During this period the Sirisena-Rajapaksa Government attempted to administrate the nation as if they were ‘magicians’. There was a reduction in fuel prices apart from tax concessions being given. But the violation of the Constitution could not be undermined through the acts by the regime which offered some benefits to the people. The Sirisena-Rajapaksa regime also promised elections as the cure for all ills. But one of the pillars on which the country runs on-the Judiciary- showed in no uncertain terms that a violation of the Constitution can’t be rectified by the way of elections.
Unlike when Rajapaksa was sworn in as the prime minister and the subsequent appointing of a new Cabinet drew virtually no responses from the outside world, this time around the developments surrounding Wickremesinghe’s reappointing as the country’s premier have been viewed positively by neighboring India. The Media Spokesperson of External Affairs Raveesh Kumar has said in a statement that ‘India remains committed in taking forward its people oriented development projects in Sri Lanka’.
Wickremesinghe had to bear the brunt of a recent fiery speech made by President Sirisena, aired on television on Sunday, which targeted antagonising Wickremesinghe. Sirisena reminded the reappointed Wickremesinghe of how activities at the Central Bank took place in questionable manner during the Yahapalana regime
Wickremesinghe had to bear the brunt of a recent fiery speech made by President Sirisena, aired on television on Sunday, which targeted antagonising Wickremesinghe. Sirisena reminded the reappointed Wickremesinghe of how activities at the Central Bank took place in questionable manner during the Yahapalana regime. He said that the Forensic Audit which was expected to calculate the loss to the Government through the alleged Bond scam was still pending.
The next few hours starting Monday would see the setting up of a Cabinet by the UNP. But what amounts to a challenge would be for it to function with the president of the country being ill-disposed towards its new ministers.
It would be wise for the UNP to foresee Sirisena’s next move because it’s very certain that the president would do nothing in his capacity to aid a Wickremesinghe led Government.
Right now what matters about Sirsena is his thinking more than his elbows out attitude he has shown towards both Wickremesinghe and the forces which love democracy. Sirisena has maintained that he reappointed Wickremesinghe to restore normalcy. We must remind the president that a normal situation was disturbed by him and no one else a few months back when he sacked Wickremesinghe and created utter chaos in the legislator. Now he is in the same position with Wickremesinghe as he his deputy. The only difference would be that the UPFA members in the equation would be absent because what would be formed is a UNP Government. Sirisena through his actions has ended up back in square one.
What the staunch Sinhalese Parliamentarians don’t like to accept is the fact that the minority parties and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have a huge say in shaping the political landscape of the country. One person who reiterates this fact, but uses a different perspective is former Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa. He has said that the UNP is being held hostage by the TNA. But what the Sinhalese politicians must fathom is that they can enjoy the smooth functioning of the administration only if they keep the minority parties happy. Rajapaksa warns that the proposed Constitution, which the UNP backs, would divide the country into nine provinces and give each of them federal status. Political analysts argue with Rajapaksa’s thinking and highlight India as a great example for federal rule.
A stubborn stance taken by staunch Sinhala Buddhist politicians not to change with the passing time and instead hold on to power undermining the minorities led to a political impasse that crippled a nation. The present situation can’t be compared to the past where the country fell into the hands of foreign forces due to the divisions within the Sinhala elite. Right now the problem that exists involves the Tamils and the Muslims. These minorities have grabbed an opportunity to back an alternative political force which better understands their cause. The victory for the minorities came the day not when Rajapaksa was defeated twice-first at the 2015 Presidential Elections and later during a no-confident motion which was passed against him as the premier in parliament- but when the UNP gave an indication that the TNA with its 14 members in parliament must be recognised as a force to be reckoned with. Rajapaksa saying that the TNA has the remote control of the UNP in its hands confirms this.
Wickremesinghe can blow this chance or start afresh by doing something positively. That something would be everything for the right-minded people if he forms a cabinet sans any of the corrupt faces in politics who undermined democracy and plundered state finances and property. Parliamentarian Eran Wickremeratne has vowed that the next Cabinet would be restricted to 30 ministers. But all this good work done during the 52-day struggle, which can be likened to a freshly drawn pale of milk, could be ruined by appointing a controversial figure like Ravi Karananayake as the Finance Minister; speculation is rife that he earmarked for this post. Appointing Karunanayake in this coveted post would be akin to putting a pinch of dung in that pale of milk.
What the staunch Sinhalese Parliamentarians don’t like to accept is the fact that the minority parties and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have a huge say in shaping the political landscape of the country.
Rajapaksa might annoy democratic forces in this country, but he does play the role of watchdog well when seated in the opposition. Rajapaksa has already warned that the Wickremesinghe led UNP is bracing to scrap all forms of elections and be the administrators of this country for a very long time.
In this instance the UNP must be reminded that the past that prevailed, when the people voted for a change only when they got a bit jaded by either being ruled by the ‘greens’ or the ‘blues’ , doesn’t exist.
As the UNP has underscored the people are the stakeholders of the country and would not tolerate for a minute when the government goes off track and forgets that they are in power because of the people. In this sense the minority parties have emerged to play the role of ‘game changer’ in politics.