Ranil Wickremesinghe (left) taking oaths as premier for the 5th time
The United National Part (UNP) has gone from strength to strength reminding the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of an old saying ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.
The UNP was in tatters many years ago when a sizable section of the party rebelled against its Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was on December 16 (Sunday) sworn in as Prime Minister for the fifth time.
Being a shrewd politician Wickremesinghe survived all that, including a series of election defeats by the Green Party, to hold on to the party leadership. Later on, probably due to the maturity of other Green Party members, the rebel movement within the UNP died a natural death. During the recent 52-day political crisis witnessed in Sri Lanka, UNP members stood behind its leader like never before; showing that they couldn’t be bought over for money. This was a time when one parliamentarian who showed an interest in crossing over to strengthen the Rajapaksa-Sirisena regime was allegedly offered as much as rupees 500 million. The UNP showed through its actions that democracy can’t be undermined and is invaluable.
- Ranil has not changed as a person regardless of whether he is in the government or the opposition
- Sirisena’s national thinking policies were often undermined by the Western influenced Wickremesinghe
- The prime minister isn’t a people friendly person to obtain such a large number of votes
Today the SLFP can only envy the Green Party. SLFP parliamentarian Wijith Wijayamuni Zoysa, who has decided to sit on the side of the Government, told Parliament about the woes of the SLFP. But what’s important at this juncture is that Zoysa along with Lakshman Senewiratne and Indika Bandaranayake choosing to throw their weight behind the Government to be formed by the newly appointed Premier Wickremesinghe. Zoysa’s shift in alliance may not be because he fancies Wickremesinghe, but could be largely influenced by the fact that he felt that the country was suffering due to the selfish motives of politicians and something had to be done about it.
The individual who caused this chaos, Sirisena, gives all indication that he would give the Wickremesinghe led government a hard time. The president has informed all SLFPers not to accept posts in the Cabinet to be formed. Sirisena has said that he would not take disciplinary action against any SLFPers who offer support for a UNP led alliance that intends forming the new government. But Sirisena, with his back to the wall, can at this time be a ruthless individual. Though the 19th A clips some of his executive powers he can annul certain decisions taken in Parliament. A good example is when he annulled the approval of an increase in the salaries of Government ministers by over 200%.
What Ranil sees
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe clash leaves a trail which if closely viewed shows that there is a confrontation between the thinking of the elite and those from the village. Sirisena’s national thinking policies were often undermined by the Western influenced Wickremesinghe who believes in the thinking that the brains of foreign nations would bring the much needed solutions to the island’s economic woes. A good example is the hurriedly signed Free Trade Agreement Sri Lanka entered into with Singapore. Many are of the opinion that this FTA would not provide any significant or worthwhile benefit to Sri Lanka.
Sirisena continues to warn that foreign powers are looking for an opportunity to get involved in the affairs of Sri Lanka. This is nothing new given that Sri Lanka’s geographic location is so important to countries like India, China, Japan and the USA. But Wickremesinghe has seen what Sirisena has failed to see in the form of an opportunity that has arisen for Sri Lanka to develop its country through the brains and finances of other nations. But what’s of concern are the attempts by Wickremesinghe to sell off government assets to foreign nations.
Now Wickremesinghe is busy getting ready to form a new alliance by the name Democratic National Front (DNF). He claims that he has the support of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, All Ceylon Makkal Congress, Jathika Hela Urumaya, Tamil Progressive Alliance and some members of the SLFP who are threatening to break away.
Wickremesinghe’s idea to form an alliance is probably backed by the realization that the UNP alone would not in the future have the numbers to form the majority in Parliament. The UNP badly needs the support of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). But the TNA has put its support on hold pending receiving the UNP’s approval or consent regarding the many demands by the Tamil Ealam Liberation Organization; a constituent party of this alliance.
Wickremesinghe’s idea to form an alliance is probably backed by the realization that the UNP alone would not in the future have the numbers to form the majority in Parliament
If the Wickremesinghe initiated NDF is formed and the goal of mustering two thirds of the votes in parliament is achieved, it would help abolish the executive presidency. If this happens Sirisena would be reduced to a puppet. The shrewd thinking of Wickremesinghe unfortunately seems to fuel his ambition to retain power for ever; rather than lift the country from the financial mess it is in. The large crowds that gathered at Galle Face green on Monday (December 16) don’t really say much about the real support for Wickremesinghe. . Much of the crowd looked like they were there on the promise that they would be well looked after later in the evening.
But Wickremesinghe has got the approval he most needs. And that has come from the European Union, United States of America, China, Canada and Australia. These foreign forces have commended Sri Lanka for peacefully resolving its political crisis keeping in accordance with the Constitution. And that Sri Lanka is now headed by Wickremesinghe and eventually he’d take ownership of the compliments paid to this country’s legislators by the outside world.
‘Better living conditions’
Wickremesinghe early this week promised the people of this country ‘better living conditions’ in the future. For this to materialize the government to be formed must curtail extravagant spending by ministers and introduce a reasonable tax policy.
Wickremesinghe has not changed as a person regardless of whether he is in the government or the opposition. He is accused of wanting luxuries which is confirmed by the fact that the Yahapalana regime wanted more perks for ministers. He also sees his real opponent, Mahinda Rajapaksa, being the same unchanged person he is; both sharing one common trait and that is to hold on to power forever.
As far as ambition is concerned Wickremesinghe does not seem to be short of fuel. But given his age and the capacity needed for a seasoned politician to understand the real needs of the people, Wickremesinghe has really fallen short of expectations.