Sri Lanka has become the centre of attraction in the Asian political scene with the island’s government struggling to survive sans the majority in parliament.
The latest we hear of is the attempt planned by President Maithripala Sirisena to take a vote on Wednesday (December 5) to oust Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa because he doesn’t have the support of the majority in parliament.
If one thing is clear about the present set of Sri Lankan politicians, who are in the news, except Ranil Wickremesinghe, the majority are poor decision makers. President Sirisena initially allowing Wickremesinghe to function beyond the mandate of his premiership amounted to be his own decision making. This, Sirisena said, was due to Wickremesinghe offering his support to him to become the President, in 2015. Then Sirisena removed Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as premier, but that too backfired because the majority in parliament don’t recognise him (Rajapaksa) nor support him. Now it’s evident that Sirisena’s choices made in politics, especially as President, are failures. Given the present scenario the UNP is on a good wicket. Despite squabbles within the UNP the support within is still for Wickremesinghe to be the Prime Ministerial candidate from the party. It is also reported that the grand old party has decided to back their experienced leaders despite attempts made by the young brigade now and then to have a new leader for the party.
Need of an experienced Leader
The present environment in the UNP is similar to how things were back in the early 1990s. Country President and part leader J.R Jayewardene had retired and was forced to decide between Ranasinghe Premadasa, Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali as UNP’s new leader. It’s said that Jayewardene fancied Dissanayake or Athulathmudali to be his successor. But the turmoil in the country made him realize that whoever came to the hot seat as the party leader wouldn’t last long. That’s why he handed over the party leader’s post to Premadasa; his thinking being that the new UNP Leader would mentally burn out or physically perish due to the political heat that existed. He knew that survival for whoever who came to power after this challenging period would be easier. This was conveyed to this writer some years ago by veteran political writer the late Prasad Gunawardene.
On the other hand people have now begun to question the pedigree of the lawmakers
Right now the political inferno within the island suggests in no uncertain terms that one needs an experienced leader at the helm; whether its the UNP or the Government. From a totally helpless situation Wickremesinghe sees the pendulum swinging his way due to the developments within the Parliament to remove Rajapaksa from the post of Prime Minister. These developments give strength to Wickremesinghe’s resolve.
Wickremesinghe has recently affirmed that ‘the legislature has the power to decide on a course of action to stabilise the country as it’s the institute which exercises the people’s sovereignty’. He has said that the power vested in the parliament according to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution affords for that.
At present there are many peaceful protest campaigns being staged in the country in support of an alternative force to rule this nation. One such campaign is ‘Rise for Justice’ which is taking place in Town Hall.
Most of these efforts also highlight the fact that Wickremesinghe was removed in an unjust manner. Initially Wickremesinghe continued to call himself Prime Minister despite Rajapaksa being officially appointed for this post by Sirisena at a swearing in ceremony. But as the days rolled by, even Wickremesinghe’s press releases made references to him only as UNP Leader.
Wickremesinghe has not shelved his dreams to be the Prime Minister of the country. There are reports that three heavy weights in Sri Lankan politics, Rajapaksa, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, have agreed to do whatever is possible to restore the political crisis. But deep within Wickremesinghe lies that burning ambition to be in charge of the admin machine that accounts for the country’s governance, for a long time. As with Wickremesinghe his vision to be at the helm, regardless of whether its premiership or party leader, is till eternity.
The criticism within the UNP towards Wickremesinghe has died down a bit. The big wigs in the party like Kabir Hashim, Sajith Premadasa and Navin Dissanayake have backed their leader to the hilt. The UNP led by Wickremesinghe sees the support of the TNA and JVP during this political impasse. UNP Chairman Hashim stated recently that Wickremesinghe is the party party’s nominee for the post of Prime Minister.
The two no-confidence motions passed in parliament suggests that there is great danger of the Year 2019 Budget not being passed. A government can’t survive for long depending on a ‘Vote on Account’ to release the funds for its expenses. There must be a stable government with the support of the majority which can pass any bill within parliament.
As the countdown for the festive season has begun in December, so do the days before the Supreme Court gives the final verdict regarding the case filed to lift the suspension of parliament. The Supreme Court these days is hearing arguments regarding the interim order it issued which stayed the decision taken by Sirisena to prorogue parliament.
As the struggle for power continues in Sri Lanka it is important to note a comment made by the Prime Minister appointed by President Sirisena, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in an interview the latter gave the Daily Mirror. He has refused to accept that he is indulging in back-door politics. He has said that there is nothing called back-door politics and front-door politics and that power must be grabbed at the first instance one sees an opportunity.
From a totally helpless situation Wickremesinghe sees the pendulum swinging his way due to the developments within the Parliament to remove Rajapaksa from the post of Prime Minister
Whichever waiting games Sirisena plays till 2020, Wickremesignhe and Rajapaksa have once again emerged as the two choices we have if there comes an election to chose a country President.
We are living during times when we can’t find totally ‘clean’ and able leaders who are willing to serve the country. They all have their faults. Rajapaksa has so many cases against him while Wickremesinghe has been critisised for his neoliberal ideas which his critics say have not worked for the country.
On the other hand people have now begun to question the pedigree of the lawmakers. Two politicians were subject to great embarrassment at the recent 40th National Youth Awards ceremony when two recipients of awards refused to shake hands and receive their awards from the duo. This is what would continue to happen in the future because the people have the right to reject our lawmakers as much as they have the ability to bring them to power.