ho is the winner of the current political game? No doubt, it is President Maithripala Sirisena, in spite of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa seeming to be.
Before the President unseated Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to replace him with Rajapaksa on October 26, he had virtually been left destitute politically, with a bleak future.
The return of Rajapaksa which the President himself feared once, had been only a matter of time, after the February 10 Local Government elections.
The inevitability of the remaining supporters of the President teaming up with Rajapaksa had also been a matter of time, but a matter that would happen before the next national level elections.
On the other hand, he had been in a bitter fight with his coalition partner, the United National Party (UNP). Hence, the latter fielding him as their candidate at the next Presidential election or at least at the next Parliamentary Elections, as an ordinary candidate had been impossible.
Thus, it was evident to him that by the time the next Presidential Election was held, he would be on his own with a threat of facing the wrath of Rajapaksas, who seemed inevitable to capture power and who might not have forgotten the humiliation and the economic loss they suffered due to their defeat at the Presidential election in 2015.
Against that backdrop, the only option that had been left with the President for his safety, as well as survival, was to patch up with Rajapaksa, the next President (de-facto or otherwise).
"That is not to say that those learned men, who support the UNP are different, as the same thing happened in 2001 when 12 People’s Alliance MPs crossed over to the UNP, ultimately compelling President Chandrika Kumaratunga to dissolve Parliament"
If he resorts to that option on the eve of the next Presidential Election after his supporters left him, he would be humiliatingly rejected.
But, now that he had given a thrilling victory to Rajapaksa against Wickremesinghe and by continuing to be Rajapaksa’s guardian and the shield in the current power struggle with Wickremesinghe, he has become the hero of Rajapaksa’s supporters.
He successfully assimilated himself into the ranks of his former party men, who are now under a new banner, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna at the public meeting at the Parliament Junction on Monday.
His flattering of Rajapaksa at that meeting was unimaginable, given his demonizing and vilifying of the latter until recently, but would have enthralled the Rajapaksa supporters. He has very cleverly come out of the woods.
The continuing impasse and the uncertainty over who commands the confidence of the Parliament and what would happen at the next moment also seem to be serving the President’s purpose.
This impasse and the uncertainty make the Rajapaksa and his loyalists more and more dependent on the President’s executive powers.
Despite the repeated rhetoric on the part of Rajapaksa and some of his close aides, they do not seem to have bought over or lured sufficient MPs from the UNP and its allies to show that Rajapaksa commands the majority in the Parliament.
National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, who is well-known for his rhetorical skills, said at the meeting at the Parliament Junction on Monday “They are continuing to come; tomorrow it would be 107…”
Newly appointed National Integration, Reconciliation and Official Languages Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara after a meeting with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Wednesday said there was no need for them to show the majority, as there had been so many Minority Governments in the world.
The new Leader of the House and Megapolis and Western Development Minister Dinesh Gunawardena also after the same meeting argued that the majority did not mean the majority of the whole Parliament, but the majority of MPs present in the House when a vote is taken.
"It was evident by the time the next Presidential Election is held, he would be on his own with a threat of facing the wrath of Rajapaksas, who seemed inevitable to capture power and who might not have forgotten the humiliation and economic loss they suffered due to their defeat at the Presidential election in 2015"
The contention of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, one of the first to cross over this time and appointed Education and Higher Education Minister was that there was no provision in the Present Constitution for one to show that he or she commanded the confidence of the Parliament. Another Rajapaksa loyalist Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena says that the President has the power to prorogue the Parliament again after it meets on November 14.
All these remarks by Rajapaksa loyalists clearly indicate that the purported opinion of the President on October 26 that Rajapaksa was “most likely to command the confidence of the Parliament” was wrong.
The current crisis (and also most of the earlier ones) is also a test on the morality of politicians and the general public.
They talk about morality as well as the law only when they are on their side. When the morality clashes with the law they conveniently choose the one that is favourable to them.
For instance, with regard to the appointment of Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister, the UNP seems to be keen on pointing out how the President vilified and demonized Rajapaksa in the past and how he was elected President by the UNP voters in 2015.
They also remind the President the mandate 6.2 million people gave him, at the last Presidential election whereas Rajapaksa supporters point out the discretion and powers of the President in appointing a Prime Minister.
The best case in point that indicates the degree of low- level that the society has stooped to is the horse-trading and the purported bribes offered to the Parliamentarians to switch sides.
There are reasons for the UNP Parliamentarians to cross over to the Mahinda group, given the turn of the political trend which was manifested at the local government elections in February. The current opportunity is a godsend to them to jump out of the sinking ship even without a bribe. If the bribe also comes on their way, it would be a bonus which they could get hold of just with a pretension of hesitation to cross over.
"Despite the repeated rhetoric on the part of Rajapaksa and some of his close aides, they do not seem to have bought over or lured sufficient MPs from the UNP and its allies to show that Rajapaksa commands the majority in the Parliament"
The offers are said to be in the range between a staggering Rs. 200 million and Rs. 500 million.
UNP Parliamentarian Palitha Range Bandara claims that he was offered a sum of Rs. 500 million plus a Cabinet portfolio.
To prove his allegation, he placed before the media, audio evidence in which a seemingly familiar voice was heard luring the Puttalam District Parliamentarian, but sans the amount, he had referred to.
The most disheartening point is that not a single person among the learned men, intellectuals or religious leaders, who support the President and the new Prime Minister, has the courage or the conscience to express his or her view on this political bribe.
That is not to say that those learned men, intellectuals or religious leaders who support the UNP are different, as the same thing happened in 2001 when 12 People’s Alliance (PA) Parliamentarians crossed over to the UNP, ultimately compelling President Chandrika Kumaratunga to dissolve Parliament.
So long as politics is a money-making manoeuvre and until the people really view politics as a mechanism to collectively resolve their problems, rather than being just a gamble or a game that will produce winners and the losers, nothing else can be expected.