When the country goes for Presidential polls in a few months time, people will be compelled to make an analysis on how a certain older generation of political leaders had fared during the last 30 years.
Some of our voters have utopian dreams of how a state must function. When the war concluded in 2009 the citizens of this nation thought that monies in the Government coffers would be used more for development work. Although there was large scale infrastructure development under President Mahinda Rajapaksa some of those projects were perceived as being initiated to boost egos rather than to meet the needs of the public. There were allegations of mass scale corruption in the country as well. But people were mentally framed to tolerate them because they were enjoying a welcome peace, after close to three decades of separatist war.
After some time there came a wave of dissent that swept Rajapaksa off his feet, thus ending a period of somewhat unnerving stability.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s exit brought Maithripala Sirisena to the fore. Political analysts would say that once secure in office, he too got a taste of the Executive Presidency. But little did he know at the start of the ‘Yahapalana Regime’ that not having a government fully under his control would lead to a hostile situation being created with the incumbent Prime Minister.
When looking back Mahinda Rajapaksa brought in the 18th Amendment to strengthen his resolve as the Executive President and Ranil Wickremesinghe on the other hand brought in the 19th Amendment to reduce the powers of the President. Wickremesinghe did not give much time for Sirisena to settle down in the chair of the Executive, before he clipped the President’s wings.
In this scenario Sirisena fought back, but was soon to realize that the 19th Amendment he initially championed had left him in a straightjacket leaving little room to flex his muscles. It was thereafter that he took a backseat.
Now President Sirisena probably sees how Prime Minister Wickremesighe had played well with the not so good hand he was dealt with in the ‘game of politics’. Wickremesinghe not just survived, but emerged victorious at a no-confidence motion against the Government. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has thus shown the acumen to steer his ship through stormy seas.
During the past period of close to two decades we have seen Mahinda Rajapaksa’s way of administering a country and Ranil Wickremesinghe’s way of doing politics. Quite ironically Maitripala Sirisena seems to have been at the receiving end of both.
The amendments that Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe brought to the Constitution reveal their intentions of retaining power in their hands. Rajapaksa’s 18th Amendment removed obstacles to contest the presidency a third time. His younger brother Gotabhaya at present is vying to be the Presidential candidate from his side, but Mahinda Rajapaska is yet to give him the nod.
The same can be said about Ranil Wickremesinghe when it comes to the UNP candidacy at the upcoming Presidential Elections. If one compares the situations Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa are in with regard to their political futures, the former has to deal with a hungry set of politicians while the latter is working with a group of lawmakers whom he has tamed and would eat out of his hand.
As the country heads for Presidential polls by the end of November, a new generation of voters comprising of millennials have come into being with fresh aspirations and hopes. The political landscape of the country will also have to undergo a shift in its outlook to meet the challenge posed by them. The question is whether our political leaders are geared for it.