Maithri’s Options: CBK or MR to rescue the party?
“…There can be fair time lags between the elections for the two institutions. One can, therefore, imagine a position where two diverse political characters can prevail in the two bodies. A left-of the centre Parliament can well confront a right-inclined Executive. This can be the beginning of a continuing and perpetual conflict….” --Dr. N. M. Perera
SLFP was born as an off-shoot of Bandaranaike’s SMS
Our sister paper Sunday Timesreported on its first page that CBK who celebrates her Birthday on June 29, was in London to receive an award presented by ‘Search for Common Ground’ for her “vision, courage and commitment to peace and reconciliation.”
SWRD Bandaranaike, who’s ‘Sinhala Only’ policy, which in a way, was at the root of the Sinhala-Tamil divide that continued with devastating results, was the leader of Sinhala Maha Sabha [SMS] and a Minister in the Colonial government led by DS Senanayake of Ceylon National Congress [UNP was formed in 1946]. The party held its annual conference every year in Anuradhapura to coincide with Poson. In June 1945, when he left for the sacred city to attend the conference and the public rally that followed, his wife was on the verge of giving birth to a child.
A couple of days later, on June 29, Sirimavo gave birth to her second daughter. On the same day, prior to the commencement of official business at a government committee, and during the usual exchange of pleasantries and congratulatory notes, his ministerial colleagues RSS Gunawardene and AP Jayasuriya asked Bandaranaike, “Are you happy that the second is also being a daughter?” SWRD replied, “When Kamala gave birth to Indira, Nehru and family was not happy; but Motilal Nehru, the grandpa said, ‘you see this girl will be better than a thousand sons’, and see what a great girl she had been? She joined the freedom struggle from that young age of 23.”—‘Chandrika and the Electoral Revolution’ : PP 1-3
The girl who was named Chandrika, took oaths as Prime Minister on August 19, 1994 attracting considerable interest in political analysts, social scientists and generally among the people in the sub continent. She also set a world record being an off-spring of two former Prime Ministers to do so, and coincidentally widowed at the age of 43 [when her husband Vijaya was gunned down] like mother Sirimavo, who was 43 when husband SWRD was assassinated, and both killings were politically motivated. Chandrika once left the SLFP and formed SLMC with a break-away group from father’s party. Her brother Anura, only son of Bandaranaike left the party too, to join the main rival UNP. Despite all setbacks and debacles, SLFP obtained new life; it arose from ashes like the mythical phoenix; unaffected, unruffled and retaining its identity as number one or two, thanks to the heroism and mettle of Sirimavo. Chandrika did little for the party or country: MR unceremoniously removed her from the leadership on her 61st Birthday in 2006 by introducing a amendment [Section 12 (2)] to party constitution. While acknowledging that the change of leadership coincided with CBK’s birthday, “We never intended to effect the leadership change on her birthday,” he said. MR however, was successful in returning a record 123 SLFP members to Parliament under PR.
The SLFP, like in the late 1980s and 90s is going through another disastrous period after being hastily pushed into a cohabitation with the UNP by its former General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena who in November 2014 became a traitor to the party by joining a group of opposition to partner the worst ever conspiracy against it, since CP de Silva collaborated with UNP, 50 years before. President Sirisena who is responsible for initiating the destructive path of the party has three alternative rescue options;
1. Invite CBK to take over the party leadership and arrest the waning enthusiasm of its rank and file. [She can do it if she has not lost her charisma]
2. Invite his onetime beta noire, who joined him in constitutional coup last October, MR, and gain lost grassroots’ support base. [it is unlikely MR who is tipped to take over Pohottuwa, with the idea of wiping off Bandaranaikes, and replacing with Rajapaksas would agree]
3. First card out-second card out-the third and the last, a big gamble but MS has nothing to lose [he has already lost all his credibility] -- seek Supreme Court’s intervention for a ruling on the last date of his Presidency! if the debatable issue’s interpretation comes his way, stay on till August 2020, dissolve parliament at the first opportunity [Feb 16, 2020], lead his party at a General election in March/April gain some ground for the benefit ‘lost-course’ SLFP and his ‘fallen between the stools’ old and new loyalist to fly the blue flag high at Darley road for a few more years. This would also guarantee a secured future for Sirisena as ex-President.
The present debacle, the party suffered is the worst ever in its 68-year history. Senior members meet at undisclosed venues to consider survival tactics; make abrupt and rash strategies giving their boss ‘D- ropes’ saying the SLFP can win 15-20 seats at a future parliamentary election and become the ‘king-maker’ holding the balance of power, dictate terms to the two big parties, a disgraceful utterance by a general secretary of a party that ruled the country on four occasions covering 36 years since independence. He subjugates the past glory of the party to a ‘toddler’ under two years— the ‘third force’ perhaps is based on February LG election results under an Executive President. The truth is, SLFP today, [with only four months to its leader’s politicking] is in a rather fragile position and would end up an ‘also ran’ far behind JVP’s 4%.
"The SLFP, like in the late 1980s and 90s is going through another disastrous period after being hastily pushed into a cohabitation with the UNP by Maithripala Sirisena, who in November 2014 became a traitor to the party by joining a group of opposition to partner the worst ever conspiracy against it"
Constitutional crisis, how NM foresaw
“The fact that the President has the power to assign to himself any subject or function which he wishes to take over, he can at will reduce or take away any function already agreed to the PM or to any other minister. In these complex circumstances, what happens to the left majority in the House supporting a left Prime Minister who is burdened with a President sponsoring an opposite policy in conflict with the declared policy of a majority in the House? How is this conflict to be resolved? Will that President be prepared to swallow his pride and foreswear his convictions adumbrated in his own declared policy when he assumed office? If neither is prepared to give way, there will be a deadlock. The whole governmental machinery will come to a standstill….” ---Dr. N. M. Perera
President who earlier, acting on such ill-conceived advice sought a ruling from Supreme courts regarding the duration of his term and failed. The end of president’s term as per the provisions of 19A are somewhat ambiguous; therefore are subject to argument and interpretation. There is a possibility of SC ruling in favour of Sirisena giving him the benefit of the doubt; however, MR’s vehement rejections of the idea have hampered his hopes; SLPP in fact warned the SLFP that any attempt to look for an extension of Sirisena’s term would weaken talks to form an alliance.
The SLFP, once represented by the powerful Bandaranaikes is all but dead, leaving the massive support base of seven decades to abandon Darley Road and occupy a block at Nelum Mawatha.
The President has ruled out the speculation of a “three-cornered” fight by key contenders. The announcement that SLPP will hold its national convention at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on August 11, where MR is tipped to take over the leadership of the ‘Pohottuwa’ party and make official proclamation on the party’s presidential candidate would have influenced the displeased man to concede defeat and surrender. Rajapaksas who are obviously impervious to Bandaranaike’s name will ensure the SLFP is wiped out at any future election. If they win, they would take every possible step towards ‘expunging’ the beleaguered SLFP from electoral register altogether.
Dr. NM continued, “If neither party is prepared to succumb to ground, the Constitution might as well be scrapped. It will be unworkable. The whole country sick of Parliamentary democratic system will turn to alternative forms of government such as Fascism. It is a pity that JR has ceased to think of the future. The present Parliament may well shun the kind of deadlock that I have prognosticated but the next Parliament will not. We would be guilty of an unforgivable crime if in fashioning a Constitution for this country we become obsessed by the advantages we can gather by the present concatenation of favourable situation.
It is wrong to presume that the antagonism between the President and Parliament will spring only from the political complexions of the two bodies diverge. This is not the experience of the United States where the Presidential system continues to function albeit with cracks and groans. The tendency over the years is for the legislature to become apprehensive of the power wielded by the President and his entourage.”
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