MPs shake hands with ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday, expressing their confidence in him and demanding that he be reinstated as prime minister. AFP.
he Supreme Court has spoken, justice has been delivered, and the President’s action of dissolving parliament has been declared illegal, unconstitutional and a violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioners. But whether the crisis has ended is still a major question. We hope the President will bow to the unanimous verdict of the seven-member Supreme Court bench which upheld democracy and constitutional governance.
This column, a fortnight ago, said that even if the economy suffers and the administration grinds to a halt, justice must prevail and democracy should emerge victorious. Defending democracy, United National Party Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa in his speech on Wednesday in Parliament quoted John F. Kennedy as saying, ‘Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’
On the one hand, such a stand, however painful, is justified in the interest of democracy. If a democratic order is upheld, generations to come will not only relish the benefit of democracy to the fullest but also will be saved from constitutional conspiracies by power-hungry populist politicians.
On the other hand, we need to understand there is an urgent need to solve the crisis and prevent the country from sinking deeper into the abyss it has been pushed into by the October 26 event.
It goes without saying that power politics, at the cost of the people’s wellbeing, is hampering a speedy solution to the problem. The question is how long the people can undergo the suffering brought about by the recklessness of a few self-centred politicians at a humongous cost to the nation’s economy.
The problem precipitated by President Maithripala Sirisena’s impulsive and arbitrary decision to remove legitimate Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appoint, in his place, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a major blow to democratic traditions, has eroded investor confidence, suspended the inflow of foreign aid, made loans expensive
and negatively affected the tourism industry.
The crisis is virtually killing the economy. It is said it will take years to restore investor confidence in Sri Lanka to the pre-October 26 level. Ours is a country which depends heavily, apart from exports, on the inflow of foreign investment, tourism and remittances from Sri Lankan expat workers to offset the trade deficit and avert a balance of payment crisis. There is no gainsaying that the crisis has also added a heavy strain on debt servicing. If we do not honour the repayment of debts and our sovereign bond commitments by the due dates next year, we will be further downgraded by international credit rating agencies. Besides, if the crisis is not solved soon and a budget or a vote on account is not passed before the end of this month, hospitals will run out of medicinal supplies, the law-and-order situation will be crippled as Police will have no money to buy fuel, salaries and pensions will not be paid, and state schools will have no money to buy even chalk. Yet, it appears that the power-hungry politicians show no urgency to solve the crisis. They do not give a damn about the looming catastrophe arising out of the absence of a legitimate government. Like Nero, they are playing their fiddles while the people – most of whom are financially and economics-wise illiterate -- are being
duped into believing their political rhetoric.
It is unfortunate that the crisis erupted when the economy was showing signs of taking off and the then government was pushing forward ambitious programmes such as Gamperaliya and Enterprise Sri Lanka to fast-track the economic growth, despite hostile local and international factors, such as sharp rises in the prices of oil and the US dollar.
According to an article published in the Financial Times (Sri Lanka) on November 20, the Sri Lanka Prosperity Index (SLPI) increased to 0.771 in 2017 from the 0.661 in 2016, mainly due to improvements in the Economy-Business Climate and Socio-Economic Infrastructure sub-indices. In the complex ranking order, Sri Lanka occupies the 67th place -- one place below Kuwait and one place ahead of South Africa. But, for obvious reasons, sections of the mainstream media missed the story, deliberately or otherwise, though the report certainly infuses in Sri Lankans reasons to be optimistic about the future. The positive story goes against the Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp narration that the President had to intervene and appoint a new Prime Minister because Wickremesinghe was taking the economy on the path to ruin.
Now that the President’s has been proved wrong by the Supreme Court, he should stop being petty and be a full-fledged democrat to solve the crisis by appointing Wickremesinghe as prime minister, as he proved on Wednesday that he commands the confidence of the majority in parliament. The President must not heap further economic burden on the people who, for three long decades, had suffered the devastating consequences of the separatist war. The President should work out a cohabitation arrangement to run the government amicably till a general election is held sooner than later in terms of the constitution. Otherwise, it will become obvious that the President is playing a power game, putting self before the country and the people.
It’s power politics, stupid
Yes, in the core of the crisis is political power. Parliamentarian Mahinda Rajapaksa, one of the chief protagonists of the crisis, in a recent interview with the Daily Mirror, was frank, when he was asked for comments on charges that he grabbed power through the backdoor while he could have won the next general election with much ease. Rajapaksa said:
“There is no such thing called capturing power through the backdoor. A political party is not meant to be in the opposition forever. It should try to become the ruling party on the very first occasion made available to it. We vowed to topple the government after two Vesak Poyas. One Vesak Poya is over. We toppled the government before the next Vesak Poya. Our duty is to topple the government if it
He is right. Power politics knows no moral principles. It is simply dirty and therefore, one has to be animalistic to survive in politics, which is characterised by eternal alertness, mutual suspicion, perpetual competitions, cold blooded conflicts, skullduggery, backstabbing, intimidation, assassinations and countermoves. In power politics, those who have power will not only protect it at any cost but also enhance it to prevent even the distant rival from coming closer to them to stake a claim for power. Those who do not have power, on the other hand, will continue to undermine the plans of those who are in power and plot to overthrow the government given a half chance.
Yes, if Wickremesinghe had been a ruthless power-centric politician, he would have anticipated the backstabbing the President delivered in the night of the long knives on Friday, October 26, and taken countermeasures to fox