What MR should learn from the UNP
Posted on May 31st, 2015

Courtesy Island

The event that captured everyone’s imagination last week was former Chief Justice Sarath N.Silva’s broadside against the government. The CD of his full speech has started doing the rounds. One of the reasons why Silva’s speech is so significant is the range of issues he has dealt with – from the way Ranil Wickremesinghe was made prime minister while D.M.Jayaratne was still holding office, to the way Mohan Peiris was ousted, and the way the Financial Crimes Investigation Division was created. His most scathing criticism was leveled at the FCID which he called an illegal set up investigating non-existent crimes because the matters it deals with such as ‘grievous financial crimes’ do not appear anywhere in the Penal Code.

Another matter that earned the former CJ’s ire was the way the Kaduwela Magistrates court was kept open till almost midnight to remand Basil Rajapaksa. Silva said that he had never seen anything like that in his entire 47 year career nor had he heard of such an incident even from overseas. What was most important about Silva’s broadside was that he was one of those who ignited the yahapalana campaign by opposing Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to contest the presidency for the third time. Speaking further he said that never in his life had he seen a government that flouted the law in this manner. The manner in which a ministry secretary has been arrested for alleged financial misappropriation also came in for criticism with Silva pointing out that these arrests of officials had been made without carrying out any investigation and in contravention of existing laws and regulations. However Silva’s opinions will be derided by those who remember his recent apology for a judgment he delivered as well as some of his actions as CJ.

Former CJ Sarath Silva thus became the first yahapalana intellectual to find his voice. Many of the intellectuals who supported the yahapalana platform were either maintaining a stolid silence or making all kinds of implausible sounding excuses to justify what was happening. Take Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero for example, the monk who really began the whole yahapalana movement by calling for the abolition of the executive presidency – the present writer found it difficult to understand how Ven Sobitha could support the 19th Amendment as it was finally passed and even refer to it as a ‘mal wattiya’ when in fact it was the biggest betrayal of trust in Sri Lankan political history. It was supposed to abolish the executive presidency and transfer all power to the prime minister and cabinet but in reality nothing of the sort has been achieved and the executive presidency is still very much intact.

This writer had occasion recently to interview Victor Ivan, the editor of Ravaya who also supported the yahapalana platform and when asked about the manner in which Chief Justice Mohan Peiris was ousted his answer was that the way his predecessor Shirani Bandaranayake was removed was even more reprehensible. However, if one compares the way the two former CJ’s were removed from office, it becomes obvious that the constitutional procedure was adhered to in the removal of Shirani Bandaranayake – a procedure that has been made use of on two occasions by the UNP (though they did not go the whole hog) once by the JVP and once by the UPFA. In contrast to that, Mohan Peiris was removed from office by a combination of mob action and presidential fiat. It set a horrendously dangerous precedent for the future.

When this writer asked Ivan about the doings of the FCID, his response was that if people are arrested on allegations of corruption even with the motive of exacting political revenge, still this will instill fear in those in power and help curb corruption after several rounds of politicians imprisoning one another vengefully! That would be a way of using a bad motive to achieve a good outcome but is not a method that this writer would recommend because vengeance will not stop at imprisonment but will inevitably escalate into murdering one another when the opportunity presents itself. Such responses to questions in a way highlights the plight that most yahapalana intellectuals find themselves in. They dare not say anything even against the most unpardonable doings of the yahapalana government for fear that anything that they may say will go in favour of the rising pro-Mahinda tide in the country.

The fact that Sarath Silva did not suffer from such mental blocks from the beginning of the yahapalana government stands much to his credit. He was in fact the first yahapalana pioneer to speak up against the manner that Mohan Peiris was ousted though that early expression of disapproval was not a major broadside against the yahapalana government like his OPA speech last week. The latter was in fact not disapproval of individual acts of the not-so-new government but a rejection of it in toto. Sarath Silva went to the extent of saying that he too voted for Maithripala Sirisena but that he now regrets it and further that he had misgivings when Sirisena was made the candidate and that though the yahapalana election campaign managers had sent him a list of meetings at which he was supposed to speak, he had simply thrown it into the dustbin.

The hooting boomerangs

Sometimes, major political events are triggered by minor events. The incident where former minister Pavithria Wanniarachchi was hooted at when she attended her first pro-Mahinda pocket meeting in Balangoda after resigning her portfolio has done immense damage to the pro-Mahinda cause because that has given other potential defectors the impression that they will not be accepted by the crowd even if they defect at this stage. That has obviously convinced them that their best chance of survival would be to stay on in the Sirisena camp and hope for the best at the election.  They probably feel that rejection by the pro-Mahinda crowds, would doom them politically, but by remaining with the Sirisena camp they would at least have a fighting chance.

This writer has been pointing out all along that it is not the political leaders who are in control of things in the pro-Mahinda camp but the masses from below who are propelling things forward. Hooting incidents of the kind that Pavithra had to face are not really orchestrated (though some may suspect the hand of political rivals in it) but largely spontaneous. The politicians cannot control such shows of disapproval and are constrained to accept whatever advantage or disadvantage that flows from the public mood. Since those who accepted ministerial portfolios from Sirisena now know that they will not be accepted by the Pro-Mahinda camp even if they relinquish their portfolios, Sirisena is now in the happy position of having quite a number of SLFP politicians who now have to stand or fall with him.

It is obviously because Pavithra Wanniarachchi was hooted at, that the resignations of SLFP holders of ministerial office suddenly stopped. Quite apart from resigning, three more MPs, Chandrasiri Sooriyaarachchi, Hemal Gunasekara and Pandu Bandaranayake received state and deputy ministerial portfolios on Friday. Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene were promoted a notch. The hostility of pro-Mahinda crowds to those perceived to have ‘sold the party out’ may have worked in President Sirisena’s favour, but how useful this will be in the end is yet to be seen. Only about ten of the UPFA politicians supporting Sirisena (by having accepted ministerial portfolios) have a strong presence in their districts.

Of them, S.B.Dissanayake, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Mahinda Amaraweera and Sudarshanie Fernandopulle are the strongest, having obtained more than 100,000 votes. Several others like Mahinda Samarasinghe (who got just under 100,000 votes)  Vijith Vijayamuni Soysa, Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene, Jagath Pushpakumara and Shantha Bandara (Kurunegala district) are also fairly strong in their districts. These are the people who have the best chances of survival if the SLFP splits and the Sirisena faction has to contest on its own.

Others like S.B. Nawinna, A.H.M. Fowzie, Piyasena Gamage, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Felix Perera, Reginald Cooray, Jeevan Kumaratunga, Dayasritha Tissera,  Lalith Dissanayake (Kegalle district) and Lasantha Alagiyawanna are on a much weaker wicket. Lakshman Seneviratne who is also in the Sirisena faction was not elected on the UPFA list. He won the 2010 parliamentary election on the UNP list and defected. It is still unknown how the SLFP voter will react to him. But judging by the voting pattern in the Mahiyangana electorate after he crossed over, it is evident that he has brought a considerable number of UNP votes into the SLFP so he may be a fairly strong candidate at an election.  The three new recipients of portfolios  Hemal Gunasekera, Chandrasisri Sooriyarachchi and Pandu Bandaranayake are also politicians on a weak wicket.

It need not be stressed that the electoral prospects of even the strongest candidates in the Sirisena camp depends to a large extent on the credibility of their leadership. It has to be borne in mind that the next parliamentary election will be held to elect a ‘government’. Due to the rhetoric surrounding the 19th Amendment the public perception now is that power has shifted to the prime minister and the cabinet. Thus, the prime ministerial candidate of the party will be all important. The side that has the most popular prime ministerial candidate will be at a distinct advantage. While that gives the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp a head start over everyone else, it seriously handicaps the Sirisena faction. Not only do the latter not have an attractive prime ministerial candidate, as of now they seem reluctant to even name a PM candidate! That is certainly going to place all those contesting through the Sirisena faction at a serious disadvantage.

Another factor that will influence the outcome of the next election will be the base vote of the contesting political parties. The UNP, TNA and JVP as well as the various Muslim parties all have their base vote. The SLFP base vote at the next election will be split between Maithripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the last presidential election, it is clear that the base vote of the SLFP voted for MR with Sirisena getting perhaps a tiny proportion of it. Even though MR will not be having the SLFP party and symbol next time, one still may surmise that he will get the vast majority of the SLFP base vote. For more than a quarter of a century, the SLFP has not contested an election in its own right and it has been only one party in an alliance led by a charismatic leader. If the Sirisena faction contests separately, this will be the first time in recent decades that the SLFP contests an election on its own and without anybody to lead the parliamentary election campaign as PM candidate.

That fact is certainly going to skew the chances of even the most popular MPs supporting Sirisena. Other factors like the dissolution of the local government institutions controlled by the SLFP, the nagging suspicion among SLFPers that Sirisena does not want an SLFP victory at the next parliamentary election, his insistence on a national government and the acute awareness that he became president not on SLFP votes but on the votes of the UNP are all factors that will be prejudicial to retaining the SLFP base vote. In fact if at all a proportion of the SLFP base vote remains with the Sirisena faction, that will be not because of Sirisena but because of the popularity and persuasive powers of the MPs supporting him – especially the persuasive powers. If the May Day fiasco at Hyde Park is any indication of which way the cookie will crumble, the Sirisena led SLFP will be reduced to a rump at the next parliamentary election.

The Mega betrayal

The statement made last Wednesday by Ven Athureliye Rathana Thero that they would not allow parliament to be dissolved until the 20th amendment is passed, would have sent shock waves through the UNP. The monk even threw down the gauntlet and challenged anybody to get parliament dissolved if they can. In making this statement, he was in fact challenging the UNP and not anyone else. Of the parties within the yahapalana government, it is the UNP that has been agitating for an early election. The JVP has been agitating for the same thing from outside the government. Since the UNP accounts for 80 to 85% of the votes of the yahapalana government, one would think that their needs would be the needs of the government. It is a part of the privileges of a governing party to decide on holding elections at a moment deemed advantageous to itself. Virtually all governments in the recent past have made use of this privilege. In India however, elections are held only when they are due regardless of whether the situation happens to be advantageous to the ruling party or not.

But the practice that has evolved in this country is different. J.R.Jayewardene held the 1982 presidential election before the due date at a moment deemed advantageous to himself, as did CBK in 1999 and Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 and 2015. So there is nothing wrong in the UNP wanting to have an early parliamentary election to cash in on the price reductions and salary increases they made. Each passing week without an election places the UNP at a disadvantage. Yet the entity that provided over 80% of the yahapalana votes is unable to gets its wishes respected and is being stymied by the likes of Athureliye Rathana Thero and the JHU that can command at the most 1% of the yahapalana votes. Even the vast majority of the UPFA is not averse to the idea of an early election though they may not be pursuing it with the same enthusiasm as the UNP. It’s only a small cabal around Sirisena including the JHU and the defectors from the SLFP who joined Sirisena who are against an early parliamentary election.

From the very beginning the UNP wanted to abolish the executive presidency through the 19th Amendment while they were not very enthusiastic about electoral reform through the 20th Amendment because they deemed the present electoral system to be more favourable to them. The compromise reached was that the UPFA would extend their support to the 19th Amendment while the UNP would extend their support for the passage of the 20th Amendment so that both parties would be getting something. The UPFA also decided not to insist on the simultaneous passage of both the 19th and 20th Amendments on the basis of an undertaking given by President Sirisena that he will get the UNP’s support for the passage of the electoral reforms. The 19th Amendment was passed on that basis and someone may say that the UNP is now morally bound to support the passage of the 20th Amendment. But the fact is that the 19th amendment delivered nothing in terms of abolishing the executive presidency though that was the promise held out at the election. The executive presidency is still very much intact so there is no reason at all for the UNP to help in the passage of the 20th Amendment.

As at present, the UNP is maintaining a public silence on the 20A. If the UNP agrees to this amendment, they would be giving up the advantage they have under this electoral system without having gained anything in terms of reducing the powers of the executive presidency. This deceiving of the general public and the UNP on the question of abolishing the executive presidency was in fact the biggest political betrayal in post independence history and the UNP is under no moral obligation whatsoever to vote for the 20th Amendment.

We should add however that the reform of the electoral system is necessary. If the abolition of the executive presidency had been carried out, then the reform of the electoral system would have been an absolute must. But now that the executive presidency has not been changed, the retention of the present electoral system will only mean the continuation of the situation that existed for the past three decades for a while more. There is reason to believe that the next parliament may be a more conducive environment to discuss the complete abolition of the executive presidency and a simultaneous electoral reform.

The simmering resentment within the UNP for the way they were duped on the abolition of the executive presidency issue can be seen by the way the pro-UNP website Lanka e News reacted to the appointment of Champika Ranawaka last week to the Constitutional Council as the representative of the president. They had described Ranawaka as an extremist and wanted to know whether the president didn’t have a moderate individual who could be named to the CC. After saying many unflattering things about Ranawaka, Lanka e News stated that by thus appointing Ranawaka the president has let the cat out of the bag as to who he used as a cat’s paw to sabotage the 19th Amendment. They asserted that it is now clear that it was the president himself who employed Ranawaka to sabotage the 19th Amendment and that these maneuvers expose the real face of President Sirisena.

In a separate article last Thursday, Lanka e News said that parliament was not being dissolved even after the 100 days had expired because of President Sirisena’s fear of being held responsible for the defeat of the SLFP after he took over the leadership. They reminded Sirisena that 6.2 million people had voted for him to solve the problems of the country and not those of the SLFP. They said that by delaying the dissolution of parliament president Sirisena was committing suicide and that with each day of delay he is losing the support of the forces that brought him into power as well as those supporting Rajapaksa. There are lessons that MR has to learn from the agony that the UNP is going through  – NEVER trust a confirmed betrayer and give him the power to determine your political fate.

19 Responses to “What MR should learn from the UNP”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “There are lessons that MR has to learn from the agony that the UNP is going through – NEVER trust a confirmed betrayer and give him the power to determine your political fate.”

    ABSOLUTELY!

    Mervin, SB, Lanza, Dumbinda, etc. are all in the YAAPA(LA)NAYA camp. MR has a CLEAN group with him.

    MAKE former soldier SARATH WEERASEKARA your deputy MR (IF GR is not coming).

  2. nilwala Says:

    Admiral Sarath Weerasekera MP was the only member of the Parliament (to which the People have entrusted the security of the country), who voted against 19A with courage, honesty of purpose and single-minded commitment ready to stand alone in defiance against what was being carried out to weaken the nation, while the rest meekly voted along with the government although they had slated the same in their speeches.
    He should definitely be singled out for a very senior position.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Agree with Nilwala.

    ——

    For a War time President with Lanka being eyed by many lusty contenders abroad with terrorism & separatism at home plus JVP grievances, MR’s problems were huge and his faults were minimal, given the circumstances. Can we ever find the Perfect President ? NO. So let us go with the best available person.

    I recall that at the time of the war with the LTTE and Norway was in charge of the so called Peace Process, someone commented that not even Buddha or Jesus can solve the problems of the Tamils. And our Pandithayas are trying to solve the 3,000 yr old Tamil problem !

  4. Christie Says:

    Namaste: The Coolie Sirisena was voted in by the Indian colonial parasites as directed by the Indian Empire. They let Mahinda win over Ranil by abstaining from voting as directed by the Indian Empire in 2005. We are arguing and expressing opinions on small issues about our issues caused by Indian colonialism and imperialism. Let us unite and stand up to Indian Empire. Jai Hind

  5. Christie Says:

    මේ අඩවියෙ ඉන්න අය ගොඩක් යම කමක් දන්න අය. නමුත් මේ අයටවත් ඉන්දියානු ජඩවාදය හඳුනාගන්න අමාරුයි. සින්හලයින් එකතුවී ඉන්දියානු අදිරදටය විරුද්දව නැගී සිටිය යුතුය.

  6. Nimal Says:

    I think perhaps the new regime wants usher good governance in the country by taking desperate measures in a short and limited time left for them. I suppose end justifies the means? Only time will tell.
    If the bitter enemies that killed one another for decades in Northern island and if old allies during the WW2 could reconcile their bitter differences then why can’t a tiny country like Sri Lanka do the same? We seems to find petty differences over religion, race and cast that keep us from the modern developed world that every one wants, except for the leaders in the third world who wants that life as a privilege for themselves and for their cronies.
    With greater influx of desperate people risking their lives trying to get to the Western countries, even the hard hearted people in the West seem to examine the root causes of their plight that is originating from their third world countries, may resulting in someway of getting involved in these countries where crooked leaders will come under greater scrutiny, where their stashed up assets will be seized where ever that will be kept. Web sites that promote one sided opinions that may contradict their values will be scrutinized and black listed and even prosecuted but they will allow their function to an extent to gather information about it’s members. So be warned and they joke about the many vacant places in their correctional facilities and it’s big business to find inmates to fill these. You may delete me and that’s alright by me.Did likesof Rajaratnam ever believe his present fate, thought he had friends in high places, thought he could walk on water. My advise is to tone down the rhetoric as they control a lot in the world.

  7. Metteyya_Brahmana Says:

    I think Lanka-e-News (UNP) is giving MS way too much credit on the Champika appointment to try to make it appear that MS is not their puppet.

    Let’s set this straight – the 19A DOES transfer the power of the president to the PM by forcing the president to accept the PM choices for the cabinet. Anyone who understands politics knows that the executive function of government is controlled by the cabinet, and therefore whomever controls the cabinet (Ranil) controls the government. Period!

    All this talk about transferring even more power to the PM via the 19A and how this was stopped by Champika and the Supreme Court is water under the bridge, as Ranil got 99% of what he needed to control the Sri Lankan government. This is why Ranil did not want to do a people’s referendum on the rejected parts of the 19A – if you got all of what you need to run Sri Lanka, why risk that by exposing yourself to a public vote?

  8. Lorenzo Says:

    MB,

    “the 19A DOES transfer the power of the president to the PM by forcing the president to accept the PM choices for the cabinet.”

    But still the president PICKS the PM.

    IF Run-nil tries to be too smart, Maru Sira will appoint SIRIPALA as PM. Nice combination SIRISENA-SIRIPALA-SIRI LANKA.

    IF CBK contests the election and gets elected to parliament (she will), Maru Sira will PICK her as PM!!

    This is why Maru Sira is delaying the election.

    CBK is the next PM. AWFUL and disgusting but true.

  9. Independent Says:

    Vimutti,
    But Runil will soon be gone according to this web site. Therefore MR will have all the control he wants. That was the plan of great MR ministers like Mervyn Silva , GL Peris, WW, Dinesh , Bandula and Vasu. So, why complain ?

  10. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    Independent

    Blind supporters of Sirisena even cannot see that this article was originally published by Island Newspaper and making comments as if the opinion is created by this website.

    Open your eyes Independent, your country is in great danger, your religion is being destroyed behind your back by group of born again christens hiding behind Yahapalanaya. That is why MR is getting immense supports from Buddhist Temples all over the Island.

    People are now beginning to convince that the accusation levelled against the last government is nothing more than UNPers imagination. They already accepted that there is no corruption linked to port city development project.

    As former chief justice said there is not a single case of corruption surfaced in the investigation that can legally challenge under the present legal and penal code.

    Just give up you mumbling and muttering or handover your information whatever you have to the authority in Sri Lanka.

  11. Lorenzo Says:

    Independent must STOP being a DEVADATTA.

    No need to be ashamed to admit you were wrong. It is better to correct at least now than remain wrong.

  12. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    Independent

    By the way, Mervyn Silva is being pampered, fondled and fostered by now Sirisena. He is going to contest Kelaniya and nominated by SLFP (Sirisena Faction)

  13. Metteyya_Brahmana Says:

    Lorenzo,

    You are not understanding this “picking the PM” part because the SFLP basically laid down on the Ranil appointment (at least thus far).

    According the Sri Lanka Constitution MS can ONLY pick the PM that has the confidence of Parliament (backing of the majority of MPs), and there is absolutely no way Chandrika will have the confidence of Parliament, even if she gets elected to a seat.

    If MS picks someone who does NOT have the confidence of Parliament (i.e., does not have the backing of the majority of MPs) that person gets a no-confidence vote and they are gone. He tries it again, and that person gets no-confidence vote and they are gone, and on the third time, MS is gone! The sad part is MS is not smart enough to understand that if he keeps thumbing his nose at Parliament and the people’s choice as PM, he will be forced out.

    Democracy is about supporting the people’s choice on who they want to lead the country. If MS and CBK continue to think their ‘personal’ choice trumps the people’s choice, they are in for a very rough ride.

  14. Lorenzo Says:

    MB,

    Dead wrong!

    Read 43 (3) of constitution

    The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the member of parliament who in his opinion is most likely to command the confidence of parliament.

    That was how Run-nil could become PM. In Maru Sira’s OPINION, Run-nil is most likely to command the confidence of parliament!!

    FUNNY opinion of Maru Sira but NO ONE can challenge it in court. Same with DM Jayaratna. How on earth could he command the confidence of parliament!! But in the OPINION of the president he did. Same with RUN-NIL in 1993!!

    http://www.parliament.lk/files/pdf/constitution.pdf

  15. nilwala Says:

    Metteyya_B is quite correct, that per 19A, Ranil as PM recommends to Sirisena those he wants in his Cabinet, and Sirisena’s option will only be to pick the PM. This is how the current operation was put in place. What one cannot quite understand is the role played by the Speaker in all this, as he it was who ruled out the 19A objections to Clause 43(2), which pertains to the Cabinet appointments being at the recommendation of the PM, and which was called by the Opposition Members such as DineshG for debate before passing. The Speaker has also been acting very cautiously and procedurally to delay the No-Confidence motion against RaviK.

    Ranil as PM now and is behind all the antics that have put the country into a political spin, with Sirisena as betrayer and puppet. Ranil can be removed by a No-Confidence Motion, with the immediate consequence probably being the dissolution of Parliament. But again, the Speaker will likely act to slow it down procedurally as he has done with the RaviK motion. So this current horribly unstable and ugly situation can be expected to continue for a while yet with the FCID playing its side-show game to maintain the atmosphere of fear.

  16. Lorenzo Says:

    Nilwala,

    Still the PM is PICKED by the president.

    Then the Cabinet, etc. PM first, next the Cabinet.

    Next PM is going to be CBK, not Run-nil.

  17. Independent Says:

    Friends both LTTE and Sinhala,
    Please don’t insult Buddha by comparing a criminal to him.

  18. Independent Says:

    NMY,
    Not only Mervyn, there is Duminda too , who raped a child and escaped thanks to Appacchi.

  19. Independent Says:

    “මේ අඩවියෙ ඉන්න අය ගොඩක් යම කමක් දන්න අය. නමුත් මේ අයටවත් ඉන්දියානු ජඩවාදය හඳුනාගන්න අමාරුයි. සින්හලයින් එකතුවී ඉන්දියානු අදිරදටය විරුද්දව නැගී සිටිය යුතුය.”

    – Very true. What we are doing is keeping changing the puppet.

    It is easy to rise against the MAIN ENEMY. But we are getting the issue unnecessarily complicated by arguing about trivial issues.

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