Yahapalakaya chokes on the Yahapalana cabinet
Posted on September 11th, 2015

By Sudat Pasqual  Courtesy The Nation

The August 17 election was called by President Maithripala Sirisena when it became obvious that the minority government imposed on the country as a result of an electoral pact between the President and the main opposition group UNP was no longer tenable.
The convoluted electoral arrangement between the President and Ranil Wickremasinhe had created a weird and dysfunctional political creature. At the time of dissolution, the majority of MPs in Parliament belonged to the President’s coalition, UPFA (not the UNP). Under normal circumstances, given the fact that the President was the Chairman of the UPFA, one would have expected the President to lead the UPFA at the election. Former President Rajapaksa’s decision to push the envelope by contesting the election under the UPFA banner forced President Sirisena to take a public stand on the issue. It is suffice to say that the President lost his sense of equanimity and became openly hostile to the candidacy of his predecessor.

President Sirisena was keen to get the ball rolling in a more definitive manner. Instead of settling for a simple majority to get through the day, Sirisena has forced his alliance to throw their support for a UNP led national government. We are starting to see the cost of this cohabitation

The election ended in a stalemate with the UNP ending up with 106 MP’s but short of a majority by 7. UPFA came in a close second with 95 seats.

Since the UNP was a mere 7 MPs shy of a majority, the easiest way forward (at least in the short term) would have been to get a commitment from 7 MPs from the other side of the aisle. The 19th amendment to the constitution prohibits the dissolution of the parliament till it has served a minimum of 4 ½ years. That is a fair amount of time to work the political angels. While technically the head of the UPFA, Sirisena had quite clearly indicated his preference to see the return of Ranil Wickramasinghe as Prime Minister prior to the vote on August 17.  Even if the overwhelming majority of the UPFA MPs were hostile to Sirisena, surely the President who is the Chairman of both the SLFP and the UPFA could count on the support of 7 out of the 95 to throw their lot with the UNP; the party of choice of their Chairman?

Well, it didn’t quite go that way. President Sirisena was keen to get the ball rolling in a more definitive manner. Instead of settling for a simple majority to get through the day, Sirisena has forced his alliance to throw their support for a UNP led national government. We are starting to see the cost of this cohabitation.

Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika KumaratungaSirisena who promised to do away with the cesspit of corrupt and undemocratic practices of the Rajapaksa regime has jumped headlong into that same cesspit. The man who got elected selling a deal made in heaven seems poised to take the country on a path of self-destruction and evil doing.

The cabinet is currently at 48, but the count is still on. That number does not include the State Ministers and Deputy Ministers. At this rate, we may have to rename the Parliament and call it the Assembly of Ministers and Deputies. Ranil Wickramasinghe is on course to becoming the Prime Minister of world’s first Dinosaur Cabinet.

The blame for this obnoxious state of affairs rests squarely at the feet of President Sirisena. Sirisena may have won the Presidential election in January, but has failed miserably at building a base to carry out his proclamations of good governance. Sirisena for all practical purposes is a man without a political party or more importantly, a loyal political base. Sirisena’s candidacy was manipulated into place by his political Dutch Aunt Chandrika Kumaratunga.  That was more than 7 months ago. A man of Sirisena’s experience should have realized the precariousness of his position when he took office. Sirisena must have known that he had to mend the political fences he had destroyed at the earliest.

Regrettably, that is not the path chosen by Sirisena. Instead of reaching out to his doubters, President Sirisena has chosen a path of subterfuge that was ill-thought out and ill executed.  Even worse, Sirisena seems to have handed the hatchet job to Kumaratunga; a woman consumed by her hatred of all things Rajapaksa and a person of dubious integrity and loyalties. Sirisena has given into the venal demands of political charlatans to prop up his Prime Minister and is getting dragged closer to the UNP vortex and his effectiveness is inextricably tied to a UNP led government.

Sirisena presidency has been marked by indecisions, poor decisions and the lack of personal courage. Sirisena has become a vassal of venality. Fortunately for Sirisena his Presidency is still in its infancy and he can reverse the downward spiral of his government if he finds the political and personal courage to take actions that are unpleasant, but are in the best interests of the country.

2 Responses to “Yahapalakaya chokes on the Yahapalana cabinet”

  1. Indrajith Says:

    The sidelining of Mahinda is the misfortune of the nation
    – Muruththetuwe Ananada Thera
    September 10, 2015, 7:27 pm

    Muruththetuwe Ananda Thera the chief incumbent of the Abayaramaya in Narahenpita counts several decades as an activist monk. He has fearlessly stood up against repressive governments of the past. It would be no exaggeration to say that democracy has survived in this country despite the upheavals that we have gone through, because of the activism of individuals like Ananda Thera. His most recent act of defiance against the powers that be, is making his temple available to function as the headquarters of the pro-Mahinda campaign. In this interview, Ananda Thera speaks to C.A.Chandraprema about the situation in the country following last month’s parliamentary election.

    Q. You played a central role in the campaign to bring former president Mahinda Rajapaksa back into politics. Your temple was the virtual headquarters of the Mahinda faction of the UPFA. But the people obviously wanted a change. What made you feel obliged to support the campaign to bring Mahinda back into politics?

    A. I don’t think anyone can forget the services rendered to this country by Mahinda Rajapaksa. If anybody is prepared to forget his services to the country then they are the type of people who will forget their own parents. He won the war that no leader in this was able to win in three decades. He put his own life on the line to see that the people of this country were freed from the scourge of terrorism. We are talking of a man who saved the nation and developed the country. That is why we support him. When we formed the Maubima Surekeeme Sanvidhanaya in the J.R.Jayewardene era, pro-government thugs threw bombs at us. Mahinda Rajapaksa was one of the few who rushed to our aid and looked into our welfare at that time. So that is another reason why we stood by him. The sidelining of a leader like that is the misfortune of the nation. Throughout our history, rulers have been protected and looked after at times of need by the bhikku community. That is what I am doing.

    Q. The transformation in this country brought about by the Rajapaksas is visible. In that context as some people have said, do you think it is the ‘ingratitude’ of the Sinhala people that led to Mahinda Rajapaksa being rejected by the voters?

    A. You can’t take this as a defeat given the pressures that were brought to bear on the opposition in the past several months. Even bodhi poojas were prevented from being held. An individual who invited Mahinda for an alms giving was arrested and imprisoned. To have won 95 seats in such circumstances is not a defeat. Some people have undoubtedly been remiss in expressing gratitude, but here there were other factors involved. For the first time in history, a political leader worked to defeat his own party. The people expected Mahinda Rajapaksa to lead the country. But when the leader of his party made the statements that he did, many people wondered whether there would be any point in voting for the UPFA. When the former leader of the SLFP (Chandrika Kumaratunga) and the present leader of the SLFP (Maithripala Sirisena) both say that Mahinda will not be made prime minister, that had a negative influence on the voting public.

    Q. The difference between the winner and the loser at this parliamentary election is rather narrow – 5.0 million against 4.7 million. One sees that the 4.7 million that voted for the UPFA have acted almost in unison to defeat all the candidates identified as loyalists of president Maithripala Sirsena with only three individuals managing to escape the backlash. This is the first time we have seen such large numbers of people acting in unison to eliminate some and to retain others. It is difficult to achieve a result like that even if a deliberate effort is made through an expensive propaganda campaign. What do you make of the remarkable single-mindedness of the UPFA voter?

    A. Had a separate party been formed, Mahinda would have won. That is what I think.

    Q. Writer Gunadasa Amarasekera was to ruefully remark in the 1980s that it was only at the 1977 general elections that he realised that the Sinhalese were people who wanted food and drink above all else. A similar comment ascribed to Dudley Senanayake is that half a pound of ‘kunu karawala’ could tip the balance at an election. That was the political culture in this country till the late 1970s. When you look at the way the government servants have voted, one feels that the salary increases and the reduction in the prices of fuel and certain food items appear to have worked their old magic.

    A. The point to note is that even after giving the absolute maximum in terms of concessions and salary increases, they got only 106 seats. But the other side got 95 seats without being able to give any concessions at all. Even the election material published by Mahinda’s people could not be distributed and in the middle of all the shortcomings and restrictions they had to work under, they got only 11 seats less than the winner. It is certainly true that a large number of people also seem to have thought only of their stomachs but the point should not be missed that many people voted for the opposition without any thought for the privileges and concessions on offer by the government.

    Q. Isn’t it the case that the incumbency factor also weighed against the UPFA? They have been in power almost continuously for nearly two decades and when one party governs for such a long time people tend to ask for a change even against their own better judgement.

    A. That is a factor that also needs to be taken into account. It is said that even a bana sermon should not last too long. But there were also some very real achievements during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule. In the 1990s, I remember people saying that had president Premadasa ruled the country for a little longer the country would have seen more development. The same can be said about Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    Q. The conspiracy to defeat the Rajapaksa government began in 2012 with the formation of various bhikku organisations. Buddhist monks were at the forefront of the campaign. In a situation where the Rajapaksas had brought peace and stability to the country, suddenly the streets were full of marauding Buddhist monks attacking shops and business houses of Muslims. Now after the change of government all these organisations of Buddhist monks have disappeared without trace. One would think this is the time they would be on the streets with the controversies over the clearing of virgin forests in Wilpattu, the dismantling of the security zones in the North, the handing over of land in the high security zone to civilians in Sampur, and the handing over of the opposition leadership to the TNA, etc. But these bhikku organisations have evaporated into thin air and it seems obvious that they were not genuine organisations, but just fronts in the anti-Rajapaksa conspiracy.

    A. Mahinda Rajapaksa established peace in this country and enabled people of all communities to go about their business without any fear. The Rajapaksa government had respect for the bhikku community and that was abused to the maximum. We are now living under a government that has no regard for the bhikku community. We chanted pirith outside the Bribery Commission when Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was brought there for the first time and for that we were produced in courts. We still have to make regular appearances in courts over that incident. So in answer to your question yes, it was a foreign conspiracy that destabilised the Rajapaksa government. People say that this country is being ruled now by India and America. Imperialist conspiracies are nothing new in this country. We have had the same thing in the past as well. But the difference is that our ability to resist these conspiracies is at a low ebb today.

    Q. We have a new government that has come in promising good governance. But under this government we have seen arbitrary actions of the kind that we have never seen before under even the worst of the bad governments of the past. A chief justice has been sacked with just a letter from the presidential secretariat. General secretaries of political parties facing an election have been summarily sacked 48 hours before the election, members of decision making bodies of political parties have been purged by the dozen. All this is done by the executive president.

    A. This is a yahapalana government only in name. The only theory that is being applied is to acquire and hold power regardless of who or what you have to destroy in the process. People who spoke about abuses committed by the previous government are now silent. But we have seen more powerful regimes than this such as that of Marcos in the Philippines which ultimately had to give way to people’s power.

    Q. You have been politically active for several decades. My generation remembers you for the very public confrontations that you had with the UNP leaders of the 1980s. You probably regarded J.R.Jayewardene and R.Premadasa to be dictators?

    A. Yes, Mr Premadasa to a lesser extent but they were both dictators undoubtedly. J.R.Jayawardene was a ‘thanikara ekadipathiya’.

    Q. But J.R.Jayawardene never did any of the things that we have seen happening under this yahapalana government – such as sacking chief justices with a chit from his office, and purging political parties etc.

    A. Each person acts according to his level of intelligence. J.R.Jayewardene was at a different level altogether. A monkey does not know what to do with a razor blade. The people will not like the direction in which the country is now being taken.

    The Island.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:




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