President’s dilemma
Posted on August 31st, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

President Maithripala Sirisena has told media heads and editors at a recent meeting in Colombo that he will complete his full term come hell or high water. He may be able to retain the presidency, but what guarantee is there that there won’t be any change in the composition of Parliament. Nothing is so certain as the unexpected in politics. What befell the Kumaratunga government in 2001 is a case in point. President Chandrika Kumaratunga lost her parliamentary majority due to mass crossovers and her government fell a few months later. Whoever would have thought the Rajapaksa government would crash in 2015.

Interestingly, President Sirisena has, in answer to a question from a journalist about a report that the UNP is mulling over quitting the ruling coalition next year, said he will keep the government going with the help of those who are willing to join it. Is he really equal to that task? He is heavily dependent on the UNP for his political survival though he leads the SLFP. The forces that rallied behind him to make his victory possible at the 2015 presidential election did not do so out of any love for him. They expected him to help topple the Rajapaksa regime, act as a figurehead and then fade away after completing his first term. But, he has become assertive and their plan has gone awry.

The UNP, however, took precautions, curtailed President Sirisena’s powers and, thereby succeeded in putting him in a constitutional straitjacket through the 19th Amendment, which, among other things, did away with his power to dissolve parliament prematurely.

Ranasinghe Premadasa, while he was the Prime Minister of the JRJ government, once, lamented that a peon had more powers than he. However, when the Prime Minister and the President happen to represent two different parties, the former becomes stronger than the latter to all intents and purposes as we saw from 2001 to 2004 unless, of course, they form a joint administration.

If the UNP breaks ranks and President Sirisena loses control over Parliament as a result, he will find himself in the same predicament as Kumaratunga, who had her opponents undermining her power between 2001 and 2004. President Sirisena’s position is more vulnerable in that the UPFA parliamentary group, which consists of 95 MPs, is divided. The Joint Opposition (J0) led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has about 50 UPFA MPs within its ranks. The UNP has 107 seats and needs only six more MPs to muster a working majority in Parliament without being dependent on the SLFP. UNP ministers and their SLFP counterparts are at daggers drawn; there have been instances where some irate UNPers even asked the SLFP ministers to leave the government.

The main enemy of the JO, mostly consisting of SLFP dissidents, is not the UNP but President Sirisena. It is highly unlikely that it will throw a lifeline to the President if the UNP ditches him. The JO members may let the President stew in his own juice in such an eventuality so as to exploit his plight to regain control of the SLFP.

Meanwhile, it is advantageous for the UNP to face an election while the SLFP is divided. However, the UNP will have to win back its resentful supporters who are fed up with its honeymoon with the SLFP if it is not to suffer an electoral setback. Therefore, it may be compelled to pull out of the yahapalana coalition and consolidate its power in Parliament in time for the next presidential election which it won’t be able to avoid again.

This is the harsh political reality President Sirisena should not lose sight of.

One Response to “President’s dilemma”

  1. Senerath Says:

    Confessions Of A Man In A Borrowed Garb

    July 17, 2017

    I expected everything to be fine! That’s what they wanted me to believe and I performed what they wanted me to do. Went there, had a meal and scooted off with a new dream.

    To tell you the truth I was fed up with the set up and the treatment meted out to me. I should have been treated better. I had worked my way to the top with my sheer determination and hard work.

    I started from the bottom as a nonentity and was able to reach somewhere. But actually as I was a good accordian player and was able to dance to any tune during my schooldays I felt I deserved better. I had the ability to adjust myself to any situation.

    Instead it was wilderness altogether and as a result I had to listen to them, who were roaming in the same wilderness thoroughly affected by the feelings of unending revenge and ambition.

    I was so disillusioned that automatically I became a victim of their manipulation due to my unfulfilled ambition and frustrations. And the powerful alien forces collaborating with the local dark forces selected me for the contest to select the monitoring angel. In order to boost my unimpressive image they forced me to wear a garb worn by our victorious neighbouring “angel”. To help me in this venture they selected a set of uncompromising cows and buffoloes as my entourage. I was forced to tread the path chartered by them.

    The combination of their vicious revenge and my frustrations was exploited by alien forces to gain a foothold in the land, similar to what happened about several centuries ago when a powerful colonialist force, helped by our one-eyed jacks, took over the reins to turn us into a slavish nation.

    I must confess that from the day I came to the fore, only a few individuals with their own personal agendas were supporting me. In addition a set of stupid and selfish cows and buffaloes, playing all sorts weird and contradictory games were ruining everything I dreamed of and it was a never ending set of disasters and upheavels that greeted me all the way. At present it is only the tip of the iceberg that is visible and how it will end scares me to my ancestral loincloth.

    I am in a quandary like the dark prince. To do or not to do what is actually right! At least the dark prince had the courage to take the path which he took fearlessly.

    But in my case, with a besieged state of mind, I am in such a sheer messy situation so much so that I am unable to think what to do next. The cows and the buffaloes who were with me seem to be alarmed and are having their tails raised to the sky waiting to run to safety. Every breathing human being seem to be against me!

    It is said that man’s desire and his task is to create place for himself in history. But my gut feeling is that I have failed in my task and I am afraid that my ultimate place will be in the dustbin of history!

    By Vijaya Ariyarathna

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