Of that unfolding drama
Posted on November 16th, 2018

By Dr. Upul Wijayawardhana Courtesy The Island

Even Shakespeare, the greatest dramatist of all, would have found it extremely difficult to pen a political drama to match what is unfolding in the ‘Land like no other’. It was left to my very good friend and retired senior administrative service officer, Dharme Hewamadduma, to remind me of a prediction I had made after the last presidential election. I could sense the excitement in his voice when he rang me to inform that President Sirisena has appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister but his excitement was for a different reason.”Upul, do you remember telling me that Sirisena will do the same to Ranil, what he did to Mahinda?” Frankly, I could not remember but am indebted to Dharme for having reminded me that I predicted MS would do a Brutus again.

Well, that sums up the first of the three actors in this political drama. Yes, they really are actors with very bad performances at times. Maithri has done a Brutus not once but twice. He stabbed his former boss in the back, shortly after enjoying a hopper dinner at the President’s House in 2014. Ranil, on the other hand, was stabbed in the back several times before. Well, Maithri had to stomach many an indiscretion from Ranil because he had to show gratitude as he admitted in his address to the nation. After all, he would never have been President, if not for the support extended by the UNP, which, however, did so because its leader could not win a presidential election.

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Ranil has been ridiculed and praised in equal measure since he was sacked as Prime Minister. He holds the unique distinction of being fired from that exalted position twice! Chandrika, his great ally, who is in and out of Temple Trees, was the first to do so. I cannot remember what Ranil did then but, on this occasion, what he displayed was hypocrisy. Instead of leaving Temple Trees, he stayed put, converting Temple Trees to a huge ‘Pirith Mandapppaya’. Perhaps, we should not single him out for criticism because Sri Lankans’ religiosity knows no bounds in times of distress. Paradoxically, the sacking may have been a blessing in disguise for Ranil, whose image has been tarnished by the bond scams.

Surely, Ranil should have taken the responsibility and resigned when the bond-scam occurred as the Central Bank was under his purview. In the democratic world, many ministers have resigned for much less, and those who lavish Ranil with hosannas should not forget this vital element of good governance. He should, at least, have ensured that Arjuna Mahendran faced trial.

The third player, of course, is Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose supporters want him to be the saviour again. Even the harshest of his critics cannot deny the fact that MR achieved the impossible. Remember, there was no dearth of experts who harped, repeatedly, that the Tigers could not be defeated militarily. Sri Lanka holds the unique distinction of being the only country to have comprehensively defeated terrorists, a fact often forgotten when demanding concessions for the defeated terrorists. Even the mighty British Empire could not defeat terrorists but came to agreements with them. We did not and we are under no obligation, a fact we need to remind the foreign funded NGOs, which Ranil’s government failed to do; it bent over backwards to please foreign interferers. We lost national pride in the process, the beneficiary being MR, who has become the most powerful politician in the country today. Whether he can be double saviour depends on many factors, the most important of which is whether he had learned a lesson from the slap he received from the electorate. The other vital consideration is whether anyone can turn the economy around.

The less you talk of the bunch in the ‘Diyawanna Asylum’ the better. Their behaviour, to say the least, is despicable and clearly shows why a fresh election is needed with the hope that the major political parties would have the guts to nominate fresh untainted persons; a fat hope a cynic may say!

I do not know whether Ranil was surrounded by butterflies, as the President claimed recently, or bees but it looks as if there was a bunch of leeches misleading him. Why he did not want to go to the Supreme Court, when he was sacked, remains a mystery. However, when the Parliament was dissolved they went to the Supreme Court, the ensuing legal battle demonstrating how badly the 19th Amendment had been drafted. Barring those who drafted this, most experts believed, nothing short of a divine intervention, would go against the President. Well, what the Supreme Court will decide soon, after listening to all arguments, we do not know. It may make Ranil the great survivor, provided the party does not decide that enough is enough in the interim. Sajith Premadasa’s speech at the massive UNP rally had some hints. Or, it may give the chance for MR to be double saviour.

Unfortunately, the biggest loser in this political drama is Karu Jayasuriya, who has completely ruined his reputation. Having first accepted the President’s decision, he had a change of heart. He realised he is a member of the UNP, after all, though he is the Speaker and reversed his earlier decision, insulting the office he holds. How he could have issued contradictory statements is beyond belief! His inability to control MPs displayed his incompetence. The only way he can save his reputation is by summoning a meeting of party leaders and convincing them that the only decent thing to do is to seek a mandate from the voters.

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