Anything is possible
Posted on August 27th, 2019

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is in an unenviable position. He is never free from stress. Last year, he had to fight quite a battle to thwart an attempt to topple the UNF government. What he faced in Parliament, in defending the beleaguered government, was nothing but terrorism. He even ran the risk of being harmed by some rowdies in the garb of UPFA MPs, who went on the rampage. But for his valiant efforts, his political enemies would have consolidated their power in Parliament. Ten months on, speculation is rife, in political circles, that a plot is being hatched to grab premiership again. It was reported that Speaker Jayasuriya had said he would resign in such an eventuality. He has denied the reports as baseless.

President Sirisena revealed, at a public rally, during last year’s political turmoil, following the abortive power grab, that he had offered the post of Prime Minister to Speaker Karu Jayariya and Minister Sajith Premadasa, before appointing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa thereto. Both Jayasuriya and Premadasa had turned down his offer, he said. A section of the media claimed, the other day, that he had made that offer again. He is known for highly unpredictable moves; whoever would have thought he would sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, appoint Rajapaksa PM, dissolve Parliament and call a general election, in quick succession?

There is no love lost between President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe, as is common knowledge. The former, however, is not ill-disposed towards the UNP, which he is willing to work with under a different PM. A formidable faction of the UNP has risen against PM Wickremesinghe, and is cranking up pressure on him to name Sajith the party’s presidential candidate. They have crossed the point of no return, and won’t baulk at anything to achieve their goal. President Sirisena feels let down by the Rajapaksas who have their own agenda and joined the SLPP officially. He, therefore, may not hesitate to do anything at the expense of the Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghe to manoeuvre out of the political mire he finds himself in. He might throw in his lot with someone who is opposed to the former ruling family and incumbent PM.

The President is aware that he will be reduced to a political nonentity if the SLPP wins the presidency; his lot will be far worse in case Wickremesinghe or someone close to the latter becomes the next President. He will stand to gain or be safe only if someone who is against both the Rajapaksas and Wickremesinghe becomes President, with his support. This seems to be his battle plan, which may have given rise to speculation that he might try to re-enact the October Drama, in Parliament, with a different cast and a new protagonist.

Having foiled an attempt by President Sirisena and former President Rajapaksa to wrest control of Parliament, last year, the UNF government bragged that it was strong enough to defend itself against its opponents bent on grabbing premiership; it warned them that it was also capable of going on the offensive and bringing them to their knees. Their boastful claim reminds us of a story about an armament manufacturer, who used to boast of the strength of his products to the point of queasiness; he once claimed that there was no spear, in the entire world, which could pierce his shields, and no one had ever manufactured a shield that his spears could not penetrate. A child who happened to pass by, casually, asked him what would happen if one of his spears was thrown at one of his shields. The question that the government should be asked is what would happen if an attempt was made by someone within its ranks to grab premiership.

What would the UNF constituents and the JVP do in such a situation? Most of all, how would the Speaker react? Anything is possible in politics, where nothing is so certain as the unexpected, especially when someone like Sirisena is at the helm.

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