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Over 6.4 million people gave a mandate for the President, the government and the Cabinet of Ministers. The people can be asked to give a fresh mandate, if somebody has any reservation over the mandate that the existing government has” – Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe.
The current Sri Lankan constitution provides a requirement for two institutions to obtain a mandate from the people in order to govern the country. The Executive Presidency and the National Parliament requires separate mandates. In this regard the mandate President Sirisena obtained has no relationship or link to the National Parliament, and they have to seek a fresh mandate within the specified time frame in the constitution.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe therefore cannot claim there is a mandate for the National Parliament to govern beyond its current term on account of the mandate for Mr Sirisena, and he cannot claim that mandate was for the government and the Cabinet of Ministers, as the two mandates are specific and distinct. In a strange twist of politics, Mr Wickremasinghe in fact governs as a Prime Minister when in fact as per the constitution and Parliamentary tradition, the Prime Minister should have been a representative from the party that has the largest number of seats in the Parliament which is in fact the UPFA.
In this context, the current government has no mandate, nor the constitutionality to be the government. It is strange that no one has sought to challenge the validity of this government in a court of law.
So, despite Mr Wickremasinghe’s coded message that a mandate could be obtained if needed, which translates to saying we won’t have an election unless absolutely pushed, Mr Sirisena has no choice but to dissolve Parliament and seek a fresh mandate from the people for the National Parliament.
The Prime Ministers statistics needs to be corrected. According to the Department of elections, Mr Maithripala Sirisena received 6,217,162 or 51.28% of the vote, and Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa received 5,768,000 or 47.58% of the vote. So, it is incorrect to say over 6.4 million people gave a mandate to the President. The difference in the vote was in fact 449, 162.
It is interesting to note that the vote in the Northern and Eastern provinces, predominantly Tamil in the Northern province and around 65% Tamil and Muslim in the Eastern province , and combined with the Nuwara Eliya district, predominantly Tamils, gave Mr Sirisena 1,240, 716 votes.
Even if some discounting is done to account for some Sinhala votes in these areas, it is not rocket science to say Mr Sirisena would not have won without the vote of the Tamils and Muslims in the geographic areas mentioned.
It also needs to be noted that except in these areas, and the Kandy, Colombo and Pollonnaruwa districts, and very narrowly in the Gampaha, Puttalam, and Badulla district (which Mr Sirisena won by just 281 votes), Mr Rajapaksa had won by vote percentages ranging from 52% to 63% (in Hambantota).
It is clear from these statistics that should a general election be held now, Mr Rajapaksa’s popularity would matter more than Mr Sirisena’s as the latter could not have won without the backing of the UNP, the JVP, the JHU, the democratic party and the minority vote.
If one were to deduct the vote Mr Sirisena received in the Northern and Eastern provinces, and the Nuwara Eliya district, his vote would have been 4,976,446 or 40.57% of the total valid votes cast. He would not have been the President today.
Judging by the votes that the JVP received in the Western, Southern and Uva provincial council elections in 2014, which ranges from 5.7% to 9.05% (in the Southern provincial council election), and the votes received by Mr Sarath Fonseka’s Democratic party in the Western and Southern provincial council elections (7.97% and 6.27% respectively), it would be safe to say these two parties would have contributed anything from 5 – 10% of the national vote Mr Sirisena received at the Presidential election.
If one takes a national average of the UNP vote based on what they received in these provinces in 2014, it would not exceed 27%. That is Mr Wickremasinghe’s legacy to the UNP.
This means that the SLFP vote Mr Sirisena received nationally would have been very small and perhaps not more than 2 -5% of the total vote.
This leaves a SLFP led by him without support from Mr Rajapaksa in a very vulnerable position, as the winners at a general election would be all other parties except the SLFP. On the contrary, should Mahinda Rajapksa lead the SLFP or actively support the SLFP at the next general election in April/May, he could lead it to victory as the largest single party in Parliament with a very strong possibility, based on the Presidential election voting pattern, of securing a simple majority, and being able to form a government on its own.
Without doubt, Mr Rajapaksa is the kingmaker at the next election, and Mr Wickremasinge knows this. Hence his increasingly vituperative rhetoric against Mr Rajapaksa and mention of not having a general election as promised. Mr Wickremasinghe knows that if an election is held now or in the near future, the winner or balance of power holder will be a party that has the support of Mr Rajapaksa. Mr Wickremasinghe’s stress level is also amply demonstrated by his recent uncalled for, unprecedented, undiplomatic and foolish attack on the Australian Prime Minister.
This is also the reason for his increased rhetoric on the Rajapaksa regime’s alleged corruption and misdeeds. No doubt there will be more of it and all attempts will be made by the current regime to paint Mr Rajapaksa as being steeped in corruption and not fit to be the next Prime Minister. It is unlikely that any actual legal proceedings will be lodged against Mr Rajapaksa before the election in April/May. If however, enough evidence could be obtained to take Mr Rajapaksa to courts, a delay in the election would help the current regime as that would provide the regime time to gather whatever evidence, if indeed such evidence exists.
Discrediting Mr Rajapaksa will therefore be the prime objective not only of Mr Wickremasinghe but also of President Sirisena and the real power behind all these persons, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. However, they need to tread a fine line, as any attempts to discredit Mr Rajapaksa without justification and evidence will only make him even more popular, and a greater threat to them.
As it is clear to anyone who wishes to see clarity, these plotters of the ouster of Mahinda Rajapaksa are in an unprecedented soup. They cannot do without the man they do not want if they are to win the general election. If the SLFP proceeds to contest the general election without seeking support from Mr Rajapaksa, it is likely they will lose a significant amount of votes to any party or any political grouping that has Mr Rajapaksa’s support.
If this happens, no party will be able to form a government on their own, and there will have to be a coalition government. As to who will head that government is anybody’s guess at the moment. The political stability that the country witnessed during the last 10 years will not be there, and with it, a detrimental impact on the economy and the social milieu in the country.
The mixed signals emanating from the Tamil political leadership in the country is not helping the situation either, as the recent resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council has added to the confusion regarding approaches to addressing the national question.
The passing of this resolution has further strengthened Mr Rajapaksa’s hand amongst not only the Sinhala Buddhist constituency, but also amongst moderate Tamils and Muslims who desperately want this issues addressed in an amicable way and not through rhetoric and substance that has the opposite effect towards reconciliation.
There is no doubt or ambiguity that anyone involved in large scale corruption should be tried before the law should there is evidence to do so. This must include anyone who was in the previous regime irrespective of which side of the fence they are in today. It therefore must include the former President as well as the present President and any of the ministers and politicians of the previous regime who are now part of the current regime or in the Opposition. The key requirement for anyone one of them would be evidence admissible in a court of law of such corrupt activities, not hearsay, innuendo or gossip. Till such evidnce is produced and someone is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, they have to be considered innocent.
Mr Rajapaksa too should enjoy this basic tenant of justice as much as Mr Sirisena or any other member of the former regime who is now in the current regime or in the Opposition. However, if Mr Rajapaksa is to make a comeback, he should take steps to rid himself of those who brought a significant stench towards him and demonstrate strongly that he is against malpractices and corruption.
He must set high standards for anyone wishing to enter politics and not tolerate the likes of some discredited, dishonest thugs and drug dealers in Sheep’s clothing who he associated with and received support during his ten years as President. He also needs to get some new blood into the party, and individuals with credibility, morals and ethics.
He must restore the independence of the Judiciary, the Police and Bribery Commission. He must show zero tolerance towards anyone involved in the drug trade, and he must allow professionals to run the public sector including the Foreign Service and not allow political lackeys to dictate terms to public institutions.
He may get another chance at leading the country. However, if that happens, the country will need a Mahinda Rajapaksa with all his positives, which are considerable, and not his negatives.