Propaganda and Politics
Posted on November 11th, 2018

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

The unexpected appointment of our former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as our new Prime Minister has made everyone an expert on the Constitution. The aggrieved party does not want to take the case to the Supreme Court. A final verdict delivered in a matter of time would put the issue to rest.

On the other hand, if such a resolute verdict is never reached, this could be the next beggar’s wound, just as with the war crime allegations, and be forever held against us to bully and browbeat.

Adverse propaganda

Rajapaksa administration’s Achilles’ heel has always been its inability to counter adverse propaganda. During the last years of MR’s presidency, they could not counter any of the allegations against them, not even the far-fetched and the most ridiculous ones or the ones that could easily be disproven.

That same fatal weakness continues presently with MR as the Prime Minister. The advantage of the element of surprise was with MR’s team. However, it is the ousted Ranil Wickremesinghe’s propaganda team that is on top of the game.

While MR’s team was busy congratulating each other over milk rice, they rebounded quickly to build a convincing case to garner sympathy for the ousted Premier.

Ousted and holed up in Temple Trees he may be, but it is definitely Wickremesinghe who is calling the shots. MR’s comeback had derailed the handing over of the East Terminal of the Colombo Port to India, prices of essentials have come down and with Mahinda Chinthanaya back in force, the local investor confidence has returned. Even though the Rupee’s vulnerability against the USD continues, the breakneck speed of the Rupee plummeting has been somewhat slowed down. However, these are not making headlines. It is the ‘constitutional coup’ (a coup sanctioned by the Constitution?) and the demand to prove the majority in the Parliament that is in the forefront.

The irony is that those who insisting on adhering to the Constitution are the ones expecting conditions not specified in the Constitution to be fulfilled. Maithripala Sirisena is being ‘urged’ by various foreign and diplomatic missions to reconvene Parliament urgently so that the appointed and the ousted may prove their majority in Parliament. However, the Constitution makes no such stipulation that to be Premier; the prospective MP must first prove to be commanding the majority in Parliament.

The Constitution is very clear that the candidate must be the one who in the President’s opinion has the confidence of the majority in Parliament. This is a very important clause and perhaps the one that citizens need to understand the most.

We have a Presidential system and not a Parliamentary system. Therefore, it is the President who is responsible for governance, irrespective of whether the President is from the political party that has a majority or not in Parliament. For this reason, his (or her) Prime Minister must be the one who can garner the support from the most number of MPs to follow the President’s leadership. That number is not to be confused with the majority in Parliament, which really is not a necessity.

The events in 2015 proved it so. Wickremesinghe who had the support of less than 45 MPs still managed as the Premier without a problem. Despite the then Opposition holding the majority, the Wickremesinghe-led government passed the necessary financial bills and even the 19th Amendment. Of course the 19th Amendment that was brought into clip the executive president’s wings ended up getting its own wings clipped by the Supreme Court, but that is another story.

The reason the Constitution specifically stipulates that the president’s opinion overrides the numerical value is to ensure that the president and the prime minister hold the same ideological values. Every time this golden rule was flouted, the country got into trouble. The first time was when Chandrika Kumaratunga found herself in the unenviable position as President, but with a UNP government.

Wickremesinghe’s government completely sidelined her though she was the executive president. He took decisions that adversely affected the country such as signing the infamous Cease Fire Agreement with the notorious terrorist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He did not keep her even informed. Perhaps those who are decrying autocracy now were not born at the time. He earned the presidential kick in the posterior, in the end.

The second time this golden rule was flouted was when the Yahapalana Government was formed in 2015. If the Kumaratunga-Wickremesinghe stint was a forced marriage, and destined to failure, then the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe partnership could be described as a marriage between two first cousins. While it is not the best of combinations, it need not have been the disaster it became.

Sirisena, in his address to the nation soon after MR’s appointment as the new Premier and at the rally held on the 5 of this month, tried to portray himself as a picture of innocence. However, he cannot absolve himself from the sins of the Yahapalana Government.

Willingly or otherwise, he did sanction the Central Bank bond scams. In 2015, he dissolved Parliament with the deliberate intention of preventing the DEW Gunasekera Cope Committee report from being presented in Parliament. In 2016, after the second scam, he did sack Arjuna Mahendran from The Central Bank Governorship, but failed to bring the culprits to justice or recover the money.

In the dark

Likewise, he allowed his Foreign Minister to cosponsor the US-led 30/1 resolution against Sri Lanka. Perhaps at the time he was kept in the dark, as was Kumaratunga with the 2002 CFA. However, he cannot plead ignorance when the whole country is aware of the attempts to infringe on our sovereignty under the guise of accountability. Yet, to date, he has not taken any steps to reverse this project.

Lord Naseby did our homework for us and proved that according to the British records the number of civilian deaths is less than 8,000 and not 40,000. Quarter of that number happened to be terrorists in civilian attire to avoid being distinguished, a war crime in itself. We are still waiting for the right moment to use that report.

He did not prevent paddy being stored at the Mattala Airport despite those storage facilities not being equipped to handle the fine dust. Nor did he oppose the long term lease of the Hambantota Port.

However, he did stop the Colombo Port East Terminal from falling into foreign hands. It was the shameful drubbing he received at the Local Government elections that strengthened his hand to take a nationalistic stance. At the same time, inroads were being made into MR’s camp by the breakaway Group 15.

Perhaps that gave him the strength to stand up to Wickremesinghe.

Prior to reconciling with MR, Sirisena was not without powerful friends. His then friends were much more powerful than MR; they are the regime makers and breakers. Today, they are aghast by Sirisena’s audacity to replace Wickremesinghe and it all happened right under their very noses. This will not look good in their job resume.

Unfortunately for them, they have only themselves to lay the blame on. When Wickremesinghe with his tiny inner circle was causing havoc with the economy, they kept quiet. They continued to ignore when he was flouting democracy by postponing elections. They allowed him to harass military intelligence officers and men, and let the Security Forces be tarnished as war criminals. They studiously ignored the burdens and sentiments of the people.

Today, they are ‘urging’ the Sri Lankan President to uphold democracy, law and the Constitution. They will not hesitate to throw money to win a No-Confidence motion against MR. However, little do they realize that the public have already passed a no-confidence motion against these west-led, west-fed missions and civil bodies and they are already just a joke in Sri Lanka.

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