Before bowing out gracefully, if at all, will…? Ranil spare us another ‘Sirisenic faux pas’
Posted on September 23rd, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Last week an exhausted Sajith Premadasa, looking disenchanted and disheartened, sat with Mangala Samaraweera, Kabir Hashim and Malik Samarawickrema and addressed the media. He explained that he had requested in writing of Ranil Wickremesinghe to consider him as the 2019 Presidential Candidate. Premadasa, in almost every other statement emphasised that unlike other family-centric political parties that take closed door decisions, the UNP as a political party and a forerunner of the incumbent Government follows democratic principles and procedures.

If indeed the UNP as an established political party is embedded with democracy; then one has to wonder at the necessity for the press conference or for that matter, the letter. In it, Premadasa has, 

– expressed his own intentions to be a candidate;

– requested that if others are also interested to be nominated, then to follow the democratic procedures and make the selection.

Had the letter simply articulated Premadasa’s interest in being nominated, then, further comment is unwarranted. Yet Premadasa also wants, “an immediate meeting of both the parliamentary group and the working committee, as that’s the democratic way to go ahead”. The meeting between the parliamentary group and the working committee can be a consensus building meeting.

“If we can arrive at a consensus, there is no necessity to resort to any other procedure. Let there be a frank and transparent discussion within the parliamentary group and the working committee. Then all of us would be able to ascertain the plethora of opinions among the members of the parliamentary group and the working committee. If there is a consensus, then so be it.

“But if there is a diversity of opinions, we can adapt the greatest democratic principle and have a secret ballot.”

At the time of this press conference, declaration of the Presidential Election was imminent. Yet, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest democratic political parties was obviously not even close to deciding on the candidate to field. After all, fielding the candidate for the country’s highest office is not akin to appointing a class monitor. Therefore, Premadasa’s request should have taken place at least six months ago. The entire UNP camp should be by now grooming their candidate to victory and to holding the mantle thereafter without faltering.

This press conference was an obvious attempt to pressurising Wickremesinghe to take the due course specified in the letter. After all, this is an internal matter of the UNP and not something that the entire country needs to be involved.

Democratic strength

Mangala Samaraweera took great pains to refute that the UNP was in conflict over the matter. He claimed that the situation that has arisen, which he with his other partners thought fit to be brought to the attention of the media, is actually the strength of the UNP. He stated that the democracy in the Party is so strong that anyone can come forward as a candidate.

If that is indeed the case, the question arises for the need to request from Ranil Wickremesinghe to allow “a frank and transparent discussion within the parliamentary group and the working committee”, if such a mechanism already exists within the Party and is the norm of that Party’s practices.

Obviously, neither Premadasa who is UNP’s Deputy Leader, Kabir Hashim who was UNP’s former General Secretary, Malik Samarawickrema who until very recently was Ranil Wickremesinghe’s closest ally, nor Mangala Samaraweera who has a freehand to do as he pleases in the incumbent Government, believe that… “A frank and transparent discussion within the parliamentary group and the working committee” could exist within UNP without mounting public pressure on Wickremesinghe.

Reasons for Wickremesinghe’s reluctance to hand over the presidential candidature to anyone other than himself in the UNP are well known. He would rather support an outsider like the then General Sarath Fonseka or trust a man who was firmly established in the rivalry team like Maithripala Sirisena than support someone from the UNP. He will never risk losing Party leadership. It is as long as he is UNP’s Leader; he can either enjoy himself as the Premier or Opposition Leader.

Premadasa and his new found friends too know this fact very well. It will take much more than a mere letter to push Wickremesinghe to the democratic path. The Badulla, Matara, and Kurunegala rallies were actually to nudge Wickremesinghe.

Wickremesinghe would not have been fooled by the crowds. It would have been obvious to him that the Premadasa camp had borrowed a leaf from JVP and used the smallest grounds to erect the largest stages, and thereby creating a deliberate jamming of people. Yet, the intention was to create an illusion among people that Premadasa is very popular and use the people to pressurise Wickremesinghe to step down.

Demagoguery

It could well be the case that Premadasa has people’s support. However, this can only be proven by an election. In reality, size of rallies can be quite deceiving for voting and attending rallies are two very different things. However, to name a candidate based on the size of the crowds he attracts alone and not on his knowledge is not democracy – it is demagogy.

Most unfortunately, Sri Lanka’s politics have been marked with demagoguery than democracy. Demagoguery is when politicians appeal to popular desires and prejudices than rational reasoning. Premadasa’s pledges to provide free housing, free meals, and free clothes, are a classic example of demagoguery. During the entire question and answer session that followed the press statement, Premadasa’s adapted theme was to allow popular opinion decide the fate on issues than on any intelligent reflection

However for democracy to thrive, the need is not the greatest show of hands, but by the most knowledgeable on the subject. Premadasa’s stance on the Executive Presidency, as one reporter openly stated is ‘wish-washy’.

Executive Presidency is a very technical subject. One needs to have a fine understanding on how the Executive Presidency derives power and who derives power from the Executive Presidency. Can a layperson, especially one disinterested in politics, decide how to address the vacuum that would be created if the Executive Presidency is abolished? Could a layperson strategise to ensure that the ills of the Executive Presidency do not flow to the entity that inherits the executive powers?

Premadasa’s bluff

When Premadasa reminded the reporters that the Yahapalana Government drastically reduced the Executive President’s Powers, he did not address the confusion that arose with it. The chain of command is now broken. The Easter Sunday Massacres were a direct consequence of this division of power that has taken responsibility and accountability from everyone’s shoulders.

The reporters exposed Premadasa’s bluff when he was asked out of the five-year term, how long will he allocate to find people’s opinion and solutions for whatever bane people identify with the Executive Presidency. Premadasa’s hasty response was, “let’s focus on the candidature first.”

Another reporter asked Premadasa for his reasons to contest for the Executive Presidency if the powers of the position are reduced. His simple answer was to keep a certain family-centred political dynasty out of power.

Since the Yahapalana Government came to power

– half a million people have lost their livelihoods,

– terrorism is once again threatening our daily lives,

– human rights have been distorted to give credence to criminals and terrorists over the fundamental rights of the officers and men who ensure national security,

– economic indices are falling,

– free trade agreements with other countries are threatening to turn Sri Lanka into a garbage dump,

– our agrarian sector stands to lose their land to economic gift packages such as the MCC.

– separatists are demanding a new constitution that will effectively create nine semi-autonomous governments and a very weak central government.  

Yet, Premadasa’s sole objective is to prevent a certain political rival from coming to power. He claims that rival is driven by one family. It is questionable why Premadasa should take exception to family-driven governance, when his own wife had publicly pledged to personally solve the housing issue. At least the family he intends to obstruct will appoint their members to positions of responsibility and thus to accountability. Premadasa’s wife on the other hand intends to run State matters by dictating to her husband without taking responsibility or being held accountable.

When Maithripala Sirisena came out to contest in 2015, no one bothered to check his track-record. In his long political career, he had achieved zilch. As he once shamelessly declared our challenge now is to somehow return to where we were before Yahapalana Government. Sajith Premadasa too has been in politics for a very long time. His big achievement is creating unliveable houses. The parallel between Sirisena and Premadasa is uncanny – from their silly election promises to the people who are gravitating around them.

Wickremesinghe has not been a friend much less leader to Sri Lankan people. However, if his last act before bowing out is to spare us another Sirisena, he stands to be redeemed.

ranasingheshivanthi@gmail.com

One Response to “Before bowing out gracefully, if at all, will…? Ranil spare us another ‘Sirisenic faux pas’”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    Chief Thief Ranil Baba Wikunanasinghe is WITHOUT A DOUBT the WORST, MOST INEFFECTIVE, MOST TREACHEROUS politician Sri Lanka has EVER PRODUCED!

    Shame on the Sri Lankan voters for ALLOWING this SHAMELESS REPROBATE to remain engaged in national politics! It speaks VOLUMES of the UTTER Bankcruptcy of the UNPatriotic Party that they still willing to TOLERATE this DEVIOUS MACHIAVELLIAN man as their MAXIMUM Lifetime Leader

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