24 September, 2020

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A Presidency Under Threat: Presidential Insecurities

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Nearly two months back the Liberal Party wrote to the President urging that he not hold elections in haste, and indicating that he should proceed first with the various reforms he had pledged. We got an acknowledgment, but not a response, though I suspect a call from a close relation urging that I support the President was a consequence of the letter. The refusal to consider issues seriously, while simply providing assurances that things will improve, is not however something that can be accepted ad nauseam. Indeed, while in India I was told by a political scientist who had been fully supportive of our destruction of the Tigers in Sri Lanka, that the President, having promised the Indians that he would implement the 13th Amendment, was heard to say as they were leaving that he had fooled them again.

I refused to believe this, and argued that the President would not have behaved like that. My own view is that he is generally sincere in the commitments he makes, and he did his best on various occasions to promote the LLRC. But unfortunately he imagines he is weaker than he is, and gives in to pressures from others, all of whom have their own agendas. So, following his commitment to the Indians, he did nothing when that was repudiated by a spokesman, and he did not bother when G L Pieris did not respond to a request for clarification sent by the Indian Prime Minister. As Lalith Weeratunge said with regard to the clear commitment to change the Chief Secretary of the Northern Province, he could do nothing because his hands were tied – but this was probably not, initially at any rate, by the President.

maithripala 1It is this failure to move straight, despite what I continue to believe are admirable political instincts, that led the Liberal Party last week to confirm its earlier decision and support Maithripala Sirisena. Though it is argued that the Sirisena candidacy is the result of a foreign conspiracy, it is in fact a continuation of the present regime that will lead to increasing interference in our affairs by the more prejudiced elements in the international community.

And we now have hardly any defences against such incursions that are based on rationality. I think the recent removal of Chris Nonis, following his able defence of the country when dealing with the international media, suggests that those close to the President are determined to destroy our defences. In some cases this may be due simply to jealousy, but I suspect this was stirred up for ulterior motives, the same motives that led to the dismissal of Dayan Jayatilleka and Tamara Kunanayakam.

Underlying all this is the absence of a coherent strategy. Tamara Kunanayakam relates how Sajin Vass Gunawardena had said that the government had no strategy when she asked what was the strategy to deal with the draft resolution against Sri Lanka that the Americans were preparing way back in September. Her staff had told her that this had been shared with Kshenuka Senewiratne on her private email address, but not communicated to Colombo.

Instead of looking into that aberration, the Ministry however was annoyed with Tamara for having found it out, and did not want to think about the matter. It was the President who had told Tamara to come to Colombo to discuss the matter, and been very clear in his instructions, to the effect that Tamara should not negotiate with the Americans, but should instead rally support amongst our usual allies. This Tamara did, and as had happened in 2007, when the British Ambassador had to allow the resolution he had tabled in 2006 to lapse, the American resolution, which the Canadians had tried to bring forward, was not moved.

But before that the Ministry had tried to prevent Tamara seeing the President, and had indeed ordered the Secretary to put her on a flight before the scheduled breakfast meeting with the President. Fortunately the Secretary then, Karunasena Amunugama, was a practical man, and when he found the ticket could not be changed, he had allowed Tamara to stay on. But contrary to the very clear instructions the President had given, which were in line with the strategy we had employed between 2007 and 2009 to defend our interests, Sajin had simply scoffed and said we had no strategy because the President changed it all the time.

And that indeed was what seemed to happen the following year, when hundreds of delegates were sent to Geneva, and Tamara was sidelined in what seemed a race to commit hara-kiri. A pledge to the Indians was ignored, the American ambassador was gratuitously insulted, Douglas Devananda’s bags were packed to send him home in what seemed panic, while the two Ministers squabbled over who was master. And recently I was told that some people close to the President had claimed that defeat was desirable, because it would help with elections at home. Though this too seems incredible, the failure of the President to get across the viewpoint he had put so clearly to Tamara six months earlier suggests a complete breakdown in discipline as well as planning.

Certainly we now have a situation where the President seems to believe that he was elected President in order to hold elections. He should understand that rather it is the purpose of elections to select a President who can then make policy and govern the country. But while we do have much development, for which we must be thankful, this is neither coherent nor comprehensive, and there is no strategy to develop also the human resources that will allow our people to take advantage of the physical developments.

It is in order to encourage some systematic thinking that I put together the following suggestions with regard to international relations, which is a field in which reforms are urgently needed. In particular we need to establish think tanks which can prepare position papers for government to decide both on policy and on implementation. And we must ensure that our envoys communicate more effectively, since at present there is hardly anyone able to respond clearly and concisely to criticism, without raising emotional issues that often alienate our friends.

There is certainly great capacity amongst our diplomats. The President however has been told otherwise, as I found in March 2012, when I suggested sending able career officers such as the then Secretary to Geneva, and he responded that they could not communicate in English. This is the version put out by the few at the top who have been to what they see as prestigious schools, whereas in fact the best thinkers, such as Prasad Kariyawasam and Karunasena Amunugama and Ranjith Gooneratne come from different backgrounds, and have made their way ahead through ability.

The last of these indeed put together a collection of papers on foreign policy but the Minister has buried this, by sending it for assessment to the Kadirgamar Institute, which is headed by a very junior and relatively inexperienced director. The idea of him sitting in judgment on essays by distinguished academics such as Amal Jayawardena and Dayan Jayatilleka is laughable, but I would think it is suppression rather than review that the Minister requires, in his sublime insecurity.

Anyway, in the hope that these ideas would be examined and fleshed out, I submit the following suggestions, which indeed will also be taken up by a group of thinkers who have been trying to find a middle way to move forward.

International Relations

There should be clear guidelines available to all government officials as well as our Missions with regard to foreign policy priorities. Chief amongst these should be good relations with India, given geo-political realities. This cannot govern domestic policies, but there should be good and reliable communication with India as regards such policies, with the understanding that any commitments cannot be violated.

There is need of regular consultative meetings of senior level Foreign Ministry officials. These should include, perhaps on a monthly basis, officials of relevant Ministries (ie Finance, Defence, Trade). Such meetings should be minuted, and decisions / action points notified to relevant officials with provision for feedback.

Whilst there are good reasons sometimes for appointment of non-career individuals to Head of Mission posts, all other posts should be reserved for members of the Diplomatic Service. These officials should be required to submit regular reports on their activities, which should be based on targets identified by the Ministry, with consultation of the Head of Mission.

Government should establish at least two high level think tanks. The existing government managed institutions could be upgraded, but they should function independently and have research staff who could produce position papers and suggest responses to international developments.

These think tanks should also have a training wing, which develops communication skills in addition to the capacity to analyse. The institutes should have journals to which diplomats are expected to contribute.

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Latest comments

  • 12
    0

    What you expect from this so called first family – none of the brothers have qualifications other than GCE (ordinary level)

    MaRa became a so called advocate because Madam B make a concessions for MPs to study law without any academic qualifications and then MaRa got someone like late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle to write the exam for him.

    Then ChaRa was just a policeman and GoRa a army recruit at the time of SLFP regime of Madam B with political connections.

    As Premadasa senior did, these uneducated politicos get some kind of a inferior complexity once they come to power as they know its what you need is the brains and not just power and benefits got from poor masses and try to make a mockery of intellectuals around them.

    • 1
      1

      “MaRa became a so called advocate because Madam B make a concessions for MPs to study law without any academic qualifications and then MaRa got someone like late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle to write the exam for him”

      Really? where is Jeyaraj Fernandopulle now? Hope he knows that he can be targeted and silenced at any time once these revelations become public. What a shameful situation if true!!!

      • 2
        0

        @Puhul Dosi,
        It is a well known secret that Jeyaraj Fernandopulle wrote for MARA’s law exams. Where do you think the grand plan to make his son a synthetic lawyer with the help of law school dean came from. Like Matilda says, they are envious of people who are with functioning brains, and Elites who can speak good English. No justice for Nonis was because of that, Sajin Vas is close to MARA is because he needed someone who can speak in English. Where is Fernandopulle now, DEAD from a freak accident. He was a close confidante of CBK, so go figure! That is why his wife fully supports MARA.

    • 0
      2

      This stupid “woman” is insulting these people because they don’t have degrees?Clearly showing “her” dirty backside to the CT readership.

      What an ignorant woman to not know that the naturally intelligent don’t have to have degrees to show their worth.

      By the way the “satallite queen” never went to Sorbonne. She is lying. And Ranil with or without a degree would be the same dud. Maithripala only has a diploma from the agricuture school of Kundasale.

      So, what do you ‘ave to say now, Mat-Ilda?

      • 1
        1

        So what is the argument here mate?
        A gas station attendant is managing the economy of the state
        A 7Eleven store assistant is managing the defense and UDA

        You do not need a degree to be smart for sure, then again are we to assume MaRa, BaRa or GoRa as another Steve Jobs/Mark Zukerberg or a Bill Gates?

        I dont care about a Satelite queen as she was in history now.

        Our future generations are sold to the Chinese with mega white elephant projects by this un-educated morons with a maroon Satakas and its time to hang these morons with their Satakas as they hang dead chicken in poultry shops.

  • 5
    0

    The man is apparently telling us why he descided to support the common candidate but instead what we get is his usual story of how he did not get a chance to defend the Nazi war crimes of the hitler mustace president.
    Now there must be a logic to this way of speaking about his somersault in his political strategy…
    For Rajiva it all seems to rest on how to hide the blood under the towel….

  • 10
    0

    “…I refused to believe this, and argued that the President would not have behaved like that. My own view is that he is generally sincere in the commitments he makes,…”

    Oh really???!!! Spare us your bullshit. You must be selectively deaf, blind and a total idiot to believe that, but don’t expect others to do so. Liar!!!

    • 1
      0

      Jango, the Tragedy is that the President actually believes that what He is doing, is for the Benefit of the Country, Not just for the benefit of Himself and his Family.

      His Acolytes strengthen this Belief because they can enjoy Its Fruits!

  • 1
    6

    Did prabakaran, karuna, devananda etc etc commit war crimes or is it the president only ? How about war crimes during JVP times 1971 & 1987 etc ? Readers please enlighten us .

    • 2
      0

      The all you mentioned have done war crimes.

      But when you compare 1971 or 1987, the technology was not that advanced and those days the soldiers did not carry mobile phones to take photos as trophies which later became as evidence in a court of law.

      Further the GPS technologies and satellites etc was not that advanced like in 2009 where the countries like USA have documentary evidence through satellite images which can prove the war crimes against the regime.

      Hope this helps.

    • 1
      0

      You do not need readers to speculate on that as you can see.

      you and they need to get rid of `fat cats` who have no race
      profession colour or creed but greed.

      then the terrorist within the nation would come out next.

    • 0
      0

      Harry Hatton

      Prabakaran, Karuna, Devananda, JVP etc are terrorists and yes! they committed war crimes. So if you are trying to equate the President with them I will whole heartedly agree with you.

  • 3
    0

    Back again defending the prez and heaping scorn on GLP !

    According to Rajiva, only he and Dayan and Tamara are capable !

    Slly man now in the opposition to probably suck them dry too, having enjoyed the perks of the regime all this time !

  • 4
    2

    From my few encounters with President Mahinda Rajapakse, I would say he is a master at public relations (exuding much warmth, bon-homie and sincerity), a good actor and a man who will not commit himself to anything. He willkeep on playing with the huge magic ring on his finger, while in discussions. He will say things to please those he is talking to. He will never say anything definite and when asked specific questions, will refer one to someone else like Basil or Gota. He tries to be a Teflon president, but the mud has struck and stained not only his clothes, but his skin as well. He used men like Lalith Weeratunga, Prof.Tissa Vitharane and Ajit Nivad Cabral to lie for him in the 2009-2010 period. It was indeed a pity to see Prof. Tissa Vitharana and D.E.W Gunasekera, inquring from others as to what the President’s plans were regarding the APRC proposals. It takes time to figure out things, because MR is such a good actor!

    All-in-all, if all things about him are put together he is a master of deceipt.
    Prof. Rajiva, is indirectly alluding to this, without yet having the courage or yet having a feeling of friendship, to call a spade a spade.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 3
      0

      Could you tell me ONE god thing Rajiva did being a MP ? Just one?

      I hope the opposition did not promise him a national list MP if they win the parliamentary elections ! After all how many votes will the liberal party bring from the whole country ? 5 at most I suspect.

      Rajiva simply put on airs and blamed all and sundry for not “performing” !

  • 2
    0

    Dear Prof,

    Please make a note of this.

    At the common opposition candidate’s inaugural rally in Polonaruwa, efforts to portray a ‘trilingual policy’ failed as the main sign on stage read with multiple errors in Tamil.

    The sign should have read: ஒரு வானத்தின் கீழ் ஒரே விளை நிலமாக எமது நாடு.
    http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=13026

  • 0
    1

    Although this Professor thinks he is the king maker, he seems to be just a gofer..

    According to Ven Rathna’s Video clip yesterday, he single bagged Sand Sira’s bro single handed,, after getting permission from the boss of UNP. TNA, Diaspora Alliance.

    So Sira does what Ratna says,,, Right

    Because withot Rathna Sira won’t get to the Prez Palace.

    And here is what Rathna said a couple of days ago.

    “JHU and I are willing to work with the TNA,, But there won’t be any 13 A or A plus”

    So how is Messers Sambnadan and Wigneswaran going to get their Land Titles and TNA Police?..

    May be the professor can enlighten us on that issue which is the most important as far as the Tamil community is .concerned and that is what the West is interested.

    BTW.

    Can the Professor also tell us whether n 100 day Presidents can draw the full pension according to our constitution?.

    I mean the current one not the one Sira is going to give us in 60 days…

    • 1
      0

      K.A Sumanasekera

      All these years why haven’t you noticed sand bags and rice bags under Mafia control?

      This is one reason as to why you must pop out for a few minutes and see what is happening in the outside world.

      Do you see any connection between Anglican Vellalas and the Mafia which is controlling rice and sand trade? Perhaps the Mafioso are controlled by Anglican Tamil Diasporian Vellala under Reverent Abraham Sambandan.

      Could you tell them not to mix sand with rice.

  • 1
    0

    “My own view is that he is generally sincere in the commitments he makes, and he did his best on various occasions to promote the LLRC. “

    Mate, what are you smoking?????

  • 2
    0

    DR RN,

    “All-in-all, if all things about him are put together he is a master of deceipt. Prof. Rajiva, is indirectly alluding to this, without yet having the courage or yet having a feeling of friendship, to call a spade a spade”

    For some people it takes time!!!

  • 3
    0

    O heck! Professori, you must share responsibilty for the King calling this early election. The reason is simply; from everything you write, it is clear that the King will hear what you say, then do the exact opposite. Zut aloors! Professori, see what you have done.

    PS: Professori, just a reminder, education is worthless without integrity and morality. A little humility is also a tremendous asset, especially when at the top. Or is it too late now?

  • 1
    2

    Dear Professor,

    Now I understand why [Edited out] dislikes you so much, you are concise, literate and accurate in your comments and statements.

    Well done on an excellent article.

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