By Ameer Ali –
Sri Lanka has reached a cross road. The parliament has been prorogued because president Maithripala Sirisena did not like an elected prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. He has appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as interim prime minister in whose previous cabinet MS served before betraying MR. In between MS-MR re-marriage and divorcee RW, the third dignitary, the speaker of the parliament speaker, Karu Jayasuriya is facing a mutiny from his officials in support of the reunited couple. In the fray are also foreign powers trying to fish in troubled waters. In short, the parliament has lost its dignity, the country its sovereignty and democracy its meaning. It has become a laughing stock. Does an elected prime mister hold power at the will and pleasure of the president? MS said that he offered the position to two others before giving it to MR. Therefore MR is the third option. What guarantee is there that he will also not be dismissed when MS falls in love with another? It is time the country save the constitution and reject the unconstitutionality of this whimsical president.
The essence of the saga is that the country is going back to its post-independent Sinhalese factionalism, one championed by UNP and the other by SLFP. From this factional contest the Tamil leaders withdrew long ago and still they are unwilling to join either of the factions. While their demands still remain unresolved even after a bloody civil war, the Muslim leaders on the other hand, except one or two, right from the beginning took a businesslike approach to politics by joining either of the factions that promised them more favours. The constitutional changes from the Westminster and Colvin and to JR models gradually narrowed the opportunities for Muslim politicians to play that game. Realising this, Asharf created his SLMC monster in 1990 expecting to bring Muslim politicians under his umbrella so that there can be bulk bargaining with the struggling factions. That eventually worsened the situation for the Muslim community who fell prey to the predatory forces within the Sinhalese and Tamil communities.
The present impasse provides a golden opportunity for both Tamil and Muslim leaders to join hands with patriotic Sinhalese to save the constitution, democracy and the country. I appeal to Muslim leaders to remain patriotic and save the dignity of the parliament and Muslim community. It is sickening to see a few Muslim parliamentarians, one or two them entered that iconic precinct, through the backdoor are now stampeding to support the president’s actions in return for personal favours. They should be ashamed of their behaviour and should remember that even though they are welcomed by one faction at the moment that faction will have no permanent trust on them, because they can be bought by the other faction for a better price at any time. Above all their political opportunism is leaving an indelible scar on the national image of the Muslim community.
This is one moment which demands the two minorities to throw their united support with the patriotic majority from the Sinhalese community. That unity will open a new chapter in the politics of Sri Lanka and will be remembered forever. As a friend of mine just reminded me “when the going gets tough the tough gets going”.