15 December, 2019

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Back To Business With Same Old Faces

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

The 52-day drought without a legitimate government which began on October 26, 2018, has finally ended. With the swearing-in of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister last Sunday and a 29-member Cabinet of Ministers four days later, a functioning government of sorts is now in place.

Judging from media reports, most newly appointed Ministers have rushed to assume duties. One would wonder, in their haste to get into their ministries, if at least some of them abandoned their customary practice of consulting astrologers for auspicious times, which they usually do before embarking for any important event or journey.

A leading English daily, on Friday, in their front page, carried photographs of the Prime Minister and 28 Ministers. Despite close scrutiny, not a single mug shot could be found of an unknown or unfamiliar face. They all belong to those who held ministerial positions before October 26. Besides, the publication also carried pictures of seven MPs who had been rejected by the President which includes that of the Field Marshal.

There is speculation of exceeding the Constitutional restriction of 30 cabinet ministers through various means. One could be by enticing UPFA/SLFP MPs to cross over and to call such an unholy combination a ‘National Government.’ As things happen in this land like no other, it is even possible, the single SLMC MP joining up could be construed a National Government purely to overcome the restriction, but it would not help in bridging the shortfall to reach the magical 113 MPs required to govern comfortably.

Even though the TNA could be considered in desperation, joining the government would not suit the group’s game plan. Staying outside the government and extracting their pound of flesh as and when their support is required by the government to further their agenda would be more to their advantage.

The recent imbroglio galvanized the urban population, both young and middle age groups alike as never seen before. These people, though small in numbers were not the servile types who genuflect to politicians. They are not the types who paste posters and hang flags for politicians with the expectation of employment for which they do not have the necessary qualifications. They are not the types who attended political rallies at the behest of politicians and are rewarded with a packet of rice, a bottle of arrack and a small amount in cash.

They are employed in the private sector and/or professionals, who turned out in numbers to register their opposition. Many such persons took to the streets. They gathered at places such as Independence Square to express their anger to the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, and the dissolution of Parliament, which the Supreme Court subsequently ruled was a violation of the Constitution. The horrors of the Rajapaksa era, especially the 2010/15 period are obviously not forgotten. The announcement of the appointment of the former CEO of the national carrier SriLankan Airlines as its Chairman is a case in point. He is tainted with allegations of corruption and presently under investigation. Mercifully, sanity prevailed, and the appointment was rescinded in less than 24 hours. However, the incident may have been a sign of what to expect, had Rajapaksa continued in office.

There were other groups too who turned up at public rallies to express solidarity with Ranil Wickremasinghe, the UNP and register their opposition to the President’s conduct. They turned up in massive numbers in places such as Lipton Squarer. In fact, Wickremesinghe and the UNP did not draw such massive crowds since they were elected to office in August 2015.

All these groups who came together did not do so for want of a better alternative to spend their time. They were already burdened with the high cost of living and fuel prices. But they were shocked of the manner in which President Sirisena, one Friday afternoon, stealthily replaced a sitting Prime Minister and replaced him without as much as an ‘if you please.’ The autocratic act visibly disturbed most urban dwellers.

In the appointment of the new cabinet of ministers, what Wickremesinghe has done is to kick all these people in their teeth with scant regard for their expectations.

The newly appointed cabinet of Ministers does not contain any young and new blood from the crop of UNP MPs. The appointees are the same old faces as before.

The cabinet consists of at least two members aged over 75 years. Could not these two gentlemen have been replaced with two young UNP backbenchers if not the likes of Eran Wickramaratne and Harsha de Siva? The MP who resigned under pressure in the aftermath of the Central Bank Bond Commission findings has returned in true Westminster tradition where it is normal for Ministers resigning on the grounds of misdemeanors to be reappointed after a brief interval.  With the UNHRC review around the corner in March 2019, the Foreign Minister who acts more like a part-time Foreign Minister has been appointed again. At least three former Ministers who pompously declared two days earlier they would step aside to enable Wickremasinghe to accommodate some others in the cabinet have all deviously managed to creep into the group of 29 Ministers.

The bottom line is, the Prime Minister, in his usual style, has once again acted with little or no regard for public opinion. Whereas the Supreme Court with their verdict resolved the vexed issue and the anti-Rajapaksa groups in Parliament remained steadfast in their demands, it was the public that kept up intense pressure in the streets which also played a vital role in restoring him to the office of Prime Minister.

Enticing MPs Vijith Wijayamuni Zoysa, AHM Fowzie, Piyasena Gamage, Lakshman Seneviratne, Indika Bandaranaike and Manusha Nanayakkara with ministerial positions is not the solution to the government’s problems. To do so would amount to the prostitution of democracy. The answer is to endeavor to function as a minority government. If that does not work, a resolution could be passed in parliament with a 2/3 majority co-opting other parties to dissolve parliament and request the people for a fresh mandate to govern. That is what democracy is about.

In as much as President Sirisena has muddied his copybook since October 26 and is at the bottom rung of the popularity ladder, he is not down and out. He could claw back some of his lost stature by adamantly refusing to swear in any MP crossing over, as Ministers, thereby at least temporarily suspending the disgusting practice of political defections at least till such time an anti-defection bill becomes a reality.

The mandates given by the people on January 09, 2015 as well as in August 2015 have been squandered. Let not the verdict of the apex court of December 13 go waste.

Public opinion must be heeded. Wickremesinghe must realize, he and his government cannot get back to business as usual and ignore all that has happened. To do so stubbornly would no doubt have serious consequences.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Rajeewa Jayaweera

    “Wickremesinghe must realize, he and his government cannot get back to business as usual and ignore all that has happened. “

    Alright Ranil should throw the Hopper Sirisena, clan, cronies, b***s carriers, …………. in jail. Then what?

    “The bottom line is, the Prime Minister, in his usual style, has once again acted with little or no regard for public opinion.”

    Dr Mahinda Rajapaksa’s one sided private opinion is not public opinion. Public did not clamour for Ranil’s blood. Public did not start the process. In fact it was insane Hopper Sirisena who thought he was clever. If anything public would have wanted to hang Sirisena and Dr Mahinda by their b***s.

    How did you measure public opinion in the first place?
    My apology, is it Wimal Wind Bag Weerawansa’s balderdash that you consider public opinion?

    • 4
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      Rajeeva is a well known Mahinda backer. He supported the constitutional coup and appointment of Mahinda as PM and the cronies who took over the ministry posts. He kept silence when Mahinda bought MPs for 60 million rupees and gave them ministerial posts.Who is Mahinda? He was bribed by Chinese for $20 billion. He was responsible for the murder of his one time best friend Lasantha.

  • 3
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    The 26 October RW sack and what followed is a serious matter. It appears to be hastily arranged and poorly planned. Why the haste?
    It has been made to look like a “Back To Business With Same Old Faces”.
    Will a repeat-sack with a different ending be a “Back to Business”?
    .
    Rajeewa’s comment on TNA is ~ “Even though the TNA could be considered in desperation, joining the government would not suit the group’s game plan. Staying outside the government and extracting their pound of flesh as and when their support is required by the government to further their agenda would be more to their advantage”.
    A distorted mindset.
    .
    TNA only continued a struggle of seventy years. “……futher their agenda”? Certainly not.
    TNA is not trying to extract the pound of flesh Rajeewa.
    SLPP will want more bloodletting but will voters realise that this wanton blood-letting has resulted in the irreversible ‘poor-getting-poorer’?

  • 3
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    Interesting read- thanks Rajeewa. A few weeks ago, there was another interesting article by Shaymon Jayasinghe in CT, comparing Sirisena to ‘Pinguttara’, who was never able to enjoy the fortune befallen on him. I agreed, except that our Pinguttara happens to be a moron unlike original Pinguttara, who was the dux at Thakshila.

    I propose that Ranil is a ‘Pinguttara’ too. Pinguttara Ranil may not be as moronic as Pinguttara Sirisena (he’s no dux either), however, Pinguttara Ranil is arrogant and dismissive of the sentiments and opinion of his own team and the public, as is Sirisena.

  • 2
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    It is to be remembered that removal of PM and cabinet was done against the constitution and rule of law which are the ingredients of Democracy. SC ruled against the arrogant action of president of dissolving parliament. It follows that the restoration of the situation that existed before 26 October had to take place. It is not a new cabinet that has to be nominated. It is sensible to appoint new members to cabinet positions where there are vacancies created by those iwho offered to give up his or her position.. It is not a credit to appoint these persons again or these persons to accept such positions and trust is tarnished.

    • 3
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      Nishantha,
      You are right. The plot/coup initiated and dictated by Sirisena & Mahinda was illegal and unconstitutional with the aim of providing an opportunity to bring Mahinda back through back door and Sirisena to get the opportunity to contest for next presidential election. So, the protest and the judiciary path was against both Sirisena and Mahinda, not against Ranil and we all wanted to go back to the period before 26th October 2018. So, You wouldn’t want to see a change in the administration immediately. This government has only one or two years maximum. It is not about individuals or personalities but it is only about programmes, performance and actions that is going to happen during the next one or two years.

  • 3
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    This rajeeewa who is a GR man is trying to sling mud on TNA. Don’t try to be too smart and waste time by writing the same story again and again.

  • 0
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    How about all the side changing MPs were from the National list. Parliament is that disgusting.

  • 2
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    Rajeewa should go, he is a MR and GR man. How much they paid you to write this one Rajeewa? Or is it Basil money?

  • 2
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    Ajith I agree. Rajeewa. I am no supporter of RW. But that dosent make me to see MR as Mandela. Within those 50 days of illegal seizure of the country , MR had brought same old murders .criminals, gangsters, drug traffickers and the rest (no exceptions except ones who are in prison or run away from Lanka) into government. Now Lankans have to make up their mind between the two. The petty thieves or the above MR gang I mentioned. Who are advising MR on this matter ????? DJ (admitted ) and some one you may be aware of ???????. Rings a bell buddy.

  • 0
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    “52-day drought”. It was not a drought but an inferno that charred our economy and the country. All these Rajiva’s cannot be trusted and are boot lickers of the Ali Baba and the forty thieves. Why was it “shocking” to see the PM being removed by the president. This was in motion many months ago. All this was instigated by the President himself to oust Ranil ever since RW’s no-confidene motion. The Gamarala’s Friday thurumppu’s were after he got paid a handsome amount by the Ali Baba and only a few in the inner circle of these thieves know how many million US dollars exchanged bank accounts to seal the deal for PM RanilW ouster. This was no drought but a windfall of cash for the billionaire rich Gamarala.

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