Colombo Telegraph

Bitterness Between The President & The Prime Minister Must End 

By Mohamed R. M. Farook

Mohamed R. M. Farook

People of a nation irrespective of their political party affiliations have the absolute common desire / right to expect how they should be governed – to be governed by showing respect and dignity towards them. The majority of Sri Lankans are usually divided into various political groups and during an election citizens wishing to vote cast their votes to the persons of their choice which eventually leads to the political party getting the highest number of people’s representatives forming the government. After some celebrations of the victors and also brickbats and hick-ups from the losers, tranquillity prevails and the processes of governance begin. From here onwards people expect deliverance of all aspects necessary to their well-being to start. The hard and soft promises made during the election campaign though remain in the thoughts of the citizens, yet these do not take primacy in their immediate outlook. The majority of the people, say 99%, wants stability of the government, peace in all parts of Sri Lanka and importantly a good rapport between the single person Executive and especially the Government side of the Legislature. It also must be mentioned that there should also be good rapport between the Government and the opposition though, in general, the people may not be much concerned about this mainly based on the conviction that opposition is there to oppose whatever the government does in ways justifying their opposition. The true purpose of the opposition is to check-mate the government so that the latter does not override the mandate given by the people. 

Apart from all the skirmishes the people have witnessed between the ruling party and the opposition at various times of different governments for the last four decades of Executive Presidential rule, Sri Lankans are witnessing now a different scenario where the political relationship or the ‘governance relationship’ between the President His Excellency Maitiripala Sirisena (MS) and the Prime Minister Honourable Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW) has become sour of late after a healthy and bona fide ascension to the positions of President and Prime Minister in January and August 2015 respectively. In order to defeat the then President Honourable Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) who was a candidate in the 2015 Presidential Election, RW and his political cohorts put forward MS as the presidential candidate of the United National Front (UNF), an electoral alliance formed by the United National Party (UNP) et al, together with various civil society organizations and leading individuals at that time. MS won and was installed President. MS was ‘usurped’ from MR’s ruling government through strategically secret moves by the parties concerned and also the active participation of earlier President Honourable Chandrika Kumaratunga (CBK).  

The rationale on the choice of MS as the presidential candidate was essentially based on winning the Presidential Election and that was right and proved to be right. Was this decision impulsive and myopic? Didn’t the RW cohorts and others realise the many other essential personal and personality criteria needed in a Presidential candidate to be successful in the long run and be cooperative and helpful towards the ruling government? The 19th Amendment to the Constitution pruned many of the authoritative powers of the President; bestowed on the Prime Minister powers which hitherto were alien to Prime Ministerial authority and thereby strengthened the Parliament; established independent authorities devoid of political interferences etc. Then we come to some very pertinent and important questions: What are the reasons that would have made MS to agree to be the Presidential candidate?  Of course only MS can tell us – could be anything. Yet others can infer. Was MS against the MR government and therefore accepted the offering? He was not willing to kick off the offering? The prestige of the position of President? And so on. Whatever they were there are other factors that have caused the political confrontation between MS and RW which was incubating in the mind of MS for some time which got hatched on the evening of October 26 with the appointment of MR as Prime Minister while RW was the sitting and functioning Prime Minister at the time of swearing in of MR. Though there had been few outbursts for some time by MS against Yahapalanaya government and specifically on RW at various fora, the appointment of MR as Prime Minister gave him (MS) the added energy to personally attack RW further as RW repulsed the action of MS as unconstitutional and undemocratic claiming he is the legally entitled Prime Minister and stayed at Temple Trees. The rest is history due to judicial verdicts and subsequent executive and legislative actions. 

Be that as it may, the bitterness in the heart and mind of MS will not personally affect RW but will affect the governance of the present government. Openly shown or visible bitterness of MS towards RW will in fact produce a hidden form or type of bitterness in RW that will affect both without any doubt which eventually will be dysfunctional not only to their individual official duties but also to their personal well-being and health. So it is high time that both MS and RW shake hands, forget the past and get determined to work together for the welfare of all Sri Lankans – and if this is achieved – and that is possible – the people will keep you both honoured now and in the future. Since both MS and RW being Buddhists it may not be a difficult task as they could make use of Buddhist Meditation techniques / methods to achieve the said reconciliation. A few quotes: “Hatred ceases not by hatred, but by Love; this is the eternal rule”, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha); “Out of Blows Friendship Grows,” Chinese Proverb; “Honour and Shame from no condition Arise; Act well your part: there All the Honour Lies”, Alexander Pope.

MS was elected to help governance and not to become a hindrance to it. So he has the duty by the people to work towards the smooth functioning of the present UNP government though he (MS) may not be an UNP member, but was brought into this position as President through a large percentage of UNP votes – he should not forget this. Both MS and RW must realize that confrontation between them is due partly to personality conflicts which in turn could give rise to negative imaginary notions about the other which if allowed to continue (that is what has taken place) will be detrimental to the personalities of both and finally the people are made to suffer. The remedy for this is effective communication and never allow communication breakdown. Another factor is personal biases – each person gets biased on their outlook through upbringing, belief systems, education, association, interactions and so on. Therefore, when one is in mutual dependence or relationships politically on another, it becomes incumbent on both to understand the other upholding tolerance towards one another’s personality differences and personal biases so that the masses are not made to suffer for no faults of their own except for electing you for the high office you are holding now.   

When one is at the top of the political hierarchy of a nation he / she has a dual role to play –  first be a politician and simultaneously a statesman and this the Golden Rule of politics; and the person concerned cannot fail in either of the two roles to take the nation move forward. When a person in authority does a wrong, society in general will not come to their rescue by helping them to correct the wrong but impinge on them to do more wrongs and drive them finally into insanity – due care is necessary to safeguard oneself from such acts of oneself and reactionary forces of society. With all that has been said above, it is expected that the President and the Prime Minister will shed their personal difference aside and work together harmoniously for the progress and betterment of Sri Lanka and her people.

*Mohamed R.M. Farook – Chartered Engineer

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