By Sarath de Alwis –
“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely” – Franklin Roosevelt
President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to preserve the unity of the UPFA at the expense of the ‘rainbow’ coalition that installed him in office.
The Sinhala idiom ‘ Koka pennuwa’ eloquently and evocatively encapsulates the volte face of our ‘good governance’ President. He held the promise of epochal change. He has now delivered an elephantine shocker to us simpletons who hoped for clear skies over our benighted land after the rainbow of 8th January.
He remains to hold out some hope. We express our views, fearing no white vans. We roam Cyber space with no help from Ninjas. Yet, we cannot help but remain apprehensive of a return to the times of dusk if not darkness at noon. Both Mohan Pieris and Sarath N. Silva were looming large at the Medamulna conclave. They too are waiting in the wings, no doubt in the hopes of the spotlights moving in their direction.
The writing was on the walls of Bawa’s edifice in the Diyawanna waters now awaiting either fresh faces or the same old. The latter is now the more likely possibility.
We should have known better. The script of the unfolding drama was out there and yet one noticed. The report of the parliamentary select committee on the impeachment of the 43rd Chief Justice is a public document. There in hangs not just another tale but the principal tale. There are six signatories – Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Nimal Siripala Silva, Susil Premajayantha as Chairman, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Wimal Weerawansa, Dilan Perera and Neomal Perera”
With the exception of Dr. Rajitha Senaratatne, the other five signatories have shown a disturbing consistency in defining their own version of good governance and a just society. These five former parliamentarians, deeply committed to the restoration of the Rajapaksa dispensation have persuaded President Sirisena to put their political survival ahead of any mandate he received last January.
In his essay ‘Politics as Vocation’ Max Weber has explained how the minds of politicians zigzags through avarice and ambition. He questions “If the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be. When and why do men obey? “
Responding to his own rhetoric he offers the explanation. “ the authority of the ‘eternal yesterday or rather the ‘traditional’ domination exercised by the patriarch and the patrimonial prince of yore. There is the authority of the extraordinary and personal gift of grace (charisma), the absolutely personal devotion and personal confidence in revelation, heroism, or other qualities of individual leadership.
The leadership of the UPFA gravy train was never in doubt. The unelected occupant of Temple Trees threatened to get the new Boss to administer a few ‘Tokkas’ to the signatories to the signatories of the report on the impeachment of the Chief Justice. Now he himself has been administered with a much sharper ‘Tokka’ ! As Weber points out in the same essay “obedience is determined by highly robust motives of fear and hope–fear of the vengeance of magical powers or of the power-holder, hope for reward in this world or in the beyond… “
What made the President blink? He blinked because deep down he remains a politician and thinks as a politician. The two General Secretaries, who wielded the power of deciding the trajectory of the SLFP and the UPFA in the next general election were staunch Rajapaksa loyalists. Priyadarashan Yapa was ‘Shogun Mahinda’s’ chosen ‘Samurai’ to replace the general secretary who decamped. Coincidentally they were trusted members of the Rajapaksa Cabinet who took turns in holding the “Petroleum Ministry. In the short window available their removal was not an option. That is not unless he was ready to split the SLFP and seek a remedy for the impasse at the pending elections.
While his chosen option is abhorrent to the idealist it makes sense to the realist. It seems he was silently suffocating in the grip of the mismanaged UNP administration. It never attempted even pretend that there’s was an interim administration focused on a specific agenda. In particular three ministers John Amaratunge, Lukshman Kiriella and Akila Viraj Kariyawasam together with their leader the Prime Minster ignored the necessary and focused on the trivial in needling and provoking an opposition that quietly but surely recovered itself and gave notice that 8th January was only a battle lost but the war was on.
Politicians rarely see a link between strategy and credibility. Instead they rely on strategy to make up for their credibility deficits.
The temporary eclipse of the Rajapaksa reign did not change the rules of political competition. Ours is a game where politicians pay greater attention to resources and less to their reputations.
The Rajapaksa machine remains intact. The patron client networks are well entrenched in solid cultural and psychological nurseries. The mind manipulators who know their business are at work. Abhayaramaya is more than a temple.
President Maithripala Sirsena told us at the swearing in ceremony at Independence square that it was his first and the last searing in as President. Though defeated Mahinda has made no promises. Max Webber says that there are two ways of making politics one’s vocation. “Either one lives ‘for’ politics or one lives ‘off’ politics.”