By Ameer Ali –
President Maithiripala Sirisena (MS) has called on his supporters to prepare for an election next year. He has not indicated any timeline yet. However, one can understand his state of mind, which is still smarting under humiliation received in the aftermath of the infamous Fifty-Two-Day constitutional coup at the hands of the legislature, judiciary and civilian public at large. The Provincial Council Elections may come first to test the waters, and if he sees a positive swing to his side he may initiate moves for General Elections without much delay. One thing is certain, and that is, working relations between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW) and MS, for the rest of this government’s term of office, are going to be anything but tumultuous.
The President is again in bed with his former divorcee Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR), who is also, understandably and equally, angry at the turn of events. Even his position as Leader of the Opposition is under challenge. MR strongly believes that he stands a good chance of coming back to power if an election is held soon. I believe that he is reading too much from the results of the last Local Council Elections. Immediately after that election, I contributed a piece to this journal titled, “Landslide does not mean Endorsement”. It was, in my view, more an overwhelming protest vote against the incompetency of RW Government than approval of Rajapaksa’s alternative. Whatever popularity that MR carried since then must have diminished substantially after his collusion with MS during the Fifty-Two-Day saga. There is no doubt that peoples’ anger at MS has also fallen on MR. Ultimately however, MS-MR victory or loss depends entirely on the performance of re-born RW government. Will this government deliver the goods? There is no use bragging about how well it did before being and how determined it is to do more. The government needs at least an 18 months plan of action to show to the voting public and must deliver on it before going to the polls. Most importantly, RW will survive or disappear solely on what his government is planning to do to bring down the skyrocketing cost of living.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures. If MS-MR alliance gets too desperate it may look for a trump card to play for victory. Historically, that trump card had been the ethnic card in the hands of political contenders since 1950s. Both parties, UNP and SLFP, had resorted to this dirty game in the past, and there is no guarantee that they will not do so in future. Given the way TNA, SLMC, ACPC and other minority ethnic parties had conducted themselves in the Fifty-Two-Day struggle for democracy, there remains a strong possibility that the losers may lit the ethnic fire as elections get closer. Reading between lines of published utterances from certain politicians and their so called legal and intellectual advisors one is able to detect an ant-Tamil and anti-Muslim tone. Recent events show that one or two monks and even elements from the security would join to add fuel to the fire. It is therefore imperative for a patriotic, progressive and inclusive party like the JVP and other civil society movements to forewarn the voting public against evil provocations. I wish to be proved wrong, but recent political history makes it too tempting not to float this warning.
Sri Lanka cannot afford to continue with this ethnic and religious divisiveness. The country has paid and still paying too dearly, both locally as well as internationally, for promoting ethno-nationalism as cure for its political, economic and social ills. All communities are equally guilty of resorting to this suicidal mania. We let emotions to rule over reason and falsehood to reign over truth. How else does one explain that a country where four great religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam lived cheek by jowl and in total amity for over a millennia, deteriorated into an ethnic cauldron within little over fifty years? The blame should be laid entirely at the doorstep of power hungry politicians.
A humiliated MS and a power hungry MR have combined to recover their lost pride and power at any cost. To achieve that objective they are prepared to try anything. Before further damage is done, let the constitutionally enshrined executive powers of the President be removed, and allow the judiciary un-interfered with to tackle MR regime’s abuse of power and its successor’s financial malpractices. Does RW Government have the guts and stamina to do this?