By Vishwamithra –
With the announcement of the possible candidature of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the next Presidential Candidate from the Pohottuwa Party (now it seems to be jeopardy with a couple of cases are reported to have been filed against him), a lot of gossip and rumors are afoot as to who could be the UNP candidate at the next Presidential Elections. Most of the pseudo pundits are working overtime and their vested interests are dictating that a losing candidate should be coming forward from the UNP. They seem to be infatuated with Gotabhaya. With a fake image of strength and go-to-man associated with this person, the rumor mill is indeed busy and varied predictions and forecasts are vocalized by this same group who stood to harness the national wealth and resources for their selfish and obscene tendencies to benefit from such exploitations, thanks to an utterly corrupt and nepotistic system of governance so engineered by the Rajapaksa clan.
However, the electorate is more interested in its own fate, either on the economics side or social sphere. Those who present themselves at elections as candidates for the seat of supreme power are usually more entangled in the sinister yet necessary machinations of political trickery. They simply cannot unentangle from such trickery as it has become an integral specimen of politics. It had been so in ancient times and it is so now. Gentlemanly politics is a myth. Such gentlemen, if there are any, are presumed ultimately to succumb to the oddities of this dangerous enterprise called politics.
However, if there is such a gentleman in Sri Lanka’s political sphere today, that is Karu Jayasuriya, our current Speaker of the House of Parliament. He has been stymied by his own Party, the United National Party (UNP) for being so. His uncompromising stance on issues that are usually considered norms of the day- for instance, lending a favorable chance to UNP supporters at recruitment to government service – has made him disliked by his own Party members. But in an environment of total transparency and accountability, if such a state exists at all, Karu Jayasuriya is the best bet for all concerned.
The hue and cry by politicians for transparency and accountability when they are out of power is a common occurrence in the political sphere. Such incongruences and hypocrisies have shaped and defined not only the characters of politicians, they have begun to corrupt and decompose the system of governance to a very large extent. How can a mundane politician avoid and keep aloof of such pressing allurements? If such a politician does exist, how could he or she stand over and above the rest when the needs of the system do demand that all and sundry should be absorbed into those corrupt machinations? Only political scientists and accredited scientists can answer these complex questions. But as commentators of current affairs that affect the path and eventually a journey of a nation, we are duty bound to ask these questions and provide guidelines to the answers too.
Karu Jayasuriya is not a complex character; his demeanor suggests more of a simple and straight forward, yet an introspective type. His executive capacities have been tried and tested in the private sector and it is of praiseworthy category. Even as the Mayor of Colombo, his contribution to transparency and accountability have been proven beyond any shadow of doubt or reservation. His allegiance to the Buddhist clergy seems to be more as a product of a value system that he has been bequeathed by his parents and grandparents than a mere vehicle to easy power.
His modus operandi in electioneering, one might say, borders on insanity, but has produced remarkable results. Running an election campaign and eventually winning in Gampaha District without a single poster being pasted in the electorate is a remarkable achievement, to say the least.
Yet with all these credentials and achievements, why did he not contest, or to put it bluntly, why did Ranil Wickremesinghe oppose his candidature as the UNP-led coalition candidate? Only Ranil can answer that question. Yes, Karu has one marked reputation, albeit unfounded, of being a weak one who is susceptible to influence by a group of civil societies whose interests are more akin to liberal socialism than to intransigent capitalism. It was quite apparent that in the last Presidential Elections, the UNP-led coalition had to find a candidate other than Ranil Wickremasinghe. In this search, it was also in the rumor circles that Ranil did not want to hand the nomination to Karu J on the premise that Karu was insubordinate to the leadership of the Party by contesting the position of Leader. Well, that is all water under the bridge now.
The misunderstandings and mutual mistrust the two had for each other are a thing in the past- at least let us hope so- but the accusations hurled at the Party, especially by the one who was elected by the UNP, the current holder of the position of President, pose a tangible challenge and vacillation at this juncture is not a good sign, whether it originates from the Party, Ranil or Karu Jayasuriya himself. The Party needs to address the issue of the next candidate in earnest with the clarity of process of a scientist who discusses the enormously consequential phenomena of space and time with his fellow scientists and tries to assimilate the knowledge regarding the varied types of stars, planets and blackholes. That clarity of mind would surely throw light on the issues at hand and the resolutions that must be reached must be reached soon. The clarity of issues must be easily transferable to the electorate.
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s dilemma is multifold; its genesis is rooted in the way he has managed to sustain his position as Leader of the Party despite successive electoral defeats and his failure to offer himself as a Presidential Candidate in the last two elections. His choice of Maithripala Sirisena has come down for scrutiny and such scrutiny is justifiable. ‘Anyone but Karu’ slogan should be done away with. The man he can trust is Karu Jayasuriya. On the other hand, if Karu is elected, Ranil must be happy if Karu J decides to select him as Prime Minister.
The title of this column inquires, whether it’s really necessary for that type of an announcement. In politics, it is advantageous for the politician to be unpredictable, not always, but on selected occasions. This is such an occasion. When the whole country is questioning the Presidential Candidate if he or she would appoint X, Y or Z as Prime Minister if and when he or she wins, to be inscrutable in the context of a decision he or she would make once the final results are out is an advantage. Karu Jayasuriya should choose that course of action. On the other hand, he could also resort to another ploy: he could say that he would select the Prime Minister based on the results each contender for the post would score in his district and electorate. Such a scheme is not all that unwieldy as it looks on its face. JR Jayewardene chose to exercise the option and he was quite successful in galvanizing his own Ministers to make sure that their districts and electorates would turn out to be victorious at the elections.
The race to victory in their own districts was a motivating factor in 1982 and 1983, why won’t it be now in 2019? Defining the parameters for being named as Prime Minister could be done without showing any bias and prejudice towards any candidate who is eyeing that position. In other words, no reason appears to be necessary for naming one single prospective person for Prime Minister, period.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org