By Vishwamithra –
“Democracy is the form of government in which the free are rulers.” ~ Aristotle
Ranil Wickremesinghe thinks that the whole country is his playground, another ‘Batalanda’. As Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the leader of the National People’s Power (NPP), tells his audiences at almost all his public rallies, that Ranil is armed with one big sword and brandishing it to slaughter and slay all his opponents with one single flash of a swing. He has placed democracy, the most critical and distinct foundation of our collective life, in danger. It’s democracy that sets us apart from those cruel and wicked dictatorships that rule some of the most crudely governed and ruled nations.
Our President, was not elected by the people (in fact, totally rejected by the people); he failed in the last general elections to secure one single seat either for his party or himself in Parliament; but by a convoluted means of gaining entry through the ‘National List’ he happened to enter Parliament. When asked why Ranil WickremEsinghe’s preferences in the last General Elections held in 2020 were not released, Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said thus: ‘there was no need to count preferential votes of candidates of political parties which had had not secured any seats in Parliament. Why count them when no representatives had been elected’? That is the ignominious end of Ranil’s parliamentary life. That’s what we all surmised. But we were wrong.
Ranil WickremEsinghe was an embarrassing decoration of the United National Party. Instead of being an embellishing ornament to his Party, which was founded by DS Senanayake, Ranil Wickremasinghe proved that he and he alone destroyed the UNP; the UNP suffered a crushing defeat, and it was the first time that the oldest party in Sri Lanka’s political scene failed to secure a single seat in a parliamentary election. The embattled party led by Wickremesinghe was able to secure only 249,435 votes (2.15%) as against the SLPP’s bulky 6,853,690 (59.09%) and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya’s (SJB’s) 2,771,980 (23.90%) at the polls. This is recent history which may have eluded even the keenest minds of political punditry.
Here are some of the headlines that dominated the aftermath of the 2020 General Elections:
‘As the UNP failed to secure any parliamentary seats at the August 5 election, the preferential votes of its candidates were not counted, a senior Election Commission (EC) official said.
The UNP suffered a crushing defeat, and it was the first time that the oldest party in Sri Lanka’s political landscape failed to secure a single seat in a parliamentary election.
“The UNP was reduced to rubble”, a political observer commented.
The embattled party led by Wickremesinghe was able to secure only 249,435 votes (2.15%) as against the SLPP’s hefty 6,853,690 (59.09%) and the SJB’s 2,771,980 (23.90%) at the polls.
The UNP, which was routed even in its one time stronghold of Colombo, was entitled only to a single National List seat. There was no word on who would be nominated by the party but speculation was rife that either veteran UNP stalwart John Amaratunga or Prof. Ashu Marasinghe may be asked to step in.
The ignominious defeat suffered by the UNP also saw the exit of the party’s leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, a seasoned politician, who was first elected as a Member of Parliament for Biyagama in 1977.
After taking over the party leadership in November 1994, he served as the Prime Minister three times. The last time he served as premier was when Maithripala Sirisena was elected President in 2015.
“The UNP has been decimated”, political analysts said, referring to the dismal performance of the party, which had to grapple with a leadership crisis leading to the formation of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), an offshoot headed by the UNP’s one-time deputy, Sajith Premadasa’. (Source: Island Published 3 years ago on 2020/08/09 by Suresh Perera)
That was then. Now, having being catapulted to the seat of supreme power, Presidency of the land, Ranil Wickremesinghe began his Presidential honeymoon with his closest entourage comprising of Sagala Ratnayake, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and Ashu Marasinghe and the likes; the taste of this windfall is too alluring not to taste it fully by wielding the sword of imaginary constitutional provisions and arguing that a remedy for the economic ills that the country is infested with would any day override the most fundamental elements of a civilized nation such as democratic way of life, timely and periodic elections, conversation with the people either at town-hall levels or mass public meeting or even a basic of press briefings; Ranil Wickremesinghe employed the most elementary and crude provisions of teargas, water cannons and baton-charge of his security forces. What his predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, could not do, he has been attempting to accomplish by sheer force and a blind faith in illusory self-righteousness.
This maddeningly insane conduct of our incumbent President leaves no alternative. He must be ousted by all means available within the country’s Constitution. Impeachment is one way out for our country and her people.
That is why, as some of our pundits suggest, an interim ‘memorandum of understanding’ (MOU) must be adopted by all the opposition parties in Parliament and submit to the Speaker a ‘Motion of Impeachment’ with the constitutionally required number of signatures of parliamentarians. Especially at this crucial juncture in our country’s political life, both the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and National People’s Power (NPP) must come together and form even a loose coalition of forces; they must call for a moratorium on their antagonistic debates. The nation’s need and our people’s future are at stake. It is not an exaggeration to state that when our democratic way of life is lost, all will be lost; losses would be so enormous, it would be impossible to calculate.
Every now and then in history, a few great minds come to think things out, they embrace fresh ideas from others, their own personal experiences and learn from them, sometimes argue for and against their own friends and families, yet come to incredibly enlightening states of peace and calm and deliver sheer truths whose validity stands the test of time. Such great thinkers have happened to shape and define the most inexpressible concepts and thoughts and developed them to lasting philosophical and religious thought. In the writer’s mind, the only religious leader who stands alone in this clarified space of thought is Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha. But there were and are many secular thinkers who have contributed their mite to the enrichment of human thought right throughout our storied history. To name them would be an insult to those whose names I fail to mention; therefore I refrain from mentioning those names. Yet we, as a small nation in Asia with a illustrious ancient past, owe it to our children and many an unborn generation to do the right thing at the right time. If we fail in that grave venture, we have failed, never to be absolved by history.
Ranil Wickremesinghe as one single man, as the film title goes, is a ‘clear and present danger’ to the continuation of our way of life which the departing British Raj left behind for us. Legal minds in the NPP and SJB should be able to find grounds upon which Ranil could be impeached, not merely as a tool to remove him from office, but more so to force him to dissolve parliament and call for fresh parliamentary elections.
In the exercise of impeachment, the most critical player is the Speaker of the House. During the failed impeachment attempt of Premadasa in September 1991, the crucial and consequential role played by the then Speaker, M H Mohamed cannot be understated. However, in that sad saga, competing interests between Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali contributed to the failure of that attempt as much as MH Mohamed’s vacillation at the end. Ranil Wickremasinghe is quite familiar with all the comings and goings of the story. He, in fact, was the main defender of the embattled Premadasa. He even knew that he would have no political future if the Gamini/Lalith combination succeeded. It would be a cruel irony of recent history, if Premadasa’s son becomes part of the conspiracy to impeach Ranil Wickremaeinghe now, in 2023.
The grounds on which a President may be impeached are:
i. If he is permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office by reason of mental or physical infirmity;
ii. If the President has been guilty of – intentional violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, misconduct or corruption involving the abuse of the powers of his office, or any offence under any law, involving moral turpitude.
Any Member of Parliament may, by a writing addressed to the Speaker give notice of a resolution alleging one or more of the above grounds, and setting out full particulars of the allegation, and seeking an inquiry and report thereon by the Supreme Court.
The Speaker will entertain the resolution only (a) if it is signed by at least two-thirds of the whole number of Members of Parliament; or (b) if it is signed by at least one-half of the whole number and the Speaker is satisfied that the ground or grounds alleged merit inquiry and report by the Supreme Court.
If the resolution is passed by not less than two thirds of the whole number of Members voting in its favor, the Speaker will refer it to the Supreme Court for inquiry and report.
The Supreme Court, after due inquiry, at which the President shall have the right to be heard, in person or by a lawyer, shall forward to Parliament its determination together with the reasons therefor.
If the Supreme Court has determined that the allegations contained in the resolution have been proved, Parliament may, by a resolution passed by not less than two-thirds of the whole number of members voting in its favor, remove the President from office.
One of the foremost legal minds in Sri Lanka noted thus: Article 38(2) of the Constitution which contains these provisions appears to have been devised to guarantee to a President almost absolute “security of tenure”!!
There is no dearth of legal brain behind the NPP and SJB; there is no lack of craftiness among the political bigwigs among them to cut a secure path towards the Speaker of Parliament. Timing and the processes adopted are the elements of such a plan or strategy one has to think carefully about. One never knows, unless one tries. Writing more than this about the process would betray the plan itself!
The writer can be contacted at email@example.com