By Amrit Muttukumaru –
Sajith Premadasa being proposed albeit reluctantly at the last minute as UNP presidential candidate by UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe gave a turbo boost to an otherwise boring one-horse presidential race where former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother and former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was by far the front-runner. Wickremesinghe was compelled to do so after realizing the overwhelming support Premadasa had attracted at his several rallies. The same applies to Wickremesinghe’s cronies who now scream ‘Jayaweva’!
In the context of Wickremesinghe ‘stock’ in the country and among a vast majority of the UNP faithful perceived to be at an all time low, is it not imprudent for Premadasa to ALLOW himself to be identified strongly with Wickremesinghe to the extent that voters are led to believe that he will continue as Prime Minister under a Premadasa presidency even if the UNP forms the government after a general election next year? Wickremesinghe himself is going out of his way to reinforce this belief.
The latest was at the press conference a few days ago at ‘Temple Tree’ where he explicitly confirmed he will remain as PM under a Premadasa presidency next year. This assertion has been given PROMINENT media coverage for obvious reasons.
Does this not play right into the hands of his main rival Gotabaya Rajapaksa who could persuasively argue that nothing would change under a Premadasa presidency if Wickremesinghe would continue as PM?
Wickremesinghe’s ‘stock’ being low is due to inter alia:
(i) Reneging on the promise of good governance for which PM Wickremesinghe is widely held mainly responsible. The egregious Treasury Bond Scam epitomizes the worst excesses of the yahapalana government’s alleged corruption and abuse of power.
(ii) Not holding those concerned under the Rajapaksa presidency accountable after alleging in the run-up to the 2015 national elections of terrible corruption, violence and abuse of power.
(iii) Perception that the Yahapalana government allowed the Easter Sunday carnage to take place by ignoring several intelligence warnings.
(iv) Perception that Wickremesinghe would be more comfortable under a Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency rather than one of Sajith Premadasa. This perception is supported by media reports (not denied) that Wickremesinghe who does not have even a ‘snowball’s chance in hell’ to defeat Rajapaksa was seriously considering being the UNP’s Presidential candidate.
(v) Belief among a wide section of the UNP faithful that there is a nexus between him and the Rajapaksa clan.
(vi) Hanging on as UNP leader for the better part of 25 years virtually by force by the brute power given to the leader by the UNP constitution.
(vii) Losing a record number of nation-wide elections and also probably losing thousands of exasperated party faithful.
These are in the context of Premadasa himself – UNP deputy leader and senior minister being virtually a silent spectator in the face of yahapalana shenanigans these past four and a half years.
Premadasa does not appreciate that his OVERPLAYING as he currently does the Sinhala-Buddhist card is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE to his cause as it will compromise his TRUMP CARD – the MINORITIES particularly Tamils and Muslims. No matter how strongly he espouses as he currently does the Sinhala-Buddhist cause, he just cannot get close to the Rajapaksas in this respect. Although his reach to this majority constituency has taken a MAJOR LEAP from what it was under Wickremesinghe, his only chance of being successful is by the MINORITIES voting for him as they did almost EN MASSE for President Sirisena in January 2015. Due to several reasons where his current mindless reach out to Sinhala-Buddhists features prominently, he has put paid to this realization. It would have been prudent for him to have been largely SILENT and still achieved what he needs from the Sinhala-Buddhist constituency while not compromising his APPEAL to the minorities vis-à-vis Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
If Premadasa really wants to be President, he needs to be COURAGEOUS and undertake a radical course correction. This would necessitate immediately giving wide publicity to inter alia:
1) Announce that under no circumstances will Ranil Wickremesinghe be Prime Minister under a Premadasa presidency
2) Tell the people that the country will only have a FUTURE if ALL people are treated EQUALLY
3) Tell the people that ‘true democracy is the way the country treats its minorities’
One wonders whether Premadasa by his utterances no matter what has already lost the confidence of the majority of the minorities – particularly Tamils and Muslims?
The bottom line for the country is that irrespective of who becomes Executive President, the prognosis for the country is dire both socially and economically.
What confidence can one have on the observance of the rule of law when high ranking law officers of the state themselves reportedly behave in a manner that beggars belief and are themselves not held accountable?
Irrespective of all other considerations will the Deep State have the final say particularly in the context of a tight and close race?