By Vishwamithra –
Those who are greedily awaiting the comeback of the Rajapaksas are intensely engaged in this campaign- one of gossip and rumor-mongering. Their wish that the current parliament led by the United National Party (UNP) could be defeated by this method or that has gained currency at many a quarter, especially amongst the Colombo-based commission-traders whose only ambition is to facilitate a return of the Rajapaksas to power. These ugly and avaricious merchants of political power seek no limits; they seem to be answerable to no one; their thirst for illegitimate commissions and ill-gotten money is unquenchable and the insatiable desire of the fairer gender of this commission-cabal has overtaken the commonsensical pursuit of a ‘place in the sun’ among the elite of Colombo. Their sarees and jewelry purchased in the Indian marketplace cannot be left to gather dust. Attendance at the various cocktail parties hosted by the Rajapaksa allies is a must for that obscene ride to the top of the elite.
In order to topple the current coalition government, crossover of a sizable UNP parliamentarians is indispensible; in the context of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s unchallenged leadership in the Party it is unthinkable that, leave alone a sizable number, possibility of even one single parliamentarian crossing over is far too remote. If there is one political party that is united today is the United National Party; it is not owing to the genius of its leader but due to the fact that what is in power is a UNP-led government. It is never or highly unlikely that any member of the government would leave power in search of or a mirage of position in a ‘coming’ administration. It doesn’t happen, period. Most of these pundits and so-called intelligentsia do not understand that simple truth; political power is enormously attractive and its aphrodisiacal powers are unmatchable. There is only one incident in our post-independence history that a number of parliamentarians crossed over from government ranks and joined the then Opposition and that was in 1964 when CP de Silva and some of his SLFP-clan did the political summersault. As was related to this writer by JR Jayawardene himself, the architect of that political coup de grace, the only concession CP de Silva demanded from Dudley/JR duo was that his crossover would result in the toppling of the then Sirimavo-led SLFP government. And it did happen.
Therefore, in the absence of such a defection of UNP parliamentarians from the Party, it is inconceivable even to theorize that the ‘dream’ of the Joint Opposition (JO) could come true. Much trust and faith has been placed on Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of Mahinda, to negotiate a deal between the parties. This inglorious character whose interest in politics had been sparked by his one-time close associate Anura Bandaranaike when both were young and gay, in the sense of being carefree; Basil’s performance as the virtual second-in-command in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, has come into question since the fall of that regime in 2015. His reputation now is one of suspect, to say the least. Being in charge of allegedly uncountable and unaccountable stash of cash, he, during the 2015 Presidential Election campaign, had apparently attempted to literally purchase the votes of an unsuspecting public. And he failed. Once again, it is this character who is supposed to have come forward to negotiate a deal between the opposing parties. What is even more astonishing than anything else is the inclusion of President Maithripala Sirisena as a piece in the proverbial political chess game.
Whether President Maithripala Sirisena would willingly take part in such a diabolical political dynamic is anybody’s guess. What seems to have left the curious minds of all those who are grossly engaged in the current stream of politics is Sirisena’s pledge at the time he took oaths as new President of Sri Lanka on January 9, 2015 that his Presidency would be limited to one term. As was reported in the breaking news at the time, ‘newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena says he will not contest for another term. Addressing the nation soon after being sworn in as the sixth President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena vouched he has no intention to run for a Presidential Election for the second time at the end of his first term’.
We are notorious for having rather a very short memory; what is broadcasted from atop a political platform is, more often than not, considered frivolous and short-lived. Yet at a time when one dictatorial President, who Mahinda Rajapaksa was, was dethroned and a new Master is enthroned, the people would undoubtedly take the term of office as one of grave character, not only of the nature of the pledge, but more so of the man who is making such a pledge. It is still not officially known whether Maithripala Sirisena has any intention of offering himself as a candidate at the forthcoming Presidential Elections in 2020. But what we must essentially bear in mind is the corrupting character of the institution of political power. Political power, among its debasing features, has the total capacity to corrupt its holder beyond all imagination. The political power, as much as its capacity for corrupting its holders, also has that intrinsic ability to being an obsessive charm of luxurious life; its glories have been penned and stored in history books so that the readers themselves get glued to its riveting nuances and society-changing appeals. However, to place Maithripala Sirisena among such dregs of politics is a disservice to the man.
With all his shortcomings, one cannot discard his simplicity in character and being ever ready to be identified with the ‘commoner’, Maithripala Sirisena in fact is a blessing that befell our nation in 2015. The fastened bond that put President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe together has apparently loosened and it’s not too late to bod them together once again. Yet what must be emphasized is the term of office President Sirisena talked about in the wake of his being sworn in on 2015 January 9 as the new President of Sri Lanka. But if President Sirisena has changed his mind about the term of office, due to whatever reason, it is his responsibility and burdensome duty to declare it to the country with valid and legitimate arguments. If such arguments are forthcoming and they appear to be authentic and credible, then it’s up to the electorate firstly and the coalition partners secondly, to accept or reject those arguments. Keeping the whole electorate in limbo is neither favorable to the current political equilibrium nor is it acceptable in a real sense of morality and ethics.
Taken in such a dubious context of political uncertainty, the rumored discussions among the trio of Sirisena and Rajapaksa brothers do matter. It affects the marketplace badly. The most effective way of affecting the economy of the country, especially its equity market, is this lingering uncertainty among its key players. It seems to have had its repercussions; coupled with the depreciation of the rupee, our currency, the ballooning prices of essential commodities, this uncertainty needs to be exiled in a hurry. If not, the worse material conditions to follow would result in a crisis the current administration doesn’t look to be equipped to handle. Ranil Wickremesinghe, with all his reputation and experience in governance, seems to have lost his grip on priorities. His abject failure to be realistic and down-to-earth is being exploited to the fullest by the JO and its chief propagandists. What is even more appalling is Wickremasinghe’s failure to be decisive when it is of crucial significance. His failure to recognize the enormity of the ramifications of the infamous Bond-Scam has had its ill effects running to the core of the United National Party. What could have been nipped in the bud by asking the responsible arties to leave their respective offices, such as Governor of the Central Bank and the Minister of Finance is now coming to haunt not only Ranil Wickremesinghe himself, it is affecting the UNP and its parliamentarians in a thoroughly adverse way.
Dwelling on what has happened is of zero value unless one learns the lessons it teaches us. The UNP and its leadership seem to have lost their way down in the middle of their governing stretch. Political power, as was repeatedly enunciated in this column itself, is a maddening dose that could either cleanse the whole system or act as an obsessive drug that can destroy very adventurous cells in a body. Right throughout history, its destructive powers have shown their ugly way. It has produced such cruel leaders like Hitler Stalin and Idi Amin, to mention a very few in our post-industrial revolution times. Although Ceylon has not had the misfortune of being cursed by such demonic leaders, we have also not being blessed with truly great ones whose moral compass had not being broken. The real tragedy is not realizing the nuanced characteristics of our own history and trying to follow them.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org