By Shiranee Dissanayake –
Maithri Palanayak, Sthavara Ratak (A Maithri Style of Governance, A Stable Country)
Mr. President, as a concerned fair minded citizen who voted you into power I would like to begin by asking you a very simple question. How much longer are you prepared to wait for Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa to show his majority in Parliament and watch indifferently as the economy of our beloved motherland rapidly descends into the depths?
Today we are confronted with the most ludicrous situation where the Speaker of Parliament does not recognize the government appointed by you on 26th October 2018 and the purported government does not recognize the Speaker. The conflict is based on the differences of opinion on the interpretation of the provisions of the constitution with regard to removal of the Prime Minister and dissolution of Parliament. Currently the dissolution of Parliament issue is before the courts.
The drama which was enacted in Parliament over the past month which was broadcast live, clearly shows the depths to which politics in this country has descended. You are more than aware of the circumstances which led to this situation. I am sure you will agree that this complicated confused situation is a direct result of the decision you took on the 26th of October 2018.
Looking back at your appointment as President on 8th January 2015, and the sequence of events which followed, it is an undisputed fact that you were accepted by all communities in Sri Lanka as their President as you came into power by the vote of all three communities namely, Sinhala,Tamil and Muslim.
When you made the bold, life threatening decision to move out of the Rajapaksa camp and contest the presidential election against Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the common candidate of the United National Front (UNF) your promise of a Maithri Palanayak, Sthawara Ratak succeeded in winning the respect, admiration and trust of the people. This was certainly not because you supported the UNP but because you displayed the qualities of a true statesman who was committed to act according to your conscience, abolish the excessive powers of the executive presidency, protect democracy and install good governance. What the people wanted was a free and just society where people of all races, religions and political hues could live in equality, peace and harmony with each other. And that is what they expected you to deliver.
During the first year of rule as President you cut down the allocation for the security and maintenance of the President. Every speech you delivered reflected your commitment to be fair by all communities irrespective of their race, religion and political hues. You took over the ministry of environment in order to ensure a safe and clean environment for our future generations. You assured the people that the old order of Mahinda Rajapaksa will not find a place under your leadership. You even mentioned that you will not contest for a second term but will retire to Anuradhapura after your first term as President. The manner in which you conducted yourself won you the respect and trust not only of the people of Sri Lanka but also of the international community who changed their stance regarding Sri Lanka after you took office. To all intents and purposes you were a man who had his mind focused in the right direction to bring about a Maithri Palanayak and a Sthavara Ratak.
Indeed there may have been conflicts of interest and differences of opinion between you and Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe which the people were not aware of. This is natural when two political parties with different social, economic and political visions come together to form a government. However, the prime objective of the coalition as seen by the people was to pull the country out of the economic morass it was enmeshed in, give people the freedom to exercise their rights and steer the country towards peace and prosperity.
The number one priority of the people who voted the UNF into power under your leadership was to rise above petty party politics and work together in the interest of the common good which is why they did not give a clear majority to any single party. Also don’t forget that the people endorsed your manifesto to form a national government and appoint Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as the prime minister for the 100 day programme which followed your appointment as President. The general election if 18th September 2015 reflected the thinking of the people regarding their choice for the next 5 years. However, regrettably the UNF government was unable to meet the expectations of the people in bringing to book the wrongdoers during the previous regime and easing the burden on the people after 3 ½ years of Yahapalana rule. Rather the bond scam left a huge black mark against Ranil Wickremesinghe whose appointment of Mr. Arjuna Mahendran as Central Bank Governor led to the allegation that the bond issue involving his son-in law Arjun Aloysius was an irregular one causing enormous loss to the government. Be that as it may the no confidence motion brought against Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe was defeated in Parliament by 123 votes out of a total of 225.
Your sudden decision to remove Mr. Wickremesinghe from office and appoint Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse as Prime Minister has not only created mayhem in Parliament but also plunged the country into a state of instability disrupting the smooth running of the government as well as all development projects which are underway.
However, to be fair by all it may be relevant to consider why you decided to take this hazardous step. More importantly what is the urgency to change course at this stage when things were going on as usual with no immediate threat to the country or the people. In your address to the nation you gave your reasons as:
1. You cannot work with Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as there are policy and cultural incompatibilities between the two.
2. There is a plot to assassinate you for which you suspect the UNP.
3. You have also said that you will not appoint Mr. Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister under any circumstances, as the PM should be someone who is favoured and like by you. The matter to be considered is, should the personal likes and dislikes of the President take precedence over the provisions of the constitution of this country and the agreement reached when the coalition was formed.
Considering that the three reasons given above to be reasonable, there are many questions that need to be answered. Is Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse the ideal alternate choice to fill the post? The reasons given by you when you moved out of the Rajapakse camp was that you disagreed in principle with the Mahinda Rajapakse style of governance as you were not allowed to implement your ideas and carry out your policies freely as a minister of that government. Do you feel that it is possible to reverse the situation now?
You also vowed that the misdeeds of the previous regime (bribery, corruption etc.) will not be repeated and the wrong doers will be punished according to the law of the land. However, bribery has been rife in Parliament itself in attempts to buy over members of Parliament to make up a majority. The question is, can you implement the lofty principles you stood for when you were elected as President, with the government you elected on 26th October 2018?
With regard to the assassination plot, It is a well-known fact now that you summoned both Mr. Karu Jayasuriya and Mr. Sajith Premadasa to offer the post of Prime Minister before you offered it to Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. If the UNP was planning an assassination why did you call up two members of the UNP to take on the prime minister’s post knowing full well that the party was planning an assassination? Further it is difficult to come to terms with the fact that you who fearlessly walked out of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government with no powers or security behind you, would feel insecure when you are the Commander in Chief of the armed forces with presidential powers as well.
To get back to the point in question I am sure you will agree that 162 lakhs of people who otherwise would have not considered voting for an SLFP candidate cast their votes in your favour only because they trusted you to carry forward the promises of your election manifesto. To do away with bribery, corruption, etc. and bring about a Maithree Palanayak and a Sthawara Ratak. The situation prevailing today is far from what you envisaged and what the people expected. At a time when every politician is focused towards grabbing power, what we like to see in you is the statesman we saw at the beginning. As James Freeman Clarke says:
A POLITICIAN THINKS OF THE NEXT ELECTION, A STATESMAN, OF THE NEXT GENERATION.
I am sure you will agree that your decision of 26th October was a colossal mistake which has succeeded in turning your plans upside down and plunging the country into a state of serious instability. It is only you who can put the situation right Mr. President and if you don’t act now, the country runs the risk of going beyond the point of no return. Finally it is the people of this country and the future generations who will have to bear the brunt of it and it is they who will finally decide on who will wield the reins of power in the future.