28 May, 2024


Maithripala Sirisena & The ‘Chandrika Option’

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

On November 4, 2003, then President of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga took over three key ministries from the ruling United National Party. The Defence, Interior and Media portfolios were handed over to MPs belonging to her party. The move effectively led to a governance crisis that in turn precipitated dissolution of Parliament a couple of months later.

What is important here as that when Chandrika seized these ministries she had lost governing legitimacy because her party had been ousted at the 2001 Parliamentary election. The LTTE was controlling vast swathes of the North and East. There was no security to talk of. The economy was in a mess with negative growth recorded at the time of elections. Nine years after being first elected (with a record majority), her popularity was at its lowest, few would disagree.

And yet, she did it. The people didn’t mind as evidenced by the result in the April 2004 Parliamentary election when the UNP was routed. You can blame that on the UNP’s track record with respect to how Ranil Wickremesinghe chose to deal (or not deal, rather) with the LTTE. The popularity of the move notwithstanding, Kumaratunga’s ability to do it and get away with it draws in part from the powers vested in the office of the President. There’s a lesson here.

Maithripala ChandrikaMaithripala Sirisena, after the 19th Amendment, is not as powerful as Chandrika was when she was President. He is far more popular than she was in November 2003, however. Even after the 19th Amendment, he is still the most powerful individual in the country. He can easily alter the political course, amend the political equation, trip those who think they are riding high, pull up those who seem to have fallen and do a lot more besides.

Right now the United National Party is keen on elections to the point that they wouldn’t even mind sacrificing electoral reforms. Right now, those aligned with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa are also calling for a quick election. Their logic stems from the fact that elections under proportional representation would deliver something more than would a first past the post affair. The key figures of the ‘Mahinda Camp’ would probably return to Parliament. Whether they would do better than an SLFP-led coalition one cannot tell, but the split would in all likelihood see the UNP securing the most seats.

If Maithripala Sirisena was ever serious about electoral reform (he did deliver on pruning the powers of the executive president, we must remember), then he has to understand that the 20th Amendment (electoral reform) has to be passed by this parliament. Leaving it for a future parliament amounts to bidding farewell to electoral reform in the foreseeable future. If he wants the 20th Amendment passed, then he has to move as Chandrika did. No, he doesn’t have to pickpocket ministries from Ranil. Maithripala has a mandate that is fresh. He has given Ranil a free hand and Ranil has abused it, but that’s more blemish on Ranil than on Maithripala.

He needs the UNP to get the 20th passed. He can make the UNP support the 20th by whispering ‘Remember what Chandrika did on November 4, 2003?’ If he dumps the UNP and appoints a new cabinet, the UNP stands to lose a lot in a subsequent election, provided that Sirisena takes a firmer grip on things in his own party. The no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister that the Mahinda Camp has submitted to the Parliament Secretary will be a thorn but it is easily removed. The ‘Chandrika-Style’ is as easily applicable to the UPFA MPs as it is to the UNP.

Maithripala Sirisena is the leader of the SLFP. He is the Executive President. There’s a lot he can do. He can do nothing too. His choice. He will be judged either way.

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Latest comments

  • 9

    Milinda has conveniently overlooked a significant fact that President owes his victory on January 8th to Ranil and the UNP.He is the leader of the SLFP too because he is the President elected due to the support of the UNP as the SLFP constitution which was amended during the tenure of M.R.stipulates that the holder of the executive office if he or she is from the party should be the chairperson of the party.Its true the Prseident can do a lot and he will after disolving Parliament-he will not give nomination to the lackeys of MR.once the UNP and the SLFP (Maithri wing) get the majority of the seats he will form a national Govt.This course of events might disapoint Milinda and the motley crowd who hope that their prophet of doom would retrun.

  • 7

    I’m glad to see that you’ve become more appreciative of Maithri’s virtues, Malinda. You’re right; at this moment it seems Maithri can do no wrong, but we cannot know how History will judge him years down the line.

    It’s also good to see you choosing pleasant pictures of Maithri (and Chandrika).

  • 4

    Malinda Seneviratne, Mahinda Rajapaksa Shill and White-washer

    RE: Maithripala Sirisena & The ‘Chandrika Option’

    “Maithripala Sirisena is the leader of the SLFP. He is the Executive President. There’s a lot he can do. He can do nothing too. His choice. He will be judged either way.”

    Can agree with you on that.

    1. One thing Mr. Maithripala Sirisena can do id move on , get the Crooks, Robbers and criminals as early as possible, an, pasas judgement on them, and move on.

    So far, nothing has happened. There have been trips here and there, but no action. No Hangings and no heads are rolling.

    When Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President, Gotabbel had white Vans, many were killed including Lasantha Wickramatunga and others and a lot was stolen.

  • 8

    Malinda you conclude your article by saying this about Sirisena.

    ” There’s a lot he can do. He can do nothing too. His choice. He will be judged either way.”

    I believe that on his own he will do nothing of the kind Chandrika did to Ranil. For, he depends on others to make decisions for him.

    Sri Lanka had very strong executive Presidents in the past. JR was a very strong willed man, though a US lackey and an autocrat, who thought and did things on his own. Premadasa was a people’s man who had a vision and carried out his vision until that bastard Prabaharan took his life prematurely. Chandrika with all her shortcomings had the capacity to think on her own and act. Mahinda was a very strong determined man and his determination helped end LTTE terrorism. Even the stop-gap President Wijetunga had his stature as a decent politician though he never aspired for the position.

    But from all his actions since day one, tell me whether Sirisena has exhibited himself as a person of vision or political acumen? This colourless person became a pawn in the hands of Chandrika and Ranil, contested the election on their behalf and won the election because of the votes of the Tamils and Muslims.He promised many bribes to many people and became indebted to all of them. He promised the PM position to Ranil and had to make him the PM when the incumbent still held that position. He promised Shirani Bandaranaike to re-appoint her as Chief Justice and did so contravening the very same constitution he undertook by his oath of office to uphold and defend. He promised Sarath Fonseka not only to give back all his lost positions and perks but went further to make him a Field Marshall.

    This man Sirisena owes his position to many people. He even owes it even to people like Sampanthan, Sumanthiran, Hakeem and Rizard Baudideen.

    Already Sirisena’s actions are causing instability in the country. See whether Parliament is doing any work these days. Ranil’s government can’t get even some money bills passed. Sirisena had allowed Ranil to stop all works undertaken by the Chinese. Thousands of workers employed in those projects have lost their jobs. And if the Chinese government gets tough and enforce the contractual obligations of the SL government, Sri Lanka will become bankrupt. Sirisena is powerless to stop Ranil’s actions to keep out China. Sirisena cannot even decide to dissolve Parliament because he is afraid that Mahinda will emerge victorious if an election is held now.

    Sri Lanka needs a strong executive President and this lacklustre Sirisena cannot be expected to become one. Sirisena is not Presidential material though he was lucky to be elected because of the shortcomings of the Mahinda government.

    • 9

      “Sri Lanka had very strong executive Presidents in the past”.

      What did they do to the country? They made both professionals and common masses become poorer with the latter cannot afford a single meal a day. They encouraged thugs and criminals thrive at the expense of the able and skilled. The last president allowed democracy became autocracy by watching businesses and worshipping places of minorities destroyed and defame Sri Lanka in the eye of the international community. He borrowed from China at high interest and indulged in white elephants thus making the country indebted for generations to come. He divided ethnic communities permanently and make the country remain dependent on China. He made mockery of the judiciary and let criminals loose at large.

      UK also had strong prime ministers including iron lady Margaret Thatcher but only a weak one resolved the long running terrorist problem in Northern Ireland and brought peace to the country.

      “This colourless person became a pawn in the hands of Chandrika and Ranil, contested the election on their behalf and won the election because of the votes of the Tamils and Muslims”.

      This is the most stupid statement any racist can make. Simply look at the number of votes the winner in the presidential election got. He is said to have got 58 lakhs in the south and 4.5 in the north and east. How can any sane person claim that he won “because of Tamils and Muslims”?

      This “coulourless person” voluntarily reduced his term of office and his powers whereas none of the so-called strong executive presidents increased their term of office and became dictators. This president is the most decent and patriotic of all the leaders of this paradise island.

    • 1

      Naga, whatever you or anyone may say, the main problem was to chase away a despotic,corrupt and h0rrible regime. Having done that the next plan was very clear – to reduce the powers of the EP, bring in electoral changes (to moot out undesirables) and go for elections. It is very evident how the Rajapakshe faction is trying to come back to power despite the exposure of each and everyone of those criminals activities. Nothing is happening because the previous regimme has tainted all the higher officials of the public service as well as the judiciary. In any other country with the criminal exposure of Gota no judge would have even considered to grant Gota a pre-bail application. Siriisena is no Fool or a lame President but only biding his time. For more than 10 years we have waited patiently a little more time to clear all these problems is not going to hurt us any further. Ranil or the UNP is not evil either. Ranil and the UNP/SLFP together with TNA & JVP with a concensus will come back to power to put a stop to the Rajapakshe/Wimal fraction and rule this country. CBK has learnt her lesson and will never go ahead with Ranil or the UNP now.

  • 7

    Blah blah blah……

    Hang the 20th and dissolve the parliament ! This is what the country needs.

    Like Mangala said, 20th could be the Trojan Horse. This is what the Medamulana discards want ! Keep on delaying the election.

    You think we are fools ?

  • 13

    Malinda would like to see MR back in the saddle and Ranil defeated. Most of these fear Ranil returning to power after elections with a UNP majority in a strong manner and the disgruntled good for nothing politicians driven away.
    President Sirisena’s election is a blessing for this country. He will never be JR/Chandrika/Premadasa/DBW/or Malinda. His style of governance is based on peace, harmony between all races/religions, no family bandism,simple living, and no corruption. He will go on record as a popular leader in the world leaders level.
    So Malinda should not get disturbed at the present moment.

    • 5

      Now there is no war. So only way out to bring back the country s economy on real tracks – UNP should be given chance.
      For them it will be not eas y at the begining, since all the abuses carried out by Raja no should be ironed out before planning for a better economy.
      [Edited out] like Dayan, Malinda, Wimale, Wasidewa would see it in favour of Mahinda, but majoirty of the people have rejected the Rajapakshes as had been the case with Ltters.

  • 2

    hurry up and dissolve parliament and hold elections within a month of doing it.Everything is at a standstill because of the uncertainty of the political situation,including the all important business investments.

    Anymore delay will damage the economy and maithrian ranil will rue it when the elections are at last held.

    What maithri can do with the 20th amendment is put it up his …

    people must be getting angry because the 100 day pledge is close to 150.

  • 0

    What has happened to you Malinda?

    Looks like you seem to appreciate the good work done by MS?

    Your god father MR is gone for good.

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