By Malinda Seneviratne –
So finally the President has spoken. That’s good. He was correct when he said that he had been vilified no end during the past few weeks. He added for good measure ‘as no other president before me had been vilified’. That of course is not true. What’s true is that he was vilified. He has no one to blame but himself though. He was silent. He was wishy-washy. He kept people guessing and on their toes. He may have done this deliberately, we don’t know. But that’s not important. He brought it all on himself.
Last week the ‘Ravaya’ claimed in its lead that ‘Maithripala had betrayed his mandate’. That’s because it was reported that President Maithripala Sirisena had given the green light for his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest on the United People’s Freedom Party (UPFA) ticket. Well, now Sirisena claims that he had nothing to do with it. Indeed, he had opposed this, he claimed. The ‘Ravaya’ for its part has been silent on other mandate-betrayals such as the scuttling of the 20th Amendment, the effective nullification of the COPE report on the Central Bank Bond Scam courtesy dissolution, the non-mention of the Right to Information Act. The ‘Ravaya’ didn’t blame the President and uttered not a word against the UNP. By these acts of commission and omission, the ‘Ravaya’ showed its hand. It’s Ranil Wickremesinghe’s hand, so to speak.
One wonders what the ‘Ravaya’ would have to say now, after the President’s ‘statement of purpose’ on Tuesday. ‘Maithripala had us fooled!’ would be a nice headline, under the circumstances, but it would take some humility and courage to come up with something like that.
So what did Sirisena say? He said a lot of things. He said that he is not concerned about who wins as long as those who subscribed to his yahapaalana plan came out on top never mind the fact that there was little or no ‘yaha’ (good) in the paalanaya (governance) of the last six months. He said that there’s no love lost between himself and his predecessor. No surprises there.
He said that even if Rajapaksa won, he won’t appoint him as Prime Minister. That’s interesting. He was essentially conferring by default (by abdication and by naming Rajapaksa) the leadership of the UPFA to the former president. There’s more on this, but we’ll come to it later.
There are things he did not say. He didn’t say ‘I want the UNP to win’. He did say it, but not in so many words. He vilified all those who are now against his friends. So everyone in the UPFA without exception are ‘bad’ in Sirisena’s book. He didn’t say ‘I will do the honorable thing and resign as leader of the SLFP’. He kept the leadership, vowed not to lead and salaamed the (by now tired and hollow) rhetoric of the ‘other party’, yes, the UNP.
So when someone salutes him on Facebook it’s not about championing good governance but seeing benefit for the party of choice. Consider the following post, for example, ‘President Sirisena plays his next gambit – and a master stroke it is! “There are enough seniors to be made prime minister if UPFA wins the election – it won’t be Mahinda Rajapakse – I won’t turn back on the January 08 revolution.” So he led MR to the altar and left him standing there all alone after the marriage vows were read and the rings exchanged. My trust is not misplaced.’
It’s just about Mahinda Rajapaksa. And of course the (Maithripala’s intended) beneficiary, the UNP. That’s the ‘trust’ here. Fair enough.
On the other hand, there would be those who would say that what Maithripala did essentially was to lift his sarong and show off his underwear and that it was all green, with little black elephants decorating it. That’s what the Mahinda camp, the kepuwath-nil types and others who for whatever reason feel the SLFP and not the UNP should give leadership to the people. Such people are as disinterested in ‘good governance’ as those others singing hosannas to Sirisena from the green camp. Almost ten years of Rajapaksa rule, preceded by 10 from that arch enemy of democracy, Chandrika Kumaratunga (sure, with a few years of cohabitation with dictatorial twin, Ranil Wickremesinghe) should teach us not to take the SLFP’s democratic claims seriously.
And yet, the ‘true colors’ were not the underwear-greens or those about good-governance-love, but downright sneering at the basic tenets of decency and democracy. ‘Indecent’ is used here because it is uncivilized (to put it mildly) to attempt to flush the party down the tube which refusing to give up the leader-post. ‘Undemocratic’ because of the assertion that even if Mahinda were to win (we have to read that as ‘even if Mahinda commands the support of a Parliamentary majority’) Sirisena would not want him, Rajapaksa, to be Prime Minister (not that he has a choice of course, and this shows how little he knows about the Constitution).
The track record of an individual is irrelevant if he or she is deemed most fit to be Prime Minister by the people, through the will of their representatives. What Sirisena is saying, essentially, is ‘Screw the will of the people!’
One is reminded of the first words he spoke when announcing that he would take on Mahinda Rajapaksa. He quoted the Dhammapada
Nahi Verena Verani—Sammanti dha Kudacancam
Averenacca Sammanti—esa dhammo Sanantano
“Hatred never ceases through hatred, but through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.”
There are two other verses he may be well advised to (re?)visit:
Akkocchi mam avadhi mam — ajini mam ahāsi me
Ye tam upanayhantī — veram tesam na sammati
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me” — in those who harbor such thoughts, hatred is not appeased.
Akkocchi mam avadhi mam — ajini mam ahāsi me
Ye tam na upanayhantī — veram tesūpasammati
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me” — in those who do not harbor such thoughts, hatred is appeased.
Yes, Sirisena has shown his true colors. Some will see ‘green’. Some will see ‘statesmanship’. Some will see ‘grey’. Whatever it is, it is certainly not white! But take your pick.