25 September, 2020

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Past Abuse & Current Insolence Of Power

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.” – G.K.Chesterton

President Maithripala Sirisena miscalculated when he conjectured that he could coax the SLFP to accept Mr.Ranil Wickeremesinghe the captain of the opposing team as not only coach but as match referee as well.

Patrimonial politics has occupied center stage in the one hundred and forty days of the UNP dominated interim government. The question most asked in the make shift corridors of momentary power is ‘who gets what and how fast? The UNP is not on a pilgrimage. It is on a desperate quest for permanency in power. Any altruistic claims to the contrary are mere malarkey. The institutions it seeks to fashion will respond to the regime they wish to install. Their state elites and societal organizations are busy building bridges appropriate for the immediate political environment and beyond.

True. The reform focused President as Common Candidate promised to make Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe the leader of the UNP the Prime Minister of an all-party government that promised hundred feats, exploits and achievements in 100 days. Also true is that the reform agenda of the President, has run in to a blind alley in a patently hostile parliament. The government of the day has 40 UNPers holding ministerial office while it has only a total of 49 members in a 225 member house. Does it not imply that most of them needed Ministerial perks to be persuaded on good governance?

Did he expect the new UNP ministers to refrain from rewarding their party loyalists and business allies with the spoils of their newly acquired power?

Did he really expect the ‘tenderpreneurs’ of the Rajapaksa regime to let go of the opportunity to trap the UNP leader in ‘perpetual bondage ‘in the Central Bank public debt fiasco? ”

MaithripalaTo the utter exasperation of a nation that was celebrating the end of a regime that abused power, the first hundred days has treated them to the most abrasive display of insolence of power.

Did he seriously expect his party, the SLFP to either reluctantly accept or cuddle and clasp Ranil Wickremesinghe as both captain of the opposing team as well as coach and referee in the inevitable match that was to follow?

After 8th January the SLFP ranks were more than eager to reclaim their affable General Secretary as the helmsman of the party. Within the first week of his swearing in President Maithripala Sirisena retrieved the chairmanship of the SLFP from the clutches of his shell shocked rival. A devastated Rajapaksa announced that he was bowing to the demand of party members and would hand over the leadership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to President Sirisena.

When he mutinied against the Mahinda monolith, President Sirisena knew enough and more of the bitter disenchantment of a sizable segment of his SLFP colleagues. He and the less than a handful of fellow defectors honestly believed that more would follow them before the ballot on 8th January. However that did not happen. That hoped for event did not eventuate for a good reason.

It was not because the discontented were suddenly appeased by the regime. The wrath of the president astounded by the challenge of his General Secretary knew no bounds. The average SLFP Member of Parliament who considered a cross over found himself in agreement with Woody Allen. “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens!” They were petrified in their derrières. That too needs an explanation.

It did not take long for Mahinda Rajapaksa to gather his wits after the humiliating surprise of his defeat. Just 41 days later, on 18th February the Nugegoda Rising occurred. The seasoned manipulators of the earlier order restored their leader in to a serious challenger. They cling on to the hope that the change of 8th January is not a serious derailment of their gravy train.

The former president conducted periodic elections to fine tune his political machine. It belonged to him. The UPFA was his flagship showroom. The SLFP was a defunct warehouse. Periodic elections served as the conduit for the distribution of favours and spoils to loyal retainers in the provinces. The exercise allowed him to create an elite cadre of operatives comprising of businessman, clergy and activists who had independent access to the boss. They were rewarded regularly after an assessment of their success in limiting opposition activity by means foul or fair. The numbers garnered for the side and the reduction of the opposition vote was the measure of the loyalty to the leader. Their competence was rewarded in the form of a free hand to bend or break the law and to enjoy the perks of a peripheral potentate.

The Rajapaksa political apparatus was a market mechanism that permitted everyone to compete for positions. It enabled all players to seek spoils of power both legitimate and otherwise.

It allowed some to boast openly that they spent sums in the range of eight hundred million Rupees at one election.

The most ingenious feature of the Rajapaksa governance style was its cynical aura of institutional propriety and legitimacy. As was demonstrated in the impeachment of the Chief Justice meticulous attention was paid to procedural niceties. The present general secretary of the SLFP was assigned the task of conducting the Kangaroo court. Most probably the dexterity he displayed earned him the trust of the Capo di tutti i capi which may have prompted his choice as the successor to the rebel General Secretary.
It is the cynical attachment to the integrity of process under the autocracy that made Mr. Susil Premjayantha to threaten to reinstall Mohan Pieris as and when they return to office. He also promised to dismantle the FCID and to prosecute its officers.

The Mahinda loyalists oppose the Ranil regime with which it has a symbiotic link. That is natural. Their opposition conforms to the usual patterns of political opposition.
What is far worse is the perspective of the genuine Sirisena loyalists in the SLFP and other groups such as the JHU and the JVP. They resent Ranil’s style and that of his closest aides. They are incensed by the politics of spoils that many UNP minsters practice with total disregard to the promised benchmarks of good governance.

The Sirisensa loyalists of the SLFP are found on both sides of the aisle. It is the price of compulsory cohabitation that has stretched far beyond its promised term.

It was interesting to watch the contortions in the demeanor of the articulate and aggressive deputy Minister of External Affairs Ajith Perera and the UNP national organizer Daya Gamage at a recent television discussion with JVPs Sunil Handunnetti. The JVP parliamentarian was educating the two UNPers of the politics of patronage as practiced by a chosen confidante of the Prime Minister. ‘Go to Matara’ he advised the two members. “You will see how funds that are denied to parliamentarians under the decentralized budget are disbursed by a politician who is not even a member of parliament “he said in mock indignation. He was referring to Sagala Ratnayake former MP now designated as Chief of Staff in the office of the Prime Minister.

There is yet another danger lurking. Some civil society activists have been bankrolled by the interim administration through assignments of investigations and appointments to regulatory and facilitating bodies. Some Ministers have appointed employees of commercial undertakings controlled, owned or linked to them as directors of state owned banks.

The cordial relations the government enjoys with civil society activists should not be the result of economic dependence, either perceived or real. It compromises the independence of civil society which is the mainstay of the reform movement headed by the movement for a just society.

Already the fiercely independent and outspoken activist Dambara Amila Thero has announced on a recent television discussion that it is time to launch a fresh civil society initiative to name and shame the politicians and collaborators who obstruct the reforms either overtly or covertly.

The choices of President Maithripala Sirisena are increasing narrowing. It has reached a point where he will soon run out of space to maneuver the SLFP even in to a simulated assignation with the UNP. The opposition rightly believes that the present swagger of the Prime Minister in parliament is due to BIRG [basking in reflected glory]. The UNP that claims credit for the 19th amendment chose to boycott the proceedings of the 18th amendment they opine contemptuously.

An overwhelming majority in the present parliament seem to share the worldview of Ophelia in Hamlet. “We know what we are but not what we may be.”

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    PAST abuses -[Edited out]

  • 4
    20

    Stage is set for my name sake to come to power again:

    Get the Sinhalese voters to vote for somebody who will not dance to the tunes of Tamils, Muslims and the UNP.

    Simple as that!

    • 10
      3

      No, Rajapaksa, you are totally wrong!

      This is a good analysis by Sarath de Alwis. Maithripala’s personal stock is so high that what he ought to do is to keep just those few who crossed over with him, plus a few honest Members of Parliament like Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, and grant nomination to lots of thirty and forty year olds (hopefully half of them women)and take the fight to both the Rajapaksas and Ranil Wickremasinghe. Maithri’s SLFP will do pretty well, and the Rajapaksas will be routed.

      It may be that the UNP will emerge as the largest single party and Ranil may have to be made Prime Minister. However, it not going to be a regime that can indulge in an “abrasive display of insolence of power.” Even if, as a result of the SLFP vote being split owing to the Rajapaksas, the UNP gets through on FPtP in many electorates, it is Maithri’s SLFP that will emerge as an enduring power.

      If you listen to the average non-partisan Sri Lankan, you will realise how much the gentle, straight-talking Maithri has endeared himself to the people. He is now a force to be reckoned with. He may be honest and simple, but he is also a shrewd politician whom the wheeler-dealers will continue to under-estimate although many are posting comments similar to mine.

      “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad”. Maithri is eminently sane.

      • 11
        1

        Agree with you 200% Sinhala Man. Sirisena the humble President has endeared himself to all. Ranil is not as bad as Mahinda. He may have his faults but his hands areaclean. UNP will most definitely form the next government with part SLFP and support of TNA. But definitely this time round we will have a very strong opposition with JVP being part of it. Therefore no fear Ranil will not have it easy to run the next govt. Again, it is to up to the citizenry to elect clean politicians and throw away once and for all the corrupt and greedy lot.
        Come what may, the waiting time is over Sirisena should dissolve govt. The restlessness is not good.

        • 6
          2

          Sirisena’s achievements are not to be sneezed at, the latest being the opening of another Royal College, this time in Moneragala.

        • 1
          6

          What we have now as president is a phoney who did the one of the greatest betrayals in recent history! He is power hungry as any other politician, But I think people will not allow him to do this Gon part for very longer, We need to bring back strong leadership that love the country!

  • 8
    0

    What is going on, in the political field today could be put in simple village style as ” …. I don’t want to say it because it is so indecent and relates to sexual interaction”; yet it is so simple to explain in few words that could be said in volumes. All these “BASTARDS” including the Political Leaders are playing a “Big Time” game to preserve their own interests than that of the people, but present to us in a different mode. In simple terms all of them want to “BUCKLE” the establishment of the Independent Commissions, because they KNOW very well if those start functioning, their powers are gone and they become non existent in the public eye. Also all those “BUSINESS” ventures would become non extent and all doors are closed to make money. That is the SIMPLE TRUTH. Leave all those BS spoken in Parliament, dissolve the Parliament and get the people to elect their own representatives. That is the only option for the President at this juncture.

  • 5
    0

    I wonder how the story relating to Shiranthi Rajapakse in the following link can be described:

    http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2015/06/07/fea02.asp

    How could the bank have entered the NIC numbers so wrongly? Is it in the realm of possibility or probability? How accurate is Shiranthi’s explanation in view of this revelation? Is the revelation itself wrong?

    Reading this article, I wonder whether we are over reacting to current issues and perceptions created by the news media. I can sense either deliberate mischief or bad journalism has gained a strangle hold on the media. Rumour,speculation and propaganda are being presented as news and thus facts. Contradictions are neither investigated nor unraveled. Some are nit-picking in their expectation that things would be perfect/ should be perfected, within four months, regardless of the nasty baggage this government expected. However, this government should try to be like Caesar’s wife- above suspicion and keep the people adequately and accurately informed of every action it takes. Much is wanting in this sphere! There should be a better cabinet spokesman than Rajitha Senaratne! Cabinet members should also not talk on behalf of their respective parties, in a coalition government.

    There is no doubt there were great expectations of the current government, given the 100-day program. Many targets were achieved,many were/are victims of the cold war in parliament, many others have been gutted by political chicanery and yet others are in limbo.

    The government had bitten more than it can chew and swallow, and is gagging in the process. However, the light of hope that has been lit, is shining bright and darkness has dissipated, across the island. This is the singular and spectacular achievement of this government.

    The minority government is no doubt in crisis. The president, who was elected by largely the UNP and the anti-Mahinda vote, gambled on expecting parliamentary support from the SLFP elements to carry out wide ranging constitutional and governance reforms. MR is behaving disgracefully, to the disgust of most people. MR is fermenting trouble.

    The president’s gamble seems to have failed. A deliberate attempt is afoot to also create a rift between the President and the PM, although they have worked admirably together as a team. Credit is being given to the President and the blame is apportioned to the PM. The PM seems to be disturbing the hornet’s nest and getting strung.

    The president should not be aligned with either the SLFP or the UPFA. He should be above party alignments during his only term in office and guide this country’s future in righteous manner. He has already brought the healing touch and touched the hearts of the people with his humility, equanimity and simplicity. These are his assets and they have to be brought into greater play. He personifies a stalk contrast to the ugly side of MR, we saw unfold.

    The issue involving the Central Bank governor is now under investigation by COPE and we have to await the outcome. It seems to be a very complicated issue and needs further professional investigation and judgement. If Arjuna Mahendran is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, he should go. However, he should not be made a scapegoat in the attempt to crucify Ranil Wickremasinghe. Vasudeva’s uncharacteristic P-word, exposed the unjustifiable animus against Ranil, as a person in the corridors of the SLFP and the UPFA. If Ranil is a pin- PM. why did MR call him soon after the presidential elections, to make arrangements for his safe-exit from Temple trees? Was he not called as the PM-in-waiting?

    The end, most times vicious, were taken to justify the means by the previous government. An attempt is now being made to make the means/ process also an important component to achieve desirable ends. This is a 180 degree turn. The rule of law and justice cannot be enthroned without the means/process to achieve an end- however admirable and desired- being scrupulously followed. This turn around is not going to be easy to achieve, considering the depths to which this country has been sunk.

    The removal of Mohan Pieris as CJ was an exception, warranted by circumstances. We have to be thankful that approach has not become the rule.

    Since electoral reform for the expected General Election has been ruled out, there is no need to pursue the 20th amendment in the present parliament. Let this parliament be dissolved now and new elections held. Let us hope and even pray that we will elect a new parliament with new faces and better persons.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 2
    0

    I wonder how the story relating to Shiranthi Rajapakse in the following link can be described:

    http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2015/06/07/fea02.asp

    How could the bank have entered the NIC numbers so wrongly? Is it in the realm of possibility or probability? How accurate is Shiranthi’s explanation in view of this revelation? Is the revelation itself wrong?

    Reading this article, I wonder whether we are over reacting to current issues and perceptions created by the news media. I can sense either deliberate mischief or bad journalism has gained a strangle hold on the media. Rumour,speculation and propaganda are being presented as news and thus facts. Contradictions are neither investigated nor unraveled. Some are nit-picking in their expectation that things would be perfect/ should be perfected, within four months, regardless of the nasty baggage this government expected. However, this government should try to be like Caesar’s wife- above suspicion and keep the people adequately and accurately informed of every action it takes. Much is wanting in this sphere! There should be a better cabinet spokesman than Rajitha Senaratne! Cabinet members should also not talk on behalf of their respective parties, in a coalition government.

    There is no doubt there were great expectations of the current government, given the 100-day program. Many targets were achieved,many were/are victims of the cold war in parliament, many others have been gutted by political chicanery and yet others are in limbo.

    The government had bitten more than it can chew and swallow, and is gagging in the process. It was a dream. a vision, that was difficult to achieve given the time frame. It is not wrong to pursue a dream or vision. However, the light of hope that has been lit, is shining bright and darkness has dissipated, across the island. This is the singular and spectacular achievement of this government.

    The minority government is no doubt in crisis. The president, who was elected by largely the UNP and the anti-Mahinda vote, gambled on expecting parliamentary support from the SLFP elements to carry out wide ranging constitutional and governance reforms. MR is behaving disgracefully, to the disgust of most people. MR is fermenting trouble.

    The president’s gamble seems to have failed. A deliberate attempt is afoot to also create a rift between the President and the PM, although they have worked admirably together as a team. Credit is being given to the President and the blame is apportioned to the PM. The PM seems to be disturbing the hornet’s nest and getting strung.

    The president should not be aligned with either the SLFP or the UPFA. He should be above party alignments during his only term in office and guide this country’s future in righteous manner. He has already brought the healing touch and touched the hearts of the people with his humility, equanimity and simplicity. These are his assets and they have to be brought into greater play. He personifies a stalk contrast to the ugly side of MR, we saw unfold.

    The issue involving the Central Bank governor is now under investigation by COPE and we have to await the outcome. It seems to be a very complicated issue and needs further professional investigation and judgement. If Arjuna Mahendran is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, he should go. However, he should not be made a scapegoat in the attempt to crucify Ranil Wickremasinghe. Vasudeva’s uncharacteristic P-word, exposed the unjustifiable animus against Ranil, as a person in the corridors of the SLFP and the UPFA. If Ranil is a pin- PM. why did MR call him soon after the presidential elections, to make arrangements for his safe-exit from Temple trees? Was he not called as the PM-in-waiting?

    The end, most times vicious, were taken to justify the means by the previous government. An attempt is now being made to make the means/ process also an important component to achieve desirable ends. This is a 180 degree turn. The rule of law and justice cannot be enthroned without the means/process to achieve an end- however admirable and desired- being scrupulously followed. This turn around is not going to be easy to achieve, considering the depths to which this country has been sunk.

    The removal of Mohan Pieris as CJ was an exception, warranted by circumstances. We have to be thankful that approach has not become the rule.

    Since electoral reform for the expected General Election has been ruled out, there is no need to pursue the 20th amendment in the present parliament. Let this parliament be dissolved now and new elections held. Let us hope and even pray that we will elect a new parliament with new faces and better persons.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 1
      1

      Apologies for the double entry. The prevailing climate is interfering with the internet service.

      Dr.RN

  • 4
    0

    I do not want the Rajapaksa back in power ! He screwed it up for all Sri Lankans. That is no brainer to understand. People like Gammanppillai and Vasu the foulmouth say that nothing is proved yet. They are the very same people who are trying to prevent the proof by staging protests all over including the parliament. But just wait until all the evidence is are collected. Then they will see stars! If you look at the list of people supporting MR, they are somehow connected with the corruption of the previous government. Unfortunately these people are misleading the village voter and there is a large number who are still not convinced that MR was the biggest crook of them all.
    Sirisena is a gentleman and is not a weak man as the MR gang tries to portray him. He is NOT manipulated by Ranil. Rather, he needs Ranil to implement the good governance he wants to implement because of the 2/3rd majority required and the willingness of Ranil.
    I believe the 20A is also going to be diluted like 19.That is a shame! But the culprits are still the MR gang operating withing the government! Sirisena thinks something is better than nothing. Under the circumsatances I think he is correct.

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