19 June, 2024

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Presidential Ambition & Abolition Betrayal

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

President Wickremesinghe is finally, and not surprisingly, making it look official, that he will be a candidate at the next presidential election. Every prospect would seem to lean in his favour, but even the best laid presidential plans could still go awry. The more important question is what would be left of the country after Ranil Wickremesinghe finally fulfills his grand desire to be, and gets to be, an elected president. Going euphoric about Ranil’s clever maneuvering, everyone is forgetting the first casualty of his latest maneuvers. And that is the unceremonious abandonment of his once grand commitment to abolish the executive presidency. None has been so grand on that commitment as Ranil Wickremesinghe. The betrayal is equally massive in proportion.  

Ranil Wickremesinghe

It gets worse. While abandoning abolishment with his opportunistic left hand (that he no longer needs), Ranil Wickremesinghe is aggrandizing presidential powers with his authentic right hand that is now out of the pocket. He is surpassing JR Jayewardene in laws and gazettes and cabinet decisions. JR ran a cabinet with the resignation letters of his Ministers as MPs in his two pockets. Ranil has a cabinet whose ministers depend on Ranil to continue the lifestyle that they have gotten used to at the people’s expense and on national debt. The cabinet in its wisdom has declared Galle Face out of bounds for virtually everything other than your constitutional walk and religious activities. 

And the President, after declaring several state services, especially health and transport, emergency services, is now declaring war on teachers. Go mark the A’Level exams, or you will be prosecuted, and your property will be confiscated. A draconian threat in the name of protecting the education of children. The teachers are in a pickle because the President’s position may find support among the people most of whom are parents. Yet, it is a bit rich coming from a man who was part of the government (after 1977) that gutted the country’s educational system by giving licenses to mushrooming private schools. Still, that is no reason for teachers to hold students as hostages. 

The President is reaping the benefit of a national fatigue over protests. And the protesting trade unions are not able to link their sectarian demands to the broader problems of the people. Many unions, especially those in the energy sector, have lost their credibility as workers or professionals, and have earned a reputation for corruption and entrenchment. They are incapable of formulating economic demands in political terms. That used to be the case  before 1977 and before the abortive general strike of 1980. In many ways, the country has drifted to a similar moment of contest and consequence, not choice, as in 1980. The parameters of the contest are very different, and so will be the consequences. The paramount question is who will prevail.  

Ranil’s Maneuvering

After 1977 and after 1980, despite JRJ’s enormous power there was a counterpoint to the government. The opposition parties were divided and in disarray, but they did provide an alternative terrain for political mobilization. The funny thing now is that even though Ranil Wickremesinghe may not win a popularity contest, he is now poised to be more viable as a presidential candidate than he has ever been. Come to think of it, you cannot think of an equally viable opposing candidate to run against Ranil Wickremesinghe in the next presidential election. Sajith Premadasa has neither the fire in his belly to inspire his followers, nor the candle under his posterior to be an effective nuisance to Ranil Wickremesinghe. The general supposition is that he would strike a deal to be Ranil’s PM. Not quite like father like son, but enough to make a deal.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake is the only other real contender, and now he has more than mere name recognition. But he could be the victim of his sudden rise in popularity, a case of peaking prematurely with no time for consolidation. If the local government elections had been held in March or April as previously scheduled, the NPP would have had the opportunity to prove its mettle and consolidate its success. It could have built on that success for the parliamentary election and then for the presidential election. Not anymore. The NPP is the only party left that still has the abolishing of the presidency on its platform. Even that may not have any traction now. 

Now with the LG elections indefinitely postponed, and the presidential maneuvering to advance the next presidential election, the NPP too is in a kind of political pickle. Many NPPers think that the LG elections were deliberately stalled to prevent the NPP from establishing itself as an independent electoral force. There is some truth to this, but what is unfortunate is that the NPP did not prepare itself for this stalemate situation in which it is losing all the momentum while President is making all the advances. 

The fly in the constitutional ointment for the President is the timing of the next presidential election. The clear constitutional position is that as an unelected successor to an elected President, Ranil Wickremesinghe will have to serve out the full term of his predecessor. Therefore, he cannot exercise the power of an elected President to call for an early election during his first term. But nothing is so black and white in the political space of Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

Planted news stories are heralding a presidential election early next year. Rumours are being floated that there is legal opinion supporting the President to interpret the constitution self-servingly and call an early election. So, the Supreme Court will be called upon again to provide its ruling in support of an early presidential election. And that after summarily disregarding the same Court’s recent directive to provide resources for the LG election to go ahead as announced.          

The proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill is one area where the President is being exposed in all his contradictions. The bill is under attack, and for very good reasons, by everyone who supported him and his Yahapalana initiative. But he has new acolytes to do his bidding, and one of them, his Minister of Justice, is going around saying that the current bill was drafted quite a while ago and it is not at all intended as a response to last year’s Aragalaya. Really? Then why not send it back to the drafting table? 

The President is also playing his reconciliation trump card quite brilliantly to divide and weaken the opposition to the Terrorism Bill. It requires some effort of moral contortion to simultaneously pursue the enactment of the currently proposed Terrorism Bill, on the one hand, and the setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to review past violations of human rights, on the other. Even the UNHRC in Geneva will be in a real pickle, picking between the two initiatives that the government is pursuing at the same time. But welcome to the world of contortions of Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

He has already pulled off a a masterstroke on the petroleum front. He has created a veritable new Quad for bringing petroleum products to Sri Lanka, by lining up India, China, Australia and America for supplying and distributing petroleum products in Sri Lanka. There are many uknowns and many problems with the new arrangement. But what it has done masterfully is to find a way to downsize and diminish the Petroleum Corporation without the dreaded remedy of privatization and neutralizing labour protests against it. Just as the President is isolating and weakening everyone who might disagree with him. 

In the old days, the LSSP used to mock Felix Dias Bandaranaike, in characteristic Trotskyite jargon, as JR Jayewardene’s epigone. The truth, and the irony of it, is that Felix Dias was a political goner by the time JRJ came around to stage his swan song. JR Jayewardene did not leave room for any epigone. He outlived every one of his original contemporaries and had an extended last word even as he dutifully honoured the last journeys of his fallen friends and foes. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was a circumstantial late addition and JRJ unchivalrously took her out of the political contest. Seeing all this in perspective the question now is whether Ranil Wickremesinghe is having his swan song and his last word the way JRJ had it 45 years ago? Is he now JRJ’s real epigone? The truth is, Ranil is being cleverer than Felix, and he is more than an epigone to JR.   

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Latest comments

  • 7
    15

    Thanks, Rajan Philips, for yet another sane and balanced article.
    .
    I agree that Ranil Wickremasinghe has been maneuvering cleverly, and also that it seems as though the NPP led by AKD peaked their campaign too early. I know that the average citizen just wants to get on with his life and lacks the sagacity for long-term planning.
    .
    However, there is under-estimation of theNPP’s wisdom, led by a man who is remarkable for his honesty, wisdom, decency and lack of obsession with personal power. He also has remarkable powers of oratory, although it is unfortunately true that it is only in one language. However, his other attributes seem to be making up for that. It is not a one man show, but I agree with you that if he is taken out of the equation – assassinations are not impossible, but will also have consequences. – the results could be disastrous
    .
    When these comments get displayed I know that there will be a plethora of red thumbs instantly let loose by waiting lackeys who now know what euphoric, yet valid assessments to expect from me, Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V).

    • 6
      2

      ‘a man who is remarkable for his honesty, wisdom, decency and lack of obsession with personal power.’
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1987%E2%80%931989_JVP_insurrection#/media/File:JVPInsurgency_Montage.png

      • 1
        5

        The man whom I have spoken about is Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
        .
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anura_Kumara_Dissanayaka
        .
        He is so well known that I thought it ridiculous to name him. “Svenson” has given us a link to events which really happened, but which I think are irrelevant because by the time they were over, he was only 21 years old, and he had nothing to do with them.
        .
        Given the overall situation in the country, why not make at least an attempt to show that my praise for him, and for the present National People’s Power, of which the most significant component is indeed the JVP, falls short of the claims that I make for it?
        .
        What boring comments we’re all writing. Why? The truth is so clear, that it has already been identified. We’re just beating about the bush,
        .
        Panini Edirsinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 4833111444V)

        .

      • 3
        0

        It was questioned that the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna apologized for the extra-judicial killings that were deliberately carried out throughout the island in 1989-1992. I lost my friends that day. These savages will never learn to be civilized.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WttUEUlIPmA
        .
        Katakara Wasantha Samarasinghe’s answer – “We will not accept our failure”: it means they will continue to be barbarians.
        :
        Can anyone with any knowledge ever guess that JVP will compromise with anyone?

        So how can you trust the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna? I respect NPP but never JVP. They are real murderers and rascals.

    • 6
      1

      Dear SM,
      .
      Part 1
      You repeat highly of his qualities but consider the “special situation of the Sri Lankan economy” today without paying attention to how he or a similar newcomer to international affairs could ever bring dollars into the country?

      Haven’t you heard that IMF did not give green light to Pakistan?
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRHF8wLNkPg

      Why are you blinded by accusations full of platform presentations of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna?

      Your thoughts may be kind and hearted, but in reality it comes across as childish several times as if it comes from a schizophrenic controlled by Kaliamma, who cannot see beyond. I have to think slowly that your psyche is close to that of Dhammika Bandara….am I right?
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObJpXb4hXfQ

      tbc

      • 5
        0

        Part 2
        Nearly seven million stupid voters in this country believed in higher standards of Gotha that never possessed. It was amusing how the people chanted, speculating on high expectations from Gota’s dawn. Some challenged me from Colombo – that with Gotabaya’s presidency, I would have to change my attitude towards the Rajapaksa. Sadly, today they are all speechless in front of me. When they meet me in person in Colombo they look around late… can you imagine?
        .
        The Saubagya-dawn began with youth-led murals – unfortunately today those same youth are fleeing for jobs in the Middle East, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Romania and elsewhere.
        All this you and similar senior citizens knew but why mislead the same people again ??? why ????

        What happened to the people?

        Don’t you think you are exaggerating without knowing the inner workings of NPP (you yourself confessed it to the CT community, a few days ago) if you are not sure of anything, please stop misleading Sri Lankans. Enough is enough.

        tbc

        • 6
          0

          Part 3

          JVPs are good at accusing others as if they are clean. Other than that, what have they proved over the decades?
          At least they could have uplifted the agriculture of the rural farmers, but that too has not been achieved, but they refrain from answering critical types of questions repeatedly.
          Do you ever believe that the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna will win the hearts of the people at the grassroots level? I doubt.

          Isn’t Wimal Buruwanze, who broke away from the Janata Vimukthi Front, the same in terms of misleading ability?
          They are all heroes on the public stage, however once they power is on their hand, they have done nothing tangible.
          It was Wimal Weerawanse who played “drama role” of Mahinda Chinthanaya in twisting the mindset of the gulliable people.
          Btw, remember, LKY (Gota) and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad (Mahinda Rajapakshe) together in one government “How is that? All this was 3 years ago.
          :
          https://www.youtube.com/shorts/Vtj7OXM33jc

          Sinhala man your total ignorance does not make us wiser in CT. Why not you study JVP properly? Your stupid comments about Sr. Advocate Mr. Nagananda Kodithuvakku back then ended there and today he has been defeated again by his supporters.

    • 3
      0

      “He has already pulled off a a masterstroke on the petroleum front. He has created a veritable new Quad for bringing petroleum products … But what he has done masterfully is to find a way to downsize and diminish the Petroleum Corporation without the dreaded remedy of privatization and neutralizing labour protests against it. Just as the President is isolating and weakening everyone who might disagree with him. “
      True. The unions overplayed their hand. They made transparently duplicitous TV statements about heavy taxes when in reality the tax on an income of 100,000 is less than 10,000. It turned out that they had taken out loans of 70% of their salaries. The salaries themselves were so high because they had voted themselves 25% annual increments . The unions themselves are responsible for high production costs, which in turn enable Ranil to promise cheaper imported fuel. The wiser employees decided that having any job is better than no job.
      This is why I don’t trust the JVP. It creates chaos in industry and the universities, but puts AKD forward to lull the people. What was the JVP doing when politicians stuffed these places with supporters from their electorates?

  • 7
    0

    What is needed is a different way to get bright younger candidates elected to office to replace the present fuddy Duddy’s by introducing term and age limits to elected office and equal representation of both sexes in the parliament.
    The present set up only helps the culture of impunity which is the main cause of the present sad economic “situation”..

  • 1
    4

    So here is the thing, There has been a massive international conspiracy involving the island. We know for certain the islands history was distorted. Who is responsible though? A hypotheis is being developed here ->. https://youtu.be/XysBl70UBmQ The theory is that a group of atheistic individuals calling themselves the “free-masons” are pulling strings such that their agenda is spread acorss the planet. These include replacing religions with a new form of liberalism. They do not even like Catholism. This group was responsible for changing the island’s history. Then they made sure the island was continiously destabalised such that the truth was kept hidden. They used the Tamils initially. When that failed, they moved to the Moslems. After the LTTE, a wave of attacks were noted on Moslems. This was to create a rift between Moslems and others. They used the Moslems to attack Catholic churhes. Both the Tamils and Moslems used suicide bombings. The commonality stems from one source of indoctrination.

  • 0
    4

    “Climate Change” is currently on Freemason agenda (not sure how it happened)->
    https://www.lincolnshirefreemasons.org/carbon-footprint-we-aim-to-be-on-tiptoe-says-freemasonrys-governing-body/ . Eric Solheim is Ranil W. “International Climate Change Advisor”. Eric Solheim could be a Freemason.

    • 4
      5

      When you read the comments after reading the article you are left puzzled as to which article the commentators are writing about.

  • 3
    2

    “Going euphoric about Ranil’s clever maneuvering, everyone is forgetting the first casualty of his latest maneuvers. And that is the unceremonious abandonment of his once grand commitment to abolish the executive presidency.”
    It is not only Ranils’s clever maneuvering for his achieving the “elected Presidency”, it is also the need of the Western or USA’s ambititions to make this country as the military base for their security. We all know Rajapaksas are also clever in maneuring and they are waiting for their opportunity along with China’s ambititions to make this country as their military base. This is a continuous process going for past eight decades and China and West had always their agents to act towards their interest as long as they enjoy the benefits of power and Executive President is a gift for the agents. They will never ever get rid of this “Executive President” gift. There is nothing short for promises and they are also capable of creating situations favourable for people to forget these promises like the terrorists targetting Akurana Mosque.

  • 9
    2

    Ranil Wickremasinghe’s Critics as Rajan Phillips and others who contribute to CT, are relentlessly attacking RW for their obsessed views not willing to give the Devil his due. Come next year 2024 and once Ranil Wickremasinghe gets elected, much against the predictions of these individuals, they will have to eat Humble Pie.

    • 1
      6

      Yes, the Presidential Election can be held only towards the end of 2024. We’re willing to wait till then.
      .
      What we want is to see the Interim Caretaker President conducting the Local Government Elections right now. Already overdue, nominations in place, but other arrangements will need more than a month if commenced now.
      .
      If the Economy has improved, why can’t they be held?

    • 2
      1

      g.
      It’s not a case of giving the Devil it’s due.
      It is a case of getting rid of the fuddy-daddies out of politics and giving the chance to the bright younger generation to steer us along a better way and a fairer way.

    • 1
      2

      Criticism play an important role in democratic politics and critics do not normally criticise individuals personal character or personal life. Ranil may become President in 2024 as he came President recently. Winning elections or loosing elections does not mean that it is because of his talent. Gota and all Presidents and Prime Ministers during the past also promised many things including making paradise but in reality we only became bankgrupt. Ranil was an Prime Minister and Minister for many times since 1978 or before. It is not critics who make decisions.Critics have the right to tell the people, What did he do to stop the Bond scam and what did he do bring those responsible for Bond scam. What is the guarantee that Bond scam will happen again? He promised to find a Solution or implement 13th amendment in full before February 2023? Where is it now? What happened to the investigaton Easter Bomb attack that he promised to investigate? What happened to those who brought bankgruptcy to the country? What special knowledge experience, and skills Ranil has to bring debt free , corruption free, peaceful, developed country?
      .

  • 3
    2

    Lord Buddha said:

    “Ambition is like love, impatient both of delays and rivals.”.

    Rather than calling what we see in Sri Lanka today as Presidential Ambition, we should call it Ranil’s ambition. As Buddha said shown above, with his age getting up there with a “wale payai gode payai” age, and knowing well that the people not only rejected him but also his party at the last election, he feels he has nothing to lose. He does not care what the citizens of the country lose as they never voted for him. His ego is larger than him, he has the “walawwe hamu” mentality – I know everything and no one in SL knows more than me, is his downfall. He has his “UNP boys” around him saying yes sir no sir three bags full sir to boost his morale within the bubble he lives in. Most of the time I wonder how his wife feels about all this, she is a classy lady. He also thinks UNP should never be given to anyone other than a “walawwe hamu”. This is the reason he hates Sajith Premadasa. The future is not going to be different for him, once again he will be totally rejected by the voters of the country if he ever contests an election, while an election is questionable, with the Rajapakse crooks supporting him.

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