14 December, 2018

Blog

Ranil & Chandrika: The Government’s Shakiest Pillars

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was addressing a serious-minded audience when he made an utterly misleading pronouncement which would instantly have been seen through by those he was addressing. A Singapore datelined story said as follows:

‘Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says that Sri Lanka’s National Unity Government has come to stay and no future administration would scrap the concept…”Look at Germany. National Governments are shaky. But once established and taken root, it will not be scrapped, no matter who comes to power,” he said.’ (‘National Government has come to stay… no future administration will scrap it—PM’, Zacki Jabbar, Sunday Island, March 4th 2018) 

The PM had it wrong on all counts. What we have in Sri Lanka is not a National Government. And no, I’m not trying to crack the predictable joke that it is an anti-national government. While every national Government is a coalition government, not every coalition government is a national government. A National Government brings together the major parties in a country; usually the two major parties, cutting across the ideological divide. A National Government contains the country’s major Opposition party. The whole point of a National Government is a broad national consensus for policy coherence and crisis management.

In Sri Lanka even before the recent Local Government election, the major opposition in Parliament was and remains the one led by Mahinda Rajapaksa. Even if one discounts the non-SLFP parties, it has more SLFP MPs than are seated in Government. Furthermore as the recent election proves once again, Mahinda Rajapaksa commands a larger block of votes than any single party in this country. Any National Government must by definition include him and his JO, and if it doesn’t, it cannot credibly be called a National Government. It’s because the Sri Lankan Unity government is not sufficiently broad based, and fails to include the biggest shareholder in the Opposition and indeed in the country, that this Government lacks the undergirding consensus to carry out any serious reform agenda.      

So much for Mr. Wickremesinghe’s first point. The second one is also wrong. National Governments do not “take root” and remain, without “being scrapped whoever comes to power”. They are exceptional phenomena, which come into being in exceptional situations and exit the stage when that situation has been managed.

The third point is the one he didn’t make, but must have surely been on the mind of his Singaporean audience. Unlike in the National Government in Germany, in Sri Lanka it is delegitimized by a Prime Minister and leader of a constituent party, who was the political patron of a guy who is wanted by the Courts and is not turning up to face the music for a colossal Bond Scam while he was the head of the country’s Central Bank! That gives Sri Lanka’s an instability that no other National Government ever faced anywhere in the world. 

So much then for the PM’s punditry. Right now, he, his party, his government and the country’s economy are in serious trouble. He may survive the inner-party and intra-government crisis and remain as PM and leader of his party. But his survival will be at the cost of his party and the coherence of his coalition government. Even if he survives, or rather, especially if he survives, his party and the whole country have seen and heard on television, the argument that with him at the helm the UNP can never win. Therefore, the UNP is already demoralized. It will be almost impossible to mobilize the organization and the voters at any subsequent election. That condition of creeping paralysis and despondency can be attenuated only if the UNP has a brand new leader. Who that might be I cannot say, but the basic fact is that it has to be a new leader because any new leader will have more bounce than Ranil Wickremesinghe can get.

That’s as regards Mr. Wickremesinghe’s position as UNP leader. But what of his role as PM? If he remains, the relationship with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party will deteriorate further. The SLFP can easily project its electoral performance at the Provincial Council elections, not to mention the Presidential and Parliamentary, if it remains in a Government with Mr. Wickremesinghe as PM.  It will doubtless be more cooperative if it were not seen by its voters to be working with a PM who has a devastating effect on SLFP votes and is not even popular within his own party.

What of President Sirisena? In 2015 the UNP was an asset. Today, in 2018, it is a liability, unable to retain its share of the votes and responsible for the plummeting of its partner the President’s share. The incumbent is therefore trying to square the circle by finding a UNP leader and PM he can partner with, devoid of such toxicity—and that person sure isn’t Mr. Wickremesinghe.

Mr. Wickremesinghe has thus become the weakest link in the chain of the bi-partisan Yahapalanaya coalition government. Either he goes now, or Yahapalanaya sinks under or suffocates on its own contradictions and policy incoherence.       

The rearguard mounted by the Yahapalanaya ideologues and strategists is pathetically transparent: ‘Ranil, Chandrika and Mangala are trusted by the minorities; the combined minorities plus the UNP base vote can see Mr. Wickremesinghe, Mangala Samaraweera or President Sirisena through, albeit narrowly’. 

This scenario is laughable. Firstly, the UNP is in meltdown, as is the official SLFP, while the JO-SLPP has only a small gap to bridge, which it can do with a pan-Sinhala swing. Secondly, the situation is the exact opposite of 2015, from where this arithmetic derives. In 2015 Mahinda was defending his postwar model and lost narrowly. Yahapalana only had to capitalize on the cumulative disaffection. It was on the attack. Now Yahapalanaya is inevitably on the defensive because it is being judged on the basis of its performance as a government, and in relation to the performance of the Rajapaksa administration. In 2015 a zestful Yahapalana coalition riding on the coattails of the Arab Spring and Clintonian neoliberalism (though under an Obama administration), was attacking a somewhat exhausted postwar Mahinda Rajapaksa. Today, an energized populist camp, riding the planetary backlash against neoliberal globalism and elitist Establishments, is attacking an unpopular Yahapalana coalition.  That will not be reversed by late 2019.

Thus, no permutation or combination of Yahapalana forces can win the next election. However, a new permutation or combination can enable it to ride out the next 500 days—but only that.

If President Sirisena wishes to re-contest and/or the SLFP wishes to be in the next government, it cannot be in alliance with the UNP, and certainly not with Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP. Even if the UNP leadership changes, it is difficult to imagine a policy pivot as dramatic as to effect a turn-around in political fortunes and enable victory. Such things did happen once before though, when Ranasinghe Premadasa was the Presidential nominee in 1988, but there is no such anti-establishment rebel in UNP or SLFP ranks. Minus Ranil Wickremesinghe, the UNP can do reasonably well and be a strong Opposition or even a coalition partner. If President Sirisena wishes to be a viable candidate for a second term, it can only be with the endorsement and support of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda holds the effective veto.

Mr. Wickremesinghe is only one of the two crumbing pillars of the Yahapalana government. The other is his co-signatory to the 1997 Liam Fox Agreement, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. The colossal political liability she has become was empirically evidenced on her own home turf. Instead of staying above the fray, she insisted on being appointed the SLFP organizer for Attanagalla, her family’s pocket borough. As organizer, she is directly responsible for her party’s electoral performance in the area. She lost Attanagalla to the Rajapaksa’s new party. With a glint and a grin, Mahinda Rajapaksa permitted himself a rare on-camera gloat, saying that in the polling booth located closest to her residence, “Attanagala Kumari” (“the Princess of Attanagalla”) seemed to have secured only a few dozen votes!   

But this loss of home turf was only the most obvious signal of a completely collapsed strategy. Chandrika attempted two reckless moves: firstly to plug the SLFP in with the UNP, and secondly to evict the Rajapaksas from the SLFP and take it over, reducing President Sirisena to a Manmohan Singh figure. What she actually did was to partially reverse her father’s rupture with the UNP and sabotage his project. What she has achieved is nothing short of amazing: she blocked the functioning of the two-party system which her father inaugurated two decades before India, when as late as 1977, the appearance of the Janatha Party broke the dominance of the Congress. But the two-party system has now snapped back into place with the turbo-charged emergence of a populist party filling the void left by the SLFP. That populist party is not a third party as Vijaya’s and her admirable SLMP was; not even a second force; but has beaten both the SLFP and the UNP on its first outing—something that her father SWRD Bandaranaike failed to do on his SLFP’s first outing in 1952.

Chandrika’s most resplendent failure was in seeking to evict Mahinda from the SLFP, deprive him of the post of Leader of the Opposition and gifting it to her ally Mr. Sampanthan’s TNA. By vacating her father’s party from the political space he cleared in 1951, she has managed instead to gift Mahinda a brand new party in which he is no longer constrained as he would have been as SLFP leader. Mahinda’s new party either owes little to the Bandaranaike heritage, or it is proof that the Bandaranaike political legacy has accrued to the Rajapaksas without and against the surviving Bandaranaike offspring. The Pohottuwa can trace its lineage back to DA and DM Rajapaksa, and the greatest figure in its narrative will always be the war-winning president, Mahinda. So Mahinda now has his own, powerful, superbly performing political formation, which doubtless will be inherited by his brothers and sons. If the SLFP survives, it’ll have to be in the same relationship to the JO-SLPP that the Communist Party had to the LSSP after the mid-1960s—that of permanent junior partner. Having ineptly handed over her political patrimony to the Rajapaksas, all that’s left is for Chandrika to do is convert the SLFP headquarters (as well) into a boutique hotel.

If the SLFP has the slightest chance of revival it will be only if it can collaborate with UNP dissenters in promptly throwing out Ranil Wickremesinghe as UNP leader and PM and uniting with a more populist-oriented UNP in a new centrist bloc. But here too, it is Chandrika who is blocking that urgent rectification and compensatory outcome, by supporting Wickremesinghe’s continuation as UNP leader and PM, through her ‘Seven Dwarfs’ faction of SLFP parliamentarians.

The country cannot go forward with a government that is going around and around, chasing its own tail. The UNP is now at a crossroads. It can choose either the road that once led it out of a worse crisis—that of a policy pivot under a new, populist leader, as in late 1988, or take a harder line as in 1953 (Sir John Kotelawala) and was on the verge of doing in the late 1960s. In both of the latter cases, the present PM’s father was a key influencer. In the UNP administration of 1965-1970, besieged by Sinhala Buddhist nationalist agitation (January 8th 1966), university student unrest and strikes by labor unions, the UNP cleaved into two factions. Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and development wizard Dr. Gamani Corea headed the liberal-welfarist wing, while JR Jayewardene and Esmond Wickremesinghe argued for a tougher, more authoritarian line and a less welfarist, free market economic policy.

The Opposition press was filled with apprehension of a rightwing power grab from within, strategized by Esmond Wickremesinghe, against the liberal-welfarist Prime Minister. Young Rohana Wijeweera urged his fledgling party to collect weapons, on the grounds that the Hard Right of the UNP would not permit the holding of General Elections. He proved to be wrong, but it was close. Were it not for Prime Minister Senanayake’s resistance, Sri Lanka may have become a second South Vietnam. Today, with the move to induct Field Marshal Fonseka as the Minister of Law and Order, in charge of the 40,000 strong para-military STF– a step that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had canvassed in five letters to President Sirisena– it looks like the PM is back to his father’s proposed pivot to the authoritarian Right in the late 1960s, while President Sirisena plays the liberal-welfarist role of Prime Minister Senanayake. If things continue as they are, Sri Lanka will go off the rails before it is brought back onto them late next year. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 8
    5

    Who says this ? Again, number one rabblerouser but Rajapakshe apologist Dayan Jayathilaka.

    • 6
      8

      Samson, Have you read the article before posting your stupid comment. Dayan has a proven track record of predicting SL political events accurately and you should pay attention. After all, Runil PUKA will be gone by the end of the week.

      • 2
        0

        Maname Simon ~ “………..Dayan has a proven track record of predicting SL political events…………….”.
        In mid-thirties German political analysts did point out the rise and rise of the Nazis.

  • 7
    1

    From their behaviour, it is evident that He, Him and Her have no plans to leave and intend to stay put regardless of what happens on the electoral landscape. From the historical outline Dayan has presented, an authoritarian and anti-democratic continuation of rule will result in a 71 or 89 type insurrection in the heartland.

  • 3
    1

    From their behaviour, it is evident that He, Him and Her have no plans to leave and intend to stay put regardless of what happens on the electoral landscape. From the historical outline Dayan has presented, an authoritarian and anti-democratic continuation of rule will result in a 71 or 89 type insurrection in the heartland.

  • 5
    4

    What the hell exactly are in the minds of Ranil and CBK have to be pricked out and analyzed very carefully.
    *
    They have read and studied the usual Western experimental concepts of things like Zeitgeist and New Oder of Scientific and Orwellian nonsense kinds of things, and feel need to let Sri Lanka become the experiment for a New World Order of their making. They will hand us over to the Indian experiment!
    *
    In no way are they taking account of the obvious results of the LG elections. They are not brave enough to face the reality of the Sinhalese people, and feel more fulfilled if the Sinhala race is punished for what they feel is stupidity and laziness vis-à-vis they feel are the more robust Indians. They cannot analyze history and see it through critical and intelligible eyes. Overarching personal and vindictive ambition is their aim.
    *
    Say hello to socialized wealth of the Lankan rich, recreational drugs, robots, privatized health-care, and the partition into thirds, where the Sinhalese will get the insignificant 1/3rd.
    *
    To combat the monetary imbalance between city and rural, the mass will have to work their lives away in the Middle-East and Singapore, to build themselves tenement housing on what used to be our sacred forests and farmlands. Health care will have be dependent upon the 1% rich to provide charitable donations.
    *
    Indian dancing will be the norm after marijuana intake. Oh, and the 2nd amendment will include the right for Sri Lankans to own guns!

  • 6
    6

    DJ, specially the last para is really an interesting analytical piece. I hope every single citizen including Prez Sirisena should understand the gravity of appointing SF to any position with military/para military authority.

  • 3
    1

    DJ: I heard RP said the same story but it did not wowrk. what is that. right now all the Tax burdon is with poor people and the rich business class, VIPs – Politicians are asking for more hndouts. I heard people were given Fertilizer – sahanadhara. but, the fertilizer far expensive in the market.

  • 2
    0

    The problem MAithripala Sirisena facing is that ORUMOTHTHA GOVT structure can not be changed as the JACKAL Opposition did their best to sabotage the govt. JO is thieves plus bakrupt Socialists. I think they are broken into two pieces and the party needs anandasangaree with them who is another eternal loser who survivies because of NAtional LISt. Now, a LTTE MP MAvaisenathiraja is also in the same group and he says, I ws not LTTE and I alsowant to be a member of politician thieves. CBK wants her son, probably both the daughter and the son,, I heard there are other concerns, to be part of the parliament. PArticularly, IF CBK comes to the parliament, in not ime she may sit on a wheel chair given her seat to the son. Only daughtr needs to consider her options..

  • 1
    0

    Ranil is supported by MODI. HE tried to build connections with USA that has not worked to his advantage as he is not one like Castro or dutertae. At present, the LEast corrupt Maithripala Sirisena has to manoever around both the Mahinda Rajapakse who is trying to negotiate with some one else inthe future (MR is very samrt) and Ranil who is trying to survivie at the expense of the party. I think he was thinking about foling the voters to and delay the elections by creating something. ORUMITHTHA NADU was a JOKe. So will be the ORUMITHTHA GOVT. Ranil, On the advice of some western govgt who likes a port here, Ranil was trying to fool Tamils Only with the name. It has not worked yet.

  • 8
    3

    Dayan is right for once.

    It is Ranil and Chandrika who shake Dayan to his bones!

  • 1
    0

    what is the worse badge :

    governments(presumably steady govt)-shakiest pillars
    or
    “pillars of a shaky government”

    Dayan please explain

  • 1
    1

    Thero is twisting the history. Without Chandrika New King is only nincompoop. If Ranil is not the party Chairman, there will be no Common Candidate. No New King anymore president. Especially with Sajit, he will stand for EP, if he is party Chairman. If Old Royals not standing to EP it is unavoidable of splitting Old Royals support. People voted in LG for Slap Party hoping he will rule in future, not his walking stick or even his coattail. They are ignorant of the real unfortunate, tragic situation of Old Royals. So they are bound to look for another choice if they are not standing for EP. On the other hand, if they want Old Royals, they want to abandon New King. It is a dump argument, that they want to sump New King to bring back whoever Old Royals endorse, but it is New King. They have already left down Old King once. If they want him they bring him, but why they want to bring the current inefficient president because just their past efficient president is telling? All what Thero is putting forward here is his servitude contract for Old Royal, but no real logic. If Old King endorsed, New King will not has minority votes either. But it is extremely unlikely Old Royals endorsing New King and they sit aide. They are now fearing of ICC. But that will not stop one of them running for EP. In all the prediction, unless New King begs from Ranil to extend his term to 2025, he is dead. If he wants to stay, constitutionally he has to handover the Executive status to PM. No excuse Ranil will take for that.

    Nothing can prevent Ranil bringing mixed representative system, the one he used to LGs before the next parliament election. That guarantees the National Unity governments existence.

  • 1
    1

    Say I am a current type Lankawe MP, then I will always want in government and never in opposition and I will vote for that when Ranil wants it. It will pass though the parliament whenever Ranil asks for it. That is what he told in Singapore. Imbecile Thero can’t get it. Thero should sit with somebody like Prof. Uyangoda who can give him some insight of 19A. He is confused now. Just keeping drumming old drum is not good enough. It says if you go for Unity government only you can go beyond 30 ministers. Further, it is unlikely that either Slap Party or SLFP getting (whatever the name they decide to stand in election finally) needed majority to form a government. In a row in three elections Old King’s devotees did not take the party beyond 44%. After this LGs ending up in lock head to have majority, they will not be able do anything they promised. It is nothing but Yahapalanaya’s tug of war is what going to be in LGs too. So, again disappointed Sinhala Buddhist, who customarily has been voting for opposition, is going to come back to UNP. If that’s all fails and Slap Party forms a government, then only we can see what kind of sanctions coming to Lankawe. We cannot predict that now. West will not easily tolerate Old Royal controlling the country anymore.

    Thero, who has been standing with Old Royal until now, is starting to sense the reality and switching Old King supporting New King for EP. Let say couple of things in Thero’s favor. 1). Old Royals remain outside until next election. 2). Old Royals decide not run for EP. 3). Old Royals endorse New King. 4). New King wins the EP election. If that all happened, New King had bid for the devil and have won the tender.

  • 1
    1

    Remember, withdrawn OISL interim report has New Kings name on that. If New King comes to power under Old King’s shadow, then New King becomes the target of the West Old King will dodge the bullet. New King is shrewd so he will not take support of Old King and become the Sidney cartoon instead of Thero, who has been presently assigned to sit on the UN electric Chair on behalf of Old Royals.
    ” it has more SLFP MPs than are seated in Government.” Who or what is a/ the Party?
    1). Chairman of the Party?
    2). Party Constitution?
    3). Party MPs?
    4). Party members and supporters?
    5).Party policies and objectives?
    7).Party Majority MPs?
    8). Party dissidents?
    If the dissidents are the Party is correct, then isn’t UNP is already merged in SLFP from 2010? In any arguments dissents are dissidents and they are traitors of the party. They are not the party. Party’s National Unity contract is not legally affected by dissident members while they are within the party.
    The Joint Comedy War Crime Heroes has been told by speaker, Karu that if they want the OPL post, they have to sit in the opposition chair resigning from the ruling party. Let’s give again a benefit to Thero. Let’s us say they are not scared of West to sit in the Opposition but only worried about losing the pension by resigning their MPs post. Is Thero arguing Ranjan Ramanake who is not taking any pay is the real hero than these war heroes who are scared to get out of SLFP and save the country from UNP taking it to disaster because of their pension? First put a real reason to voters why after so many time Karu refused to give them OPL position because of they are in the ruling party, still they are not ready to leave SLFP? Thero is a blind debater.

  • 3
    1

    Dayan is one of the worst ambassadors the country has ever produced

    • 1
      1

      Sinha Levers
      The country has produced some bad Lankans. Who is the baddest?

  • 3
    2

    Machan Dayan,
    Fantastic example of being a piece of neutral journalism!

    Take Ranil to cleaners on his punditry when he makes a political statement, but sing hosannah when the racist Rajapaksa Maha Horu try to cheat everyone more specifically the rural and make nonsensical statements about the country being betrayed to the west and go on killing anyone against them.
    Go and kiss Mahinda’s ass! Gemba

  • 0
    1

    Dayan is nit-picking on the word ‘National’.
    Where the hell was he when UNFGG was used in late 2014? Smarting over the sack?

  • 1
    0

    Dayan, you are not a journalist. Only a Mahinda stooge. Why not write your views on the current hatred towards Muslims? Jumbo

  • 1
    0

    Fonny +State of Emergency = Disaster

    Sadly, soon it may be the “morning after”

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.