By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Strange things sometimes happen with canny drama. It was only two days ago- last Wednesday evening (20th November)-that I played the DVD of the Gandhi movie to educate my young grandson.
Just as India was about to get independence after the long Gandhi-led struggle Ali Jinnah, one of the leaders of the national struggle, expressed his decision to go for a separate Pakistan explaining that “Muslims cannot have the British removed in order to be ruled by Hindus.” Throughout the campaign for Indian independence the Muslim-Hindu mutual tension had been running like a hot high voltage wire in the sky. Jinnah’s statement broke Gandhi’s heart. Gandhi went up to Jinnah and assured the latter that he could be the first Prime Minister of India. This incident was cinematically represented as sheer statesmanship in the larger interests of India. In the eyes of viewers the stature of Gandhi soared high and high.
The dramatic happenings today in Sri Lanka seemed to me to resonate somewhat with the above scenario. The United National Party Working Committee, the single biggest party in the country, met to decide on a ‘common candidate.’ The party is just out of its remarkable performance at Uva and is consolidating itself in the country, having united dissident factions. Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had valiantly held the party together through unbelievably turbulent years of Rajapaksa dominance and manipulation, was developing considerable self-confidence as a leader. Yet, Ranil is someone with a sharp sense of strategy. He thinks far ahead. What does he do? He goes up to Maitripala Sirisena, the SLFP General Secretary, and offers him the position of common candidate thereby putting his own self- interests aside. He knows the country’s interests come first and that the abolition of the vicious Presidential Executive system is a sine qua non if Sri Lanka is to move forward. It is not possible to engage in any sane politics without bringing down the system. A faulty political system can ruin its players-whoever they may be and whatever background they may come from. Wider social situations born of political arrangments often make evil of good men and women. The Executive Presidential system must go and the parliamentary election system must go. We have seen how under the current incumbent the twin systems have been dangerously toxic to the body politic and how it seriously degraded the dignity of citizens. The cry for its eradication was been raised across the island.
Wickremesinghe’s move would ensure the defeat of the regime whereas had he gone it alone with his party that task would have been compromised badly paving the way for a “third term of madness”. Only a man with a vison, and a sense of honesty would do a thing like this. Maitripala, while addressing via Sirasa TV rightfully praised the UNP Leader. Maitripala has been an honest guy among a pack of rogues.
I stand vindicated in having thought that Ranil Wickremesinghe has been the most underrated political leader in Sri Lanka. In times of national crisis leaders must follow this example. The flag of hope now waves for Sri Lanka.