By A. Sivapathasundaram –
National Unity Government
In January 2015, millions of Sri Lankans were excited, elated, and euphoric over what happened in the political arena of Sri Lanka.
It was that month of that year, the most unexpected happened: – the defeat and the dramatic departure of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the then President of Sri Lanka , whom most thought at that juncture, as undefeatable and destined to be the President of Sri Lanka for many decades to come, possibly only to be replaced by his son, Namal Rajapaksa in course of time. That defeat, it was thought, was the end of the autocratic and familial rule of Rajapaksa family; the end of nepotism and the direct and indirect influence of cronies; the end of miscarriage of justice and trampling of democratic norms and institutions; the end of corruption of massive scales led by Rajapaksa and his family and his sycophants. An unassailable Mahinda Rajapaksa who crowned himself as the ‘King’ was unceremoniously sent home; and the end of his despotic rule was further sealed by the Parliamentary elections that followed wherein too he was rejected by the people from coming back to power.
There were also high expectations that all those who had amassed wealth by corrupt means during the Rajapaksa’s regime would soon be brought to justice.
The excitement, elation and euphoria were also because, for the first time ever in the Sri Lankan post-independence political history, two major parties, the UNP & the SLFP, who had alternated being at the helm of the ship of the government of Sri Lanka, came together to form a National Unity Government. Until then, it was always a case of one of these two parties chosen to come to power mostly and merely on the platform of condemning any positive actions taken by the other party to resolve the political aspirations of the ethnic minorities; and on the propaganda platform that, if not stopped, any concession to Tamils to meet their political aspirations will eventually lead to the division of the country.
Parallelly, the Tamil Parties too adopted the easy path of winning elections and become Members of Parliament representing the Tamil constituencies on the platform that, if not elected unitedly and show their strength in the Parliament, Sinhalese will overwhelm the very existence of the Tamils as a whole in Sri Lanka.
And so, there was high optimism and expectation by the progressive forces in Sri Lanka that the National Unity government have a golden opportunity for a bi-partisan approach, unhindered by short term and narrow political considerations and agenda; and once and for all to arrive at a reasonable and durable resolution of the political aspirations of the Tamils so that, having amicably settled it, all can contribute and work together in a United Sri Lanka.
Well, as we now know, it is a short-lived excitement, elation, and euphoria on all the above aspects. The prospects and opportunities that the National Unity government had were wasted and squandered. Of the major component parties of the National Unity government, SLFP has disintegrated, and so is the UNP. SLPP, the new the Party in the political landscape of Sri Lanka, led by those voted out and rejected just a few years back and sent packing home, is in the forefront and would, in all probability, be back in the helm of the affairs; and that too with the very person and forces, the same cronies and sycophants, intact and with the exclusive support of only the majority Sinhalese, in a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multicultural country that is Sri Lanka. And, worse, they ask not just a majority, but a two -thirds majority.
Cause of Debacle
There are many reasons for this. However, one major cause for this debacle, one could venture to say, is Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Soon after the installation of the National Unity Government, with Maithripala Sirisena as the President and Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, the latter brought in Arjuna Mahendran as the Governor of Central bank and brought about a major scandal and corruption. The allegation was illegitimately siphoning multimillion sums of money by what is subsequently termed as the “Bond Scam”. Ranil Wickremesinghe went out of the way to defend and protect the wrong-doers; and the common perception was that he is also a beneficiary from this massive scale of corruption and had allowed this with the intention of allowing his cronies to profit out of it at the expense of the country. That was the beginning of the disillusionment of the people.
Ranil Wickremesinghe followed this with many other blunders that were unbecoming of the hope and trust that the people had in the National Unity government. In trying to elevate his status and prestige in an easy way, he has always tried to place him in the forefront and above the President, Maithripala Sirisena, and thus undermining the status and prestige of the latter to his much discontent. — This was the beginning of the rupture in the cohabitation of the SLFP & UNP. He also continued to keep in his cabinet and as his close confidantes those who were tainted with allegations of corruption and abuses of power.
There was an intense desire by the people to bring the Rajapaksa family members to justice because of their involvement with large scale corruptions, killing of innocent people, murder of journalists and disappearances and white van abductions. But Ranil Wickremesinghe did not pursue the charges with the required vigour and acumen. He had calculated that, for his party, and more for himself, Mahinda Rajapaksa should be left free to roam about breaking the SLFP, which, according to his calculations, would strengthen his party and therefore make him to be in power for the rest of his life as the leader of the UNP and in power. It is also deduced that he would have struck a deal with Mahinda Rajapaksa, as he had done before when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power, that whatever may happen at any time, he would remain unharmed or unseated in any way by the political manipulations and manoeuvres of Mahinda Rajapaksa; and that his skin would be safe.
Ranil Wickremesinghe was clinging to his position as the leader of the UNP despite the fact that he had lost a number of elections at the national and local levels when he himself contested, or his Party contested with him as the leader. He could not lead his party to victory on his own. He has no charisma, no mass appeal, no public relations acumen as is required from a politician of that position. Under his leadership of over 25 years, UNP has lost close to 30 elections. Yet, he clings on to the leadership. He would go on record as the leader of a political party under whom his party lost so many elections and still able to cling to his position unashamedly or without being thrown out. That there is a section of the UNP supporters who think that he is still capable of turning the tide is incredible.
Moreover, Ranil Wickremesinghe did not genuinely want Sajith Premadasa to be elected as the President of Sri Lanka in the last Presidential elections. For, he had rightly calculated, if he wins the elections, that would be the end of his hold on UNP and his leadership of the party. He would like to be the President or Prime Minister if it is handed to him on his lap; as he knows on his own he cannot achieve any of this position and therefore he would be even quiet content to be the Leader of the Opposition, with its perks and prestige.
Despite the joining together of the SLFP and the UNP and much talked promises of a New Constitution for Sri Lanka which would provide a solution to the Tamils in a United Sri Lanka, all the deliberations, setting up of committees on that aspect too came to nought and a waste of money, time and effort.
On the Easter bombings, everyone acknowledges that there was international intelligence shared about its imminent occurrence. But those responsible decided to ignore them. One can only deduce that there are some powerful persons who wanted this carnage to happen so that Muslims can be “taught a lesson” and moreover, to use the carnage as an excuse to thwart the economic and social advancement of the Muslims. It also came as a bonus for those who were waiting in the wings to grab the power, which they did, by saying that the country needed a “strongman”. In this too, Ranil Wickremesinghe was inept or lazy or lethargic or plain stupid not to have his trusted people in the hierarchy of the intelligence services.
It is all these despicable commissions and omissions of Ranil Wickremesinghe that have been a major contributory factor in helping Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa to come back to power and that too on a very divisive Sinhala supremacy platform–a tragedy. The opposition infighting has played into Rajapaksa’s hands. Still, Ranil Wickremesinghe would like to cling to the post as the leader of UNP without any remorse or any acknowledgement of his personal responsibility in this debacle of a major proportion.
On the Tamils Side
On the Tamils side, the so-called leaders of “liberation movements”, who still carry the now outdated “Eelam” in the names of their parties –to mean a separate state as was intended in their initial formation– which itself is a deception. They have become power hungry and not genuinely interested in the real welfare and progress of the Tamil people nor are they prepared or inclined to make any sacrifices for it. They are quiet content to shout that “Tamils would not accept anything short of ‘self-determination’, ‘North-East merger’, and ‘Federal system’”, but they will not do anything by way of mobilising the people or intelligently negotiate and bring about understanding with the other politicians to win them over to support the legitimate demands of the Tamil people. They have two slogans : One, “Elect us unitedly because that is how we can show the Tamils are firm and steadfast in their demands” and the other, “International community understands our problem and they will help us to achieve our demands”. They, without any remorse, keep shifting the goal posts on the timeline for achieving the demands. What an outright delusion and deception foisted on the Tamil people! — And that a large section of the Tamils believes them and would vote them is a shame on their intelligence.
Of the newcomers – C.V. Wigneswaran & Sumanthiran – the former is an outright failure, unable to even properly govern the Northern Provincial Council; and the latter thinks he is the top of the intelligentsia among the Tamils and no one can match him with his proficiency in all the three languages—which indeed is an asset to him– with which he can easily converse with the Sinhala leaders while the others are just incapable of doing anything but only to restrict themselves narrowly to their ‘vote bank’ with no productive results whatsoever. He will wallow in this and conduct his affairs and moves and at the same time continue his lucrative law practice for his personal gains. Even if he wants to do something constructive, he will be thwarted by the vociferous voice of the emotional but unthinking and unpragmatic Tamil Diaspora.
And, the old hand R. Sampanthan: He is very old, ailing, weak and cannot even walk. In all his political career and despite having been elected numerous times as a representative of Tamils, and later as the leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), he has nothing to show as having done to ameliorate in anyway the degeneration and sufferings of the Tamils, let alone achievement of their political aspirations and rights. To expect even now, with the debilitated physical capacity that the advancing age has inevitably brought to him, to elect him as a person capable of energising and mobilising the Tamils to attain their political rights, is sheer absurdity.
There is an age limit for the practice of all professions, let alone the requirement of academic qualifications—but no, not for professional politicians! There is no such thing either as ‘voluntary retirement’ or ‘compulsory retirement’—and they continue, very cheatingly, all in the name of nothing but only the “desire to serve the people selflessly”!.—It is no different on the Sinhalese side too.
It is probable that TULF will be elected in majority by the Tamil constituency. The Tamils do not understand that the International communities do not work on “rights and wrongs” –they only work on the basis of their economic and geopolitical interests. The Tamils are made to succumb to the delusion and deception of international interference and support to gain their “self-determination’ that would result, reflected in a sure ‘merger of the North & East’ into a ‘Federal unit’, by merely electing to parliament those who shout hoarsely so.
Such is the situation of the current election scenario in Sri Lanka!
Cry! —My Beloved Country! —Cry!!