15 August, 2020

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Ranil Wickremesinghe – The Cause Of The Debacle

By A. Sivapathasundaram

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!!

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    An articulate and incisive assessment of the situation today.

  • 4
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    MR AS
    You have succinctly written the current political situation and the plight of the minorities , especially the Tamils, in SL. You have rightfully called it a debacle and more importantly pointed the finger at the right person, namely the impotent Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe, for the current situation. The minorities are only about 15-20 percent of the population and hence cannot do much to bring about any real change in the government. It is only the majority community that can effectively bring about any changes. So if the minorities want any of their grievances addressed and remedied they must somehow get the majority community involved. As you have rightly written the current crop of minority politicians are selfish and/or competent to go about how to get the majority community to understand the real plight of the minorities and try to work with them to address these issues. AS you seems to understand the issues, may I request you try to get like minded people, like you, to form a new alliance ( party or whatever) and try to remedy . So that all people of Srilanka can live with equality, dignity and peace. May God help you and the country.

    • 0
      0

      Umberto,

      Tamils already have myriad parties and factions; they don’t need a new one with Mr. AS. Instead, people like AS, if they are still in SL, should join the party that is the least problematic, and then try to change it from within.

      I think despite criticism, the TNA will still be the party that most Tamils will vote for.
      So Mr. AS and others like him can work with that party to change it. I don’t know why Sampanthan couldn’t find a replacement for himself for Trinco. He was already old in 2015, and he had time cultivate younger leaders. It is time for him to step down.

    • 0
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      Dear Umberto

      Can I join too? but AS said in his last article slaying of my Father by the TULF henchmen may have affected my mind a bit?

      Anyhow I am glad there is a new guy on the block as the culprit Hon Ranil………investigative journalism at its best.

      You also said something about the God bless correct?.

      Thats it the next scapegoat will be the ‘God’ for all what a FP/ITAK/TULF/TNA MP can not or could not do for his or her electorate for the last 70 years??.Be careful what you wish for la?

  • 1
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    A “CAUSE”? NO. He was and is a “CURSE”.

  • 1
    2

    Ra-blue+Separatist Malabar Vellala Tamil politicians+Muslim politicians who sleep with Wahabi extremists are the CAUSE as well as the CURSE.

  • 0
    0

    Mr A.Sivapathasundaram,

    Thanks for a well-articulated article, however unfortunately, you concluded in a very pessimistic note.

    Look ahead with an open mind.

    Every tragedy opens an opportunity. On the short run, we may see a massive victory for our opponents, but it is only a short-term victory.

    This victory has the seeds of its own destruction. In a matter of a few months, everything will get overturned and new vistas open and we must be ready to capture such opportunities.

    Fascism should be fought foot and nail.

    Majority of Tamils, Muslims, Upcountry Tamils and Sinhala Christians could coalesce with minority of progressive Sinhala Buddhists and with the downtrodden and form a new majority.

    The forthcoming authoritarian regime both inside and outside Parliament could be faced successfully and in the process of this struggle a common implementable democratic inclusive minority and poor friendly programmes and policies could emerge.

    Be an optimist!

    • 2
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      umberto & sirikrish,

      “Umberto” has suggested the possibility of like-minded people organising together, “so that all people of Sri Lanka can live with equality, dignity and peace”;

      And, sirikrish has rightly chided me and asked me: “To look ahead with an open mind” and “Be an optimistic”.

      In regard to the possibility suggested by umberto : That possibility was seriously and constantly contemplated; and without being misconstrued as ‘sermonising’ or being ‘simplistic’, or even ‘utopian’ the unfortunate situation is that (1) “Politics” has now become a “profession” by itself. Any aspirant of any profession—be a doctor, engineer, accountant, or lawyer– just to name a few for only ease of understanding of what I attempt to say — needs particular qualifications, characteristics and aptitude to attain and succeed. Currently, especially nowadays, these requisites for the “profession of politics”, just to mention only a few, are: ability to lie, double-speak, hypocrisy, cheat, commit crimes without any compunction, greed, back-stab, and more importantly the capacity to appeal and stir the base instincts of fear, hatred, and enmity, instead of higher elements of equality, dignity, peace and humanity. If one doesn’t have these requisites then politics –which is necessary to have “power” to do “greater good”—then that necessary “power” is not attainable (2) It was felt that after at least the end of the protracted war that ended with destruction of the very fabric of the Tamil society and also the wretched dismissal and abandonment of the opportunities that came by and wide-spread militarisation, Tamils would have learnt –and so too the Sinhalese– some positive lessons or would come out better as a country after the “baptism of fire” that they have undergone –but no, it didn’t seem to have happened in any aspect. (3) In any country, it is history that at least some of the important and progressive forces emanate from the higher echelons of education –such as the universities. It was expected that, similarly, the change of course would emerge amongst the Tamils from the youth of the universities in the North & East. Unfortunately, the vociferous from there are reflective of the same worn out path leading to nowhere and quite content with the same emotive issues, patterns, approaches and strategies. (4) Even the small batch of those with progressive thoughts and mission are handicapped with their lack of knowledge both in English & Sinhalese –and more particularly Sinhalese– to establish relationship with the like-minded amongst the Sinhalese without which reconciliation, understanding and progress based on the nobler principles are not possible (4) Tons and tons of money are needed which is not easy to come by; the same rich that funded the war with the thought that Eelam is “around the “corner”, do either continue to carry the same baggage or are disillusioned not seeing any success in the immediate horizon or just content to engage in some small charity projects. This is only my perception as things are. I realise that I am pessimistically saying “The glass is half-empty”; and not being optimistic enough and instead be able to say “The glass is half full”.
      If, as kirish has articulated with positivity in his comment, the glass of whatever the amount of water is in there, which is now muddied and made undrinkable, can be purified and made to be mixed with some nectar and not more and more of poison—then it is the best than can happen to Sri Lanka. I can only see a flickering of light that comes and goes at the end of the dark and long tunnel (and sometimes even that flickering is forcibly extinguished), but cannot, as it is, see the light that would lead out of this dark and long tunnel. I very much wish I am proved wrong.

  • 0
    0

    The opening para, ‘In January 2015, millions of Sri Lankans were excited, elated, and euphoric over what happened in the political arena of Sri Lanka’, itself is pure fallacy.
    The excitement was for different reasons depending on who you talked to. It was not in a national sense in anyway.
    .
    From day one, the newly minted President Mathripala Sirisena, showed his colours! He elevated his brother Kumarasinghe Sirisena as the chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom — an appointment which the Colombo Telegraph itself called “controversial”.
    .
    What followed is controversy after controversy.
    .
    Come down to earth!

  • 2
    0

    Has not anybody considered the prospect of post-1994 UNP lost much of its support base, because of what happened during its 17 years of misrule?
    *
    Although the Ranil W leadership was given credit for peace negotiations, its success and failure were decided to a considerable degree by forces outside the control of the parties concerned.
    The UNP had the worst of both worlds by the collapse of the peace talks.
    *
    With the West and India choosing to work towards the defeat of the LTTE MR was well placed to play the role of ‘the man who defeated terrorism’.
    We saw how leading figures of the UNP joined MR’s government to support the war effort.
    Thus it was not just Ranil W or any other, but it was the UNP that lost its credibility for a whole host of reasons.
    *
    The people choose out of a group of very poor options, both in the South and in the North.
    I fear that we pin too much importance to personalities in this game.

  • 1
    0

    A well written analysis of recent events post- 2015.

    At a very early stage of RW taking over as Party Leader, Prof: Stanley Kalpage who had been with the UNP since the stewardship of Dudley and later JRJ, left the Party along with Sarath Amunagama and Wijeyapala Mendis frustrated with the leadership of RW.

    I believe, the final stage, the Twilight of RW, HAS JUST DAWNED. He claims that Sajith has betrayed the Party[ Interestingly, this is the same view of his political ally MaRa! ]
    In that case all the other UNP big wigs who have joined Sajith have also betrayed!
    Like Prof: Stanley Kalpage much earlier they all left in disgust at the style of RW.

    The political co-habitation of Sirisena and RW broke up largely due to their different class backgrounds .
    In the post August 2020 Election is it possible for the Sajith faction and the weak UNP faction of RW to co-habit?
    Unlikely. The fact remains that between MaRa and Sajith , RW prefers MaRa!

  • 2
    0

    Ranil is not an angel. He was a minister in JRJ’s cabinet when the Jaffna public library was burnt. He was also a minister in JRJ’s cabinet when the government organised rioting against the Tamil people.
    But Ranil is incompetent. That incompetence turned out to be a good thing for Sri Lanka. Ranil started peace talks with the Tigers, a brutal war machine. Tigers did not know how to handle peace. They were not set up for that. So the obvious happened. There was a split. A North-East split. Once Karuna, their most effective military commander and recruiter of child soldiers split, Tigers were finished.
    Thus Ranil, through his incompetence, won the war. But he is so incompetent, he does not even know this and does not claim credit for it.

    • 4
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      SAV,

      “Once Karuna, their most effective military commander and recruiter of child soldiers split, Tigers were finished.”

      Karuna controlled the East for the LTTE, and so the split seriously weakened the LTTE. But he was not the ‘most effective’ and they were by no means ‘finished.’ What finished them was their failure to recognize two things:
      1. The international community that became part of the peace process as co-chairs, was there for a reason, that they–and India– would support the GoSL’s all out effort to crush the LTTE if the latter broke the ceasefire and went back to war.
      2. The Karuna split had weakened them, and it would be foolish to make a frontal confrontation with the GoSL, now supported by world powers.

      In other words, the LTTE leadership had lost whatever sanity was left, embarking on a self-destructive quest toward what they termed as ‘iruthi por’ ( final war). A final war, by its very nature, would end either in a clear win, or a crushing defeat from which there is no escape. To give more credit to Karuna or RW than they are due, is to exaggerate , and deny that self-destructive wish.

      • 1
        1

        Agnos: OK agree, I cannot take away the glory for destruction from VP.

      • 1
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        Agnos,
        The events that lead to the collapse of LTTE are so complex that one is bound to err pinning down the exact cause of it.
        LTTE failed to stay abreast of a world redefining terrorism, particularly after 9/11.

        • 1
          1

          Do you suggest that they should have been fully obedient to the US and been its “Good Terrorists”?

          • 0
            1

            Dear SJ

            I just followed up the exchange of thoughts above by various commenters and still do not understand why we still do not conclude “One Nation One People Concept” that we should fight and die for not the other. I take the point (always) none of the parties are free from tribalism/ghetto politics……for me is always better of 2 evil meaning what would give the desired results the fastest…I think a 2/3 will fix this. Why the Minority Ghetto makers will not get on board to make a smooth transition from Ghetto politics to National politics even when they are invited by the other? why? Is a very simple solution where no one will loose face?

  • 1
    0

    Think we need to make tribute to all the Mother Lankan Children who perished be it from any Ghettos by what I mentioned earlier?? Shake hands (covid handshake) and sing the National anthem together once and for all as I am hoping GOSL will bring the National Anthem mixed in both language as all the schools will also have both languages available to children.

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