By Amrit Muttukumaru –
From a realpolitik perspective although the defeat of the no confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is not electorally significant, it has the POTENTIAL to turn things around for the beleaguered UNP, its leader and the country if there is GENUINE course correction to implement what was promised in the run-up to the 8 January 2015 presidential election.
Whether due to strategy unleashed by the Mahinda Rajapaksa led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) or fortuitously, the upshot is that RW remaining as PM and UNP leader prima facie further weakens the UNP vote base and strengthens the electoral prospects of MR. This is particularly so if it is business as usual with mere cosmetic changes in the UNP.
It is nothing short of tragic that RW who has the capacity to stand tall in a largely sea of mediocrity and corruption in the present day politics of Sri Lanka has been a major disappointment by his several acts of omission and commission which has now projected him as presiding over an inept and corrupt Yahapalana government these past three years. It was mainly the RW led UNP together with Maithripala Sirisena who were the beacon of hope that led to the 8 January 2015 watershed event for course correction after the traumatic Rajapaksa led years.
The UNP without REAL reforms to re-capture its once formidable vote base will not have a snowball’s chance in hell to succeed in an electoral contest with a MR led formation if it is business as usual. It is CRUCIAL inter alia to give its members at the grassroots a real say in decision making. This does not appear to be even on the radar!
Compared to the material NOW available in the UNP, Ranil is still its best bet IF only he has the guts and wisdom to undertake within a specific time frame inter alia the following:
1) Forthwith commence implementing credible time bound measures for democratic governance in the UNP which include giving members at the grassroots a real say in decision making. A template with suitable modifications could be based on the UK Conservative Party.
2) Getting rid from the party and government persons widely considered to be allegedly inept and tainted with corruption – particularly those in the ROYAL brigade and other CRONIES.
3) Forthwith come clean on those really responsible for and who facilitated the egregious bond scam and make those concerned truly accountable in the public domain.
4) Credibility quantify the real losses due to the bond scam and ensure the monies are paid to the consolidated fund.
5) Forthwith initiate credible time bound die process for alleged corruption and abuse of power widely perceived to have been perpetrated under the Rajapaksa and Yahapalanaya administrations. Merely cherry-picking on the Rajapaksa years will be counterproductive. It is CRUCIAL for the democratic governance of Sri Lanka to have a strong, principled and accountable UNP and SLFP/SLPP.
6) Forthwith initiate time bound constitutional measures to ensure equality to all citizens devoid of any implicit or explicit discrimination.
7) Zero tolerance of hate speech by all entities including individuals and media particularly on ethnic, religious, language grounds and hold those concerned guilty after due process liable for jail terms and fines.
8) Initiate time bound constitutional reforms for good governance in a transparent manner subject to public consultation. A long overdue reform is for a ‘Constitutional Council’ driven solely by none-political members appointed through a transparent process.
9) Not to ever again carry out grossly inappropriate measures such as removing the subjects of Central Bank and Securities and Exchange Commission from the purview of the Finance ministry and lumping Higher Education and Highways in one ministry.
10) Meritocracy to be the only benchmark for public office and doing away with multiple responsibilities for any individual. An example is the farce of one individual currently holding the position of (i) Senior Adviser to the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media (ii) Chairman, Insurance Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (iii) Board Director, SriLankan Airlines (iv) Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM). Until recently he was Chairman of the beleaguered EAP Group of Companies.
Alleged Rajapaksa Corruption
The Yahapalana government has only itself to blame for keeping the door wide open to give the Rajapaksas another shot at leading this country prior to any credible investigation of allegations of egregious corruption, violence and abuse of power hurled in the run-up to the January and August 2015 Presidential and General Elections respectively.
A sampling of this is the strident press conference of 17 December 2014 where influential ministers close to PM Wickremesinghe – Dr Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickramaratne with a slew of FILES in tow made reference inter alia to casino, drug, ethanol mafias and money laundering in locations such as St. Nevis & Kitts, Seychelles and Dubai. After assuming office all concerned are maintaining radio silence.
Here is the link to the 17 December 2014 press conference (watch from 10:41 onwards)
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has over the years reneged with impunity on many promises for the democratic governance of the United National Party. It will be detrimental for the governance of the country if there is a repetition. As stated earlier a strong, principled and accountable UNP and SLFP/SLPP are crucial for the country.
To demonstrate his BONA FIDES will the PM forthwith:
1) Publicly apologize to the 6.2 million voters who were duped by reneging on the promises given in the run-up to the 8 January 2015 presidential elections?
2) Initiate TRANSPARENT measures to bring Arjuna Mahendran to Sri Lanka to face due process for his role in the Bond Scam which will include communicating with Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong? RW has a moral OBLIGATION to do so since he has consistently defended him no matter what at every turn.
3) Ensure that the Central Bank of Sri Lanka initiates a transparent investigation into alleged instances of blatant tax evasion and money laundering identified by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the issuance of Treasury Bonds? This is in the context of the European Union designating Sri Lanka as a ‘high risk country for money laundering’ subsequent to the ‘Financial Action Task Force’ (FATF) placing the country on its ‘grey list’.