By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s brief honeymoon with his protégé / protector, Maithripala Sirisena, has come to an unexpected and abrupt end. They were indispensable to each other during the “100 days” which, of course, ran into six months, violating the mandate of January 8th, 2015. It was a symbiotic relationship in which the roles reversed between the two before and after the election. Before the presidential election of January 8th, 2015 Sirisena was dependent on Wickremesinghe. After the election Wickremesinghe was dependent on Sirisena to protect him and save him from a Parliamentary defeat.
Wickremesinghe was bloated with power as long as he had Sirisena in his pocket.. But this bubble burst on July 3 when Sirisena did to Wickremesinghe what he did to Mahinda Rajapakse : he dumped him. He brought back Mahinda Rajapaksa and gave him the electoral gift of a united SLFP. The reconciliation of the Sirisena-Mahinda factions within the SLFP is a prime necessity for the SLFP-Left–wing forces battling to regain and consolidate the historic achievements won at Nandikadal. This is what Wickremesinghe dreaded most. His dream run with Sirisena has ended in a nightmare.
Undoubtedly, this new development throws Wickremesinghe back to the doldrums in which he began. Losing Sirisena is like losing all his teeth : he has no bite. It was Sirisena’s illegitimate pen and not the legitimate majority in the Parliament that made Wickremesinghe the Prime Minister. With that appointment Sirisena paid back his debt to Wickremesinghe. But even with Sirisena’s backing, Wickremesinghe was leading a precarious existence as prime minister not knowing when he would be booted out by the SLFP majority. Sirisena protected him as much as he could purely out of gratitude for delivering the UNP votes to make him the president. But the political contract ended at the conclusion of 100 days. Sirisena’s promise / contract had no validity beyond 100 days. If one is to go by the power of mandates Sirisena got a “mandate” to make Wickremesinghe Prime Minister only for 100 days, though it ran into six months. In fairness to Sirisena it can be argued that he honored his word given to Wickremesinghe for the period of 100 days and there was no mandate beyond that to keep the SLFP divided for the UNP to win the election.
So it is inevitable that both should go their separate ways at the end of “100 days”. Wickremesinghe-CBK expectation was to keep it going beyond the 100-days with the sole intention of keeping Mahinda Rajapaksa out. It was on this high expectation that Wickremesinghe was boasting to “bury the Rakapakse3s”. He was also floating the fiction of running a National Government which had no takers. This was a ploy to rope in Sirisena-CBK and other minor parties to transform his illegitimate minority rule into a permanent majority, with him as the Prime Minister.
The twists and turns of politics at the top in the “100 days” was spinning out of control with no one in charge. President Sirisena who was in command of the majority of the Parliamentarians – mostly his party members – was in a quandary not knowing how to be with Wickremesinghe without abandoning his political base in the SLFP. It was a contradiction which he was trying to ignore, pretending that he need not worry about rising force of the Nugegoda Man.
Only he could resolve this contradiction. But he was hoping to re-enact the futile role of King Canute who failed to roll back the waves of the sea. When he finally realized that the rising waves were going to sweep the board, whether he likes it or not, he yielded to the inevitable. He joined Nugegoda Man and decided to bring back Mahinda into the fold. This was a crushing blow to Wickremesinghe and his kissing political cousin, Chandrika Kumaratunga. It marked the end of the “Revolution of the Soda Bottle” which never took off. It fizzled out in the bottle itself within the first weeks of January 8.
Sirisena-Wickremesinghe gang fancied that this was another “1956” – the landmark cultural revolution that defined the nation and its identity for the future generations. But no one takes them seriously. Though late, they have to concede that the next revolution began in Nugegoda and is on its way to storm the corrupt Bastilles of the Bond Market manipulated by the Central Bank and Financial Criminal Investigating Division – two of Wickremesinghe creations to keep him in power. In short, Wickremesinghe was dependent solely on CBK-Sirisena wing to divide the SLFP votes and give him the break that he needs desperately to win a majority in the coming election. But the unexpected volte-face of Sirisena to bring Mahinda Rajapaksa back has put an end to Wickremesinghe’s chances of surviving beyond the “100 days” plus.
Wickremesinghe, of course, contributed to his own downfall. With his usual arrogant attitude of a know-all pundit, far superior to his inferior underlings in the backbenchers, he went all out to prove that he is the maestro manager of macro and micro economics.He imported two of his two old “catchers” – Arjuna Mahendran from Singapore and R. Paskaralingam from UK – to run the economy. As subsequent events proved neither of them made a positive contribution to boost the economy, nor did they inspire new investors to come in droves to fill the national coffers. On the contrary, Wickremesinghe’s protégé, Mahendran, did the dirty and dragged the nation and the economy to the lowest depths. According to sources monitoring the economy growth has ceased with the economy is going down precipitously to critical levels.
The antics and blunders of Wickremesinghe made Sirisena look like a mindless puppet going along with the corrupt and incompetent UNPers. His vaunted Yahapalanaya was reduced by Wickremesinghe to another corrupt regime within 100 days. More than that, Wickremesinghe used the powers of the state to establish a fascist instrument of persecuting his political opponents. Neither Sirisena nor Wickremesinghe will ever be able to live down the crimes they committed with the sale of bonds through the Central Bank and the establishment of a persecution chamber, called the Financial Crimes Investigating Division, a.k.a, Fascist Centre for Indicting Dissidents. According to financial experts the people will have to pay for the stupidities of Wickremesinghe for the next thirty years. Arjuna Mahendran and Paskaraliingam will fly away on the eve of the coming election to their safe havens in Singapore and UK respectively. It is the taxpaying voters who will have to pay through their noses for the crimes committed by the Yahapalana-yakos who presided over the plunder of the nation’s economy.
The unbearable burden of scandals exploding under the UNP-led regime was embarrassing to Sirisena in particular because Wickremesinghe had betrayed the trust he placed in him so blindly. He gave Wickremesinghe all the powers he needed and in the end Sirisena was left holding the biggest scandal ever. Sirisena’s response was silence, pretending that he had created the promised “ideal society”, as stated in his manifesto. As stated earlier, his biggest blunder was in handing over power to Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga — two of the most incorrigible failures both at the political and economic levels. Their record confirms that together they could not even organize the preparation of simple dish of a pol sambol in the kitchen. Leaving aside their corrupt financial deals, their political failures (particularly CFA and P-TOMS) condemn them as the worst traitors since Don Juan Dharmapala handed over the nation to the Portuguese. Parliament should move jointly to pass the 21st Amendment to keep them out of national politics forever.
Wickremesinghe’s unredeemable failures were pushing President Sirisena into a Hamletian dilemma. Besides, the mounting public and party pressures were forcing him to choose between Wickremesinghe or Mahinda Rajapaksa. Much against his will he was pushed to accept Mahinda Rajapaksa back into the fold. This stunned Wickremesinghe who was hoping to piggy back on the Sinhala-Buddhist credentials of Sirisena. Without Sirisena to hold his hand, not all the other 49 minority political agents, including CIA, RAW and NGOs, can put this UNP Humpty-Dumpty together again.
Sirisena has, well and truly, put an end to the brief glory of Wickremesinghe. Sirisena’s decision to dump Wickremesinghe has given Mahinda Rajapakse that extra bit that is needed to bounce back with a reinvigorated vigour. The battle lines too have been redrawn to make field very clear. The new field is familiar territory to Mahinda Rajapaksa. At all times he was confident of taking Wickremesinghe head-on in this electoral arena. To Wickremesinghe this is his worst nightmare. He ran away from this straight contest in two successive Presidential elections – 1. 2010 by hiding behind Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka and 2. 2015 — Maithripala Sirisena. Whether he likes it or not he has to face him now in the coming parliamentary election. Had Sirisena refused to back Mahinda Rajapaksa and divided the SLFP it would have been a cake walk for Wickremesinghe. Now that Sirisena has given the blessings to Mahinda Rajapaksa, though reluctantly, Wickremesinghe will have to fall back on the usual suspects in the anti-national camps to fight for his life. He has now to fight without the nationalist oxygen given by Sirisena to save him the last time. .
It is also clear that the political alignments in the coming election will polarize the nation into two competing ethnic entities. The battle for parliamentary seats will be fought primarily in the Sinhala-Buddhist south. Power comes out of these seats in Sri Lanka. The most critical issue will be the threats to the national security. The main political objective of the Wickremesinghe-Kumaratunga combo has been and will be to take the nation back to either the CFA or P-TOMS. They will, of course, deny this and will not declare openly their aim to reverse the gains of Nandikadal. Now that Sirisena has tipped the scales in favour of Mahinda Rajapaksa both Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga will have to fight on the territory defined by the Nugegoda Man. The manifesto was declared at Nugegoda and the rising Nugegoda Man will be a decisive factor in the coming election. The solidification of the SLFP into one formidable bloc, together the “Bring Back Mahinda wave” sweeping the nation, can be considered as a force whose time has come.
It must also be noted that in backing Mahinda Rajapaksa wiser counsel has triumphed within the divided hierarchy of the SLFP. In siding with the pro-Mahinda wing of the SLFP, abandoning both Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Bandaranaike, Sirisena saved not only the SLFP but also himself. If he stuck to his earlier decision of not giving nomination to Mahinda Rajapakse he would have, no doubt, divided the SLFP into the Mahinda-wing and anti-national CBK wing – a faction that has no traction at the grass roots. Sirisena’s decision to back Mahinda Rajapaksa saved his standing among the numerically strong SLFPers who were with Mahinda Rajapaksa both in Parliament and in the electorate. Sirisena can now retire at the end of his first term, as promised, with his head held high knowing that he had done the right thing by the SLFP. The numerical realities in the Parliament and the electorate, driven by the rising Nugegoda Man, could not be ignored by any political realist either. Sirisena proved to be that realist who had acknowledged the forces gathering momentum outside the perimeters of his Presidential office. The power building beyond his presidential realms was far greater than all the powers he was holding. As realist he conceded to the forces that were beyond his control. That was inevitable.
Bringing back Mahinda Rajapaksa can be considered as the best move he had made to stabilize the nation floundering in a very confused state.. With this far-reaching decision Sirisena liberated himself from the UNP yoke and returned to his home base, surprising once again all those who expected him to stand by Wickremesinghe. Sirisena also wiped out all speculations, resisted all pressures, both international and national, and threw his weight behind Mahinda Rajapakse, though reluctantly, abandoning Wickremesinghe. UNPers will consider it as the unkindest cut of all. It is now clear that Wickremesinghe has ended up as the loser, once again. It has proved for the umpteenth time that Wickremesinghe has never been a long distance runner. His short sprints had seldom lasted beyond 100 miserable days.
It also exposed that Wickremesinghe was never a force that had his roots in the people. He was always dependent on foreign forces, NGOs and by and large the anti-national forces. The very fact that he had to piggy back on Sirisena proves, if proof is necessary, that he is dependent either on the likes of undependable Rauf Hakeem or opportunistic TNA, or breakaway groups of the SLFP to get anywhere near seats of power. He never stood out as a charismatic figure like Dudley Senanayake or Mahinda Rajapakse. Both could stand on their own against all political forces even when they were out of power. The greatness of iconic figures like these two is that, despite all their human infirmities, they can carry the people with them. And the people too are willing to identify themselves with these leaders go along with them. They had carved their image indelibly in the hearts and minds of the people with their services to the people.
Not all the flak thrown at them has dented their mass appeal. They represent the irremovable, indispensable and irreversible historic forces which no politician aspiring for power can ignore. They represent the grass root forces that spring back, time and again, particularly in times of crisis, to regain and reassert their lost power and place. At a time like this when the very identity of the nation is under siege by foreign and local enemies, the logic of overwhelming history will invariably drive the emerging forces to align with nationalist Mahinda Rajapaksa. In some electorates pockets of minority voters too are likely to stand by Mahinda Rajapaksa. The prevailing political ambience and the fervor that drives it indicate that it is bound to reject pseudo-intellectuals faking a “revolutionary” political orgasm. Wickremesinghe goes around screaming about his “January 8th Revolution”. This must be the only “Revolution” that is running desperately in search of followers to hail the Right-wing Lenin of Sri Lanka, aligned to IDU!.
Clearly, Mahinda Rajapaksa has scored his first victory in the coming battle against Wickremesinghe. Plain citizen Mahinda Rajapaksa has proved that he is a force far greater than Wickremesinghe holding the Prime Minister’s post. Mahinda Rajapaksa has proved that power lies not in the seats of the Cabinet, or in the links to Delhi and Washington, but in the highways and byways which leads all the way to Medamulana. The election results may confirm that he has successfully broken through all political impediments that stood in his way, including NGOs, CIA, and RAW.
This then is the only way out of the “Soda Bottle Revolution” that was dead in water at birth on January 8, 2015