By Vishwamithra –
“Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.” ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
Ranil Wickremesinghe, our current President has shown time and time again that he has no credible relationship with reality. It’s not a trait that has manifested itself in him after he became the President via a parliamentary procedure; it has been present in him ever since he became involved in politics. When he was the Minister of Education under the J R Jayewardene-government, his antagonism towards RT Alles, the then principal of DS Senanayake College was a well-known fact amongst those who mattered in society at the time.
I’m no psychoanalyst to go deep into his psyche and define the specific character that was dominant in Ranil Wickremesinghe then and now. Yet it was obvious then and it’s more than apparent now that this man is suffering from an incorrigible character deficiency that causes him to make enemies more than friends. It is particularly significant in the context of the profession, politics, he has chosen to be engaged in. As one of my close associates told me a while ago that I should not resort to the ‘nuclear option’ (I do not want to define the term ‘nuclear option’ in this column as I presume every reader would understand what that option is) when critiquing both his personality, his policies and principles.
Had Ranil been not engaged in politics, a profession in which the practitioner’s strongest aspect of personality ought to be making friends and be friendly instead of unfriendly, cold and indifferent to those who are around him, both associates and strangers, it would not have mattered so much. But politics and its inherent element being one of persuasive genre, one cannot ignore these decisive characteristics of a leader whose primary task, in order to implement his policies, has to win the hearts and minds of the voters. Ranil Wickremesinghe is the total anathema of such a paradigm.
But Ranil Wickremesinghe is not stupid. His understanding of politics, governance, constitutionality of policies and principles, although not as profound and well founded like his peers’ in the eighties and nineties or his application of the methodologies on any given ideological principles he believes in, has come up way short of the accepted standards. Quintessentially insecure, Ranil has always resorted to extra-parliamentary and para-conventional methods to get out of trouble and has managed to lead the political party he leads, United National Party (UNP), to more than twenty five defeats at elections, both local and general. It certainly is not a proud medal one would like to wear around one’s neck.
All this is relevant to the Ranil Wickremesinghe of yesteryear. The difference now is the very position he holds- Executive President of the country. The entire arsenal of the country’s armed forces is available to him; the whole administrative machinery, whether rightly or wrongly, is answerable to him; the bureaucracy is at his beck and call, so to speak, and he expects that all those who are so answerable to him would cow down to him with slavish fidelity. Parliament would behave, although not exclusively to his solitary tune, would take their steps as dictated by the leaders of the Pohottuwa group who de facto is controlling Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Against such an unkind backdrop, playing a balanced act of administration and maintaining a poised flow of events is no easy task even for a very balanced leader, leave alone such an unstable one as Ranil Wickremesinghe. That is what Sri Lanka has inherited. Faced with an unprecedented economic crisis and stinking corruption-laden body politic, the playing field is not a level one. Advantage is grossly in favor of those who hold power, whether elected or selected.
It may well be that our people are not ready, not equipped and nor comfortable with this organism called democracy. Each time a new government has been voted in, within months after that election the people are ready to topple the government they voted in. The sophistication of democratic principles and nuances of a moving drama of bad governance have taken us nowhere near the accepted national goals and that meandering journey, nearly for seventy five years, has taken us backwards ever so surely and ever so misleadingly.
Aragalaya gave us a temporary relief; it lent a deceptive sense of absolution. The general outlook of almost all those who took part in the Aragalaya was unbelievably positive and encouraging, not necessarily in the achievement of the ends it met at least half-way by driving Gotabaya Rajapaksa from power, but more so by the very conduct and accommodating behavior of diverse ethno-religious groups. The manner in which protest against the State could be accomplished in a very simple yet sophisticated fashion was manifestly present during the days which preceded May 9, 2020, until the day Mahinda Rajapaksa let loose his goons on the peaceful Aragalakaruwos.
However, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who should be thankful to the brave young men and women of the Aragalaya for making room for him to ascend to the throne, did the most disheartening act in his life. Amongst many such betrayals he has performed in his life prior to becoming Executive President, the befuddling current conduct of Wickremesinghe takes the coveted trophy. His outright refusal to deal with the Aragalakaruwos, even a short dialogue, goes beyond the pale.
I addition, President Ranil Wickremesinghe says that he will not allow another Aragalaya to be created in the country to attempt to overthrow the government. Addressing Parliament on November 23, 2022, during the third reading debate on the 2023 Budget, the President said that he will deploy the military and impose emergency laws if the need arises to deal with such a situation. Such pronouncements should not be disregarded as empty threats.
As was mentioned at the very outset of this column, as Executive president, Wickremesinghe has all the powers of the Executive. The armed forces, the Police and rest of the administrative machinery are waiting to carry out his orders, legal or otherwise. Depending solely on pursuit of relief on human rights-platform and putting all ones eggs in the basket of legitimate avenues to chase one’s goals would unfortunately end up in utter futility.
Ranil Wickremesinghe has no fidelity to truth and fair play. He did not come to hold the post of Executive President by fair play. He does not have a mandate from the people and, in fact, that very fact plays to his advantage in that he is not answerable to anyone other than those who dictate to him as to how to govern. That group of political handlers is the Pohottuwa villains of the political kind.
But what is even more depressing is the depth of the hole the Opposition members are digging for themselves. They do not seem to have the strength, stamina and willingness to adopt a sustained aggression towards the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe. Fear of being imprisoned or the dread of being manhandled by the armed forces may be playing a role in the shameful silence of the collective Opposition.
One would be pardoned of misreading the so-called bravery of the Opposition. Some might be too soft in that criticism of your friend could be read by the people at large as an outright rejection of the Opposition. This is not a situation in which one could be nice and soft to excuse the weak and meek. Those who hesitate and vacillate should be left behind; no mass movement could be energetic and spirited if not led by the strong and aggressive. Being strategically aggressive is no declaration of violence; nor could aggression be understated in one’s planning processes.
Politically stable men and women have attained their goals not by being apathetic and indifferent. They are the most aggressive and strategic-minded. They do not wait for things to happen; they make things happen; instead of reacting to events, they are tirelessly proactive. Today’s parliament has become the true guardians of those who were elected; not those who elected them. A convolution of sociopolitical organisms is staring in the face of all our politicians, but they do not recognize the calamity such a convolution could bring about. Ignorance is no excuse for committing a crime.
If the members of the Opposition become facilitators and enablers of the destruction of our democratic system of government and democratic way of life, it is the right of every man woman and child to see that such enablers and facilitators are driven out. There cannot be any argument or debate about that. One does not need to seek Ranil Wickremesinghe’s permission to protest or enable another Aragalaya. But that also means that such Aragalaya needs to be organized on some strategic lines; well-thought out action plan and ideally manned by qualified and educated men and women is a must.
When Ranil’s infidelity to truth and fair play is met by the people’s fidelity to truth and fair play, the people might have chance to succeed. The idea is to give oneself that chance.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org