By Malinda Seneviratne –
Two months ago Ranil Wickremesinghe had to decide whether or not to contest the Presidential Election. In 2010 he had a similar problem. Back then few would have bet on Mahinda Rajapaksa losing. Ranil let the former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka take the fall. Wisely. This time, factoring in regime fatigue and many other negatives people may have given Ranil an outside chance. In all likelihood, however, he would have lost. So he had to take a risk and he took it. He opted to support someone with a better chance. Maithripala Sirisena.
All that is preamble to what we have today. Maithripala Sirisena is the President. His first job was to appoint a Cabinet of Ministers. Maithripala at the time was virtually a prisoner of the UNP since he was a man without a party and had only a few non-UNP supporters in Parliament, none of whom were exactly political heavyweights. Champika Ranawaka and Ven Athureliye Rathana Thero of the JHU were exceptions perhaps but in purely numerical terms in Parliament they did not amount to much. And so Ranil was appointed Prime Minister and headed a mostly UNP Cabinet of Ministers.
The inevitable happened, as predicted by Ranawaka: the entire SLFP declared support for the new President who was also made Chairman of the party he had left a few months before. Suddenly the Parliamentary equation changed. Maithripala has the numbers, Ranil does not. All he has is sway over the Cabinet. We still have the JR Jayewardene Constitution. Maithripala, theoretically at least, can do a Chandrika (remember 2004?) and take absolute control. He probably will not. The theoretical possibility cannot be lost on the more politically savvy sections of the UNP. Others may have thought that Ranil executed a brilliant coup to bring back the UNP to power, but Ranil himself knows how tenuous his hold is.
What are his options? On the one hand he has to think of his party. A general election in a post-reform situation will favor the SLFP. Just as Mahinda Rajapaksa can claim ‘I did what none of my predecessors were able to do, I defeated the LTTE,’ Maithripala can say ‘I did what none of my predecessors were able to do, I changed the bahubootha (multiple-monster)…sorry, ekabootha (single-monster) Constitution.’ He will be rewarded.
That being a distinct possibility, he could devote the next few months to consolidate the gains of the Presidential Election, i.e. use the ministries run by UNPers to position themselves favorably come election time. This might require the zealous pursuit of wrongdoers, many of whom are of course SLFPers who have pledged support to the President given their reduced circumstances post-election. Even then Ranil could very well end up as the Leader of the Opposition for the SLFP can support such pursuit and claim share of clean-up bragging rights. They can field a fresh set of candidates, for example an only-graduates team. It’s easy to erase blemishes if you really put your mind to it, in other words.
Things are not looking good for Ranil and the UNP then. Facing a possible return to the Opposition, Ranil has to postpone any plans he has to capturing power. The issue is how he spends the ‘interim’. In picking Sirisena (Ranil had the first refusal, let us not forget) he gambled, but gambled on a consolation prize. He got it. The maximum gain for the party he can hope for is a good second-place finish in a General Election that cannot be too far away. The ‘thereafter’ is too blurred to warrant speculation. It is far better to contend with the tangibles. And this is where Ranil can make his mark, less as politician and leader of a party than as a statesman who in defeat did as much as or more than all the big winners in the past four decades.
Ranil, regardless of cost to self and party, can put his full intellectual weight behind the efforts to reform the constitution and obtain a better, more efficient institutional structure that makes for transparency and accountability. His detractors will point to his disastrous pact with the LTTE (the CFA signed on February 22, 2002) and his complicity in all the atrocities committed during the tenures of two UNP Presidents and other crimes of omission and commission, but it is up to Ranil Wickremesinghe to prove that he is not the Ranil Wickremsinghe of the eighties nor the Ranil Wickremsinghe of 2001-2004, but a more mature, wiser senior politician who for once puts country before self and party.
Ranil is eminently positioned to be such a statesman. Indeed, if promised reforms are to become a reality much will depend on him simply because he, much more than anyone in either Parliament except perhaps Champika Ranawaka, has the clarity of mind sorely needed to make sure that a 2015 Constitution for all good intentions does not end up being another corruption of the notion representative democracy.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com
K.A Sumanasekera / January 31, 2015
“Put Country before Self and Party for once at least ” is the advise from Milinda to the UNP Leader,
This is Gold plated if not solid .24 Carat .
But can he do it?
Even secondary school kids nowadays will hard to swallow the Bull Shit coming from his mouth.
A few examples
* CJ Pieris was sacked because he was going to imprison the ex SLFP Govt Ministers ( probably the CJ was with the ex President in TT organizing the “hit”)
* Ranil gave orders to Immigration to close the Departure gates in BIA on the 8 and promised to arrest all crooks on the 9th.
( Dr Mervyn, ex UNP Enforcer and Rani K’s bosom buddy is now the main witness, if not the prosecutor for the Bribery Commissioner.)
* Ex IGP Vass Gunawardana’s darling lovey, is advising Ranil and his Cabinet how to prosecute the ex First Lady on LTTE gold, and 100 tonnes of it.
* Ranil’s Govt Media Guru Rajitha, accused the current FM on all sorts of evil deeds in 2010, and it is on U Tube.
( Now they are servicing each at our Taxpayers money).
Forget the LTTE, imagine the dodgy deals he may have done with TNA and SLMC through the UNP London and Samaraweera in Singapore.which our inhabitants are not aware of.
The day Ranil becomes the Statesman to look after the great majority , little piggies will be flying over Colombo.
Palayang Yako / January 31, 2015
K.A.Whatever, under whatever alias:
You and MsLinda should be put between the shafts of whatever bullock cart we were returning to thanks to the man who was mentor/paymaster/free laptop provider to those of your ilk and be sentenced to draw such a cart until you end up with your maker/whatever. As a special favour we should consider having Rajpal Abeynayake as the carter.
You are all a bloody disgrace to Sri Lanka and should, if REAL justice were to prevail, be despatched to an appropriate fate that would rid us of vermin of your kind. Sri Lanka deserves better than to have to put up with unmentionables like you.
Amarasiri / January 31, 2015
Oh Malinda Seneviratne -, Medamulana MaRa Shill and Whitewasher,
RE: Ranil’s Moment Of Truth
Won’t it be better and exciting if you were to write about the Medamulana MaRas moment of truth? You certainly have a different perspective.
Bottom line. Mahinda Rajapaksa lost.
Sulaiman / January 31, 2015
Mali Boy is back – Note the following:
1. Mali’s man crush on Champika Ranawaka. Seldom does he write a piece without praising him. Is this purely on the Jathika Chinthanaya bond or is the the Dilith Jayaweera and Co in taking over the milk food industry?
2. Insidiously sneaks in a few anti-Ranil hits. This is vintage Malinda. Talk about one thing and sneak in a few pot shots.
3.Proclaim things are not looking good for the UNP and try to throw dissension in the ranks.
4.Note also how he refers to the complicity of Ranil in the atrocities committed by previous UNP regimes? How many times has he alleged that Mahinda was complicit in the crimes in his regimes? While Mahinda should have been held directly responsible all we got from Mali Boy was criticism against obvious targets like Merv the Perv and mild criticism for Mahinda’s indulgence. Where was the allegation of complicity then? Oh Mali Boy, thinks he’s so smart.
Sam.Samare / January 31, 2015
We dont know each other …..please let us know the ownership structure of Rivira Media ….who owns The Nation newspaper.
Is it owned by the Rajapaksha family through a ‘front’ ?
Jagath Fernando / January 31, 2015
Ranil and UNP will contest under the swan. Smaller parties will also contest under the swan.
Ranil will be PM after elections as well.
SLFP has no leader and people should get their head examined if they want to vote for Rajapakses again.
Humbug / January 31, 2015
UNP will contest under the elephant and others may join in. Wheather others join or not this time UNP has a bigger edge over SLFP. By the time elections are called, the people will know who the real rogues are and will not bring back any dirty politicians back to power from any party. The main parties will not give nominations to any characters with a past.
jayasingha / February 6, 2015
SLFP will be lead by MS. Some UNP votes also will add on to MR’s personal SLFP / Sinhala Buddhist 5mln votes. UNP will contest alone without the other minor parties who will contest alone. Sirisena must be laughing as he has hoodwinked Ranil and UNP well and truly.
Navin / January 31, 2015
Is your Mara laptop working well?
It appears you are hunting for a new top to lap.
Beware, starved tops may uncontrollably splurge and you may drown in the deluge!
simon / January 31, 2015
Malinda Malli, What happened to you anti-tamil venom ?
Have you swollen it temporarily ? for latter use ?
jonathan / February 1, 2015
negative perspective of unp but not Champika!!! Care to write a bad outlook of mara? btw y doesnt CT expose who the real ownwrs of Rivira?