2 October, 2022

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Ranil’s Perilous Authoritarian Alternative 

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s (GR) authoritarian route to transform Sri Lanka into a Sinhala Buddhist paradise of “prosperity and splendour” ended in disaster. His policies to translate that dream to reality bankrupted the treasury, pauperised the economy, angered international community, led to social and political unrest, and left no alternative but for him to vacate the presidency and run away from the country. 

Unlike GR who had no experience in politics, his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW), with forty-five years of that skill and parading himself as a liberal democrat quite knowledgeable in Western political and economic systems, promised to be the man, at least in the eyes of the ruling elite, who would repair the damage done by GR and take the country along the democratic path to achieve stability and growth. In fact, he was one of the earliest advocates to insist that the Rajapaksa regime should approach the IMF for economic advice and assistance while it was prevaricating on the advice of GR’s Viyathmaga experts. Recently, RW expressed his own vision to transform Sri Lanka into a dynamic export economy to achieve First World status by 2048. But the way he had started his presidential career reveals a different agenda.  He is proving to be a wolf in sheepskin, ready to give up all democratic pretensions and follow the same authoritarian route as his predecessor. GR at least could claim that he had a mandate for his authoritarianism from 58 percent of voters who elected him to power, but RW has no such warrant and only the support from a majority of parliamentarians, which he claims to be enough to rule regardless until the end of 2024. This could turn out to be a dangerous gamble.   

He has chosen the authoritarian alternative as a roulette to try his luck in surviving the aftermath of the seventeenth IMF designed economic program. RW is fully aware that the day-to-day life for a vast majority of people would become unendurably painful once the impact of that program starts biting into the real income of households. Given the predicted contraction of the economy by 8 percent this year and the food inflation rate reaching 82.5 percent last July – fifth highest in the world, it would be hard sell for RW to expect public support for the reform package. The shortened queues for cooking gas, diesel and petrol, and price reduction on a dozen consumer items retailed through Sathosa are temporary soothers before the price hike follows the implementation of IMF reforms. 

It is to get full backing from the members of parliament that he is making a valiant effort to constitute an all-party Government with an expected 30 cabinet ministers and 40 regional ones so that some semblance of a national commitment could be manufactured to push through the reforms. However, Sri Lanka needs more than the IMF package. Implementation of those recommendations also require other pro-growth measures including a radical change in the corruption ridden and ethno-centric political and administrative culture of this country. It calls for a systemic change as encapsulated in aragalaya’s opposition against GR’s authoritarian alternate path to development. The aragalaya youth also understood that it is impossible to bring about such a change with the current 225 legislators in the parliament, majority of whom are beneficiaries of that rotten culture and would have no chance of returning to their seats once that culture is destroyed. It was the realization of this impossibility that underlined aragalaya’s “No 225” slogan. And it was their uncompromising stand on systemic change that awakened the nation and eventually brought an end to GR’s authoritarian route to nowhere. Disappointingly, the man who stood to benefit from aragalaya has now turned out to be GR’s doppelganger. He is shaping himself to be the unchallenged guardian of that fossilised system at least until 2030, according to his party secretary.               

RW is fully aware of the predicament of majority of those 225 and that is why he is confident in commanding their support for his brand of authoritarianism.  With that confidence and with backing from security forces, he is turning his attention to get rid of any opposition to his agenda. The indiscriminate use of the draconian PTA under GR’s presidency, which received the condemnation of a number of international agencies including UNHRC in Geneva, September last year, and hopefully would receive the same fate again this September, has been resorted to by RW to arrest, detain and even torture any protestor on trumped up charges of advocating militancy, inciting violence and intending to commit terrorism. It is no secret that RW carries a personal grudge against the aragalaya youth who he believes were responsible for burning down his private residence. His turpitude is shocking after he demonstrated support for their struggle before becoming president.

RW’s confidence in the authoritarian alternative to push through his economic agenda could be shattered by developments on two fronts. Firstly, aragalayers have not returned home but withdrawn from the metropolis voluntarily and regrouping in provinces trying to convert the struggle into a mass movement. Post-IMF economic pain would add enough ammunition to sharpen their criticism of the present system and its upholders. An unwritten alliance between aragalaya and NPP would strengthen opposition to RW’s hardline. Secondly, certain politically motivated decisions bound to provide sustenance to ethno-national elements that could undermine his authority. For example, his rejection of the One Country One Law Report submitted by the controversial Rev. Gnanasara, to appease the Muslim community and win the support of their parliamentarians; delisting of a few previously proscribed Tamil groups, with one eye on encouraging Tamil diaspora investment and the other on rallying the support of TNA and other Tamil leaders; and the recommendation in the proposed 21A constitutional amendment to prevent duel-citizenship holders becoming parliamentarians, which would immediately kill the political aspirations of Basil Rajapaksa, would certainly raise ire among Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists. The expected return of GR could provide an added boost to their morale and resolve and help create dissension within the pro-RW Rajapaksa camp. 

Taking all this into consideration RW’s authoritarian alternative is going to create more problems than solutions to the ongoing agony, and how far would friendly nations like India and China continue to assist is also uncertain. Debt restructuring negotiation with China, which IMF insists, is also going to be tough. Almost 45 percent of national debt owes to China.  

Given the economic constraints imposed by global uncertainties the time is ripe for a more radical solution. Rising interest rates, escalating inflation, natural disasters, and war-induced supply shortages are making life harder and budgeting a challenge to people and governments. Smaller and open economies like Sri Lanka would be the worst hit. Price controls, import restrictions, higher taxes and even privatization of SOEs, imposed with an iron fist, are measures to fine tune the existing paradigm which is breaking down at the seams. They are all bandage solutions to a life-threatening injury. This is why systemic change is becoming all the more imperative. RW is certainly not the leader to undertake it. The aragalaya youth and NPP are on the money.    

*Dr. Ameer Ali, Murdoch Business School, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 15
    4

    Dear Dr Ameer Ali,
    .
    Thanks for not getting too intellectual at this time, when the need is for us to support the Aragalaya as best we can.
    .
    Very nearly all the people (except the Pohottuwa mafia) know that we have an unacceptable lot of people trying to dictate to us. We are fortunate that we have a few identifiable politicians, namely those in the NPP, whom we must now unequivocally back, until such time as we we win our “aragalalya” for an election.
    .
    Once those elections are announced, please start thinking seriously about whom to vote for. My vote is likely to go to the NPP, but that needn’t apply to all who read this!
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe, typing in Bandarawela.

    • 13
      3

      SM, currently Lanka is in first five countries with highest food inflation, I believe for the first time Lanka is named in UN global list for child malnutrition. Reportedly 2.3 million children are currently under nourished, and almost close to 6 million people including children need humanitarian aid. Is there any political leader capable of helping these people ??? I doubt because millions of war affected community did not receive any help until now.(if at all caused more harm and suffering ) . Our politicians are only capable of creating namesake ministry, department or commission, so that they can make a living out of it.

      • 2
        3

        “I believe for the first time Lanka is named in UN global list for child malnutrition.”
        Have you checked earlier years?

        • 5
          0

          Correction, currently Lanka is Second most malnourished in South Asia, 6th undernourished country in the world and one out of three children needs some form assistance.

  • 14
    5

    Ranil Wickremasingha should know that like his dream for President of this country, others like Basil, Namal, Sajith, Fonseka, Anura etcc also have there dreams. So, it is impossible to bring all together unless the executive presidency is removed from the constitution. The power battle is the most important barrier to make changes to the system and recovery of the economic crisis.

    • 6
      4

      Perhaps RW knew before you told him. He may not be keen on doing the impossible.
      Unlikely to go beyond his term, he will try to do the job for the class that he represents.
      *
      What I fail to understand is why the anti-Left chorus is screaming its head away against the one who can best deliver its agenda.

  • 17
    5

    Dictator for 2 years? With 132 crooked votes, no way. With a revamped Aragalaya, forthcoming tough IMF measures, and Pohottuwa’s new game plan, Ranil’s days are numbered.

    • 4
      1

      Ajay Sundara Devan,
      When you stress that Ranil’s days are numbered, you forget that he is the coolest gambler on the scene. His cards are ever folded.

    • 1
      13

      Aragalaya gone with the wind. It’s a “Push weddillak”. Long live Ranil. So many democratic-loving countries congratulate 6 times prime minister, Ranil.

      • 6
        0

        N. Perera

        “Aragalaya gone with the wind. “

        Of course they are gone but alive.
        Where is your single handed Sinhala/Buddhist president?
        Coward.

        Now you seem to carry Ranil’s b***s.
        I understand that you have to exists, therefore it does matter whose b***s you carry as long as you carry b***s and you are provided with three meals a day, then everything is fine.

        Do you still want Gota to come back?
        And why?

  • 13
    6

    Ranil.W. is hunting for the kingpins of the Aragalaya while appeasing the Tamil and Muslim Parliamentarians.
    He reckons that by releasing the Tamil political prisoners and throwing into the dustbin the One Country One Law report of that thug in Buddhist robes everything would be hunky dory.
    He should have appeased the Aragalaya which has wide support island-wide including those who normally vote with Tamil and Muslim political parties.
    When he was PM HE HAD ENCOURAGED THE ARAGALAYA but turned his coat after becoming the President. It is very unlikely that change was due to the burning of his house. It stems from his Batalanda mindset.

    Ranil.W. has put the Cart before the Horse. So it would not be a case of Alls well that Ends well…………

  • 11
    4

    He is proving to be a wolf in sheepskin

    The higher he elevate, the more I see the hate
    Everyone knows this that is why he did not get any votes other than 134 to interest to dwell or exist with the lamb

    • 6
      2

      R59
      He is not making any pretenses.
      That is enough to worry me.

    • 1
      1

      RBH59, The wolf can never exist with a humble animal, the lamb. The destroying Bata wolf still has a chance to be a loving lamb, but his heart is not open to revelation even with a bishop uncle. The earth is the Lord’s Ps. 24 where all are allowed to live inclusively as in the unity of paradise. Even viyathmaga was only meant for some, which will never work. All must be included

  • 3
    2

    Ranil is/was not CORRUPT ever.
    Let him govern anyway he likes as long as he can pull Sri Lanka out of the debt trap.
    He has to appease the Sangha, and give left overs to others.
    Else all of us are doomed.

  • 4
    2

    He (Ranil) is proving to be a wolf in sheepskin. Nothing novel in the expression. It is familiar.
    For me, he is establishing himself to be a man of thick skin.
    .
    He only has the support of a majority of parliamentarians … ?
    Tomorrow, when Mahinda decides that Ranil is no more needed, who will those very
    parliamentarians support? Ranil is a matter of stopgap convenience to Mahinda.

  • 5
    1

    What can one say? …… I have the same sunnies Ranil is wearing ……. strangely enough, bought form a shop in SL about 15 years ago. If I were the president, I too would get into a similar shiny silk suit and wear my sunnies and pretend I’m someone important. That’s what I always wanted to do.

    Kids and their dreams and toys.

    Why would anyone want to get into politics? serve the country? Serve the people?

    Their motives …… and our/people’s expectations are not the same

    So, here we once again …….. which of you know how this is going to end?

    Wanna guess?

    • 8
      1

      nimal fernando

      “U.S. donates 3,000 metric tons of food to feed Sri Lankan school children
      August 26, 2022″
      http://adaderana.lk/

      Please persuade Mao’s “b***s Carrier”, Wimal Sangili Karuppan, Weeping Weerasekere, Dinesh, Saffron Elle, Champika, ….. to boycott American capitalist food aid.

      • 5
        1

        Native,

        That’s why I keep telling we need a Sinhala Prabakaran to hang these buggers from lamp posts.

        • 7
          0

          nimal fernando

          “That’s why I keep telling we need a Sinhala Prabakaran to hang these buggers from lamp posts.”

          If you start hanging, then who is going to hang the last person, I mean you, OC, Sinhala Man, Chiv, SJ, Plato, Nathan, ME, …. not necessarily in that order?

          • 3
            0

            Native Vedda,
            I demand that you remove me from your list!
            I don’t go with nimal fernando!!
            Prabhakaran can easily mess up a struggle!!!

  • 5
    4

    “Post-IMF economic pain would add enough ammunition to sharpen their (Aragalaya) criticism of the present system and its upholders.”
    Great to hear it from an ardent advocate of intervention by the IMF.
    *
    But the author is back to daydreaming.
    The Aragalaya as guided by the National Endowment for Democracy (the unofficial replacement for the CIA.in places) is finished, and that is good.
    The new Aragalaya will not be given camping gear, portable toilets. Biriyani etc.
    To grow it cannot make political debate and discussion taboo, or be restrained by simplistic slogans, or be adventurist in its tactics.
    *
    It will in all probably not be the author’s cup of tea.

  • 3
    0

    I am not sure whether NPP’s plans of actions to put SL through both economic, political & administrative changes are similar to that of ARAGALAYA movement[AM].
    Both AM & NPP needs to submit a NEW CONSTITUTION for referendum asap.
    We need Ranil.W to dissolve the current parliament by February 2023 and hold the parliamentary election under rules that prohibit uneducated corrupted murderers drug & alcohol runners, bribe takers to take part in any elections.
    NPP still has not convinced the minorities have a future under their regime.
    I wish AKD will rectify

  • 5
    1

    Dissolve the parliament call for fresh election give power to parliament and abolished the executive prez.
    Bring freshers, no more pearks just the salary only,

  • 7
    2

    Everybody talks of the obvious part – protect democracy, punish the corrupt etc – but neatly avoids the hard question. How to reconcile UNAVOIDABLE belt-tightening with populist public sentiment.

    Ranil can can and will be tamed on democracy imperatives but belt-tightening which is necessary for release of IMF and associated funds and debt restructuring everybody lacks the guts to address.

    • 4
      0

      Ranil is not our main enemy, he is only the symptom. Any replacement of Ranil will become another Gota or Ranil.

      Our enemy is the system. Be patient until the final victory!
      .
      The prudent path open to us is to continue to support the Aragaalaya for a viable systemic change

      • 0
        0

        srikrish,
        Let me be philosophical.
        Nobody else is our enemy; we are our own enemy!
        .
        Is Aragalaya a new find?
        No. Aragalaya was always there. We let complacency shut our eyes.
        Only when the stomach joined the search our eyes opened.
        .
        Sadly, the wolves which had gone on tasting our blood in the interim are still thirsting for our blood.
        .
        We may have to shed some more, before we silence the fat wolves. Sad, but worth it.

    • 5
      0

      KD, countries like Greece and Ireland initially resisted austerity measures, due to difficulties in coping with belt-tightening, drastic changes in daily living, high inflation, unemployment among many other things. Greece had few Govt changes until early signs of recovery. One such measure is raising tariff on electricity and other utilities. Lankans who lived on freebies, politics based on freebies, economy based on imports and services will find it extremely difficult to make changes. How do we expect change, when they could not even come out of their racist mindset for more than 75 years.

      • 6
        0

        KD, did you hear our great Vasudeva telling “govt has betrayed the country by going to IMF”. I guess he is angry because “he will not get paid anymore without working but warming the chair”.

      • 3
        0

        Chiv,
        “Lankans who lived on freebies, politics based on freebies, economy based on imports and services will find it extremely difficult to make changes”
        Yes, many, including the educated, have still not woken up to how serious the situation is. Yesterday, there was much gnashing of teeth from industrialists over the import ban on stuff like toilet paper, fabrics, and computers. The CB governor told them they could choose, either fuel, food, and LPG, OR the banned items.
        It is still not as bad as it could have been. Imagine a situation where even the water supply fails in the cities?

        • 3
          1

          OC, see the stats. 1) Lanka ranks very low on budget transparency. We are currently 93 out of 120 countries , scoring 30/100. We scored 47 / 100 in 2019 2) only 6 % promises made in 81. 5 Billion budget were fulfilled in 2021. 3) Where is rest of the allocated money ??? 4) budget is announced in public, but how the money being spent
          by politicians are a secret. Hence there is no oversight, auditing , transparency, accountability …….

        • 3
          0

          OC
          Shortage of non-essentials played a big role in the victory of JRJ.
          I remember the urban joy when all manner of imported goods flooded the market.
          *
          Interestingly, I got stranded in Chennai for a day in early January 1978 on my way to Delhi. I was wearing a newly tailored shirt of imported synthetic fabric when I dropped into some shops. The shopkeeper in a textile shop asked me if I would swap my shirt for any shirt of my choice in his store. I politely refused though.
          Were we not the envy of Indians for all the wrong reasons?
          Our middle class attitudes remain as unhealthy as then.

          • 0
            0

            SJ,
            It’s interesting how many groups are popping up to complain. The other day, there were phone dealers complaining about battery shortages and shirt manufacturers about fabric bans. It’s a good way to figure out what has or hasn’t been banned.

      • 1
        0

        Seriously, did the post 1978 scheme of affairs leave many freebies?
        With free public health and free education steadily undermined not much is left that is worth talking about.
        There are more freebies in countries that dictate ‘no freebies’ to us.
        Even post-Thatcher UK.

  • 0
    2

    It is said Japan is tapped by the Evil Emperor to host a creditor meeting in order to help Langkang obtain IMF temp loans. Japan will even drink poison if Langkang says that will help Langkang. So, sooner or later there will be a creditor meeting hosted by Japan. Some say it could be within a month, and some are showing the hardship of the matters involved and say it may take even 6 months. The need for Langkang is better if it could have been before last February.

  • 2
    2

    Hitler feared that, as soon as the protest started, Savage Indra and the Rapist Army were launching their own coup, so they tapped Evil to run the show for a few days until the ghostly clouds surrendered, passed away from the Wildlife Sanctuary’s blue sky. Ranil Evil accepted the new job, first, to save the Royals, but opportunistically, has turned around and has thrown the noose on the neck of Royals, now. So it has become the duty of the Old Rowdy to match Ranil’s nefarious schemes and have liberated the Royal back again for their throne. In total, 1). The Royal who are convulsing to snatch back the scepter. from the hand of Evil, which they voluntarily handed over to Evil, to have it , 2). Evil’s new efforts to rebuild the UNP, which he voluntarily wound down for save the Royals through diplomatic immunity, 3). The lurking Protesters waiting for addition support from Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim masses, as ash covered cinders in the countryside of Ceylon, 4). IMF’ demanding of signed and certified debt restructuring letter, 5). The 75 years of the slid of the Langkang, the Meethodamulla’s concluding chapter being written on the name of Evil (while Rowdy king earned the Dutugemenu Honor and two PhDs for war crime-genocide) are eating the rock hearted Evil, atom by atom. He has to strengthen his position at no time.

  • 2
    2

    He said this week that Langkang cannot depend on any foreign nation for help and Langkang has to do it all by itself. He is in suspicion that he would not be as successful as he was in the time of Yahapalanaya. That is why he had approached Japan this time, who never minded Langkang human right violation, or any foul deals internally or externally, but always helped Langkang. India and China in contrast to the West, always supported Langkang’s international agreements because they two are also, in front or less behind, pretty on that same road. So, to maneuver out of some of his hard pressing squeezes, Evil has approached Japan. When the CFA was signed, Japan and Norway arranged a hefty sum of money to Ceylon, provided Aanduwa and the LTTE fulfilled their obligations under the CFA. LTTE had problems in attending the meetings as it was listed as a Terrorist Organization. America and India were particular on that standoff. But, in reality, it was CBK, Evil & Rowdy King tactfully used the CFA to move forward their schemes. Japan did not have the political muscle to enforce the CFA and share the promised fund fairly between Tamil and Sinhalese.

  • 2
    2

    It gave the $3.5 B to Old Rowdy as LTTE was not able to share anything on that. He used all that donation and immediately after he Changed his loyalty to China. Japanese $ 3.5B was on developmental aids, But Chinese eventual money $4 B was a pure loan. Until the withdrawal of the Airport 2nd runway contract this month, Japan was adamant against using donor funds to rehabilitate Langkang’s Human right violation and genocide activities. Most of the surrendering Ranil Evil gave to China was about the UN Veto. Ranil, instead of inviting FDI for local needs and pay Chinese loans with the ME remittances, decided to sell the Hangbangtota port to China. Yesterday The Chinese Ambassador said that countries should stay out of manipulating Langkang for their needs, that is something China will not accept.

    • 0
      0

      M, All this confusion is because lies breed deception. Ranil never won and never will as his mind cannot expand but copies rajas to suppress. Sold Hambantota port and now other national assets too, instead of planning and utilising the rich gem assets we already have in the country. A short time as prez. to do this would have left a valuable legacy to the nation, to be remembered long term as a loving supporter of citizens, not a beggar, a true statesman nephew of a bishop.

  • 2
    2

    The question is, is that has any implication on Western countries dominated IMF forcing Langkang to implement any free-market policies and cutting off on election budgets and Rapist Army military budgets. If the IMF wins and forces China to give concession to Langkang on loan repayments, will that have any effect on the hard-earned UN Veto vote? The main question is can, politically weak Japan, get its Enemy China, agree on loan structuring to the extent that it’s another enemy who has made everything free Langkang, in order to win the Favour of Langkang opposing the friendship with China. Can these highly nested political interests, which was the result of Langlang’s political game of setting up of one superpower against another to in order to escape the War crime –Genocide at UNHRC, can be untanglled into straight line and make acceptance to IMF, while Langkang appears to be run out of most of its option in UNHRC.

  • 1
    0

    “Almost 45 percent of national debt owes to China. “
    Out of which hat was this rabbit pulled?

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