By Sarath de Alwis –
‘We will correct our mistakes and make some radical policy changes’ ~ UNP backbenchers after LG Polls
Let’s face it. Mahinda Rajapaksa equated power with control. Under his rule, we contained our discontent. But we retained our sanity. Mahinda did not mock our sanity. He did not insult our intelligence. He intimidated his critics. He did not ridicule them.
In year 2014 this writer desperately wanted him out. Today in 2018 this writer frantically awaits his return. The tyrant and his enforcers are preferable to tricksters and rip off artists.
Political Power is the ability to form, reform or maintain institutions. What was enacted inside the presidential secretariat on Sunday – 25th February, told us quite unambiguously where power lies today.
On Sunday 25th February, Charitha Ratwatte ‘Consigliere’ and ‘Dutch Uncle’ of Prime Minister Rani Wickremesinghe was watching brother Suren – CEO of Srilankan Airlines participating in the ‘Ironman’ contest. In the edifice nearby, his Royal College class mate was conclusively demonstrating to President Sirisena who was the “Iron Man’ and who was the ‘Straw Man’.
In a democracy, power is the ability to form, reform or maintain institutions. In that sense, President Sirisena is not a lame duck president. He is a sitting duck president.
Readers will note, that I do not make a reference to the President. For a good reason. The 19th Amendment has made him ‘Functus offcio. We can make it more picturesque. Ranil and his Royal College pals Malik, Sagala, Lakshman have made our Yahapalana president the principal player in their version of the ballet ‘Nutcracker’. When it is that tight, it surely must hurt.
After much post polls breast beating, Ranil succeeded in persuading UNP backbenchers that he would initiate some radical reforms. He has now delivered on his promise. He has opted for a radical road to ruin for the UNP.
The cabinet reshuffle has not resulted in any change in the internal dynamics or balance of power in the cabinet. The smug look of amused contempt in John Amaratunge’s countenance was more than adequate proof that the gravy train was firmly on track.
We mistakenly believe that Cabinet government is collective and presidential government is arbitrary. Now we know better. Let us hope that Jayampathy Wickremeratne will spare us further charlatanry.
Cabinet reshuffles are a means of ensuring ministries efficiency and vitality. In the case of Ranil Wickremesinghe what matters is not ministerial vitality but ministerial servility.
Infighting and alleged corruption were the primary factors that precipitated the reshuffle. The polls verdict was only a mild reminder. The reshuffle has not addressed the issues raised in the Bond scandal. The Prime Minister continues to be the Minister in charge of the Central Bank and National Economic Policy. It means that his advisors will continue to be the puppet masters.
The condescending lectures of the Prime Minister during the recent elections are nothing compared to his post elections counterfeit course correction.
What is wrong with Ranil? He is frozen in a world that no longer exists. He is convinced, mistakenly of course, that he can do what his famous father has been erroneously credited with doing- Creating and shaping opinion. He is also mistakenly sold on the idea of a meritocracy the confines of which he has arbitrary demarcated for himself and his buddies.
That is not the world we live in today. We live in a world where privilege is a commodity and not a birthright. The drawn-out protest against SAITM has not taught him the lesson of contemporary social order. The natural social hierarchy is the result of a process that matches the hardest-working and the most talented to the most difficult, important and remunerative tasks.
Delegation of duties and responsibilities should be according to a transparent order. People rise or perish according to success achieved or failure arrived at.
That is not what Ranil and his type of UNPer believe. They wish to pull the ladder up after they climb up. Or rather he would selectively lower it for those he would like to share his perch with. That is called ‘oligarchy.’
We made a mistake on 8th January 2015. We dared to hope and hoped too much. Hope is betrayed sooner than later.
It is not people who rule. We are ruled by those whom we trust to rule us. That is a complex conundrum in the concept of popular sovereignty.
Democratic leadership is based not on trust but on distrust. That explains why a good section of our people prefer the King.
The reshuffle was demanded by the president. It was a kneejerk reaction to the drubbing he received at the LG polls. He should have known better. Ranil Wickremesinhe is made of different stuff. Course correction midway is not his style.
Ideally, a cabinet reshuffle is a strategy adopted by the head of the cabinet – in this case, the President to discipline the members of the cabinet and curb or control ministerial capture of bureaucracy. It is too late for that. He should have appointed the Bond probe commission soon after the parliamentary election in August 2015.
That would have given the presidency emasculated by the 19th amendment at least the advantage of a commendatory public reaction. The present reshuffle exercise is not a positive act in response to a public scandal by a president above the fray. It is a consequence of an electoral setback suffered by his side of the coalition. President Sirisena can come out of this crisis a winner. He can insist that his new Minister of Law and Order produce the former governor of the Central Bank before courts.