By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
Point No:1: The momentum generated by the historic January 2015 presidential election is being exhausted, and that the minority government appointed for the sole purpose of executing the 100-day reform programme is drifting aimlessly.
Point No:2: The current balance of power in the institutions of the state is incongruous and unsustainable, with a President elected in 2015 to undertake thoroughgoing constitutional reforms, on the one hand, and a Parliament elected in 2010 under entirely different circumstances, on the other.
Point No:3: The mandate (given to the President) requires not only substantive reforms but also a transformation in the way government and governance is conducted. It cannot be squandered because of political indecisiveness or expediency, repeating the mistakes of the past……
Point No:4: There is a rising perception of crisis and instability, which cannot be allowed to take root. The economy cannot afford this lack of political direction for much longer…..
These four factors read together means that the Siri–Wicky regime is well on its way to a political grave of its own making. But before anyone should jump to the hasty conclusion that I am the author the four points cited above please note that none of it was written by me. It was culled verbatim from a statement issued by the pro-Government NGOs, a.k.a Civil Society. The four critical conclusions were identified by a raft of NGOs including the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (Radhika Coomaraswamy), Centre for Policy Alternative (Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu), National Peace Council (Jehan Perera), J. C. Weliamuna etc.
These points are contained in the statement issued by the Civil Society under the title, The Urgent Need For Fresh Parliamentary Elections, on June 5, 2015. They are asking the President to hold elections because the “rising crisis and instability” cannot be resolved by the two arms of the state – the Presidency and the Parliament – as both are “incongruous, unsustainable” and dysfunctional.
In other words, the steam has run out of the Siri-Wicky regime and it is not going anywhere except into an unmanageable crisis which is bound to cause chaos. At the root of the current impasse is Wickremesinghe because he is the one who has been calling the shots while President Maithripala Sirisena is waiting on the sidelines, having handed over the government – a minority one at that – to him. At the best of times Wickremesinghe could not even manage a majority government. He was sacked by President Chandrika Kumaratunga when he was chatting smugly with President Bush. Expecting him to manage a minority government is like tying a single donkey to manage a carriage which is normally drawn by six thoroughbred horses. The Siri-Wicky regime is stuck in the present morass because the President is seated in this carriage drawn by a single donkey hoping to arrive at his destination called Yahapalanaya.
In any case, Wickremesinghe is used mainly to cheap juck-muck politics. riding in bullock carts, as he did once to protest against the high cost of living, banging pots and pans. He was never built of the solid Senanayake material for national leadership. Or for Yahapalanaya. Or even for national reconciliation. In the past he has managed to scrape in only for short term stints. Take for example his current position. He was appointed to head a minority government in a hostile Parliament. It was never going to be a viable entity. But Wickremesinghe made a bad situation worse. He began to act like the leader of a majority party persecuting the majority in the parliament. And then, predictably, he got what he deserved : a no-confidence motion.
The contrasting styles of leadership are quite apparent: Mahinda Rajapaksa is a dynamic magnet that attracts people even without power. Wickremesinghe repels people even when he has power. This sums up the fatal flaw in Wickremesinghe. The Siri-Wicky regime is undermined by the short-sighted, arbitrary, dictatorial style of politics of Wickremesinghe which always boomerang on him. Throughout his career he has consistently been a liability to the nation, to his party, to the people and now to his president. This makes him a born loser. He goes for short term benefits which blows back on him. He thinks he is smart but he comes a cropper each time he exceeds his capacity to handle power. His biggest crime was the CFA which he signed with Prabhakaran without consulting the President, Cabinet, parliament, party, or people. He thought it was a master stroke of a political genius worthy of a Nobel Prize. That was abominable misuse of power. Predictably and justifiably, he came crashing down and he has never recovered from that betrayal of trust.
With all that experience behind him one would expect him to act more cautiously and go for consensual and flexible politics. Instead, he leaps, with both his feet, to a Gestapo-type of rule, armed with a FCID ( Financial Crimes Investigation Department) to persecute and put in remand members of his own “national government”, though in the opposition, who are in a majority in the House. He was virtually cutting the branch on which he was sitting. How long can such an asinine rule last?
His idea of Yahapalanaya was to create negative headlines through his persecution of those whom he described as members of “a national government”. He was, on the one hand, wooing all parties hoping to get their support for his “national government”, ONLY with him as the Prime Minister. On the other, he was summoning them before his FCID – a.k.a., the Fascist Centre for Indicting Dissidents — and packing them off to remand. He didn’t have the slightest idea of bringing a divided nation together with a more humane approach to politics at all levels. If he had shown half the sympathy he showers on Uncle Sam to the people of Sri Lanka he would have been on an immoveable branch at the top of the proverbial Murunga Tree. But in his own stupid way he went for hate politics at a rate hoping to win the next election by painting Mahinda Rajapaksa black.
So far his hate politics has backfired on him. His massive campaign to denigrate the Rajapaksas has not brought him any appreciable dividends. On the contrary, the more he does that the more the people flock to Mahinda Rajapaksa. There isn’t a single notable “difference” (when-a-suck) he has made to impress the voters that they must switch over to him either. He couldn’t even get through his pet project of transferring the presidential powers to his prime ministerial office. The 19th Amendment is still twisting in the air like a carcass in the butchers stall. The reform of the electoral system (20th Amendment) is still in limbo. So what has he achieved other than a no-confidence vote from those whom he persecuted?
Besides, the entire rationale on which the Yahapalanaya slogan won the presidential election was on the promise of creating a new moral order. All claims for a new moral order collapsed when he appointed his protégé, Arjuna Mahendra, to the Central Bank. When the proverbial hit the fan his protégé cried : “I am clean.” So is my toilet. It’s very clean.
Under Wickremesinghe’s stewardship the nation has experienced in the main only “political indecisiveness or expediency, repeating the mistakes of the past…… “ (Civil Society statement). “To make matters worse”, yesterday’s Sunday Times Political Editor said, “the UNP-dominated Government has also been somewhat tainted with allegations of bribery and corruption against some ministers and officials. This is at a time when there is some bad fallout on the economic front. The value of the rupee is fast depreciating in dollar terms. Prices of imported consumer goods are therefore increasing. Construction companies have laid off hundreds of workers after projects were stalled or were being re-negotiated. No substantial Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has been recorded and the stock market remains sluggish”.
The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear. Even the pro-Siri-Wicky Civil Society which embraced the Yahapalanaya agenda with both hands are now singing a different tune. They are now predicting instability, crisis and chaos caused by “political indecisiveness or expediency, repeating the mistakes of the past…… “ They no longer talk of the “ideal society” promised in the manifesto of the Siri-Wicky regime. At the end of the 100 days they are wringing their hands in despair. Radhika Coomaraswamy must be putting her head on her hands and tearing her hair in despair.
This then is Sri Lanka’s Arab Spring that did not bloom with a single flower. On the contrary, it became a carbon copy of the preceding regime, “repeating the mistakes of the past”. (Civil Sociey). To the cognoscenti it was obvious from the word go that those who spearheaded the campaign for Yahapalanaya (good governance) could neither fulfill the 100 promises in the 100 day program, nor could they deliver “the ideal society”, as promised in their manifesto. Drunk with the spirit of their own propaganda they assumed that the transition from the prevailing presidential to a parliamentary system was a cake walk. What they refused to calculate in their obtuse way was that the clash between 2015 Presidency with the 2010 parliament. In short, though Sirisena won a majority from the electorate he could not even carry his own SLFPers with him in the Parliament.
Furthermore, they never expected Mahinda Rajapaksa, though defeated technically at the polls, would remerge as a formidable force wielding the people’s power outside the parliament and the presidency. More importantly, though Sirisena managed to the unite the minorities with the UNP he failed to unite the majority within his own fold in the SLFP. In numerical terms, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 5.8 million seems to have undercut Sirisena’s 6.2 million won at the polls. Sirisena won the nation but lost the Parliament to an illegitimate minority.
His duplicitous politics forced him to create his own minority government when he had the opportunity to legitimately rule with an elected majority. In politics practically every man comes with his own spade to dig his own grave and Sirisena came with egg-hopper politics that became his spade to dig his own grave. He is now dependent on a minority government which is dragging him into the morass of “political indecisiveness or expediency, repeating the mistakes of the past…… “ His alliance with the UNP split the SLFP into two and weakened his own base in the parliament and the electorate. Eating egg hoppers and undercutting his leader was a piece of cake compared to going to bed with Wickremesinghe. It was like sleeping with porcupines. The SLFP seems to be rising from the ashes.
The pundits of the Civil Society, who constantly claims that they alone are in possession of the final solution to all the problems of the nation, have also fallen in the same hole as Sirisena. Remember how they proclaimed that their formula of appeasing implacable and intransigent Prabhakaran was the only road to peace. That theory, of course, went down to the bottom of Nandikadal. Then they came up with theory that regime change was the answer to the authoritarian regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Now they are crying that the Siri-Wicky regime is “making the same mistakes of the past.” Obviously, they do not know whether they are coming or going. Prof. Carlo Fonseka is an example of the confused thinking. One day he says that the appointment of Wickremesinghe with a stroke of Sirisena’s presidential pen is an expression of “the will of the people”. The next day he challenging, quite commendably, the Financial Crimes Investigating Department, a.k.a. Fascist Centre for Indicting Dissidents, headed by Wickremesinghe, in the Supreme Court as a violation of the rights of the people.
Trapped inside a regime change that is running like a wild ass without a head or tail the Civil Society is now complaining that “the reform process itself has become mired in an ambiguous and perplexing morass of competing political self-interests”. Of course, they do not acknowledge their role in creating “the ambiguous and perplexing morass”. They are now trying to distance themselves from the genie that came out of their corked bottle. They encouraged, propagated, directed from behind the scenes, with the backing and finances of their foreign masters operating through Western diplomatic missions, the creation of the political demon that is “running aimlessly”, heading nowhere. First they crowed about their success in bringing about regime change. Now they are backpedalling. It is unlikely that they will acknowledge their stupidity in bringing down a regime without knowing what should replace it. This is the Arab Spring that they were yearning for and they have now got it, bellyful.