By Gamini Jayaweera –
On 8 January 2015, the people in Sri Lanka faced the most critical question about the future of our country since independence. Were the voters to support the existing regime for a dictatorial establishment which would be run by one family and their close supporters or a democratic leader supported by various political parties and civil societies to re-build a Democratic, Compassionate, Peaceful, Law abiding and Sovereign nation in the coming years? A total of 6.2m voters of all races Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malay and of all religions Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, and Anglicans had answered the critical question in favour of Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, the common candidate, to become the 7th Executive President of The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of the United National Party was appointed as the Prime Minister to lead a coalition government. The nation placed their trust and pinned their hopes that the President and the Prime Minister would overcome the challenges and change the existing political culture to fulfil the promises given in the presidential and general elections, to create a decent peaceful human society in Sri Lanka.
Apology for Poor Performance
After 3 years of slow progress on many critical issues, the coalition partners, the SLFP and the UNP suffered a humiliating defeat at the recently concluded Local Government (LG) elections. The Hon. Prime Minister has publicly apologised to the nation and his party supporters for their party’s mediocre performance in the LG elections due to mistakes made during the last 3 years. He has given an assurance that he would change the direction and take decisive actions to correct the mistakes made by him and his party’s cabinet colleagues. Though the Hon. Prime Minister had failed to make significant changes to his existing cabinet, he had proposed one important change to his cabinet. He had nominated Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka to lead the Ministry of Law and Order. It was long overdue because the Ministry of Law and Order had received severe public criticism for its ineffective ways of dealing with crucial matters of public interest. But the request had been rejected by the Hon. President for no apparent reason. I believe that the nation is entitled to know the reasons for the Hon. President’s refusal to appoint Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka to the post of Minister for Law and Order, as proposed by the Prime Minister.
The general secretary of the SLFP, Minister Duminda Dissanayake has also publicly apologised for their mistakes during the last 3 years after the LG elections. But, as far as I know, the Hon. President has not apologised to the nation and his party supporters for the disastrous performance by the SLFP in the LG elections. Instead of doing so, he has tried to replace the Hon. Prime Minister with someone else from his own party (SLFP), assuming his party’s humiliated defeat in the LG elections was due to the UNP leader Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Like many other people, without analysing the real reasons for the SLFP’s appalling defeat in the LG elections, the Hon. President was quick to embrace the “blame culture” and wanted to replace the Prime Minister who is the leader of the main partner in the coalition government. As the leader of the UNP Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is entitled to be the Prime Minister of the coalition government unless he is replaced by the membership as the leader of the UNP. The Hon. President and other outsiders have no right to interfere with the internal matters of the UNP. It would have been much more productive and logical if the Hon. President had looked at his and his SLFP cabinet colleagues’ performance during the last 3 years before he had taken steps to remove the Prime Minister.
Recently, the Hon. President had publicly announced that if all 96 SLFP MPs were prepared to support him, he could form a SLFP government. It appears that the President had made this ill-advised statement without understanding the limitations in the Constitution for such action. The Hon. President had also asked the Supreme Court to clarify whether it was Constitutional for him to extend his term of presidency from 5 years to 6 years. As far as I could see there are two reasons for this request. Either the President has genuinely forgotten that he himself has passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting such action or it is his tremendous desire to enjoy the presidential status, power, and privileges for an additional year. It is sad to learn that the Hon. President has also forgotten his pledge at the funeral of the late Ven. Sobitha thero, to deliver on his promise to abolish the Executive Presidency.
When the Hon. President nominated the defeated SLFP members as Ministers in the coalition government, the voters reluctantly gave the benefit of the doubt for the President’s unethical decision, thinking that the President was doing this to obtain the two thirds majority in the parliament to implement the promises given in the presidential and the general elections. But it appears that the honest voters have been misled by the President because so far most of the promises have not been fulfilled. There is no logic to the Hon. President’s attempt to sack the legitimately elected Prime Minister while appointing SLFP members who have been rejected by the voters in the general election, as ministers and state ministers.
It appears that these are desperate measures by the Hon. President who seems to have forgotten his promises and his genuine supporters who conducted an effective election campaign under extremely difficult environment to defeat the powerful former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential election.
It is important that we remind the Hon. President how he was protected by the unselfish supporters who would have faced possible torture, disappearance, or death should the presidential election results had gone in favour of the previous regime. The Hon. President has forgotten that he was transported in a hired helicopter, provided bullet-proof enclosures, and appointed no. of private security personnel for his final rallies by the supporters of the coalition for the fear of assassination. The Hon. President has forgotten that he was given the ultimate leadership of Sri Lanka not by the members in the SLFP and UPFA, but by the shear dedication and unselfish activities of the late Ven. Sobitha Thero, former President Madame Chandrika Kumaratunga, UNP Leader Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, UNP and a few other SLFP MPs, and no. of Civil Societies such as “Puravasi Balaya”.
“Deals” with the Previous Regime
The recent media reports indicate that the Hon. President has contacted Mr. Basil Rajapaksa of the SLPP to discuss a possible reunification with the members of the Joint Opposition and his faction of the SLFP. Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, former economic development minister has been arrested several times and he is currently on bail for alleged misuse of public funds and money-laundering. Several other members of the Rajapaksa family have been charged for alleged corruption and misuse of public funds during the 10-year presidency of the former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse. The recent media reports have also revealed that the Hon. President had met with the former President Mahinda Rajapakasa for conciliatory talks during his recent visit to Kandy. It is ironic that the Hon. President’s efforts for alleged reunification deals with the members of the Rajapakse family while promising to investigate the allegations of corruption and misuse of public funds by the members of the Rajapaksa family.
PM’s Errors of Judgements
The Hon. Prime Minister has made some errors in his judgements including his dealings with the nominations and appointments of personnel to important positions in the government institutions. It is a well-known fact that some of these appointees have made a “right Royal mess” in the administration of some of these state institutions. The most serious error of judgement was the appointment of the former Governor of The Central Bank and the PM’s insistence of continuing with him long after the allegations of the Bond Issue scandal.
The alleged misconduct in public office by the former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake is disgraceful and his pathetic excuses during the cross examination are laughable. Mr. Ravi Karunanayake’s continuous association with the Prime Minister in the public arena is beyond belief. The Hon. Prime Minister should stop paying lip service and take decisive action against the fraudsters in the party because the supporters and the voters are fed up with inaction by the leadership. As the leader of the UNP, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe should start listening to his membership, because lecturing is not the effective way of leading a group of grown-up people. My advice for the Hon. Prime Minister is not to spend so much time in his ivory tower, so that he could know what the voters really think about their behaviour and inefficient ways of dealing with crucial matters of public interest.
It is worth mentioning that the Hon. Prime Minister has shown some humility by apologising to the nation for their mistakes. If so, it is a mystery why the Hon. President cannot accept the apology, demand change, set deadlines and move forward to fulfil the promises given in the presidential and general elections. As far as the voters are concerned, the fulfilment of the promises given in the presidential election are of paramount importance and all other matters such as losing LG elections, infighting in the SLFP and the UNP, etc. are secondary.
Motion of No Confidence
Former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse and the members of the Joint Opposition have handed over a motion of no confidence to the Speaker of the House, against the Hon. Prime Minister. According to the media reports, some SLFP members in the government and some MPs in the UNP are supporting the motion. So far, the Hon. President is silent about the motion of no confidence, but it appears that the majority of the elected and nominated SLFP ministers in the cabinet are supporting the motion. Recent press reports indicate that three SLFP MPs have already signed the motion and another influential SLFP minister who lost his seat in the general election has publicly supported the motion.
In a recent press (Daily Mirror) briefing, Minister Mr. Dayasiri Jayasekara has told that they would be notifying the President that the SLFP ministers would support the motion unless the Prime Minister was removed before that. It appears that the learned Minister still can’t understand that the President cannot remove the Prime Minister under the current constitution. Some of these ministers and state ministers joined the coalition government not because they wanted to fulfil the promises given by the Hon. President in the presidential election, but because they could exploit the situation to grab ministerial posts, status, and financial benefits at the expense of the tax payers’ money. The politicians who change their party colours as and when it suits them for personal gains, cannot claim that they have values, principles, ethics, and morals.
It is hypocritical for the nominated SLFP ministers who were rejected by the voters, to talk about a motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister who was elected by the voters in the general election. Is it fair and reasonable to propose that a motion of no confidence should be brought against the nominated SLFP ministers who were rejected by the voters in the general election before a motion of no confidence is brought against the Prime Minister? Hope this may provide the Joint Opposition some interesting food for thought!
The Great Betrayal
It is hard to believe the recent media reports that the Hon. President Maithripala Sirisena is considering a possible ‘U’ turn to join hands with the MR faction of the SLFP and the UPFA. The nation had high hopes that the Hon. President would rebuild a democratic, compassionate, peaceful, law abiding, and sovereign nation while working towards the advancement of social, religious, cultural, economic, and technological developments in the country. The selfless reformists never thought that the Hon. President Mr. Maithripala Sirisena would ever turn his back on the mandate given to him on 8 January 2015. They honestly believed that the Hon. President had the strength and ability to cope with tricky situations and go beyond petty party politics for the sake of rebuilding a law-abiding country for all its citizens irrespective of their race, religion, gender, and the status in the society to live in peace and harmony.
I understand that disappointments are part and parcel of the politics as governments are unable to deliver every election promise for no. of valid reasons. If the recent media reports are true that the Hon. President is going to turn his back on the mandate, I believe that it is not an ordinary political disappointment, but it would be regarded as the Great Betrayal in the history of Sri Lankan political arena.