By Malinda Seneviratne –
The impending vote of no-confidence on Ranil Wickremesinghe has excited some while made others very anxious. True to form Shyamon Jayasinghe has bravely come to defend Wickremesinghe (Read ‘Why Ranil is still needed). Jayasinghe, again true to form, plays relative merits in this exercise, for it is no longer possible for him to give his hero the character certificate he would have loved to. Wickremesinghe, simply, has shamed himself too much for that kind of blank-cheque-endorsement to fly.
The agitation of this die-hard Ranil/UNP loyalist is not surprising, but in the excitement Jayasinghe seems to have missed a lot of buses. As usual. I say ‘as usual’ because not too long ago he offered a sunshine story about how Ranil and the UNP has turned the economy around (‘The political tug-o-war in Sri Lanka is cockeyed and absurd: only Ranil talks of economic goals’), the errors of which were pointed out in an article titled ‘The Cockeyed & Absurd Claims About Ranil’s Economic Expertise’.
First of all, there’s no provision in the constitution (read the 19th Amendment) to remove the Prime Minister through a no-confidence motion. However, if the majority hold that it does not have faith in Ranil Wickremesinghe, then his position becomes tenuous, considering a) there’s is palpable disappointment in the man within the party, b) the majority of the voting population has rejected the UNP, which secured less than 30% of the vote, and c) the symbolic power of such a verdict.
But then again, Wickremesinghe is not one to take such issues into account. His machinations to keep control of the party leadership are clearly Machiavellian. He had no qualms in accepting the Prime Ministerial post despite not having majority support in Parliament in January 2015. It is quite possible that he would be nonchalant to the last.
The Parliamentary arithmetic obviously favors Wickremesinghe, never mind that he has lost the confidence of the people. There are stories about UNP MPs planning to cross over, but these are just that: stories. We will know when we know. For now, with the 16 TNA MPs pledging to support Ranil, the move by the Joint Opposition (which, let us not forget was initiated by a UNP MP, Range Bandara whose silence appears to have been purchased since) appears to be heading towards failure. The numbers just aren’t there. Why then, did they go ahead, is the obvious question.
Well, a ‘loss’ would give the JO ammunition on several counts. First, they can point out the mismatch between popular sentiment and Parliamentary composition. Second, in the event President Sirisena and the SLFP backs off, they can expect a further erosion of that party leading to further gains for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna at future elections. Third, it will give relief to Ranil Wickremesinghe in the internal battles of the UNP, thereby paving the way for him to contest the Presidential Election in 2020; he is, without doubt, the preferred opponent of the SLPP.
We will know for sure as time goes on, so let’s stop the speculation right here and focus on the motion.
Here’s a dictionary definition. A motion of no confidence is a statement or vote which states that a person(s) in a position of responsibility is no longer deemed fit to hold that position, perhaps because they are inadequate in some respect, are failing to carry out obligations, or are making decisions that other members feel are detrimental.
The question then is not whether Ranil is the best option (highly debatable, that, anyway!) but whether or not he is fit. It is not even whether those being asked to determine ‘fit’ are morally fit themselves to pass judgment.
Now Shyamon indulges in a long harangue about Ranil’s virtues, comparing Ranil’s emotionlessness with Mahinda’s showmanship. He talks about Ranil’s ‘savvy knack about Sri Lankan politics.’ Well, the ‘knack’ is so savvy that the man led his party to over two dozen electoral defeats, but all that Shyamon seems to have forgotten.
Shyamon takes pains to paint everyone but Ranil as self-serving, short-sighted politicians. Here is a lovely description: “Ranil Wickremesinge’s very dress appearance seems an anachronism. His effort toward installing good governance systems in the island is subject to ridicule by our pollies. Even most of his own party men do not grasp the need for such systems. The substantial gains that his government has realised thus far, goes undervalued. Ranil’s farseeing economic policies and strategies are just a nuisance as they have “no impact” on the voting public.”
Good governance and Ranil Wickremesinghe don’t go together. He has not been averse to bashing skulls and he does interfere with media heads. He hasn’t abducted any journalists, yet, but he was a silent approver of countless abductions, proxy arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings by the UNP government in the 1980s.
His economic policies are not farseeing because he has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he doesn’t understand the first thing about economics (as was pointed out in the articled linked above). And Ranil is among the most self-serving politicians this country has seen. If Shyamon takes the trouble to read the UNP’s constitution he would learn that Ranil is all about himself and not the party. It was not emotional maturity (as Shyamon believes) but Machiavellian manipulation that allowed Ranil to keep control of the party.
Shyamon glosses over the Bond Scam. He does admit that Ranil could have done better with his appointments but says nothing of the fact that both Arjuna Mahendran and Ravi Karunanayake were ‘looked after’ by Ranil following their respective resignations.
Ranil is no innocent. Shyamon hasn’t heard, perhaps, of Christopher, of Soththi Upali, of Ranil’s exploits at Batalanda. They are all coming out now after his confidant and fall-guy of 33 years tendered his resignation.
None of this counts here. What counts is his involvement in the Bond Scam. He protected and defended Mahendran, who is now on the dodge. He, together with Sirisena, moved to dissolve Parliament just before the COPE report on the Bond Issue was to be released. He got his minions to remove critical sections of the second COPE report. He has clearly prevailed on the Attorney General to treat him with kids’ gloves at the Bond Commission hearings. He gave appointments to both Mahendran and Karunanayake. He is yet to tell us how the UNP, which couldn’t pay the Sirikotha electricity bill, unleashed a multi billion rupee election campaign just 8 months after Sirisena came to power. All this has to be cleared before he can be cleared of involvement in the Bond Scam.
Anyone who votes against this motion would be endorsing all these things. Shyamon says ‘the nation needs him to remain.’ If one played relative merits such a position could be taken, although its defense would be tough. He thinks that Ranil is needed ‘if Sri Lanka is to be saved from the mad world of selfish loonies.’ A selfish loony to save Sri Lanka from selfish loonies? I would think not.
Ranil does not, as Shyamon believes, ‘stand apart’. He is a part of the bad lot and is among the worst, clearly. The only difference is that he wears a coat and a tie. That might fool the Shyamons of this world, sure, but then again the world is not made of Shymons and only Shyamons.