By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot burst out when he should burst oust. .…In leadership, one has to throw a fit now and again, to show or even simulate anger in the face… Lao Tzu’s leadership concept is no style for a leader in the 21st century and living in the kind of cultural context that generates the kind of capricious politics we find prevalent in Third World countries like Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, rough elements and political conmen operate all the time and politics seems to be the prize for everyone.”
What a Showdown!
But, first some preliminaries. Upon hearing that the Sajith faction’s intimidatory campaign for nomination had been getting out of hand, with some faction leaders personally intimidating UNP parliamentarians with intent to getting the latter to join them, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe called for an urgent meeting of party parliamentarians to be arranged for him to meet them on the 6th September /19, as he returned from the Male. Enough was enough!
One would have expected Ranil to have a showdown. But, true to his style of handling a crisis with calm and quiet, Wickremesinghe remained sober-even in the face of what would have appeared to the generality of concerned persons as extreme provocation and incitement.
After some preliminary questions, the Prime Minister announced:
“The only way to sort this out keeping, party stability, is for me to be nominated.” As the leader of the party, Ranil had every right to do that. He said he would shortly put the decision to the Working Committee and begin campaigning. “I will draw more crowds and I WILL win,” he said.
It has been clear to the political literate that what the Sajith faction was eventually heading towards was to oust the party leader. There is no other way reason why Sajith could be promising in his pre-nomination rhetoric to ‘change the country,’ ‘to rebuild the country,’ ‘make ever woman a millionaire,’ to ‘ensure minimum income of Rs 50,000 to the people,’ ‘to build thousands of Chaityas and Daham Paasalas, dole out this and dole out that.
In the position of the new President, Sajith’s powers under the 19Amendment is even more circumscribed than those of the current incumbent. Only the Prime Minister and his men in the cabinet can attempt such big changes. The faction objective has been to leverage the reality of an elected President and make haste to oust Wickremesinghe. That being done, the coup would have been over.
Kabir Hashim is a senior Minister and the Chairman of the United National Party.It was completely out of place and a blatant betrayal of his key role particularly as Party Chairman to have formally started the Sajith campaign to take shape. He had proposed Sajith Premadasa for nomination at a normal meeting of the parliamentary group.Out flew the Hands of Mangala Samaraweera, Mallik Samarawickrama, Harsha De Silva, Eran Wickremaratne and some others. Obviously, the whole thing had been hatched. If these people had some sense of honour, graciousness, and gratitude to the leader who had made them something of them out of nothing, such an idea could have been mooted quietly and in private.
Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot burst out when he should burst oust. That is the nature of this man of high emotional intelligence (EQ). Never to get ruffled. However, in leadership one has to throw a fit now and again-show or even simulate anger in the face. He merely said he would think it over after consulting more broadly.
This signalled to others in the faction as a chance to exploit the situation. Planned by Mangala according to the Mangala Sutra, a campaign flow was organised on the spot. It is rumoured that external parties such as Mr Maharajah, some American sources, President Sirisena and all those in Opposition wanting to close serious cases of corruption and murder against them are backing the faction. Sajith and Sirisena are known to be cooing each other for sometime. Minister Mangala is a good campaign organiser and he has been putting his best effort over the last three weeks. Live telecasts of rallies well-attended had been organised for communication all over the world. How Mangala has time for his ministerial duties we do not know.
Ranil Wickremesinghe watched- perhaps tactically waiting for the natural wearing – out of the campaign. He should have realised that such a natural diffusion would have occurred had he at the outset got a Working Committee resolution that firmly rejected nomination commitments and firmly prohibited any such campaigning. He had the numbers (he still has) and he could have done that. Yet he preferred to watch.
Lesson from Lakshman Kiriella
Our Prime Minster is a great thinker and visionary with universal and modernistic values. He has helped keep political sanity, democracy, and harmony in our country. Since restoring law and order and the Independent Commissions, he has been admirably focused on the economy making impressive gains here. However, something he, hopefully learnt on the day of the aforesaid meeting (6/9/19), from his ministerial colleague Lakshman Kiriella was that a leader must stamp his foot down when enough becomes enough. I quote, for more authenticity, the report of the Daily Mirror (6/9/19) on the incident:
“Ministers Lakshman Kiriella and Kabir Hashim had a showdown at today’s meeting of UNP seniors.
Recently, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had requested President Maithripala Sirisena to assign the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) which is presently under Mr. Hashim to Mr. Kiriella. But Mr. Kiriella is known to have resisted such moves. The President had conveyed this to Mr. Kiriella and the other party senior who had met the President last week.
Minister Kiriella raised this matter at today’s meeting and reportedly taken Mr. Hashim to task.
“What right do you have to block this move,” he asked.
This led to a verbal tirade between the two ministers. Mr. Kiriella accused Mr. Hashim of letting down the party on four counts. He said Mr. Hashim was sworn in by the President as a minister despite instructions by the Prime Minister not to do so and was known to be having underhand dealings with the President against the party. Mr. Kiriella also said Mr. Hashim had met SLPP’s presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa in secret.
“You were exposed by Minister Navin Dissanayake regarding your surreptitious meeting with Gotabaya. Then, you admitted it. I am ashamed to associate with people like you in the government,” he said and also accused him of conducting public rallies all over the country regardless of the party’s position.
“It is shameful that you do these things as the chairman of the party. You better resign from the party and do what you want,” Mr. Kiriella said.
Meanwhile, Minister Hashim told the Daily Mirror that he resisted the move to take the CPC away from him because he was the only Cabinet minister representing the Kegalle district.
“We do not have expressway projects leading to Kegalle. It is a poor district. I want to serve my people better,” he said. (Kelum Bandara)”
Centuries ago, Lao Tzu said:“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Lao Tzu’s leadership concept is no style for a leader in the 21st century and living in the kind of cultural context that generates the kind of capricious politics we find prevalent in Third World countries like Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, rough elements and political conmen operate all the time and politics seems to be the prize for everyone.
Lakshman Kiriella showed the way and he was proved effective as Kabir bent down meekly. This is an example for other leaders in the party who should come forward to cover up the weak points of the party leader. The Grand Old Party must have strong and convinced frontline men who would drive away the rats and white-anting termites out of it. We have been missing Ravi Karunanayake for a long time but Rajitha Senaratne is a safe strongman.