The appointment of Sri Lanka’s latest cabinet of Ministers following the events of 26th October is an eye opener as to how utterly ignorant politicians are of the peoples’ expectations, aspirations and demands. Apart from the fact that all caution has been thrown to the winds when considering due process and procedure – key components of good governance which was promised to the people by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe combine.
President Sirisena has publicly referred to the legendary stubbornness of Ranil Wickremesinghe and we believe that the President has got it spot on. In 2004 TIME magazine interviewed the tragic princess of Sri Lankan politics President Kumaratunga. President Kumaratunga was asked why she had dissolved parliament and had called for elections early. Her response is chillingly similar to President Sirisena’s explanation. Wickremesinghe Kumaratunga said, was focused only on becoming President and did not have a care in the world as to what happened to the country and its people. Wickremesinghe she added, had harassed her and Wickremesinghe acted increasingly ‘solo’ as Sirisena said.
Twenty nine members including Ranil Wickremesinghe were appointed to the cabinet of Ministers. We noted that at least 14 members of that cabinet had startling and serious allegations made against them in various fora.
Try as he did, Sirisena was unable to keep out the rogues. He was stymied by that almost draconian and ill planned 19th Amendment which had as the late Hemantha Warnakulasuriya put it once upon a time reduced the presidency to a virtual eunuch.
The Supreme Court of course examined the Presidential action with cold neutrality befitting Judges and made their order. Complying with it to the letter President Sirisena of course noted in front of the upbeat UNP membership that some of those responsible for poor governance and corruption were still here – as in the Cabinet room. He launched into a by now famous ‘national ticking off’ which left Wickremesinghe and his other key aides squirming with discomfiture whilst Sirisena spoke the plain hard truth.
Instead of taking a cue from what the President had noted Wickremesinghe with his legendary stubbornness intact and perhaps bolstered by the decision of the apex court house, named 29 members virtually to the same positions they held save a few changes.
It would have been opportune for Wickremesinghe to have heralded a new form of governance one in which the costs were trimmed down to the bone and by even having far less than the 20 members of the Cabinet. He would have scored tremendously in terms of votes had he resorted to this type of action.
Instead Wickremesinghe went for the maximum and was later to try and promote the cause of a national government which would then frustrate the 30-limit envisaged in the 19th Amendment for a single party rule. However they did have one solo member in Ali Zahir Moulana who had fortuitously contested under the SLMC ticket and had agreed to be in support of the UNP.
If Wickremesinghe and his cohorts were trying to use that to justify a national coalition Wickremesinghe is all but leading the UNP towards a sure path of destruction when it comes to election time.
A national government is ideally when the government (the majority) of the day joins forces with the opposition parties to form a united front in the greater and overriding national interest.
Instead what Wickremesinghe and company were blatantly attempting was to have a national government by using the solo SLMC member in order that the 30-limit of Ministers would be frustrated.
He must have felt that this was his only way of sustaining his pole position in his quest to become the common candidate of a future Grand National alliance in which he would be the executive prime minister. By choosing a common candidate chosen by more than just the UNP his own position as leader of the UNP would be intact. That is how the UNP constitutional requirement of leader of the country becomes party leader is averted. As in a common candidate scenario the common candidate is not the UNP candidate but a commonly agreed candidate from another party!
For all of us to see with absolute clarity Wickremesinghe is jostling hard to ensure that he remains the leader of the UNP and becomes the national Candidate in time to come.
He has thrown the President’s caution to the winds, comfortable that he has controlled the President and that he has secured for himself the plum position.
In all of this of course Wickremesinghe’s plans have not quite taken into consideration the highest court of all. The court of conscience which lies squarely with the people of this country. The people have taken note of the rampant corruption, the deals, the patronage extended to his inner circle.
The latest side show to have started is the view that Mahinda Rajapaksa should not even be a Member of Parliament as he had openly taken up membership of the SLPP. That is rich talk coming from the members of the so-called United National Front who have all contested under the UNP symbol and the UNP name. Including Rauf Hakeem and Patali Ranawaka.
Now what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander is a notion we all believe in. As that is the case should the Speaker – partisan as he appears to be – decide to appoint a select committee perhaps he will look at the composition of the UNP (alias United National Front) and examine that membership forensically?
In simple terms the membership issue of Mahinda Rajapaksa and others is a matter for the Secretary General of the UPFA and not one for Hakeem Ranawaka and Sumanthiran to champion or address.
Finally as we bid you all a super Christmas and holiday season let us all remember that finally the straw that breaks the camel’s back is held by the people of the country.
Happy Season and God Bless Sri Lanka.