Potshots leave govt in knots!

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(Rajitha Senarate) (Rajitha Senarate)

Poor Rajitha Senarate, the dentist turned politician, seems to be projecting himself as a toothless Cabinet spokesman. It seems that he keeps consistently jumping the gun without official sanction and getting his sarong in a twist every time he expresses the administration’s decisions.

Clearly Senaratne is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer as the choice of Cabinet spokesman. Even so, shouldn’t he get his facts correct before he spews out all kinds of unsubstantiated hearsay? Any responsible leadership should spike their loose cannons from foot-in-the-mouth moments.

Still, the perceptive public would be right in posing the question whether he is being used as a cat’s-paw to save the blushes for erratic statements made by higher ranking Cabinet colleagues? What we have had up to now has been a government of contradictions and controversies.

How any government could lack even basic co-ordination when its officially designated mouthpiece issues significant statements at this crucial juncture only to have them denied totally by the Prime Minister? The hastily cobbled administration began it 100day experiment with a sweeping witch-hunt that smacked of outright vendetta. And they were followed by Senaratne’s statements which were met with short-shrift denials by his superiors.
Senaratne, earlier put the government in a similar tizzy following his statement  attributed to PM Wickremasinghe about the impending resignation of the then incumbent Chief Justice. When the statement met with rebuttal poor Senaratne was made to look like the all-time joker in the pack.

Then during those early euphoric post-polls days Senaratne said that the LTTE’s one time global arms procurer and financial controller Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP has fled the country. Addressing the media he said that an investigation had been launched following reports that the former LTTE leader fled the country using the VIP lounge at the Bandaranaike International Air Port. Soon after, KP himself issued a statement that far from fleeing the country he was breathing the same air as Senaratne and was well within the confines of the same nation.   
In another characteristic case of ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome Senarate said that the Port City project would go ahead as planned contrary to the statements made by  Wickremesinghe which resulted in the latter flatly denying its veracity. Senaratne’s failure to justify himself following such humiliation might well have conceded: “I don’t have credibility, I’m only a comedian.” One wonders why Senaratne if only a scapegoat for such faux pas is keeping a zip on his lip?
Now without the slightest help from Senarate Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe is sounding off dangerously on several crucial issues in a decidedly un-parliamentary and un-statesman like manner. For all the talk about press freedom touted by the Common coalition the PM has thrown a spanner in the promised works.
He says with autocratic aplomb that he plans to summon the owners of local media to warn them against attempting to create communal disharmony in the country. He also urged the public to stage an ‘occupy’ style protest at the office of any journal if it promotes hatred among communities.

He put the cherry-topping on the threat by blurting: “If any media head does not come I’ll see to it.” He also vowed to strike out media owners from the stock market because their publications are supposed to have aroused communal dissension. Is this type of suppression a foretaste of much flaunted hype about about media freedom pledged by President Mathripala Sirisena? 

Then again in what is tantamount to criminal libel he has described Northern Province Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran as an irresponsible man and a liar whom he would not meet even if he (Wickremesinghe) visited Jaffna. Surely at a time when the new ad hoc administration is bending over backwards to woo the much sought after Tamil vote, does not such unwarranted propounding appear that of a frustrated political element seeking to sow national discord and alienate an important vote bank?

Wickremasinghe has categorically denied having dealt with Wigneswaran, but had admitted that he had met the Northern Chief Minister only once when he was the opposition leader. “I have not spoken to Wigneswaran. I don’t discuss Jaffna with Wigneswaran. I discuss with TNA in Parliament,” Wickremesinghe  said. But surely everyone is aware that Wigneswaran is regarded as an icon among his people.

Domestic political battering apart, Wickremasinghe appears to have thrown diplomacy clean out of the widow while singlehandedly seeking to disrupt relations with our giant neighbour, India. In a precariously threatening statement he has warned India that its fishermen who stray beyond Sri Lanka’s maritime boundary will be shot at by the Navy. 

His salvo comes at a time when even as fishermen from both sides of the divide are engaged in talks and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka next week.  His not-so profound allegory is worth quoting on this issue: “If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed, law allows me to do that!”

These excessively unwarranted reactions can only be a sign of a man no longer able to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Obviously he has been conferred with the title of Prime Minister only because President Sirisena had kept to his pre-presidential poll bargain of using his constitutional powers to elevate him to that exalted position.    

Yet, that type of gratitude although commendable from a gentleman’s point of view certainly does not appear to be doing the jumbled coalition nor the nation any good. Especially so when it seems so darn obvious that he has arrogated so much of the decision-making powers to himself.      

Ever since he became Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe has been displaying  distressing signs of aberrant behavior. The current developments within the newly formed government indicate there is confusion and serious differences of opinion among the partners. Analysts claim that Wickremasinghe is leading  Sirisena by a nose ring and calling the (pot) shots!

And dear or dear, I suspect that something queer is going on in the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe polygamous union. After the brief honeymoon it will take  only a pin-prick to burst the inflated balloon!
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