The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 4

4
Saturday, April 25, 2015
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Rivira Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd
742, Maradana Road,
Colombo 10.
News:
4708837
Email:
General:
4708866
Fax: 4708860
Advertising:
4306403
Fax: 4708810
Circulation
: 0773451099
Fax: 4645305
Web:
Editor:
4708898
Email:
We support
Right of Readers
The Editor and journalists of this newspaper respect the “Rights of Readers” and endeavor to follow the
Code of Professional Practice of The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, which is implemented by the Press
Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka.
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op-ed
P
r ident Maithripala Sirisena
has appeared to have preferred a
backseat in political affairs since
being elected. He informs us that this
is not true. Indeed it can be argued
that being President is more than mak-
ing a song and dance about each and
everything one does. Work is one thing,
talking about it and getting it all re-
corded and disseminated is something
else. The former is what is preferred.
The President’s address to the nation
on Thursday was clearly timed to mark
the completion of 100 days after being
election. It was as good a moment as
any to come out from what appeared
to be a long sojourn in a political shell
where he deferred to the Prime Min-
ister the larger task of running the
country.
And he scored. Heavily.
He showed leadership and vision.
Most importantly the speech was cal-
culated to put to rest any doubts about
his willingness and ability to exercise
the powers of his office which, even in
the self-truncated form remain consid-
erable. In fact the nature of the power
he enjoys is clearly evidenced by the
fact that all it takes is a single speech
to put all opponents (and indeed would-
be opponents) on the back foot.
If anyone entertained illusions
about Maithripala Sirisena’s political
naiveté these were unceremoniously
laid to rest. He cleverly took credit
for the (for-the-time-being) suspension
of hostility from certain sections of
the international community. He was
correct in pointing out that there have
been positive changes in political cul-
ture of the country since he assumed
office, in particular when it comes to
freedom of expression and freedom
from feeling stalked and/or under
surveillance.
At the same time he subtly deflected
criticism over the delays in reform-
ing the constitution, putting the onus
on the Parliament. Nothing was
said about the abject failure of Ravi
Karunanayake’s ‘interim budget’ in
bringing down the cost of living. Noth-
ing at all about the fiasco of the Cen-
tral Bank bond issue. He claimed he
has not interfered in any investigation.
That was neat move. Therefore the
guilt in acts of omission and commis-
sion, would naturally fall into the ac-
count of Ranil Wickremesinghe. The
President has effectively retained some
trumps for later use.
The President, for all this, must
understand that things can change
very fast. Friendships with inter-
national players come with costs and
friendships can sour. Very fast. Politi-
cal culture can improve. It can also
decline. Crooks can be apprehended,
charges proven and sentenced, but
stopping theft requires that structures
that permit such things are corrected.
Talk won’t take anyone too far, for it is
far too cheap.
Therefore the presidentiality demon-
strated through a well crafted speech
has to be complemented by constitu-
tional reform. He has to deliver on the
19th and the 20th Amendments, the
first to divest from his office dictato-
rial powers and the second to correct a
horrendously flawed electoral system.
If this is not done he will retain all the
dictatorial powers that J.R. Jayewar-
dene created for himself plus the
goodies that Mahinda Rajapaksa got
for himself. As would his successors,
we must add. And who knows who
that could be! If that is what results
then this speech would sound utterly
hollow and its ‘presidentiality’ duly
lampooned.
He’s behind schedule. The speech
bought him time. Indeed, few would
gru
esident a few more
months to see the reforms through.
We applaud his intentions and wish
him well.
T
here was drama aplenty in
Parliament this week, but the
government’s efforts to enact
the 19th Amendment to the Consti-
tution are yet to become a reality. It
has been thwarted by the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party (SLFP) which is de-
termined to push through electoral
reforms at the same time.
Parliament is now scheduled
to meet again tomorrow in what
would be the final effort to push
through the reforms. Despite
many optimistic pronouncements
from both the government and the
opposition, their passage through
the legislature is not certain.
That is because the opposition
SLFP remains divided. The fac-
tions loyal to President Maithripa-
la Sirisena and former President
Mahinda Rajapaksa are pulling in
different directions. The latter is
gaining momentum with Rajapak-
sa making regular public appear-
ances to shore up support.
That Rajapaksa is on the as-
cendancy was evident when par-
liamentarians protested with a
so-called ‘fast unto death’ on
hearing that he was to be sum-
moned before the Commission to
Investigate Allegations of Brib-
ery or Corruption (CIABOC). As
farcical as it was, it was effective
nevertheless.
The matter at stake - Rajapaksa
being summoned to the CIABOC
- was only an excuse for an issue.
There was no reason why the for-
mer President should have been
treated differently. The govern-
ment, by directing the CIABOC
to visit Rajapaksa instead, only
highlighted how weak it was.
Almost all SLFP parliamentar-
ians barring those holding minis-
terial portfolios - and not merely
the Rajapaksa loyalists - partici-
pated in this protest. This had led
to suspicions that it was a tactic by
the party to delay the debate until
Parliament could consider elector-
al reforms as well.
Last week’s events suggest that
President Sirisena does not hold
the kind of firm grip over his party
that his predecessor enjoyed. How-
ever, he may be pushed to act deci-
sively against those who are defy-
ing him. After all, he still enjoys all
the powers that Rajapaksa had.
The President finds himself in
an unenviable position. He is in-
debted to the United National Par-
ty (UNP) for garnering the bulk of
the votes that assured his victory
at the presidential poll. He is also
committed to fulfilling the key
promises he made to the elector-
ate during his campaign.
However, to do so, he needs
the support of the SLFP where a
majority of parliamentarians ac-
tively worked against him at the
elections. Some of them are un-
der investigation for serious al-
legations of abuse of power and
corruption. Others are die-hard
Rajapaksa loyalists.
Many of them fear that, in the
event of a general election, they
will not receive nominations
from an SLFP led by President
Sirisena. These individuals have
nothing to gain and everything
to lose by the passage of the 19th
Amendment which will only en-
sure an early dissolution of this
Parliament.
Apart from the Sirisena and
the Rajapaksa camps in the SLFP,
there is a third faction consisting
of party seniors - Nimal Siripala
de Silva, Susil Premajayantha,
Anura Yapa and the like - who are
performing a balancing act trying
to work with the two warring fac-
tions to reach common ground.
For all these groups to agree
to vote on the 19th Amendment
(and, the proposed 20th Amend-
ment which will enable electoral
reforms and a return to the first-
past-the-post system in tandem
with the proportional representa-
tion system) is a Herculean task
as much as it is a historic oppor-
tunity.
It is complicated by Rajapaksa’s
dreams of a political comeback. Ra-
japaksa is certain to enter the fray
at the next general elections, and
President Sirisena was to say this
week that there was no bar for him
to seeking nomination. However, he
could not be nominated as a prime
ministerial candidate, he said.
That Rajapaksa is preparing for
his grand entrance became evident
with the return of his younger
brother Basil - who was the politi-
cal livewire behind the Rajapaksa
regime - to the country. Basil’s ar-
rest on Wednesday night will only
complicate matters vis-à-vis the
Rajapaksa faction even more.
It has become clear in the past
few weeks that President Sirisena
- and the nation, for that matter
- can ill afford to continue in this
state of confusion and indecisive-
ness for long. The President has
two options: Dissolve Parliament
or crack the whip on the SLFP and
bring it firmly under his wing.
The President and the ruling
UNP are known to prefer the op-
tion of an election where the UNP
hopes it can cash in not so much on
its performance so far but on the
divisions in the SLFP and a poten-
tial three-way contest, if Rajapaksa
chooses to contest on his own.
The President re-iterated his
call for support for the 19th and
20thAmendments in his address to
the nation on Thursday night, but
if the first 100 days of the Maithri-
pala Sirisena administration are
anything to go by, the only certain-
ty is that the best laid plans can go
awry.
President urges support for constitutional amendments
Presidentiality
Restored
H
ello there Mr. Grand Impostor.
I have been following your as-
cendancy to high office in re-
cent times with great interest. Well, first
it was interest, then it became a curios-
ity, then a bit of a concern and now it has
become a full blown bloody consterna-
tion. Before I start venting my spleen on
your sorry ass, let me commend you on
your duplicity and total commitment to
self-preservation and power aggrandize-
ment at the expense of all but self. That
takes some doing. That Italian boy Nic-
colo Machia dude must be your bedtime
companion. Now calm down. I meant
that in the literary sense and not in the
Biblical sense. You might a lot of things
but a necrophiliac, I think you are not.
Of course, I realize that you are not done
withour countryyet andmight pop a few
more unpleasant surprises before we are
free from the scourge that is you.
Now, let’s get to this latest power grab
you have concocted with your newfound
pal, the evil black widow. You two sure
didanumber onour
bathalaman
Siribir-
ius. The Polonnaruwa
Rala
didn’t have a
chance. He was like a deer caught in the
headlights. You corralled the
bathala
grower, fed the democracy and freedom
this and that to the bug-eyed simpleton
and got those Limeys andYankees to hop
on for the ride by promising papayas and
what not. Voila! Once they took that first
bite of the mesmerizing fruit that is pow-
er, theywere in for the whole ride.
You know and we know that you have
the charisma of a chalk board. But, it’s
only recently that we’ve realized that you
have the resiliency of a cockroach. Not
even a political holocaust will kill you.
Aren’t you special!?
Obviously, in January 2015 a majority
of us wanted a new president. We were
tired of the corruption, the heavy handed
rule, thenepotismblah, blahandblah.We
wanted akinder and gentlerMahindaRa-
japaksa without all the familial baggage.
We voted for Siribirius because he prom-
ised to be a kinder and gentler president
and promised to change the constitution
and create the Paradise we never were.
You got behind the Polonnaruwa man’s
sarong and held on to that bandita’s
sa-
reepota
like a heterosexual teenager in
musk. In our rush, we forgot how anti-
people and anti Sri Lanka you and your
miserable Nephews’ partywere.
Once Siribirius squeaked through (yes
it was a squeaker and not a groundswell
as some of those foreigners you love so
much have been saying), you started do-
ing your usual nadagama. In fairness I
must admit youhad given yourself only a
100 daywindow to cause financial and po-
litical havoc in the country. So, time was
in short supply.
Youstartbygivingusasmalltimefraud-
ster with Al Caponian ambitions and Raj
Rajaratnam connections as the Finance
Minister. Then you appoint a Singapor-
ean Raj Rajaratnam clone with sleazy
family tentacles all over the financial se-
curities sector to run the Central Bank. It
didn’t take long for the CB governor to do
his Raj Rajaratnam routine. Even before
he had fully furnished his new office, the
Governor was wheeling and dealing with
the in-lawto the tuneof billions.However,
the money he and the son-in-lawmade by
insider informationdidn’t godirectly into
the Governor’s personal account. He has
been found kind of guilty but not really
by 3 clowns impersonating legal experts.
Onwards dear governor; the path is clear
for the destruction of the financial mar-
kets. Ajit Nivard Cabraal never looked so
good, I tell ya.
The Finance fraudster started his
wrecking ball routine by scheduling his
first budget presentation on the auspi-
cious day that was also the day he was
required to go before the courts in the
simple matter of an illegal US $3 million
foreign currency transaction on behalf
of the convicted criminal Raj Rajarat-
nam. Then the Financial fraudster gave
us the cutting prices here, robbing un-
friendly corporations there and stopping
all infrastructure projects everywhere
gimmickry budget. Oh yeah, I almost
forgot the price control gilmarts. Hopper
prices all across the country will now be
uniform. That was always high on the
voters list of things that HAD to be done
in the first 100 days. Phew, what a relief.
Then he appointed his imminently
unqualified policeman brother-in-law as
the Managing Director of Sri Lanka In-
surance Corporation. Way to go.
Then you appoint your great kneeling
and regurgitating buddy as the Foreign
Minister. I must say, your man sucks a
big one. He has been kneeling all over
the world ever since he was appointed.
Sri Lanka’s foreign policy has been out-
sourced to John Kerry. The Minister
will most likely need his knees replaced
pretty soon.
Let’s not forget about your constitu-
tional shenanigans. Since you know that
Sri Lanka will never elect you as their
president, you tried to amend the consti-
tution to make the Prime Minister the
head honcho. Well, those Supreme Court
chaps got a whiff of that stench and put
a stop to that treachery. But there is talk
that you are trying to sneak those same
provisions through committee proceed-
ings. Get your greasy body out of the
cookie jar, will ya?
In the case of cricket, the only game
in town, you appointed a person who
does not seem to be able to follow simple
instructions. His actions are so trans-
parently stupid that his name is likely
to be introduced in the thesaurus as a
synonym for ignorance. This man has
handed Sri Lanka Cricket over to the
Maharajah organization. Was that part
of your 100 day plan?
Mercifully, the 100 day wrecking derby
is coming to a close. Mr. Grand Impostor,
you have been found to be what you are;
a Singapore loving, Anglophile Yankee
DoodleDandeewannabe.
TodaySriLanka isnot at acrossroads, it
is a country at a standstill.
You have sown the seeds of political
rebellion and it is starting to resemble a
political weed garden. You have lost the
plot and any meaningful control of the
goings on. The continuous pitting of one
foe against another and packing your side
with empty headed kangaroos is going to
bite you on your posterior. Mr. Impostor,
once the opposition break free from their
fear of the executive presidency, your
goose is cooked.
Guaranteed.
Sudat Pasqual
Dear Grand Impostor
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