The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 5

5
Politics
Saturday, April 25, 2015
By Malinda Seneviratne
T
he ‘100 days’ are done. Much
of the key elements of the
‘program’ part of it remain
undone. This should not worry
President Maithripala Sirisena.
An electorate that has been bur-
dened by a draconian constitution
for more than 36 years can wait
a few months more. Indeed they
have no option but to wait, at least
until the next General Election. At
most they have to wait for just one
more year.
The question now is whether or
not the promised reform will see
the light of day. If the delay is only
related to logistical issues then
there’s little need to worry. The
problem is that the entire process
has been marked by political brink-
manship with both major parties,
the United National Party (UNP)
and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party
(SLFP) showing less concern in
democratization than in what the
party could gain (or lose) in the
process.
All this is understandable. Al-
though there are UNPers and SLF-
Pers in the cabinet, the decision-
making power rests with the Prime
Minister, who is the leader of the
UNP. Although it is officially and
in appearance a ‘national’ govern-
ment, there are SLFPers in both
what is called ‘government’ and
what is called ‘opposition’, even
though the man who wields almost
dictatorial powers courtesy consti-
tutional provision is also the leader
of that party. In short it is a con-
fused state of affairs, the confusion
directly deriving from the fact that
the chief executive has chosen to
remain aloof in the day-to-day run-
ning of the country.
The flipside of this is that until
such time the 19th Amendment is
passed, the President can at any
moment and with the greatest of
ease change the political equation
as per whim and fancy. All the
more reason to get the 19th passed,
one would think. As of now the
only consolation is that President
Sirisena has refused to limit the ex-
ercise the powers to less important
matters. However, if the 19th is not
passed due to the UNP and SLFP
trying to see who will blink first,
then he would have what Mahinda
Rajapaksa had with a useful excuse,
‘by default’, i.e. the default of Parlia-
ment being patently uninterested in
democratizing the constitution.
The irony is that only the Presi-
dent stands to gain if the 19th is
passed and only the President (at
this point) is able to persuade the
two parties to ‘see reason’. He has
the interesting and ‘good’ headache
of being able to ensure that the pro-
cess is scuttled even as he appears
to be doing his very best to see it to
a satisfactory close. All this, by the
way, re-emphasizes how pernicious-
ly anti-people the 1978 Constitution
is.
The President can take his time.
The only thing that might force his
hand is the ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa
Factor. In the absence of parliamen-
tary coherence with it being hard to
find out who is in government and
who in the opposition, and given
the manifest (and deliberate?) sloth
in investigating corruption charges
against the previous regime, one
has to wonder how close things
have come to ‘too late’.
It is clearly in the UNP’s inter-
est to go slow on investigations be-
cause it can help divide the SLFP.
If the ‘due date’ elapses then action
will run into problems associated
with political ‘doability’. The UNP
is walking on eggshells because all
the negatives will fall into its ac-
count. As of now the Central Bank
Governor’s issue related to bonds is
driving a wedge between the UNP
and its traditional base, the busi-
ness community. This has obvious
and serious implications for the
party.
Managing that discontent while
trying to divide the SLFP is no easy
task, especially since the President
with a few deft moves can trump the
UNP and/or the Mahinda Rajapak-
sa ‘fan club’. He can trump the UNP
also by co-opting the Mahinda fac-
tor. He has many options. Others
have few or none. Again we see how
pernicious the 1978 constitution is.
The problem for the country is
that while all these political devel-
opments are interesting in and of
themselves, they also make for seri-
ous lack of clarity, coherence and
stability which naturally does not
bode well for the economy. This,
more than other political factors, is
what constitutes a limiting factor
for the President.
In this sense, we won’t or we can’t
be having too much time to wait.
The 19th and 20th are due to be tak-
en up in Parliament next week. As
was seen earlier this week it doesn’t
take much to distract our parlia-
mentarians. There will be costs of
course, but if it is people and not
individual MPs who have to pay, it
won’t matter to them.
It is Maithripala Sirisena’s hour.
Let us see how he plays his hand.
By Asitha G Punchihewa
President Maithripala Siris-
ena was elected with 6.2 defeat-
ing Mahinda Rajapaksa with
5.8. We all know what Rajapak-
sa was trying to defend. It was a
corrupt regime where the eco-
nomic resources of the country
were stagnating around a few
families connected to the Ra-
japaksas. The former president
tried to fool the public by using
giant cutouts, state and pri-
vate media, donation of public
property, using of public prop-
erty for campaigns. They even
went on to donate sil redi (re-
ligious garbs) to unsuspecting
upasaka ammas. We are lucky
to have defeated those in power
who did not respect law, public
interest, culture, history and
even the environment.
President Sirisena was elect-
ed not because he was good, but
because Rajapaksa was bad.
Now this gave an undue oppor-
tunity for Premier Ranil Wick-
remesinghe and his battalion
to go on the rampage. The yaha
palanaya group has failed mis-
erably in living up to the trans-
parency level that was expected
of them. The treasury bonds
deal was a bigger fraud than
the ones allegedly performed
by the earlier government. The
BIASED committee appointed
to investigate the scandal de-
clared that “there seem to be
no DIRECT involvement of Ar-
jun Mahendran” in this issue,
which in turn suggests that
INDIRECT involvement was
there.
During the process of seek-
ing concurrence of the cabi-
net, Champika Ranawaka is
said to have inquired about the
appointing of Mahendran, a
figure alleged to have an infa-
mous history with the previous
regime. It is said that the new
premier had given a personal
assurance to the Cabinet that
he will bear full responsibility
concerning the appointing of
the Central Bank Governor.
The Governor having indi-
rect involvement in dodgy issu-
ance of treasury bonds should
be sacked in the first place and
secondly should undergo legal
procedure even though he is
not a citizen of Sri Lanka. If
the Yaha Palanaya lives up to
public expectation, the Prime
Minister who had given a per-
sonal assurance to hire a non
citizen who has a grey history,
as the Central Bank Governor,
should also be held account-
able.
If such a fraud was exposed
in Japan, the Prime Minister
would have performed Hara
Kiri by now. Knowing that
this is the Dharma Dveepa
(Holy country) that does not
accept committing suicide as
an answer to problems and as
a country that has no culture
of accepting responsibility
and resigning with dignity, Sri
Lanka will see more of Wickra-
masinghe.
Therefore, the best descrip-
tion for the current proceed-
ings would be “horunta horu
kiyana horu” (thieves calling
others thieves thieves). This is
not what the people aspired. A
majority of parliamentarians
representing all major parties
have failed their voters. Time
will soon come to field test Po-
litical Darwinism where people
will democratically select or
de-select their representatives
who would in turn take deci-
sions on their behalf.
In a country that has invest-
ed heavily on education and
health, immunization and lit-
eracy, people are supposed to
be better informed and act logi-
cally. One never gets to embrace
logic when walking or driving
along streets of Sri Lanka. It is
a true representation of what
decision they would make in
the upcoming election. They
are likely to vote and elect the
same set of politicians with a
questionable past who have es-
caped law with political clout.
They may come in different at-
tire and in different colors, but
they will all come to grab not a
buck, but a billion or more.
The unfortunate reality is
that there will be hundreds
and thousands who will not
only vote, but will also help the
rogues and thugs to come to
power and rob us in broad day-
light as they are accustomed to.
This process will well lead the
country towards disaster with
fewer resources available for
the generations to come. With
an increasing population, di-
minishing resources and ever
deteriorating level of social jus-
tice, it is likely that the country
will experience another phase
of unrest followed by an epi-
sode of bloodshed.
PM Ranil Wickremesinghe
Political Darwinism and the
plight of Sri Lankans
Time will soon come to field test
Political Darwinismwhere people
will democratically select or de-
select their representatives who
would in turn take decisions on
their behalf
Maithripala Sirisena
holds the trumps
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