Politicians playing tug of war

December 12, 2018

The present political chaos in Sri Lanka is akin to ‘Nero playing the fiddle while Rome was burning’, because none of the 225 representatives appointed by the people, through universal franchise, don’t seem to be thinking of the country and the suffering masses, but expose themselves as being egocentric and are hell-bent on a power struggle.

The UK is a good example to emulate. Politicians of all parties in unison dispelled their political ideologies and supported the country as one nation, during the Falklands War under Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

Sri Lanka’s recent “Constitutional or Non-Constitutional crisis”, stemmed a few weeks ago, is dragging on.  Meanwhile, a tug-of-war between the government group and the Opposition (ousted group), continue week after week, while the country is allowed to go downhill on roller coasters.

This disturbing factor has been a major topic of conversation among all classes of people in the country as well as internationally. A logical thinker becomes completely confused and perplexed as to how the so-called dedicated political parties of all hues continue with their power struggle, dragging a ‘majority issue’in Parliament, apathetically. International regimes, on the other hand, seem to be more interested in Sri Lanka, particularly, while turning a blind eye to atrocities taking place in other parts of the world.

MPs brawl inside Parliament

It all began with the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister and appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa as a replacement by President Maithripala Sirisena. When the UPFA members of the ‘Unity Government’ left, President Sirisena had no choice but to prorogue Parliament, making the existing Cabinet of Ministers, including the Prime Minister, Ranil  Wickremesinghe, to vacate their positions and to appoint  a new small Cabinet of 30 Ministers.

Ousted Premier Ranil Wickremasinghe

Adding to such chaos, a different kind of a debate is in progress among the political researchers and analysts, including the legal luminaries, with a difference of opinion about Parliament being prorogued, after the withdrawal of the UPFA members from the Unity Government. Some have even gone to the extent of seeking legal assistance against the President’s stance. The seven-member panel of judges will be going through several petitions against the President’s decision and the final judgement is due to be released on 7 December. Meanwhile, UNF has filed action in Court against Mahinda Rajapaksa and the newly-appointed members of the Cabinet. Judgement on the legality was placed in abeyance until 12 December with an Interim Order.

Meanwhile, President Sirisena has vouched that he will not reappoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minster, “even if all 225 MPs voted for such a motion”,  as (in his own words), “Ranil Wickremesinghe is responsible for the present crisis, and he has even partly ruined me.”

Foreign interference

Any national-minded citizen of this country would not like to see any interference by foreign countries in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs, especially from the USA. The newly-appointed American Ambassador has been quoted as having a meeting with the Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya, initially, “to discuss the importance of Parliament reconvening to put an end to the political crisis”. May be under international pressure, President Sirisena permitted to convene Parliament on 14 November, after proroguing  it earlier, where an array of foreign diplomats was seen watching from the gallery.

Subsequently, the US Ambassador was quoted as saying, “Democracies rest on rule of law, and the US is deeply concerned by the news that Parliament will be dissolved”. However, ‘the US Embassy in Colombo and the State Department both failed to show an iota of interest in democracy when Ranil Wickremesinghe was illegally appointed as Prime Minister in January 2015, and the Parliament was dissolved on the very day when the Parliamentary Report on the Central Bank financial scam was to be presented. In all these issues, the US State Department reigned silence even when Provincial Council elections were postponed’, yet the pretty Ambassador was worried about democracy. The unusual stance and interest taken by foreigners on Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs, especially by the INGOs, is unhealthy, towards the progress of the Nation. The President recently highlighted during a public speech that the citizens should be aware of  the difference between loyalists and traitors!

Can of worms

“The government Group” blamed Karu Jayasuriya for ignoring the established procedures and taking a ‘counted’ vote, by ‘noise levels’and later accepting this “dubious document” submitted by the JVP,UNP and TNA on 14 November, in lieu, of an official vote count. This was seen by the ‘Government Groupas the Speaker claiming executive powers and declaring that he would not recognize the newly appointed Prime Minister. This managed to bring the hornet’s nest upon Karu Jayasuriya after opening a can of worms.

‘The government group’, from then onwards started blaming the Speaker for being partisan and Ranil Wickremesinghe for having discussions with certain diplomatic missions in Colombo. The Speaker using the Parliament premises to conduct meetings with some of the Western diplomats too was seen as illegal and alleged as a campaign to disrupt the progress and tarnish the country’s reputation.

Any sensible person needs to understand that foreign diplomats or international non-governmental organizations should not try to interfere with Sri Lankan domestic or political affairs. After all, their duty should be to promote trade and cordial relationships with the host country and not to interfere and dictate terms to the host government on domestic issues. By the same token, could any of the Sri Lankan diplomats, abroad, interfere with the affairs of a foreign domain? Could the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London attempt to exert pressure on the British Government on the Brexit issue? The whole problem appears to be that our leaders become either meek or vacillate in a backboneless style in front of foreigners all the time. This may be due to a residue of the colonial rule that influenced and still exists! The ‘government group’ consistently maintained that those who support such demeaning acts were simply stooping to a gutter level for their political survival, and even nodding their heads with the  intention  of dividing the country.

The country needs dedicated rulers with the capacity of the late President R. Premadasa. He never tolerated such boloney, and whenever he realised any diplomat getting out of diplomatic boundaries and intervening and interfering with domestic affairs, he spared no time in taking firm action. The British High Commissioner, David Gladstone, was once spotted getting out of diplomatic perimeters and was expelled and declared persona non grata. This course of  action entered the world records and Sri Lanka became the second Commonwealth country to expel a British diplomat.

Parliament prorogued

When Parliament has been prorogued, critics maintain that the Speaker has no right, whatsoever, to conduct parliamentary sessions and specially to hold discussions with foreign diplomats inside the Parliament’s offices. 

Ignoring such claims and protests, the Speaker decided to hold parliamentary sessions continuously on two occasions, and tried to enter the Parliament from a backdoor with Police escort. The UPFA group continued to accuse the Speaker for “taking over the powers of President”. 

Barricade of policeman guarding the speaker

Second session was rather boisterous when books started flying at the Speaker and chairs being thrown and a ‘former UNP Minister’ had a full taste of chilli powder Coca-Cola mixture, which nearly blinded him, temporarily, and got drenched with the liquid. Meanwhile, the Speaker’s chair was moved by the ‘government group’ and the whole scene depicted a street brawl. Amidst fisticuffs and wresting bouts between the two parties, the Speaker managed to address the UNF group with the help of a microphone and get a majority motion passed that a JVP member did a sprint in the midst of such hullabaloo. Finally, the Speaker had to make a quick exit with a battalion of Police security. That led to a complete boycott of the Parliament by the ‘government group’ further, claiming that the Speaker’s behaviour was completely unconstitutional. It was the worse type of behaviour people,iof this country had witnessed during the last 70 years, inside the Sri Lanka Parliament. The political crisis in Sri Lanka is still far from  reaching a settlement.

Where have we gone wrong?

Where have we gone wrong is the question that crops up in every citizen’s mind at present. In such a backdrop when Parliament was prorogued, the simplest thing would have been to go before the voters to give their own choice to appoint a new set of parliamentarians who are really dedicated and able to pull back the country from what it has fallen into.

The most ailing problem why this country has not been able to progress has been identified as bribery and corruption, being the root cause.

Why hasn’t a single project with foreign investors come about? Because it is an open secret that Cabinet Ministers (of all governments) expecting a 2.5 per cent of any total project ( minimum) and up front over the top of the project value. The other factor seems to be that ministry officials demanding 17.5 per cent of any project, including the UDA !

Assume a project value of US$ 500 million, on a hospital project, and the skimming happens off the top, so, the investor has to raise US $ 600 million to get the project moving a one fifth extra. If not paid, there will be undue delays and outright rejection and finally the investor returns home never to look back!

So, President Sirisena in his latest speech has on the 4th assured that ‘ within seven days’ he would resolve this chaos. Desperate and confused people in this country have nothing else to do, but to appeal to ‘Sathwaran Deviyo’(gods that that are said to protect this beautiful nation).

Pic credit;z google photos

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