Will the Political Turmoil end in November?

October 5, 2019

The latest political battles in Sri Lanka are between the two main political parties in appointing their respective nominees for the Presidential election. The SLFP and the SLPP are still at loggerheads (at the time of writing this column) debating mainly over ‘the Party Symbol’ to join hands in supporting Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the SLPP candidate. On the contrary, the leader of the UNP, Ranil Wickremesinghe at the eleventh hour, has ‘listened to what the whole country demanded’ including the majority of UNP members, along with some of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s life long ministerial friends in his Cabinet and other members of the UNF. He has been marking time shrewdly until the final minute, giving various excuses such as party discipline and having to abide by certain regulations laid down by the party in selecting a candidate from the UNP – by going through the Select Committee and the Parliamentary Group.

So, after a long tug- of- war, Ranil Wickremesinghe had to bow down to party pressure and on 26 September, he proposed Sajith Premadasa’s as the UNP candidate to contest the Presidential election.

During this rather procrastinated and tense period, numerous fears and rumours floated from certain quarters suggesting that ‘if Sajith Premadasa’s name was not proposed by the UNP for the forthcoming Presidential election, then he (Sajith) might contest independently or come to the battlefield by aligning with another group that agrees with his policies a move which would definitely have affected the UNP. Finally, the agonising battle came to an end when Ranil Wickremesinghe allowed Sajith to become the UNP candidate.

The General Consensus

It has been the consensus Ranil’s time as the leadership of the UNP was up after so many election defeats with some calling him a ‘cardboard’ leader. Recent utterances show that the public has no intention of either making kings or resurrecting nepotistic political dynasties. What the country requires at this point is a young leader with fresh ideas who will be able to establish a unitary, undivided’ Sri Lanka; who is capable of bringing peace, prosperity and development to the country.

According to a ‘Business Times’ email survey, it has been revealed the winning candidate should have an exemplary record to create a disciplined society and is upholding an impersonal and an impartial judiciary. That person should also be conversant with social, economic and cultural issues, particularly one who respects and adheres to human rights and equality to all citizens.”

A political party should nominate a presidential candidate, who has a clear vision and a mission to bring prosperity to the nation. A leader who should be chosen who will deliver on his promises made before elections and not do the exact opposite once he gets a taste of power and become narcissistic by turning politics into an industry.

Public opinion

Ranil Wickremesinghe has gone from ‘Mr Clean’, before the 2015 Presidential elections, to being accused of ‘undermining the integrity of the Parliament by directly getting involved in the historical Central Bank bonds scam and leading the nation towards the perilous bedlam that exists today.

Comparatively, Sajith Premadasa, at the press conference, after being officially named the UNP Presidential candidate, assured he would steer the nation on a new route with fresh and novel ideas to ‘strengthen the nation with a historic development drive; strengthen human values as well as bring peace and prosperity to a country in crisis’.

There appear to be numerous Presidential candidates vying for the top post, all of whom have indicated they have their own recipe on how to put the country right.

The main competitor to the UNP candidate would be PPP nominee, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, with the backing of his brother, the former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Although Gotabaya Rajapaksa is criticised as being a political novice, he is considered a good administrator. People still respect his brother, the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who seems to act as a magnet to woo the voters. The astrologers, in the meanwhile, seem to have woken from their slumber once again and are seen coming out on YouTube with different versions to of the likely outcome of the Presidential hustings.

It is an admitted fact that ‘Ranil Wickremesinghe is an intelligent individual with a scheming brain’. There seem to be different schools of thought in him displaying his ingenuity when it comes to the appointment of the party’s Presidential candidate. He is said to be fully aware to what extent his popularity as a politician has dwindled and he would also be aware of the turbulence that exists in the UNP .

His ingenious ability to remain the UNP leader for a considerable number of years, while the party was being defeated, is a witness to his dexterity and tactical acumen in controlling the party.

Academic View Point

Certain academics seem to think that when the UNP was in disarray, Ranil Wickremesinghe in a smart move appointed two deputy leaders, Ravi Karunanayake and Sajith Premadasa, to calm the seas and maintain a balance within the party whilst keeping the country in suspense. It was nothing but a tactical move, to appoint Sajith Premadasa as the Minister of Housing and give him access to adequate funds to proceed with the ‘house building’ projects so that he (Sajith) becomes popular among the people. Ravi Karunanayake, being the other deputy leader and a stalwart in the UNP has always remained a rival to Sajith.

Wickremesinghe seems to be aware of the dispositions of Ravi Karunanayake and Sajith Premadasa. Besides, Sajith Premadasa has himself thrown kerosene on the flames by openly stating he does not take his ministerial salary; has not moved into an official ministerial residence but lives in a condominium in Borella, and uses his own private vehicle, paying out of his own purse for the petrol wherever he travels to the farthest parts of the country. In comparison one cannot say the same thing about Ravi Karunanayake who has a chequered past from the time he was the Minister in charge of the CWE and also with regard to his recent involvements in the ‘Bond Issue’ and how he suddenly developed amnesia when questions were asked about the ‘deluxe’ penthouse he came own that was allegedly paid for by an accused in the bond scam, Arjun Aloysius.

Stalwarts in the UNP, therefore, say that Wickremesinghe is a clever instigator and a tactician and may have purposely acted to make Sajith Premadasa popular, as an act of eyewash, among the party members and the people by vacillating in appointing Sajith Premadasa as his choice, because he was convinced that he (Ranil) would not be successful at becoming President given the decrease in his popularity. Simultaneously, a vast majority of the party members and people and the country as a whole were demanding that Premadasa be appointed the UNP candidate which, played into his hands and enabled him to execute his desire by playing safe and keeping everyone happy! In this way, he has managed diplomatically, to take the focus of the opposition parties away from Sajith Premadasa. As a part of this well-calculated plan, bringing in Kalu Jayasuriya as an alternative, although the present Speaker himself never declared openly hat he wanted to contest, must have been part of Wickremasinghe’s ploy, they maintain!

As far as Ranil Wickremesinghe is concerned he may have decided well in advance not contest, knowing full well of his declining popularity. The former Commander of the Army, Mahesh Senanayake’s declaration that he would contest the forthcoming Presidential election as an independent contender from National Peoples’ Movement (NPM) will certainly split the voter base between the

SLPP and the NPM. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the SLPP candidate, was a one-time Defence Secretary, while Senanayake, the ex-Army Commander was actively involved in the battle during the war with the LTTE. Therefore, it would be a struggle for the undecided voter to choose between the two men who were so closely involved with the 30-year-old war that brought peace to the nation. Senanayake made a powerful speech upon his being declared the NPM candidate for the 16 November presidential poll, gaining favour with the public, by stating that the Tri-forces in Sri Lanka including the Police, have the strength to stand any attack and that the politicians were responsible for the past irregularities and crimes that took place in this country. He says that such activities have to stop and can only be executed by an independent leader who is not partisan.

The time is approaching for Sri Lankan voters to think rationally in casting their valuable vote to appoint the eighth President and not getting carried away with bogus promises.

This appears to be the final opportunity to bail this nation out from the turmoil it is in.

Pic credit: Ceylon Today Newspaper, Google Pics

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