Written by Faraz Shauketaly
24 Sep, 2019 | 9:52 am
The Elections Commissioner has finally made his announcement, the statutory Gazette notification has been released and for now it is all systems ‘go’. In short, Sri Lanka is in election mode once again.
And how democratic is this latest Presidential Election at least in terms of equity? Are we to forget the fact that thanks to the actions of our parliamentarians the Provincial Council elections have not been held and as a recent legal opinion suggests, cannot be held for the moment unless various legal changes are made.
Be that as it may, the Prime Minister has had quite literally the shock of his life with growing calls for Sajith Premadasa to be named as a candidate for a UNP-led wide-ranging coalition with smaller political parties.
The calls for Premadasa as the candidate has been growing for a while especially amongst grassroots politically-astute citizenry. Premadasa appears to have the ingredients currently necessary to capture the people’s vote if not their imagination.
For years Wickremesinghe the 5-times premier of this island nation, was known as Mr Clean. His alleged inaction in terms of the ‘largest financial scam since independence’ also known as the BOND SCAM has certainly not helped what was a convenient tagline. However currently, even if there are no direct references to that effect, Sajith Premadasa is well known for being above charges of sleaze or for acting detracting from due process.
In an ambiance where Sri Lankan society has been engulfed by state-level corruption and regular departures from due process especially when large-scale national procurement projects are involved, Premadasa is viewed as a breath of fresh air.
It then beggars belief that a man who is regarded as Mr Clean should find it challenging in the extreme to have his name put forth by his party as the Presidential candidate.
Imagine the collective surprise of Sri Lanka’s voting public that days after the announcement of the date for the Presidential poll, there was a move to abolish the Presidency. Nobody was quite certain who put forward the Cabinet Memo proposing the abolishment of the Presidency.
Rauff Hakeem the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress however was quite confident as to where the Memorandum originated from. This ambiguity itself is odd – to say the very least. Any Cabinet memorandum is put forward by a particular member o.f the cabinet and carries a signature. Yet no one was quite sure who had made this proposal amidst claims that the Paper was not evenly distributed to the Cabinet of Ministers.
Clearly there is serious doubt as to the timing of the now failed bid to abolish the Presidency in the lifetime of this parliament. Since 2015 there has been mere lip service to the abolishing of the Executive Presidency. This has been no different from previous Presidents who were committed to doing away with the Executive democracy.
Ranil Wickremesinghe has for the past 25 years managed to stave off various attempts to have him act like a real Westminster style political leader. These efforts have varied in intensity over the years but matters appear to have reached a crescendo.
The younger members of the UNP parliamentary group, appear to have had their conscience stirred. They clearly understand that their leader of over 25 years has passed his use-by and sell-by date.
Despite showing their leader that there is wide support for the Premadasa candidacy, Wickremesinghe appears to be in a aspergers-syndrome mode, interested only in what he is focused on and oblivious to the needs of the rest of his party to say nothing of the people of the country who may contemplate on a UNP ideology.
There is little gain repeating the statistics – 40 years in parliament, 5 times as Premier, 25 years as leader of the UNP and a staggering twenty nine plus electoral defeats under his watch.
Mr Wickremesinghe has for well over 40 years lived off the public purse. It is debatable if the people who voted for him have received value for money in return. For years there have been businesses that have supported him in the hope that he will lead the UNP to a position of power. Alas, the UNP have languished behind the SLFP for several years.
It is startling that in one foul swoop, the UNP have squandered the opportunity presented to it by President Sirisena. The What If scenario is frighteningly a sorry state: what the UNP could have done to this economy if it had arrested corruption and departures from due process and paid more than mere lip service to reconciliation and paid attention to the economics of the nation, the storyline would be markedly different.
The price the UNP will pay in the event that it becomes stuck in a mire of ‘can’t change the leader, will not change the leader’ and gambles with any other than Premadasa at the next Presidential election, is certainly the destruction of their party.
We wonder if Wickremesinghe cares about that aspect or if he cherishes the post of Leader of the Opposition. It is a question that time will provide the answer.
26 Feb, 2020 | 09:31 PM
19 Feb, 2020 | 06:29 PM
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