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Maithripala Sirisena on a slippery slope


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“The economy will keep sliding back while big egos of big people keep clashing in this manner in an appalling unleash of greed. The Curse of Kuveni is on…”

‘Counter-revolution’

I was in Sri Lanka and just returned after having my eyes and ears closer to the sights and sound of ground politics over there. Ever since Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in the “revolution of January 8th,’ the political scenario had been volatile. 

Bitten by the desperate existential need to save themselves from jail, the Rajapaksa family and cabal went on a campaign of destabilising the new Yahapalanaya Government. With court investigations into serious allegations being held up on the excuses of due process, the ‘counter revolutionary’ forces had a field day of blustering its way along with political displays that seemed to create the ambience of fear and doubt that the former regime might claw its way back into power.

When the impact of displays began fading, trouble was created with the backing of organisations like the GMOA that enjoy untrammelled blackmailing power. I wouldn’t count out the former regime from the petroleum crisis that I witnessed. 

New window for Sirisena?

The exposure effect of the prima facie cases of murder and theft attributed to the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime eventually scuttled the ‘Mahinda Sulanga’ movement. It was too much to bear as far as the public consciousness was concerned.

Provoked and deceived by his largely-crooked SLFP cohorts, Maithripala Sirisena (MS) perceived a new window of opportunity for him. The two-year period of cooperative agreement with the UNP and SLFP had ended and hence MS could not be troubled by public ethics. His deal-making brother Dudley, a businessman, was also a force to reckon with as far as MS was concerned. It is rumoured that Dudley is close to Gotabaya, who is Mahinda’s former-powerful brother.

While I was in Sri Lanka, there were hush-hush rumours that something was brewing. MS was no ‘neutral,’ outsider; he had been and is a thoroughbred political animal since his days of being a Grama Sevaka. Mahinda had blown up his image but Gota in non-convict status can blow the trumpet of southern Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.

The public myth of Gota is more real than the reality of Gota. Here was a new good brew for the voting public: A Third Force from within the ranks of the former regime forces. The new force will carry the slogan of ‘reasonable nationalism,’ ‘democracy,’ and governance that can deliver.

As Dr. Jayadeva Uyangoda writing in the Ravaya has pointed out, Sri Lanka is now facing a tri-polar situation that replaces gradually and imperceptibly the initial bipolar scenario of the YP Government versus the Mahinda Rajapaksa former regime forces. I would speculate that if alleged “Sirisena plans” work out, the former regime forces would be reabsorbed eventually into the newly-conceived Third Force. Gota and Sirisena will work out some arrangement given they win the battle of power politics.

Ranil?

What of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe? If the Third Force succeed in its plans, it would not be difficult to oust him and his United National Party for the second time since President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge. 

The JO-led and orchestrated scurrilous rumours of Ranil’s alleged involvement in ‘the bond scam’ has tarnished the latter’s image of Mr. Clean. Ranil is still ‘Mr. Vision,’ nevertheless. On the hand if the Commission findings exonerate him, the clean image gets restored and he derives strengths from that.

Not speculation 

in the air

Now, the above developing new scenario isn’t mere groundless speculation in the air. Remember how, some months back, President Sirisena made an angry speech critiquing attempts to arrest Gotabaya? He even described Gota as somebody who gave heroic leadership to the anti-LTTE war. The Attorney General has completed his investigations on most Gota’s charges and he is awaiting the President’s approval for some months now. It was inappropriate blaming Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake, while the responsibility is firmly cast on the President.

The then Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe acted in the same vein with regard to Gota. He had admitted in Parliament that he had prevented Gota’s arrest as the latter was “a war hero who saved the country”. Simultaneously, Wijeyadasa openly backed the controversial Avant-Garde that had been Gota’s creation.

Wijeyadasa would not have quit had the UNP backbenchers not pressurised him to do so and had social media, the wider public opinion and civil organisations not gone against him. The UNP’s attempt to have Wijeyadasa removed from the Justice Minister portfolio during the reshuffle had been allegedly stymied by President Sirisena who cited the opposition of the Maha Sanga or some elements of the latter. 

Mark my words: Wijeyadasa would be one of the first to join the new (alleged) Sirisena/Gota-led political force. He is waiting outside until the call and he is behind many machinations of the new force. Wijeyadasa has Machiavellian craftiness. He is a smooth talker and smooth dealer and can give a public impression of being ‘reasonable’. Senasinghe’s outburst had been in context. 

Bond controversy

It is small wonder that many in the UNP accuse that the bond controversy had been hatched by Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa and that President Sirisena followed up with a Commission. Much of the success of this Third Force would depend, however, on the findings of that Commission. In this connection, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s late overture to the Commission to cross-examine him was a master strategy. 

I was watching the media covering that event and I saw how the cameras had focused on Wickremesinghe and waited long for his right royal arrival. That was a spectacle to watch. That had been a Mangala Samaraweera media creation. No wonder that lecherous-looking bloke Dilan Perera grumbled about the media attention to Ranil. With Mangala on their side and if the Commission clears the UNP, the Third Force will not have an easy path upward. Many significant figures of the former regime are still with the UNP. 

The gamble

Besides, it isn’t any easy gamble for President Sirisena. It can put him on a dangerously slippery path that can surprisingly slide him to disaster. He has to acknowledge that he had enjoyed thus far the cooperation of his UNP partner that had carried out their part of the agreement in good faith. 

As for Ranil Wickremesinghe, the latter has befriended Modi in India and the two get along perfectly. It was, however, sad to see him implore the bellyful-God in the Tamil Nadu Kovil, once again. It seems God is the only hope. Did that God grant him his request on the previous occasion?

Ordinary people?

For the ordinary people, however, even God is no hope: This isn’t any good news. Power struggles at the centre can deflect foreign investment-something the island desperately needs to restructure its economy. There isn’t any patriotism in such power struggles. People remain mere foolish goats that must go when pulled along. Life becomes more and more desperate for these poor masses. The country will keep sliding back while big egos of big people keep clashing in this manner in an appalling unleash of greed.

The curse of Kuveni is on…

(The writer can be reached via sjturaus@optusnet.com.au.)


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