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The no-confidence motion against Ranil will create further chaos


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The Mahinda Rajapaksa-backed Joint Opposition yesterday submitted a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the speaker. The motion against Ranil according to newspapers contains charges of economic mismanagement by him during the last three years.

Among the top most charges against Ranil is the alleged scandal in the Central Bank bond issues in 2015 and 2016. He is also accused of having failed to tackle the anti-Muslim riots in the central district of Kandy when he was the Law and Order Minister. The Joint Opposition claims that even some members of the United National Party would sign the motion. Although according to legal sources there is no constitutional provision to oust Ranil from the post of Prime Minister through a no-confidence motion, the success of the motion would be a severe blow to his political standing and legitimacy.

Given the current state of Parliament and the possibility that the TNA and JVP may abstain in the event of a vote, Ranil appears to be safe. Unfortunately Ranil-bashing today has become a pastime and will continue whatever the outcome. This is largely due to some of the people surrounding him who often make him look a loner and an authoritarian and as a result the substantial gains that this Government has realised in the last three years have been forgotten or lost.

Importance of Ranil

Ranil is among just a handful of politicians in this country who has never resorted to racial slogans; never touted Sinhalese-Buddhist nationalism. He is progressive in his economic and political outlook and even when he is under pressure, he is a man who believes that the law must take precedence over personal loyalties, a respecter of the rights of all ethnicities even to a fault. His earlier prime ministerial tenure compared to this term was more on a positive path to progress, both economic and political. 

Given the magnitude of the lives lost and the years lost in an unending conflict, his ceasefire agreement in 2001 with the LTTE, although politically shaky, helped to significantly weaken the LTTE. Very few people still give him the credit for his Machiavellian move. Ranil, despite some weaknesses, is the best leader we have, who can change the game if given the space to deliver and Ranil works within the mandate and will win the confidence of all parties. 

Therefore, it is important that the people he places his trust in to deliver his mandate don’t let him down, diminishing his value and undermining his position in Parliament as the Prime Minister. They owe it to him because he stands by his officials come what may.

The Opposition

The SLFP, which is predominated by loyalties to the previous President, seems to be hell-bent on either challenging his mandate or shooting holes in the efforts he has taken to bring the country and the economy to an even keel, without realising what these initiatives are and what favourable outcomes it will bring to the country. 

The no-confidence motion against Ranil therefore can only create further uncertainty. Today one of the biggest challenges we have is improving our country’s competitiveness. Ranil clearly understands what competitiveness is and believes in a conducive business environment where every entrepreneur, big or small, has the ability to move up the business hierarchy on his or her own merit. He knows what is necessary to improve our skills, including attracting FDI at a minimum of 20% of GDP in order to maintain the 8% plus growth target that the country needs.  

Progress 

Ranil in the last three years has made a huge effort to rebuild international confidence amongst international leaders and investors, both locally and internationally, particularly with the US and EU (where are our major markets remain). Through our well-orchestrated foreign policy, the Yahapalanaya has and continues to succeed in this direction. He has largely restored the independence of the Judiciary and the public service which has helped to generate a positive climate in the country. 

The results of his efforts will come slowly but surely because he is not a man who looks for quick wins. Therefore, given his profile, this is the last chance we have to support a leader who knows how to create real wealth for our country and usher in an era of prosperity. Ranil is perhaps the last of the old brigade who has the capacity to help Sri Lanka to realise its full potential, but he certainly needs to tone down his pro-Western and cosmopolitan outlook and clean up his team if he is to get the support of the SLFP because the SLFP vote base is still overwhelmingly Sinhalese and populist. 

Ranil is certainly a visionary and decisive leader but the time is now for him and the President to deliver or face the wrath of the public for not delivering on their promises. Therefore, Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe should discuss how to continue with the Unity Government in the next 15 months instead of getting bogged down in partisan politics, especially now, given that the Sri Lankan economy grew by only 3.3% during the third quarter of 2017 (3Q17) compared to the corresponding quarter of last year, with continued contraction in the agriculture sector and slower growth in the business sector. 

(The writer is a thought leader)


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