Ranil abused and subverted parliamentary democracy

Tuesday, 13 November 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


TIME: What was the immediate reason for calling an election?

President Kumaratunga: I was forced into it by a total breakdown of cohabitation in Government. The Prime Minister (Ranil Wickremesinghe) was determined to harass me and chase me out. He has only one obsession: he wants to be the President. And he does not seem to care what happens to the country in the process. We came to an impossible impasse. The only way to resolve it was to ask the people for a mandate. —TIME’s Alex Perry at President’s House in Colombo, 29 March 2004

The comments of President Chandrika Kumaratunga on her friend Ranil Wickremesinghe cited above reveals how history never fails to repeat itself. The total breakdown in cohabitation in Government, the determination of Ranil to harass and undermine the authority of the President, his obsession to oust the President, his utter disregard for the fate of the country, and driving the political process to an impossible impasse are familiar to President Maithripala Sirisena too. 

In recalling his relationship with Ranil, it is not surprising to hear President Sirisena repeating almost the identical comments of his predecessor with, of course, a serious difference: this time he is alarmed that the threat of a bullet aimed at him is real. Besides, Ranil’s political ambitions were just not a threat to the presidency alone. His consistent political behaviour, as revealed by his past and present political friends, projects him as a serial killer of democracy and its institutions. 

Chandrika Kumaratunga’s comments confirm that his ambition to become the President overrides all other democratic norms. Her comments debunks Ranil’s posture as the defender of the nation or democracy. Her comments are most relevant to understand the prevailing climate of hysteria about the premature death of democracy. It is necessary, therefore, to run through briefly past precedents that demonstrate how the nation had faced and triumphed over the fascist forces of the Right, Left and the North that attacked the democratic centre of the nation. Those going down memory lane will pass the following main milestones (leaving aside the minor ones) that marked the triumph of the democratic ballot over the fascist bullet:

1959 – Assassination of the elected Prime Minister, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. It was the first attempt of post-independent Sri Lanka to overturn the ballot with a bullet. Democracy was restored in May 1960 with the election of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, after a brief spell of clueless W. Dahanayake’s idiosyncratic premiership. Political violence failed and non-violent democracy triumphed at the polls.

1965 – The Right-wing coup against the elected government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. It was the first organised threat to democracy which had the full potential of establishing a military dictatorship considering the fact that the majority involved in it consisted of those drawn from the upper echelons of the security forces. Violence of the Right-wing amateurs collapsed riven by betrayals within its own rank. Once again, illegitimate political violence failed and non-violent democracy bounced back triumphantly.

1971 – The first organised militant movement led by the fascist fanatics of the Left, the JVPers, pretending to be liberators committed to save the nation from oppressive capitalists, threatened to overthrow the democratically elected state. The rise of the first wave of JVP fascists led by the lumpen Marxist, Rohana Wijeweera and his gang of fascist extremists, who knew nothing about making a revolution (example: Jayadeva (Ooo-Mahatya) Uyangoda and Lionel Bopage led a band of school children to capture Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister, dead or alive, and realising the folly of their unattainable goal on the appointed day both abandoned the misled children and ran away to hide under a bed in a Buddhist temple in Panadura!) resorted to violence without any consideration for the inevitable loss of human lives as a result of their bovine politics that was going nowhere. The legitimate violence of the state crushed them and brought them eventually to the democratic mainstream. Once again, illegitimate political violence failed and non-violent democracy bounced back triumphantly.

1976 – The Tamil political leadership of the North declared war against the elected state by urging Tamil youth to take up arms and never cease until they achieve Eelam. The main objective of the Vadukoddai Resolution was to step out of the democratic mainstream and resort to violence. They decided to abandon the ballot and go for the bullet. In pursuit of this goal they militarised, legitimised, financed, propagandised, and directed violence for 33 years against the elected state of which they too were members. The Tamil leadership wanted to have it both ways: for international consumption they posed as moderates in the democratic mainstream and to collect votes in Jaffna they backed the Pol Potist LTTE. The fascist Tamil forces led by the violent children fathered by the Vadukoddai Resolution of 1976 crumbled under the mighty forces of the democratic South. The greatest achievement of the state led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has been the restoration of democracy to the Tamils of the North. Today they have been provided the opportunity to walk with dignity without bending into two before the fascist monsters they bred in the womb of the Vadukoddai Resolution. Once again, illegitimate political violence failed and non-violent democracy bounced back triumphantly.

1987 — The intervention of the Indian imperialistic forces in subverting the democratic will of the people – both Sinhalese and Tamil – was a humiliating experience to the fourth largest Army of the world. They first undermined the democratic state of Sri Lanka by training, financing, encouraging, supplying military hardware, and directing operations under the Machiavellian arm of India, RAW. The Indian operations were a direct threat to the democratically elected state of Sri Lanka. The largest democracy in the world sending its handpicked agents to undermine the oldest democracy in the Asia-Pacific region is an unpardonable political crime. Having held a gun to the head of J. R. Jayewardene India forced him to accept the intervention of the Big Brother. They marched in under the pretext of being invited by the Sri Lankan government. Though the Indians would not admit it publicly they are smart enough to know that it boomeranged and forced them to run away with their tails between their legs. It was not only costly and humiliating to India’s status as a mighty power in the Indian Ocean Region, but also to its holy image of a peace-loving nation built on Gandhian principles. India’s threat to Sri Lanka’s democracy was resisted by the anti-Indian grass root waves that rose, both in the South and the North. Both forces resented Indian bullying and both forces never rested until the Indians were chased out. The defeat of Indian imperialism on Sri Lankan is a resounding victory for Sri Lankan democracy.

1988-1990 – The rise of the second wave of JVP fascists who obstructed with extreme violence the holding of elections. The democratic forces of the state fought back with all its might and defeated, once and for all, the Sinhala Pol Potists. Today the JVP fascists are growing fat and rich on the benefits of non-violent democracy. In fact, they have joined hands with the UNP forces that crushed them and are going shopping (kaday yanawa) to save Ranil Wickremesinghe who was a Cabinet Minister of the regime that smashed them. At the end of the day it is heartening to know that the power of democracy has triumphed over fascist violence.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike was the first to offer power (TIME reported the offer was for ten years without holding elections) to Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Pol Pot. The ingrained forces of democracy lying dormant in the Sri Lankan political culture moved in and worked in its own mysterious way to possess Prabhakaran and make him reject the offer. In a sense, the nation is blessed with the repeated rise of the congenital idiots of Jaffna (Prof. Kumar David) whose attempts to kill democracy have ricocheted and ended in killing more Tamils than all the other forces put together (S. C. Chandrahasan).

2002 – The much-vaunted Cease Fire Agreement was signed by Ranil Wickremesinghe, handing power to Prabhakaran with international guarantees. Once again the mysterious hand of democracy that protects Sri Lanka led Prabhakaran to shoot it down with utter contempt. The mysterious devas of democracy blinded Prabhakaran who fell into the same trap as Hitler — the egotistic fascist who believed in his power to survive and thrive with authoritarian militarism. Like Hitler Prabhakaran failed, after his initial victories. Ranil’s surrender to fascist tyranny confirmed not only his chronic inability to read the signs of his time but also his abysmal failure to handle with a degree of sanity the most critical affairs of the nation. Had Prabhakaran accepted Ranil’s surrender, it would have legitimised Tamil fascism in the North and East and elevated the Tamil Pol Pot into the status of a Surya Devan. The hired hacks in academia and NGOs baptised Tamil fascism as Tamil nationalism/liberation. Once against the hidden power of democracy triumphed over Tamil fascism. With his CFA Samanala Ranil would have given birth to the first state of Tamil fascism in Sri Lanka. It so happens that in times of crises the South has decisively produced saviours of democracy. President Ranasinghe Premadasa crushed Sinhala Pol Pots in the South. And President Mahinda Rajapaksa annihilated the Tamil Pol Pots in the North.

2015 — Ranil Wickremesinghe schematically attempting to convert the Parliament — the ultimate repository of the supreme will of the people — into a mechanical rubber stamp for him to use according to his whims and fancies. His parliamentary manoeuvres were fundamentally flawed because he has acted as if it is his private playground for his pet Samanalayas to suck the erect stamens filled with the pollen of parliamentary privileges and power. By grabbing the powers of the president in the name of strengthening democracy (Ranil imagines that he is the sole and legitimate symbol of democracy), he has proved to be the most criminal corrupter and debaser of democratic values in Parliament. He imagines that he has been given a mandate to impose his authoritarian ego to run the Parliament as his private estate. Within his party and in the larger theatre of national politics he has always acted to thrust his will down the people. A classic example is his Ceasefire Agreement with the Tamil Pol Pot, Velupillai Prabhakaran. It was done without informing the President, Parliament, Party and the people. The two big moves in his career – the CFA and the 19th Amendment – boomeranged and knocked him down. The 19th Amendment was nothing but a naked move to acquire all presidential powers into his hands. Once again the devas of democracy, residing in the Sinhala version of the Constitution, had come to the rescue, along with other provisions, to save the nation from the Samanala supremacists who were craftily acquiring the entrenched powers of the Presidency not to consolidate democracy in Parliament but to accumulate the powers of the presidency and combine it with those of the Prime Minister to make Ranil the all-powerful destroyer of democracy. He was accumulating power to sell the nation to the defeated forces of Prabhakaran.

What then is the lesson to be learnt from history? 

Lesson 1: If Sri Lanka had the inner strength to overcome challenges of such daunting magnitude will democracy come to an end by proroguing Parliament for 11 days? Sri Lanka is a nation that fought one of the deadliest terrorist wars within a democratic framework for 33 years – a monumental achievement for a developing nation. Compare that to any of the Parliamentary manoeuvres – including the dissolution of Parliament – and consider rationally whether anyone of those manoeuvres can lead to the death of democracy. Given the incontrovertible evidence how rational is the intervention of the so-called international community about the threats to democracy arising from a legal/constitutional step which even the Opposition dared not challenge in the courts? Why did Ranil Wickremesinghe appeal to the Western embassies instead of going to the courts which is the decisive and legal instrumentality available on a serious constitutional issue?

Lesson 2: With each challenge/threat democracy has bounced back with reinvigorated power and resolve to resist the next threat. That is why this current hysteria about the impending death of democracy can be dismissed as the delusional fears of the “Samanala sycophants”. They falsely equate Ranil’s loss of power to the end of democracy. They assume that he is the sole representative of democracy. The verdict of history is different. It says that if democracy could defeat the gigantic threats from the North, East, South and the international community and bounce back with renewed vigour the proroguing of Parliament for 11 days cannot by any measurement of pragmatic and rational thinking end in the death of democracy.

Ranil is now acting in the most hilarious farce in Parliamentary politics by pretending to be the saviour of democracy with his hypocritical and ineffective act of hiding inside Temple Trees. He fancies that he is leading the forces of democracy by locating himself in the sumptuous luxuries of Temple Trees. Did Gandhi lead the Swaraj movement in India by issuing press releases from a maharaja’s palace? Did Mao lead the Long March from rich potentates’ residences in China? Which leader heading a resistance movement would hide in the safe havens of a state building? It is time that he ended his political farce and went home for the good of all. He looks like a prize idiot by pretending to be the Prime Minister when his writ does not run even to the neighbouring Police Station in Kollupitiya.

The loud cries of the impending death of democracy in the current political impasse should be tested against the cascading trend that flowed down in the post-independent era, listed above. Some hysterical political pundits have raised the spectre of Machiavelli rising from his grave to stalk Temple Trees, which Ranil Wickremesinghe claims to be the latest “symbol of democracy” and “symbol of legitimacy”. He imagines that overnight he has turned into a high priest of democracy. The only ground on which he can claim to be the high priest of democracy inside Temple of Trees is because he has parked his carcass there. He thinks that his fall is going to be the end of democracy. He fails to recognise that democracy existed at Temple Trees from the time D.S. Senanayake, one of his most revered ancestors, celebrated Independence Day on 4 February 1948 and will continue to last long after he leaves the premises gracefully, if he can.

Besides, democracy does not reside in Temple Trees alone. At least not when Ranil occupies it. In essence democracy resides in the humble huts in Angunukolapellassa, in Madagal and in Kathankudi. Democracy, as Greek word implies, has its roots in the people and not in posh places occupied forcibly by those who have lost power. Democracy is the sole symbol of the people. It cannot be the symbol of scared leaders seeking shelter. For instance, Medamulana was a symbol of democracy because the sympathetic people flocked voluntarily in their thousands to demonstrate their affinity and loyalty to a leader who had lost power. Temple Trees, on the contrary, has become a gambling joint for the “Samanala boys” to while away their time playing “booruwa,” according to Police reports.

That is the fundamental difference between Ranil and Mahinda: people flocked in their thousands to express their heart-felt empathy with Mahinda even though he retreated to his ancestral home, without any trappings of power. But even after occupying forcibly the symbol of power, the Temple Trees, Ranil has not been able to attract the people on the same mass scale as Mahinda. With all the allegations surrounding the “Rajapaksa” name, Mahinda still remains the most popular national leader. But “Mr. Clean” is still struggling to survive in the popularity contest without any mass support.

Why? Why is it that there is no mass rush to buy his latest marketing strategy of being the protector of democracy? By and large the people have never placed their trust in him as their reliable leader who would protect them in times of crises. Ranil too has never placed his total trust in the people. That is why he puts up surrogates to fight for him in presidential elections. He has more faith in Western embassies. That is why he runs to the foreign embassies to prop him up.

When she was president, Chandrika Bandaranaike used to say that the only distance between her Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was a bullet. Perhaps, the memories of what happened to her father were haunting her. This time President Sirisena is facing the bullet that she never faced from her opponents in the south. Actually, there were two bullets: one for President and the other for Gotabaya. Who is it who would benefit if the bullets hit the targets? President Sirisena hasn’t revealed yet the full details of the plot to assassinate him and Gotabaya. Could this be the reason this why Ranil is hiding inside Temple Trees, fearing the wrath of the truth?

Recent columns