President Maithripala Sirisena’s speech on Tuesday could not have come at a worse time for the SLFP with a general election only four weeks away. He, however, made no revelations.
The President only reiterated the fact that he had opposed the UPFA’s decision to nominate his bete noire, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the loyalists of the latter to contest the August 17 election.
That he has no intention of appointing Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister is only too well known.
Denying the allegation that he had become a traitor to the good governance cause he sought to justify his efforts to scuttle Rajapaksa’s attempt to make a comeback.
Having vented his spleen on Rajapaksa he promised to remain impartial at the upcoming election.
Then came the ‘most unkindest cut of all’; he declared that Rajapaksa would be defeated again!
He has made all UPFA candidates fly into a rage because Rajapaksa’s defeat will be theirs as well. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga also remained impartial, to all intents and purposes, at the 2005 presidential election which Rajapaksa contested.
President Sirisena sounded convincing when he said that if he hadn’t taken over the SLFP after winning the presidency he would not have been able to prop up the UNP-led minority government and implement his 100-day programme. He went on to disclose that he had even wanted to use the executive power vested in him to dissolve Parliament on Jan. 09, but his newfound allies had not been amenable to that idea. Interestingly, the power he sought to make use of, immediately after his election as President, and subsequently did exercise was widely condemned as draconian and abolished through the 19th Amendment! Is he of the view that the end justifies the means?
President Sirisena drew an interesting analogy between the government cobbled together after Jan. 09 and the Titanic. He said he had managed to pilot the Sri Lankan version of Titanic, as it were, into a mooring with the greatest difficulty. We view the situation differently. What sank, or rather was sunk, last June was not the Titanic.
It was former President Rajapaksa who thought his regime was unsinkable and embarked on a perilous voyage casting as he did caution to the winds. The Titanic actually sank on Jan. 09 and the so-called unity government formed thereafter was only a lifeboat!
No president before him had been castigated in the same way as he, Sirisena said. But, we believe, his plight pales into insignificance in comparison to what President Ranasinghe Premadasa underwent at the hands of the media and the Opposition during the last two years of his term. The media could now function without fear of censorship or attacks, the President claimed.
As for controlling the media, politicians know more than one way to shoe a horse. The Rajapaksas unflinchingly bludgeoned the horse until it collapsed before shoeing it. Today, that savage method is not being employed. Nonetheless, the horse is shoed as is known to the media fraternity! When governments are shaky and political leaders busy fighting their own political battles for survival, the media and the public enjoy some freedom. What we are experiencing at present is only an interval in hell, which will be over if a government which can hold its own is formed at the next month’s election.
President Sirisena takes pride in the fact that he is a farmer’s son from Polonnaruwa. He tells us that his hands are clean. At the same time, he condemns the existing electoral system as a fountainhead of evil and vows to scrap it before long. He peddled this view on Tuesday as well. If a farmer’s son can get elected to Parliament and go on to secure the topmost position in the country how can the electoral system be faulted as being favourable to only crooks and moneybags?
President Sirisena has, obviously, sought to weaken Rajapaksa’s position with his scathing attack. But, whether his effort has yielded the desired impact or, instead, antagonised all SLFPers and galvanised them into rallying around the former President will be seen on Friday, when the UPFA’s inaugural election rally is scheduled to be held in Anuradhapura.