Hold Sirisena Accountable: Have Him Hold A Presidential Election

By Rasika Jayakody – 

Rasika Jayakody

“A nation can survive its fools – even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly. But the traitor moves among those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the galleys, heard in the very hall of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor — he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims and wears their face and their garment, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation — he works secretly and unknown to undermine the pillars of a city — he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared.” ~ Cicero (42 B.C.)

President Maithripala Sirisena has come under increasing pressure to restore pre-October 26 status quo by re-appointing UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister.

Although Wickremesinghe doesn’t necessarily deserve public sympathy, he has received it on the basis that he is the aggrieved party in the constitutional and political crisis engineered by President Sirisena. It is for this reason, that it seems probable that all right-thinking citizens will support Wickremesinghe’s reinstatement, disregarding Sirisena’s calls to nominate another member of the UNP to the post.

 At a meeting with party leaders of the United National Front (UNF) on Friday night, Sirisena had expressed willingness to withdraw the Gazette he issued dissolving Parliament. This assurance stems from his increasing fear the Supreme Court will rule against him next week, in keeping with the 19thAmendment to the Constitution, which prevents dissolution of Parliament before four and a half years into its term is passed

At the meeting, he also admitted that his chosen Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, does not enjoy a majority in Parliament. It is clear Sirisena has very few choices left In a renewed effort to regain control, he once again asked the UNP to nominate someone other than Wickremesinghe for the post of Prime Minister. But the UNP responded with a copy of the letter it sent to TNA Leader R. Sampanthan, saying it had unanimously agreed that Ranil Wickremesinghe would be their nominee for the position of Prime Minister. 

The UNP’s position, together with that of the TNA, which said it would support the UNP’s nomination for premiership, brings to 117 the support for Wickremesinghe in Parliament – four in excess of a simple majority. With this, it is evident Wickremesinghe has sufficient numbers to claim premiership, even without the support of the JVP, which has not made its stance on the UNP nomination for premiership clear.

Sirisena is trying every trick in the book to delay Wickremesinghe’s appointment and buy more time to work out an “alternative solution”. But the UNP, commendably, has held together and stood its ground, without pandering to Sirisena’s demands. But there must be a limit to Sirisena’s obduracy. If the UNP persists in its refusal to give in to Sirisena’s demands, the President will be forced to back down and restore pre-October 26 status quo. The legislature has already demonstrated a token of its power as the sole authority over public finance and this can certainly be used to pressure Sirisena into a final solution.

But I must make the point that Sirisena, who without compunction or shame, violated provisions of the Constitution, should be held accountable for his blatant abuse of power.  He has repeatedly demonstrated that he is unfit to perform the functions of the Executive, and furthermore, is by far the most intellectually challenged head of state Sri Lanka has ever seen. Even if Wickremesinghe is reinstated, there will not be stability at the top tier of the government due to the bitterness Sirisena harbours against Wickremesinghe. It also means Sirisena would not be able to work constructively with the member who commands the support of a majority in the legislature. This points us in the direction of a prolonged impeachment process, which will require the support of a two-thirds majority – a seemingly insurmountable task unless over 25 disillusioned MPs of the UPFA support such an initiative.

 In this situation, the most practical solution is to hold a Presidential election and challenge Sirisena to seek a fresh mandate from the people. There are strong indications Sirisena will not willingly sign a declaration for a Presidential election, but all political parties, irrespective of their various differences, should exert enormous pressure on the President to declare a Presidential election in January 2019. 

A Presidential election would be a key step in Sirisena’s ‘post-coup accountability process’ and the public should be allowed to give a verdict on his actions since October 26. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” Sirisena, who we elected with hopes of good governance and transparency, has taken perverse pleasure in violating the Constitution and we, the citizens, have every right to demand an election that will exercise our franchise to hold this man accountable for his devious actions. 

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