The UNP and its allies accuse President Maithripala Sirisena of having stabbed ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the back, in October. He twisted the knife again the other day. In 2014, what Sirisena did to his boss, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was likened to Brutus sinking his poniard in Caesar’s back up to the cross-guard. President Sirisena claims that there were conspiracies against him in the yahapalana government. If so, what he did to Ranil on 26 Oct., by way of a preemptive strike, was like Caesar stabbing Brutus, while the latter was lying in ambush. In both cases, much to Sirisena’s dismay, his victims have survived!
Painting a black picture of his erstwhile yahapalana chum, Ranil, President Sirisena said, on Saturday, in a televised speech, that the present crisis would go away when the Supreme Court delivered its judgment for or against the dissolution of Parliament. He said if Parliament could be dissolved, all the problems therein would vanish, and if the apex court determination went against his decision, he would allow the party with a majority in the House to form a government with a person whom he considers suitable as the Prime Minister. That would help end the crisis, he argued.
The President’s line of reasoning has left one puzzled. A general election may stand him in good stead in that he can lead a coalition consisting of the UPFA and the SLPP. But if the present Parliament is to continue, the crisis is bound to persist because he is determined not to appoint Ranil Prime Minister. The UNP is equally determined to have Ranil appointed PM in the event of the current government being toppled. Sirisena says he offered premiership to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Sajith Premadasa before appointing Rajapaksa to that post, but both of them turned down his offer. So, how can he expect anyone other than Ranil to accept the coveted post in case he has to bite the bullet and hand over the reins of government to the UNP? There will be a game of chicken between Ranil and him in such an eventuality, and the conflict will go on unless one of them gives in. Both of them are doubling down, at present.
Wearing a sardonic smile, President Sirisena tried to wash his hands of the current mess. He shifted the onus for mustering a working majority to Mahinda Rajapaksa. He said he was aware that very high prices had been put on MPs and as much as Rs. 500 mn each offered to some of them. That was the reason why Rajapaksa had failed to secure the support of 113 MPs, Sirisena claimed; if Rajapaksa had succeeded in his endeavour, the present crisis would not have arisen, he maintained. In other words, what he implied was that he was not responsible for the current mess, and the blame for it should be apportioned between Ranil and Mahinda!
Curiously, President Sirisena refrained from tearing into Speaker Jayasuriya, on Saturday. He claimed that he and the latter would have been able to straighten out the issues in Parliament but for a legal battle. He said they had had several meetings besides 15 to 20 telephone conversations. The Speaker has openly flouted President’s orders and the UPFA-Joint Opposition combine flays him for having pitted the legislature against the executive. Sirisena has not forgiven Ranil for undermining his authority, but he does not speak ill of Jayasuriya Why? Is the President wary of taking on the Speaker in view of claims being made in some quarters that some of his actions are tantamount to impeachable offences?
Both the UPFA-SLPP/JO combine and the UNP-led alliance seem to have taken the people for suckers. The former would have them believe that they grabbed power, in October, for the love of the country, and the latter claims it is all out to have the status quo ante restored so as be able to serve the public. These two camps consist of greedy politicians who have earned notoriety for the abuse of power, bribery and corruption and the suppression of democratic rights of the people. They have, over the years, evolved into a separate privileged class of sorts and the ongoing conflict is, in the final analysis, due to a power struggle within that newfangled social stratum. The country is in this unholy mess because those who call themselves leaders cannot let go of power, which they are addicted to as druggies to hell dust.