Win or lose, Ranil will be a Lame duck | Sunday Observer

Win or lose, Ranil will be a Lame duck

It is the common practice of politicians of all hues to engage passionately in fear-mongering each time they fall into political crisis. They would cry from rooftops to inject into the electorate their fears of the world coming to an end should anyone of them lose their seats, or if the ruling party loses its majority in Parliament.

Their success depends on the extent to which they can convince the people to accept their fears as the reality. Their immediate reaction is to take on the role of Biblical Jeremiahs prophesying the light going out of the sun, moon and the stars should their opponents move into their seats of power. But fortunately, the people have not panicked like the leaders who are crying foul because they had lost their perks and privileges. They have retained their common sense and stuck to their normal routine of rising with the sun and going home at sunset. They had settled down to watch the confounding events at the centre from the sidelines, waiting for their turn to deliver their verdict at the next general election. That is a part of the miracle of resilient Sri Lanka.

In one sense, what is unfolding before our eyes can be seen as a tragi-comic drama. (Or is it a farce? ) Amidst all this ha-ho, the rival contenders have never ceased to pose as the sole defenders of democracy. The latest twist in the tragi-comic drama is for one section to proclaim that if in the power-struggle they fail to capture the hot seats of power in Parliament then they have a right to occupy empty state buildings, stripped of all power, to perpetuate their imagined role as the ‘symbols of democracy’, or as the only legitimate centre of power. The varied arguments, theories, legal punditry and constitutional hypotheses are thrown around liberally by one or the other party to take the high moral ground and paint the other side as the villains who should be thrown out by (1) Parliament, (2) the courts or (3) the people.

Lame-duck Prime Minister

Worst is the conflicting interpretations of the law which has confused the electorate leading to paralysing anxiety and uncertainty. Hopefully the Supreme Court will put an end to the uncertainty on the final day of its sitting in early December. Whichever way the decision goes one significant political outcome is written large in blinking neon lights for everyone to see: Ranil Wickremesinghe will emerge as a lame-duck Prime Minister even if the Courts reinstate him and, if it doesn’t, he will go back to being the lame-duck leader with Sajith Premadasa, playing it nicely and sweetly knowing that the emerging trend is moving his way. It will be impossible for Ranil to regain his power for the simple reason that he has lost all moral integrity to be a credible leader who can lift the nation from its current depths.

The current crisis has exposed again Ranil’s constant failure to handle or manage power for his own advantage or that of the nation. He has never been a long distance runner. Ranil will come out of the ring battered and bruised. He will be limping all the way up to the end of the remaining period. Winning confidence votes in the Parliament, or rulings from the Supreme Court will not save him. Winning in Parliament or in the Supreme Court may boost his ego and the NGOs hired to pump air into deflated rubber balloons of green elephants made in India and the West. But neither Parliament nor the judiciary will be the final arbiter of his future. It is the people who will pass the final verdict on him, sooner or later.

Whatever victory he scores, either in Parliament or Supreme Court, it will have to be validated by the people – the sovereign repository of power. Until the people have their final say in a general election Ranil will have to wear some heavy protective helmet to guard against the Damocles sword of uncertainty hanging over his head. Between now and the next election – whenever that may be, he will need more and more cylinders filled with the political oxygen of the West to survive. Ranil will go down in history as another one of those decadent leaders who were taken under the protective wing of America. The record he has established so far indicates that he is on his way to join the list of condemned leaders of Asia like Chiang Kai-shek, Syngman Rhee, Ngo Dinh Diem – the Catholic puppet of CIA in Buddhist Vietnam. When the American realised that they had planted a square peg in a round hole Diem was assassinated in a CIA-engineered coup in November 1963 after mass Buddhist protests.

Ranil depends heavily on the agents of the Western camp, plus India, who played their manipulative role behind the scenes to get their obedient toy-boy into the Prime Minister’s seat in January 2015. Knowing that he cannot win the trust of the people he relies on American and Indian agencies to move strategically the kings, queens and the other pawns for sale on the political chess board. The Americans have willingly bestowed upon him their kiss of death as they did to prop up corrupt regimes in other global centres of strategic interest to them. Of course, the Americans could never pick the right leaders in crisis-ridden nations of Asia, Africa or South America. It was no better in the Middle East. American commitment to democracy and human rights was also exposed in S. America. For instance, Chilean forces, armed by CIA, bombed the palace of the democratically elected leader of Chile, Salvador Allende, in 1973 and crushed democracy in S. America. America had no qualms about recognising the fascist dictator, Gen. Pinochet, who massacred thousands of dissidents with no questions asked by the Nixon regime. So how great is America when it slots Ranil Wickremesinghe as worthy of recognition as Gen. Pinochet?

If the Americans have their ears to the ground with any degree of accuracy they would know that their political pet in Sri Lanka had cut the ground under his own feet within the first few months of his grabbing the PM’s seat with only 41 MPs behind him. It didn’t take long for him to waste all the goodwill and the trust placed in the Sirisena-Ranil regime with his arrogant abuse of power and blatant violations of parliamentary traditions. The big moves he had made (example: the 19th Amendment) have pushed him into a corner and he is struggling to get out of it. His future is bleak because he does not have either the time or the capacity to regain the trust of the people, or do a Lazarus and rise as a reliable and inspiring leader who can save the Party and the nation. There is no viable formula at his disposal to rescue him.

He has lost the most vital element a leader needs to be in command of a political situation: trustworthiness. Within the first few months of grabbing the premiership with only 41 votes he plunged headlong into the “Bond scam” – the biggest robbery of public funds. History will always remember him as a stooge of the West and never as a son of the soil. Now he stands naked before the people without any positive strategies to give hope to the nation, or lead it into a promising future. At best, he could only play his usual card of slithering into the bewildering maze of committees producing reports which will wind up in bureaucratic morgues, never to be seen again, or read or opened for any practical purposes. Ranil’s record as the monarch of good-for-nothing committees is, perhaps, his only legacy he can leave behind for posterity.

On top of all this, President Sirisena had dealt a deadly blow to his leadership in the UNP by inviting Sajith Premadasa to lead the party. Intentionally or not, with this move he has consolidated the rather shaky position of Sajith as the next leader of the UNP. Earlier, under mounting pressures from the UNP when the Party was challenging his leadership, Ranil yielded reluctantly to make Sajith his deputy to appease the formidable internal forces threatening to split the Grand Old Party. Sajith was installed only as a temporary compromise to tide over the crisis facing him and not as his sole successor with an undisputable guarantee.

Lowest depths

He is not yet ready to give up the reins of power. Holding his cards close to his chest he continues to play one against the other to protect and preserve his leadership. Since there are other rivals aspiring to step into Ranil’s shoes he still could manipulate the internal cabal to hand over power to one of his choice. He still has the option of manipulating his subservient committee to anoint one of his ‘friends’ to the leadership. But President has cut into Ranil’s domain and instilled in the minds of the party and the public that the next best choice for the UNP is Sajith. He has undercut Ranil’s powers of choosing his next successor, particularly one of his favourites.

The grassroots forces of the UNP too are finding this crisis the right moment to challenge Ranil’s leadership. Rumblings of the undercurrents rising within the Party are moving decisively in the direction of identifying Sajith as the man who can take the UNP back to the roots of the Founding Fathers, and Sajith’s father too, who “peoplised” the elitist UNP. President Premadasa revolutionised the UNP by taking it away from the kith and kin of the Kurunduwatte clan to the common man in Kehelwatte.

Analysts tracing the trajectory of the UNP in the political chart will find it difficult to locate another leader who had dragged the party to its lowest depths as Ranil. Even D(eaf) and B(lind) Wijetunga was better only because he was incapable of doing any evil. But Ranil is absolutely dangerous because in his misguided way he thinks he is doing good when in reality he is either dismantling the nation or selling it down the river to its enemies. Example: the Ceasefire Agreement with Prabhakaran which took the nation to the brink of dismemberment.

In the history of the UNP Sir. John Kotelawela was seen as the most alienated, Westernised, pig-roasting, harem-hosting sheik who had lost the trust of the people. He came at a fatal time when the tidal wave of Sinhala-Buddhism was peaking. It was a time when even the Senanayakes, who were not only the founders of the new nation but also as the guardians of its historic legacies and values, were leaving the party. By 1956 Dudley had abandoned the UNP. Sir. John, another Royalist, surrounded by his sycophantic inner circle, believed in his own propaganda of being popular with the masses.

When Dudley Senanayake left the UNP Sir. John was left hanging in the winds of change without the backing of the nationalist Senanayakes to win back the confidence of the people. The Left of the time had a field day in hitting the underbelly of Sir. John by confronting the voters with the unanswerable question: “If the Senanayakes, have rejected the UNP why must you vote for it?”

The political tide rising against Ranil is not too dissimilar. The disillusionment with Ranil is total because the West is crassly using Ranil as their cat’s paw to protect and preserve their interests without providing him with the wherewithal to build his political base with economic investments. Ranil was expecting the West to come rushing in for being their toy-boy. He was expecting at least George Soros to come in as his saviour. In the end it was the Chinese whom he decried that gave him some breathing space.

The disillusionment at home is equally stunning. The people watched in disbelief a descendant of the revered Senanayake and Wijewardene families committing daylight robbery with cynical disregard for the people’s money and their future. The Bond scandal – the biggest heist organised by a crooked banking croupier handpicked by Ranil and executed on the floor of a state bank by apparatchiks selected from the inner circle of Ranil’s Group, will remain in the history books as the dirtiest swindle ever done by a politically perverted descendant of two of the most respectable families.

Who can forgive a rich man’s son robbing a poor man? With all his failings, Sir. John never was accused of robbing a bank. On the contrary, Sir. John sacked the Governor of the Central Bank, N. U. Jayawardena, for taking a bribe of a gold cigarette case. Ranil, on the contrary, has allowed his white-collar criminal to run away and hide without facing the crimes he committed against the people. No accountability, no transparency, for Ranil’s blue-eyed boy. That’s ok, eh Mr. Prime Minister of “Temple Trees”? Only the soldiers who risked their lives to save the Tamils from the fascist tyranny of the Tamil Pol Pot, Velupillai Prabhakaran must be sacrificed to appease the pious political piranhas in Geneva, eh Mr. Prime Minister of “Temple Trees”?

Showman

President Sirisena is absolutely right when he says that today’s UNP leaders cannot hold a candle to the leaders who laid the foundations for the party and the nation. Who could have ever dreamt that a UNPer from Royal College-Colombo 7, would import Arjuna Mahendran, a garrulous showman from Singapore, and plant him as the head of the Central Bank with full powers to oversee the robbing of the banks of the nation. In a damning statement when Ranil’s hand-picked white collar criminal was asked by the Commission of Inquiry why he did it he replied: “Ask the Prime Minister?”, meaning that whatever he did was with the consent of the Prime Minister. After that, can there be anything left of Ranil’s reputation of being “Mr. Clean”, eh?

Besides, the rank-and-file have no faith in his capacity to win elections. He had never won an election to be the Prime Minister in his own right. His best record is for losing elections.He has admitted his inability to win the trust of the people by handing over presidential candidacy to non-UNPers who had better mass appeal. His so-called tactical victories have been laughable and short-lived. Who else in the democratic world would appoint a party of 16 MPs to be the Leader of the Opposition in a House of 225? What if at the end of the next election Mahinda Rajapaksa wins a majority and appoints the next TNA leader as the Leader of the Opposition, citing the precedent established by Ranil? Will the American Ambassadress and the NGOs then rise up in arms to uphold democratic traditions?

Also, the Party insiders are thirsting for a change at the top not because they want to play musical chairs but to introduce a new policy that would take the Party closer to the people. They are looking for a change in policy more than a change in personalities. They are demanding a change in direction because the path pursued by Ranil throughout his leadership has not yielded results.

The rank and file are yearning to bring the UNP back to its roots. They feel that Ranil has sold the nation to foreign buyers in the international market. Ranil has taken the “peoplised UNP” of President Ranasinghe Premadasa to the IDU run mainly by the conservative, Christian, Right-wingers of the West. How many votes have the IDU to save Ranil? Or the Party?

Though he is quite familiar with Parliamentary democracy, its traditions, its rules and regulations he has not found them useful whenever his political survival was threatened. In fact, he has treated Parliament and its sacred traditions rather dismissively from January 8, 2015. However, the other day, in making a speech at Kalutara he surprised political observers by invoking the traditions of the mother of parliaments in Britain. What prompted him to rediscover the principles of the Westminster model was the threat made by President Sirisena not to appoint him under any circumstances. This galvanised him into action. He said: “Gone are the days when President was able to hand pick a Prime Minister. It is Parliament which has the power to appoint a Prime Minister under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, “We have been following the British tradition since 1948 and had appointed the person who commands a majority in the House as the Prime Minister,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said. (Daily Mirror – 28/11).

Leader of the Opposition

Well! Well! Well, Mr. Prime Minister of “Temple Trees”! In what drawer did you hide this “British tradition” when you were insisting on being appointed the Prime Minister when you had only 41 MPs in a House of 225? Can you please cite another precedent when a House of Commons appointed a leader of a minority party with 16 MPs as the Leader of the Opposition, dismissing the claims of either the Conservative or the Labour leaders when either of them had a commanding lead over other parties in the Opposition? Can you give an example of the House of Commons introducing a bill, for instance, on increasing the production of vindaloo, which is quite acceptable to all members in UK these days, and then half-way through in the committee stage slip in provisions to take away the rights of the people, hoping to avoid censure and/or rejection by the Lords or the Courts?

Clearly, Ranil invokes laws, traditions, precedents, conventions etc., only when he finds himself in perilous situations. This invocation of the Westminster tradition doesn’t ring true. It certainly sounds as if Ranil is talking through another opening in his anatomy which is not his mouth, as his close friend Chandrika Kumaratunga used to say. This sounds as if he is desperately looking around for excuses after having violated some of the basic norms of majority rule in the Westminster model in appointing himself and his buddy, Sampanthan without a majority.

The debasing and the consequent decline of Parliament norms under the whip of the ring-master of the Diyawanna political circus is tragic. With all my experience as the Lobby Correspondent of The Observer in the star-studded Chamber of the Old Parliament I can vouch for the fact that no other leader had abused and debased parliamentary standards, values, norms, traditions as Ranil Wickremesinghe. At least, as Asian Vice President of the IDU he has a moral obligation to uphold the basic norms of the parliamentary traditions. The crude way he manipulated Parliament to cover-up the shady deals of his cronies robbing the bank is despicable and unpardonable, particularly for a man coming from families renowned for their dignity, integrity and nobility.

Ranil, I am sorry to say, is a disgrace to his revered forefathers. Would Dudley Senanayake who refused to speak to his father because the latter refused to sack C.P. de Silva, his Permanent Secretary, for misleading him with lies, ever touch Ranil with a barge miles long? Well, if the Senanayakes would not have a bar of the powers behind the biggest bank robbery in the history of the nation, why should the nation trust Ranil? Why should any individual or institution ever help Ranil to perpetuate his immoral, corrupt, undemocratic regime?

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