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Dec-05-2012 00:34printcomments

In Putin's Oversized Shoes Would or Could Ranil Walk Straight ?

Sri Lanka needs an alternate political leadership with a democratic, secular programme.

Majinda Rajapakse and Ranil Wickramasinghe
Ranil Wickramasinghe and Majinda Rajapakse

(COLOMBO, Sri Lanka Samakaalam) - This was the crowning joke. Sajith Premadasa staked claim for the presidency of Sri Lanka at the annual conference of the UNP on 01st December. Though completely routed, he said he would contest the next presidential elections as the UNP candidate, IF Ranil Wickramasinghe would not. His was an impotent bid to pre empt any attempt at UNP compromising on a "common candidate" as at the last presidential elections and also, in any one else from the UNP coming in, to substitute Wickramasinghe.

The next presidential elections is almost 03 years from now and have little importance for the people. What is important is the role the UNP would play on its new “Radical Programme” with an “undisputed” leader, during the next 06 years. Two constitutional amendments, one to the Constitution of Sri Lanka as the 18th Amendment and the other to the Constitution of the UNP on a resolution adopted at the special conference, gave extended life to both the President and the Leader of the Opposition. How democratic are such moves, though adopted with a two thirds majority in parliament and an overwhelming 4,640 majority votes at the party special conference ? Manipulated majorities they were. Whether in parliament or in an organisation, they are neither democratic, nor politically valid.

This country is going through a post war socio economic and political turmoil and needs an alternate leadership on a democratic political platform, to get out of that crisis. The war, hyped with a Sinhala racist frenzy in eliminating the LTTE as a “separatist terrorist” group, helped this family regime to usurp unlimited power, that now contradicts constitutional governance, through Executive Presidency. The parliament as the legislature, functions only as a subordinate forum, dictated by the President and compromised by the Opposition Leader. With a heinously corrupt regime, the society runs without law and order. Political elites are publicly accused criminals and fraudsters. The two most important, apex positions in the economic life of the country is allowed to be in the hands of two fraudsters, proved and not too difficult to be proved. The not so independent, but inept judiciary is being publicly humiliated by the regime, to be brought under the heels of an all powerful ruling elite. Post war “democracy” is dominated by the defence establishment that now pre decides policy over the legislature. It is declining, degrading Sinhala politics that has to take total blame for the chaos that is setting in, but looks for excuses in “international conspiracies” and possible “LTTE terrorist rumps” remaining in the Diaspora.

In such fragile and fast degenerating social life pushed into new conflicts, Sri Lanka needs an alternate political leadership with a democratic, secular programme. One, that on the first count would demilitarise and democratise all State agencies and public life and immediately move to honour the long neglected political aspirations of the Tamil society. Without such a democratic, secular programme that could de construct polarisation in society, the Sinhala society on its own, would not have any democratic life.

That needs a leadership, tempered in working within democratic political structures in his or her own political organisation. The UNP, not much different to the SLFP, had never been organisationally a democratic political party, though it had provided popular leaders in Dudley Senanayake and Ranasinghe Premadasa. In governance they were both failures, not being popular “democratic” leaders. In governance, all political leader were failures from both the SLFP and the UNP, over the past 06 decades of independence from “colonial rule”. Ranil Wickramasinghe as a leader, is far from any of them. He was brought to politics by his uncle J.R. Jayawardne, perhaps in gratitude to his father, a schemer in toppling the SLFP led coalition in 1964. He then became the leader of the UNP by default, thanks to the LTTE, that removed every one above him in the UNP leadership. Of course except Wijetunge, who was politically a non toxic agent. Ranil, therefore is neither a shrewd, master schemer JRJ was, nor the popular leader Dudley was. Neither is he, the authoritarian Sinhala leader, Premadasa was.

What is he then ? He is an accidental mediocre leader, who is forced to maintain his leadership in the party through manipulations, before contesting for the leadership of the country. A leader who can not command authority with charisma even with an authoritative Constitution in his own political party. An insecure leader who therefore did not allow a second level leadership to grow, though his uncle JRJ groomed both Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake, while Premadasa established himself on his own. It is such inability and insecurity in him that made him accrue more authoritative power with more dictatorial amendments to the party Constitution. A lager than life authoritarian than any leader in the history of the UNP with more rhetoric on democracy than any before him, as well.

His growing dictatorial political leadership in the party will not leave any chance for him to play a democrat, as Head of State, whether President or Prime Minister. His new radical programme would only be for “mass appeal”, if that could have any serious social discourse. IF executed under a UNP rule, it would only have limited economic reforms and not democratic reforms. To be a democratic leader of a country, one needs to have such tradition and practice in one's own political life style. Should have a social base that would back such democratic reforms. But Ranil is not the nominee of democratic reform but of commercial capital looking for State patronage. That's what Putin is, no better than Hu Jintao, or the other way round. Yet they both would talk of democracy, one in Russia and the other in the Communist Party of China, where people have no place and no choice.

His political behaviour in parliament too, leaves little trust in Ranil to expect a democratic ruler in him. The Bill read in parliament in April 2011 to establish an Employee Pension Fund was tabled without any notice, but was never questioned by the Opposition, as to how it could come to be discussed without notice. The UNP playing no role, it was defeated by FTZ workers who came on the streets in Katunayake that made the “two thirds majority” in parliament, totally irrelevant. This Budget for 2013 needed 03 amendments to make it Constitutional according to the Supreme Courts determination, but the whole Opposition including the UNP agreed to debate it without required amendments. So is the controversial “Divi Neguma” bill that is back in the Order Book of parliament. The UNP under Ranil is clearly scheming with this regime to have everything unconstitutional, turn out as law and constitutional.

Parliament is thus turned into a wayside political bazaar, schemed and dominated by two political “Mudalalies” competing for popular market dominance, while agreeing to monopolise political power. That's what Ranil is and what Ranil would be. He would not be the right democratic alternative for the people in replacing the Rajapaksa rule. But who else is their ? Sajith a poor, ineffective unintelligible local leader left with just 330 plus votes against Ranil's wholly manipulated 4,900 odd, shows Ranil had seen to it over the past 18 years that a second level, competent, democratic and intellectual leadership would not grow in the UNP. Ranil has thus won his day in the party but leaves the people, rudderless. This country is now left to fend for an alternative democratic leadership outside the dichotomy in mainstream traditional politics. That perhaps is a hard way ahead.

(Originally written for the Tamil magazine “Samakaalam”)

Kusal Perera Colombo 04 December, 2012

Kusal Perera

Kusal Perera

We creep where most don't

I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon and a shot of old arrack.....!

Special thanks to Kusal Perera for sharing this article with, and also Groundviews




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