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Perverting the Yahapalana mandate


21, 2015, 7:58 pm

With each passing week, the stresses and strains

within the yahapalana coalition that formed the present government are
coming more and more out into the open. Last week, at a seminar at the
OPA auditorium, Dr Jayampathy Wickremeratne who is an advisor to
President Maithripala Sirisena alleged that some people in the government
were trying to destroy the presidents credibility by blocking the abolition
of the executive presidency. Dr Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, the spokesman of
Ven Maduluwawe Sobithas National Movement for a Just Society, who
spoke at the same seminar was more specific and pinpointed minister
Champika Ranawaka as the person blocking the abolition of the executive
Had the present government been composed of just Maithripala Sirisena
on the one hand and the UNP on the other, it may have turned out to be a
smooth partnership. In actual fact, these were the two principal partners
on the yahapalana platform. Had the JVP joined the campaign directly as in
2010, they too could have staked a claim to being a principal partner. As it
turned out, the JVP ducked the responsibility and the UNP was left holding
the baby. Others like Champika Ranawaka, Rajitha Senaratne, and
Hirunika Premachandra may have addressed meetings but the ground level
work like manning the polling booths, organizing meetings, doing house to
house campaigns etcetera was done by the UNP. They may have not been
as energetic as the JVP, but they did their part and in any case the vast
majority of the votes that Sirisena got were UNP votes. If the UNP now
expects a free hand to govern, that is certainly their right.
The whole point in doing politics is
to look after the interests of those
who elected you to power and in
the case of Sirisena it is

undoubtedly the UNP voter who elected him into power. Before being
elected into power, the president spoke of the abuse of power under the
Rajapaksas and his wish to dismantle the presidential system. He wanted
to give more powers to parliament and the cabinet. If he simply did what
he said he was going to do and gave the largely UNP government a free
hand while taking a back seat, there would be no stresses and strains at all
in the government. But as many yahapalana activists are now beginning to
realize, there is a small group of people around President Sirisena who do
not want him to relinquish presidential power so that they can use it for
their own benefit. No doubt this small group played a part in his campaign,
but certainly not a part that outweighed the role played by the UNP.
If a handful of individuals who have very little votes are able to prevent
Sirisena from fulfilling his obligations by his principle backer - the UNP,
then there is a serious problem. The small cabal of desperate, voteless,
politicians who have surrounded Sirisena may be telling him, "We are your
friends, it is we who have your best interests at heart" and "We are doing
all this for you." But what becomes clearer with each passing day is that
they are using Sirisena to ensure their own political survival. Chandrika
Kumaratunga, Maithripala Sirisena, Champika Ranawaka are united in their
resentment against the Rajapaksas on the one hand and their need to
wield power on the other. Their desire to wield power is not really
inconsistent with the UNP playing a leading role in the government
because CBK, Maithripala Sirisena, Champika Ranawaka and the others are
just individuals with no large followings or political parties. As such, there
should be plenty to go around even if the UNP holds most of the portfolios
in the government.
The yahapalana platform was made up of one large party, the UNP, which
was several times bigger than all the others put together, several minority
community political parties, a few individual politicians who had cut
themselves lose from the UPFA and a whole host of NGO activists. By and
large it would appear that most are satisfied with roles they have got
except for a few vote-less politicians around President Sirisena who see
this as a not to be missed opportunity to seize the reins of supreme power.
In the case of Maithripala Sirisena, there should be no problem in allowing
RW and the cabinet to make most of the decisions. Even under his
predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, it was P.B.Jayasundera and Ajith Nivard
Cabraal who made most decisions relating to the economy and Gota who
made most of the decisions relating to national security. One need not

labour the point. No president takes all the decisions by himself. All
presidents have delegated most of their work to their cabinets anyway.
What has complicated matters in this cause is that certain individuals
around the president are trying to usurp the UNPs role in the government
for themselves. It need not be said that such a shift in authority will be a
serious perversion of the mandate that the yahapalana government got.
The question is what benefit will Maithripala derive by pandering to wishes
of such individuals?
Since he is already the president, he has nothing to gain but everything to
lose by giving ear to those who have no votes but are trying to double
cross and marginalize the largest political party that gave him the mandate
to rule. The vote-less conspirators on the other hand, have nothing to lose
and everything to gain if they make use of President Sirisenas power in
their own power games. Sirisena would do well to stick to his pledges to
the UNP because when he fell out with the Rajapaksas and cast himself
adrift, it is the UNP that took him under their wing and went ahead with
what looked like a losing battle. If he dumps the UNP, he will be branded
as a man who betrays trust for his own political advancement.
In the meantime, what is President Sirisena to do with the captive SLFP
which is now hanging like a millstone around his neck? The SLFP has only
two uses firstly, it is being used as a tool to block the abolition of the
executive presidency so that President Sirisena can continue to enjoy the
presidential powers that he said he was going to abolish. Secondly they
can provide a parliamentary majority to continue for another year if the
UNP pulls out of the government at the end of April. But the SLFP can be
made use of in that manner only for another year at the very most. What
happens after that is uncharted territory. How useful the SLFP will be is
completely dependent on when the next parliamentary election is going to
be held. If the UNP (and the JVP which also wants an early election)
manages to force MS to dissolve parliament in April, any usefulness that
the SLFP has will evaporate and it will become a clear liability for Sirisena.
As things stand many in the SLFP feel that neither Chandrika
Kumaratunga, Nimal Siripala de Silva nor Susil Premajayantha can ensure
their victory at a future parliamentary election. They dont seem to think
that even president Maithripala Sirisena would be able to ensure their
victory even if he personally leads the campaign for the SLFP.
So the vast majority of the SLFPs peoples representatives are engaged in
a headlong quest to get Mahinda Rajapaksa back as the SLFPs prime

ministerial candidate. On March 17, MR met Western province SLFP local

government representatives at the Abeyarama Temple in Narahenpita.
That same evening, ITN broadcast Maithripala Sirisenas speech to the
SLFPs electoral organizers held a day or two earlier. The contrast between
the rousing and emotionally charged pro-Mahinda speeches made by the
SLFP local government representatives at the Abeyarama (which this writer
witnessed personally) and the tepid and indifferent manner in which
President Sirisenas speech was received by the SLFP electoral organizers
couldnt be greater. If Sirisena is to obtain a peoples mandate to govern
through the SLFP, he will have to make MR the SLFPs prime ministerial
candidate as there is no other leader in the SLFP who has enough public
support to take on the UNP.
But there is no sign yet of MS agreeing to make MR the prime ministerial
candidate of the UPFA. Apart from the presidents own antipathy to the
Rajapaksas, it is the same CBK-Champika led cabal around him that is
thwarting the UNP that is also blocking MR from being the PM candidate of
the UPFA. So ironically, we have a situation where the UNP and Mahinda
Rajapaksa are both being undercut by the same group. It is the UNP that
provides the mandate to rule that Maithripala Sirisena enjoys at the
moment. If the UNP is kicked out of the government, the SLFP which is
now under the control of President Sirisena will be able to provide a
parliamentary majority (though not a peoples mandate) to be able to
continue for about a year.
Whether he likes it or not, MS will have to choose between entertaining MR
as the PM candidate or retaining the UNP. He cant dump both MR and the
UNP and hope to have a mandate to govern. In any country there is
something called a political divide and no politician can be with both sides
simultaneously. As of now, President Sirisena is in danger of falling
between two stools if he continues to needlessly thwart the UNP at the
behest of a few vote-less politicians who think they can use the hijacked
SLFP to take the UNPs place. It is very clear that the vast majority of the
hijacked SLFP have other ideas. In any case, the party that made
Maithripala Sirisena president was the UNP and not the SLFP. A politician
who turns his back on those who gave him his mandate to wield power will
not only lose his moral right to govern but will also be mistrusted by
Posted by Thavam