They say, politics makes strange bedfellows. We have seen that many times in this country of ours. Joining that group are the latest pair of unlikely partners: Wimal Weerawansa and Susil Premajayantha. And, judging by what they have said, they must surely be the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Sri Lankan politics.
Weerawansa says, Parliament should be bombed if it approves the new Constitution (which, by the way, is still only a draft), by a two-thirds majority. Some people might approve of that but they might also say, before bombing Parliament, we should just make sure that Weerawansa is also there, when it happens. Just for the record, we don’t agree, even if Weerawansa happens to be there.
Are Weerawansa’s comments disgusting? Yes. Are they surprising? No. We know that Weerasangilige Wimal Weerawansa aka Wimalasiri Gamlath aka Wanshanatha has come a long way from being a small time journalist for the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).
Weerawansa is probably smarter than we give him credit for. He soon realized that if he stayed with the JVP, ensconced in their socialist policies, he would be unlikely to hold government office; nor would he be likely to partake of the pleasures and privileges of being in power. So, he switched sides, formed his own party, the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) and hitched his wagon to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s star.
To give him his due, Weerawansa is an orator that attracts a crowd. What he says maybe rubbish but the way he says it, in a rasping voice and racy rhetoric, makes for compelling listening. Rajapaksa, the seasoned politician that he is, saw Weerawansa for what he was: a crowd puller at election campaigns and a maverick who not only sang from the same hymn sheet of Sinhalese chauvinism but also a lap dog who would readily do his bidding.
The result was that Weerawansa was appointed Minister of Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities during Rajapaksa’s second term as President. Now, we are seeing the fallout of that: Weerawansa is being investigated for the alleged misuse of forty state vehicles, allegedly distributed will-nilly among family members, friends and assorted hangers-on.
That is not the only scandal: both Weerawansa and his wife, Shashi aka Shirsha Udayanthi are under investigation over issues related to their passports. How their relatives obtained government houses for prices well below the market value is also under scrutiny.
Now, surely it cannot be a co-incidence that Shashi Weerawansa is the sister of Ajith Kumara, the gentleman who hurled a hand grenade in Parliament at a United National Party (UNP) parliamentary group meeting presided over by J.R. Jayewardene in 1987, killing two people including parliamentarian Keerthi Abewickrema and seriously injuring Lalith Athulathmudali. The general conversation at Weerawansa’s family gathering appears to be about bombing Parliaments!
So, Weerawansa wants to repeat what his brother-in-law did thirty years ago. What this shows is that Weerawansa has a view- that the proposed new Constitution is ‘bad’. We have no problem with that; every man and his dog is entitled to his opinion. But Weerawansa also says, whoever disagrees with his view must be obliterated from the face of the earth. That is why we said that while this is disgusting, coming from Weerawansa, it is not surprising.
Just so that we don’t smear everyone with the same brush, the JNP has said this is Weerawansa’s personal view and not that of the party. So, even the party he formed and of which he is the leader, disowns Weerawansa now.
But guess who is defending Weerawansa? Susil Premajayantha, current Cabinet Minister for Technology and Research and former General Secretary of the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Surprising? Yes. Disgusting? Yes, even more so than it is for Wimal Weerawansa.
Pardon the cliché, but they say, in politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. If you want an example, take a look at Achchige Don Susil Premajayantha.
Premajayantha’s political star rose to high heavens when he replaced Chandrika Kumaratunga as the Chief Minister of the Western Province.
That was a stepping stone to contesting parliamentary elections and thereafter he held responsible portfolios such as, Education, Power and Energy and Petroleum Industries.
In 2014, Premajayantha was firmly in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s camp when he ran for President against Maithripala Sirisena. At the subsequent General Elections, a year later, as General Secretary of the UPFA, he was responsible for handing out nominations to Rajapaksa loyalists – and to Rajapaksa himself- even when President Sirisena did not wish to do so.
However, after the election, Premajayantha suddenly has a change of heart, sings the praises of President Sirisena, and joins the National Unity Government with a Cabinet portfolio for good measure, ditching Rajapaksa. With friends like these, does Mahinda Rajapaksa need enemies?
Now, Premajayantha has rushed to defend Wimal Weerawansa’s remarks about bombing Parliament. Premajayantha’s justification of Weerawansa’s remarks is difficult to comprehend. Coming from a lawyer and a man who was previously thought to have some grey matter in his cranium, it is as surprising as it is disgusting.
Of course, Premajayantha too is entitled to his opinion. He has publicly said that he too opposes the draft Constitution and there is nothing wrong with that.
If he feels so strongly about that and if he feels that the ‘draft’ Constitution cannot be amended to his satisfaction, doesn’t he have a moral duty to resign from the Cabinet, instead of being part of the group that endorses it?
Remember Gamani Jayasuriya? That stalwart- and thorough gentleman- from the UNP who didn’t agree with the Indo-Lanka Accord and resigned because his conscience told him he couldn’t be part of a Cabinet that endorsed the Accord?
Premajayantha, of course, continues to remain in the Cabinet and instead endorses calls for Parliament to be bombed. Perhaps, President Sirisena feels that it is better to have him inside the tent, pissing out, rather than outside the tent, pissing in, because that is exactly what he is doing. Expect Premajayantha to do a Jayasuriya and resign instead? You must be joking- that is like expecting Wimal Weerawansa to make a public speech without insulting someone- you wish it would happen, but it never does!