Sarath de Alwis
Should Ranil stay and face the motion of no confidence or avoid confrontation and go before it is taken up? The question was never an issue. It is a media manufactured, media packaged, and a media distributed yarn – an irrelevant essential.
Ranil should stay and face the floor test. That is what democracy is all about. Democracy is not about a megalomaniac media magnate philandering unearned and undeserving monopoly access to airwaves, spewing venom on a politician that he has taken a dislike to.
On April 14th, 2017 – that is a year ago, I wrote an essay Ranil – the man and his era. Some recap seems relevant.
Ranil’s political narrative begins in 1977 with his election to Parliament at age 28. His political path runs parallel to Sri Lanka’s triple lane highway to the Executive Presidency that is market liberalization, proportional representation and ethno religious identity politics.
A study of his political profile is a discovery of the compelling complexities of our era. It is a vicarious witnessing of our descent into a cruel ethnic inferno, suppression of a Southern insurrection with a state brutality that has few parallels in human history, a firsthand experience of political obscenity with the Lampu/Kalagedi ‘referendum, the near total collapse of the rule of law and lastly our discovery and realization for a return to political civility and good governance.
Ranil has been the target of some ferocious pillorying by some electronic media outfits.
Despite his many failings, and there are plenty, the manipulated witch-hunt must be deplored.
A near monopoly of television broadcasting is not a free press. That it remains free from government censorship is not a free licence to telecast brazen bias.
Democracy or its defence is not the exclusive preserve of self-declared media crusaders with double barrel monikers rhyming with ‘Barnabas’ sporting Larry King type clip on suspenders.
So Ranil should stay and face the floor test. If it is a power struggle, the vote in Parliament will bring some solidity to the current form of liquid politics.
Democracy is not about coming to Parliament through the national list after being soundly and solidly beaten at the general election. Democracy is not about subverting popular will expressed at free and fair elections by reappointing political rejects purely to retrieve nonexistent credentials of an accidental upstart.
Democracy is not about media Moghuls leveraging their monopolies to manufacture and distribute packaged ‘public opinion’.
The shadow-boxing we have witnessed between some SLFP Ministers and the UNP high-ups is pure and classic political chicanery.
This writer is no supporter, follower, disciple or acolyte of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Nor does this writer believe that Ranil Wickremesinghe is the kind of leader we need in these critical times.
That said, those of us, committed to the goals of the movement for a just society that brought about the triumph of January 8 2015 should unhesitatingly prevent agenda driven media moghuls from subverting the constitutional and democratic process. Removing an inconvenient hurdle to their business plans is not the right direction for this befuddled nation.
If defending the unsmiling, unresponsive Ranil is the price we have to pay, we must not dilly-dally or waver. We must pay the price.
The gains made in the last three years in the form of access to information, rights of the individual and the restoration of at least the semblances of institutions insulated from partisan politics should be preserved.
Those gains are far too important to be allowed to be hijacked by plastic potentates now in the television business, harbouring delusions of their power in the secure comfort of hired hands feeding their oversized egos.
We are told that the present crisis, if that is what it should be described as, is a power struggle. That is a mistaken diagnosis by those too involved in the dispute to claim comprehension of a problem that they do not yet understand.
The President was voted in to office by a rainbow coalition on a platform of reforms that produced an electoral activism of exceptional outreach.
The power he obtained was of such force and sanctity, that it allowed him to make Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister and spare him the pain of seeking a vote of confidence in a Parliament where Ranil commanded some 40 seats. The gains we now talk about are the gains made in the first 100 days.
What is unfolding today is not a struggle for power but a dichotomous search to locate where power resides. A good part of that power now resides with Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Our principal institution of democratic governance – the Parliament is pitilessly, massively dysfunctional. There is the official opposition of the Tamil National Alliance demanding minority empowerment and constitutional reforms. There is the JVP insisting that they are neither for Tweedledum nor Tweedle-dee but are for a type of Tweedled Dum Dees of their own. Then there are the no-holds barred but some holds-less barred opposition that calls itself the Joint Opposition. They want Mahinda Rajapaksa back in power.
The Government calls itself a national alliance of the two mainstream political parties, the UNP and the SLFP. Its ostensible purpose being the pursuit of good governance, adherence to democratic ideals and ensuring economic progress.
The crisis precipitated by the motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister is an unmistakable sign that the present structure can no longer hold.
The explosion, especially, in electronic media, promoting not productive debate, but destructive diversion is lamentable. Its purpose is to disengage us from reality.
We created an atmosphere of free debate, accommodating a diversity of views. We have achieved something that we never planned for. We have opened the public space with no clear framework defining its public purpose.
Each of us wallow in the unaffordable luxury of self-confirmation at the expense of collective purpose and endeavour.
Time has arrived for us to stop and take stock of the gains and losses of the past three years. We have been duped and manipulated for more than a decade before we embarked on the good governance experiment on January 8 2015. It is now more important than ever to know what we are doing to ourselves. Are we being duped some more?
We are in an endless spiral, in a vicious vortex asphyxiating with scripts and counter scripts of learned legalese before the judiciary, inane profundities from the executive and a limitless supply of senseless, pointless rhetoric from the legislature.
The story of the fox and the hedgehog has an explanation.
A fox swimming across a rapid river was carried by the force of the current into a very deep ravine. It remained exhausted and in terrible pain for a long time. It was bruised, sick, and paralyzed.
It was unable to move. Swarms of hungry blood-sucking flies settled upon its tired body. A hedgehog, passing by, saw its anguish and inquired if it should drive away the flies that were tormenting the fox. “By no means,” replied the Fox; “pray do not molest them.”“Why” asked the bewildered hedgehog; “do you not want to be rid of them?’ “No,” replied the Fox, “for these flies which you see are full of blood, and sting me but little, and if you rid me of these which are already satiated, others hungrier will come in their place, and will drink up all the blood I have left.”