On this Easter Sunday morning as the world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe finds himself tied to the cross, branded a thief. Below him, he can see the Joint Opposition mob frantically searching for 113 nails to crucify him. And guess who’s offering them the hammer to drive the nails home?
This April 4, parliament will rise to debate and vote on the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wicremesinghe. It’s a motion born out of the joint opposition’s elation in having garnered the popular vote at February’s local government elections. They know they are bound to lose it. But are they worried? No, no.
Its real purpose is not to win it but to put the shivers into government ranks, create a leadership crisis within the UNP and show the masses on what taught tightrope this coalition government precariously walks the walk today; and on what tremulous strands of coir it perilously balances its act. And that it’s doomed to fall. And it realises that, after having thrown the seeds of dissent, bringing down both the UNP and the SLFP before 2020 is nothing more than child’s play. In fact, the puerile way the Government has reacted, the joint opposition’s determined campaign is akin to stealing candy from a kid.
For both parties in the coalition Government have taken the bait and are doing the joint opposition’s bidding, dancing to its music and acting in accordance with the Mahinda script which has devised a tragedy at its ending. It’s not the prime minister’s scalp they are after. The no-confidence motion is to drain the lifeblood of this coalition Government and render it moribund — for the nation not to resurrect the corpus come 2020 but to puke upon it.
A government’s duty is to govern. In that rose-hued dawn three years ago, much was expected of this Government and three years later Lanka finds that much has been denied to the masses. On the economic front, the country totters on the brink of an abyss. On the political front, it seems it has voluntarily gone over the precipice and lost the people’s confidence. The last three years tell a sad tale of how a Government voted to office with a silver spoon became the spendthrift of the nation’s hopes and trust; and how it squandered the goodwill and faith the people had lavishly reposed upon it.
Its political pamphlet, promising the sun, moon and stars to usher a Yahapalana era of just governance, to lift the nation from the sewers of corruption and to embolden it with hope that a new enlightened epoch awaited them, today lies traduced in the dust for the people to trample upon. For the promised dawn, it vowed to usher now stand proven false. No wonder there’s a bad moon on the rise.
The coalition Government has gone beyond the pale of redemption. It’s evident there’s no love lost between the two main parties. The partnership is but a farce, a façade to hide the mad confusions that broil within its ranks subjected as it is to the opposition’s oppressive heat.
The opposition’s duty is to oppose. And they have done a super duper job to make the Government cringe and crawl. From day one of losing the presidential election in 2015 to now, they have worked a miracle to ensure their resurrection: Even succeeded in turning Sirisena to a Judas. To betray the gratitude Sirisena said — on a Derana 360 chat show in the run up to the local government elections in February — he had to his running mate Ranil for making him president.
This week on Wednesday Maithripala Sirisena showed the extent of his gratitude in no small measure. He gave Ranil Wickremesinghe a public slapping by stripping him of control of the Central Bank.
He removed the Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission from the Prime Minister’s purview. A gazette extraordinary announcing the President’s decision was issued on Tuesday, a week before the no-confidence motion against Wickremesinghe was to be taken up. Now the two institutions have been brought under the Ministry of Finance.
President Sirisena has also put on hold some draft bills, proposed amendments, resolutions, orders etc, which Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was to present to Parliament, in his capacity as the Minister of National Policies & Economic Affairs. The amendments were to be moved to the Monetary Law Act, No. 58 of 1949, Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No. 35 of 2002, Exchange Control Act, No. 24 of 195, Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka Act, No. 36 of 1987, National Youth Service Council Act, No. 69 of 1979, Youth Corps Act, No. 21 of 2002, Children and Young Persons Ordinance, No. 48 of 1939 and National Insurance Trust Fund Act, No. 28 of 2006.
It was nothing less than a public flogging.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Ranil, already on the cross waiting to be nailed, charged by the joint opposition, in its no-confidence motion against him, to be responsible for the bond scam.
Twelve out of the 14 charges contained in the no-confidence motion against the prime minister deal with the bond swindle. All stem from the original sin, the first charge levelled against the Prime Minister: that of ‘placing the Central Bank under the purview of the Prime Minister with the intention of committing the bond scam.’
But does the Prime Minister have the Constitutional right to place the Central Bank under his purview? Or does that constitutional right belong solely to the president? Has the joint opposition dialled the wrong number when it accused Ranil of arrogating the Central Bank to his pocket to make rich his wallet? Or should the phone have rung in the presidential residence at Paget Road, Colombo 7?
According to Local Go vernment and Provincial Councils Minister Faiszer Musthapha, the answer is no. On Tuesday, countering a claim made by Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardana, he said the No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe affected only the PM and not President Maithripala Sirisena.
Perhaps he should take another look at the constitution. Or read SUNDAY PUNCH of March 4.
Under article 43(2) the President shall on the advice of the prime minister appoint ministers. Under Article 43(3) he does not need to consult the prime minister if he wants to reshuffle his cabinet pack and wishes to make a Jack a King or a Queen a Knave or the Joker the Ace.
When it comes to the appointment of state ministers or deputy ministers the same applies. He shall do so on the advice of the prime minister. But when it comes to determining their assignments and functions as Ministers, he may do so in consultation with the prime minister only if he thinks such consultation necessary.
Or Mr. Musthapha can save himself the trouble of reading constitutional clauses by simply taking note of the President’s actions this week when he stripped the Prime Minister of the Central Bank and other institutions he had assigned to Ranil three years ago and unequivocally demonstrated the principle that the one who has the right to fire is the one who has the right to hire.
Whether the President did so in consultation with the Prime Minister or whether he did so on his own, thinking that such consultation was not necessary as is his constitutional right is beside the point. What matters is that the Central Bank was assigned to the Prime Minister by the president and there is no getting away from that fact.
Thus this Wednesday when the no-confidence motion is brought before Parliament with its first allegation ‘placing the Finance Ministry under the purview of the Prime Minister with the intention of committing the bond scam,’ Sirisena’s head too is on the block. On Friday the former hitman of the Rajapaksa regime who switched his allegiance to Sirisena once the latter was installed in power, Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha announced that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party will vote for the no-confidence motion, moved by the Joint Opposition against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and called upon Wickremesinghe to resign as Prime Minister.
Premajayantha assured that the SLFP’s current position on the no-confidence motion would not change and that it would be confirmed by the Working Committee before April 4. Addressing the media at the SLFP headquarters in Colombo, Minister Premajayanatha said 12 out of 14 charges against PM Wickremesinghe on the motion tabled in parliament were regarding the Central Bank bond scam and those charges were similar to the outcome of the SLFP appointed bond scam committee report. Therefore, the SLFP MPs did not have any reason to oppose the NCM, he added. Wonder on whose side he is batting now, given his track record of scoring runs for the winning side?
Perhaps, he too, had failed to read the President-appointed Bond Commission’s report which exonerated the Prime Minister and only faulted him in making Arjun Mahendran the Governor of the Central Bank. But Ranil Wicremesinghe had no crystal ball to foretell what the future held when the fateful appointment was made. Neither did the Maithripala Sirisena have power of clairvoyance when he assigned the Central Bank to the Prime Minister’s care and appointed Mahendran as its head. For under the constitution the president appoints the Central Bank Governor. Both fell victim and both must share the blame. Especially the one at whose table the buck finally stops.
The former president Rajapaksa — who did not sign the no-confidence motion he handed over to the Speaker last week along with Dinesh Gunawardena — also chipped in. He said, the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would succeed as President Maithripala Sirisena was backing it. But is he? And if he does, will he not be committing political hara kiri?
What did the president achieve by delivering a thundering slap to Ranil by removing the Central Bank from his jurisdiction? If he thought that Ranil was indeed responsible, no matter what his own presidential bond commission said in its conclusive findings, then was action taken three years after the event, akin to closing the stable door after the horse had bolted? And to whose province did he, using his constitutional right with or without consulting the prime minister, to appoint and assign, to hire and fire, hand over the Government’s Banker. To Mangala Samaraweera, a stalwart of the UNP, faithful to his leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Do not his advisers tell him that the joint opposition’s no-confidence motion is also an indictment on his presidency by placing the Central Bank under Ranil’s purview and appointing Arjuna as its governor: Both assignment and appointment being his duty and prerogative under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which he himself introduced and got enacted with a thumping five sixth majority in Parliament. Let’s hail him for that. And weep for his many failures.
For his failure to execute the 2015 mandate the nation gave to him. To bring the crooks to book. Even after the local government poll results shook the government from its slumber, Sirisena slept. On many occasions had he promised to raise his sword to crackdown on corruption. But when the time came for it to be used – when Ranil insisted that a strong man be used for the job, he chose a nerd instead – and sheathed his sword out of fear that the joint opposition spittle will rust it.
As dark clouds gather over the Yahapalana government, with its Prime Minister on the dock and an indecisive President with a death wish waiting in the wings to share the stage, discern the bad moon on the rise for Lanka.