By The “Daily Financial Times” Special Political Correspondent
It is now just over 30 days since Sirisena did the most unbelievable thing of appointing his feared rival Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Then he took it one step further by dissolving a legitimate Parliament. Then he went further by appointing a Cabinet that had no legitimacy.
This Cabinet having lost two no confidence motions in Parliament went to the extreme extent of signing multi-million dollar port contracts to Chinese companies. On Thursday a motion was passed in Parliament to curtail expenditure to the Office of the Prime Minister, making him effectively a toothless Prime Minister.
The Speaker who met the President following many requests made by party leaders and other factions in Parliament after the vote on Thursday had told the UNF leaders that Maithripala Sirisena has assured him that he would hold separate discussions with the Opposition Leader and the Leaders of the United National Front (UNF) on Friday evening to arrive at an immediate solution to the political instability.
Unfortunately, no one really believes the President anymore; despite the current instability in the country the President has clearly demonstrated that he will only do things that will benefit his political future.
TNA Leader R. Sampanthan and UNF party leaders to date have maintained that they are not willing to accept alternatives, insisting that the pre-26 October status in the House should be restored. Sirisena, however, has categorically refused to reappoint removed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the post, creating an impasse.
The President has been told very clearly that the view of the majority of the Members of Parliament on the issue has to be followed and that he is not a monarch to do what he pleases.
For the President reappointing the UNP Leader is a big issue. He dislikes immensely the close circle of friends that surrounds Ranil Wickremesinghe like Samarawickrama, Ratwatte, Rathnayake and the 83-old-Paskaralingam, the master deal-maker. The man appears whenever the UNP wins an election. They have often worked much to the detriment of the UNP and its supporters.
Many talented grassroots level leaders of the party have been side-lined or booted out to make way for their favourites and that, in return, has crippled the party’s electoral machinery. Even during the last three-and-a-half years of the Unity Government, critical decisions relating to the country’s economy and future were made by these close friends who were divorced from reality and failed to understand even the fundamentals of electoral politics.
The UNP Leader, if he survives this crisis, will need to give them the boot for good for his very survival and that may help him to reposition himself as a credible leader.
The Prime Minister appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena, MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, is now refusing to budge. He has told the SLFP group that urged him to step down gracefully to virtually to get lost.
Unfortunately, for Mahinda he has not been able to prove that he commands the confidence of Parliament though one month has lapsed since the said appointment and though Parliament has met several times during this period.
The House has passed two no confidence motions against Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Therefore it is in the former President’s best interest to do what is best for the country given the huge economic crisis we are in currently and step down respectfully without forcibly hanging on in the post of Prime Minister knowing very well he is no longer the legitimate Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
To many, his refusal to step down is very surprising, because Mahinda has a good track record of always respecting the view of the majority of the Members of Parliament.