Setting the record straight | Daily News

Setting the record straight

President Maithripala Sirisena has set the record straight when he attributed the present political crisis as stemming from differences in political ideology and not a problem that cropped up over personal differences between himself and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Speaking at an event in Polonnaruwa, President Sirisena described the clash as one between two disparate political entities, one which had an indigenous outlook and the other wedded to a neo-liberal ideology. True, the crisis had its origins in the clash of views between indigenous and foreign philosophy and as explained by the President, when one implemented the philosophy of rising up independently through self-reliance without succumbing to foreign pressure, foreign forces would naturally become a challenge.

The President was apparently responding to the accusations made by the UNP that the current crisis was of the President’s own making due to his alleged personality clashes with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The President is not off the mark in this respect. Born and bred in the rural outback, and a follower of a political party which has its ethos in indigenous culture, rooted in the village and revolving round the farmer and the peasantry, the whole outlook of the UNP, which is wedded to capitalism and hinged on Western culture certainly would have been alien to the President. Of this, the kowtowing and open subservience to the Western powers by Wickremesinghe who wanted to steer the country’s economy according to the dictates of the West would have been too much to take for the President who has always been guided by the philosophy of the SLFP.

It was clear to all that the end had to come sooner rather than later. The constant bickering in Cabinet, the open clashes between the UNP and SLFP ministers in the Unity Government over policy and the frequent barbs thrown at each other, the public spats etc. had to end one way or the other. It would have certainly been all too obvious to the President, who had a ringside view of the goings on, that things cannot proceed in the way they were heading. A decision had to be made.

President Sirisena would also not have taken too kindly to the fact that he was not kept in the loop by Wickremesinghe. It was the constant complaint of the President, even in the best days of the Unity Government, that he was not kept informed of the happenings and that more often than not he learnt of developments only when they appeared in the newspapers. Philosophy and ideological differences apart, the numerous acts of big time corruption and arbitrary actions taken bypassing the President certainly must have made the President think that enough is enough. Chief among this is the Central Bank Bond scam the consequences of which no doubt are still haemorrhaging the economy.

Here too, the UNP leader acted arbitrarily by appointing a crony to head the Central Bank amidst stiff opposition from the President and even Dr. Rajitha Senaratne. It goes without saying that for a coalition Government to function efficiently, there should be harmony and a good understanding between leaders of the coalition. Especial under a Presidential system of Governance, the President and Prime Minister should jell if the country is to benefit by such an arrangement.

It is only under the shot-lived Presidency of D.B. Wijetunga that such a scenario was possible, when DBW and Chandrika acted in concert. The same could not be said for the subsequent occasion when the President and the Prime Minister were from different political parties. Chandrika and Ranil failed to hit it off during the latter’s tenure as PM between 2002-2004 when Cabinet meetings were marked by hostility which eventually led to the premature termination of that Government. Although President Sirisena was elected as Common Candidate with the assistance of the UNP the marriage was always shaky from the outset, and, as subsequent events proved, was heading for a breakup. There is no guarantee that the status quo would change in the future as well. Hence, the best course would be to do away with the Presidency and revert to the pre-78 system of Government for the sake of stability.

Meanwhile, President Sirisena has assured the nation that he would abide by the Supreme Court ruling on the dissolution of Parliament, either way. This attitude of the President no doubt will come in for praise from all right thinking citizens who wish for a quick return to normality. Earlier too, the President accepted the verdict with equanimity when the Stay Order was issued on the dissolution. On that occasion the President issued a statement drawing public attention to the independence of the judiciary under his Presidency.

This is the first occasion since the introduction of the Presidential form of Government that the country is being ruled sans a Prime Minister or a Cabinet of Ministers. The President said he is not happy with the situation of a country with strong democratic traditions being Governed by a single individual. Hopefully things will sort themselves out positively following the court ruling.


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