By Dr Dayan Jayatilleka
Like the majority of my fellow citizens I am an undecided voter.My father Mervyn de Silva employed to characterize me slightly critically, as “a Romantic”, and the romantic in me would like to vote for change. But right now, I can’t make that decision because the Realist in me raises a basic question: “who rules?” Or rather, who would rule, if Mr. Sirisena wins?Sadly, the answer to that question is not “Mr. Sirisena, would, of course”. That is due to the fact Mr. Sirisena has told us categorically that he would abolish the executive presidency inside one particular hundred days. He has also told us that he would appoint Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, when he could have stated rather that the Prime Ministership would be provided to the UNP (the party, not the individual). In addition, as Maithripala’s media conference and far more tellingly his homage at the Bandaranaike Samadhi tells us, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga would be a crucial player in the bloc that succeeds Mahinda Rajapaksa.
So the question—and it is the most fundamental query of politics— remains: Who will rule? We know who will not rule, namely Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. Is that excellent sufficient? Is that enough to make a choice to vote for Maithripala? Not for me, and I daresay, not for the majority of our citizens. That may have been sufficient if the President have been quite as unpopular as President Jayewardene in his last few years in workplace. But that is not the case with Mahinda. Additionally, even in the case of JRJ, the voter was fastidious about whom we would replace him with—Sirima Bandaranaike or Ranasinghe Premadasa? In brief, would we go back to the bad old days of 󈨊-󈨑, or forward to a socially fairer future?
If Maithripala Sirisena actions down after abolishing the presidency in a hundred days or anytime, who would lead this nation and how would that particular person be chosen? Beneath the executive presidency energy resides in the hands of the institution occupied by the person who has won a majority of the votes of the citizens of this island taken as a single whole. Following the abolition of the presidency that would not be the case. If executive energy has been transferred to the Prime Minister, then the nation would be led by an individual who has not been elected by the majority of our citizens but by those of a single electoral unit, a district—which is a far more narrowly restricted base. Is that what we want? Undoubtedly I do not.
If the selection is between the Presidency as it is,and a reformed Presidency which is significantly less centralized and top-heavy, I would definitely opt for the reformed version. If however the selection is amongst the existing presidency and no executive presidency at all and an executive Prime Ministership as an alternative, I would reluctantly take my possibilities with the status quo.
That is a rather abstract decision, but there is a far more concrete one to be created. If we vote in Mr. Sirisena and he is no longer the occupant of the workplace we voted him into because he has abolished it, and as an alternative Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is the Prime Minister with executive powers (as they proclaim on the UNP platform), then the closest approximation of an answer to the query ‘who will rule?’ becomes clear: the PM, to wit, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. Mr.Sirisena has currently sought permission to address him as “Sir”. Naturally, no leader of a nation will address Mr. Wickremesinghe as “Sir” if he hopes to remain the leader de jure of the country. It is also apparent that Mr. Wickremsinghe is and will be in an alliance with Ms. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, whom Mr. Sirisena calls “Madam”.
So it will no longer be Mahinda Rajapaksa, who as a President elected by our votes does not and will not get in touch with Ranil “Sir” and Chandrika “Madam”, who will rule us. Rather, soon after Mr. Sirisena has accomplished his job as “an interim President” as Mano Ganeshan has accurately termed it, it is “Sir” and “Madam” who will jointly rule this nation, as they so splendidly did from 1994 to 2005. Is that really the adjust we want? Is that the alter we seek and deserve? Pardon me if I have second thoughts.
Adjust is required. Iran necessary a moderate nationalist in the kind of Dr. Hassan Rouhani, to re-set relations with the West. He beat the nominee of the hawkish populist, Mr. Ahmadinejad. But what if Dr. Rouhani had pledged to step down in a hundred days and bring back the Shah or a member of the deposed pro-Western monarchy? Mr. Sirisena’s pledge to abolish the Presidency whilst creating Ranil the PM, and worse still the written pledge reported in the Sunday Occasions to the effect that he will hand over executive powers to Ranil within 24 hours, smacks of a restorationist project to bring back the ancient regime of Chandrika-Ranil. Churchill was defeated by Attlee. What if Attlee has promised to bring back Neville Chamberlain and step down from workplace upon election?
Considerably as I would like to think otherwise and unless I am convinced to the contrary by what Mr. Sirisena may do by or on Nomination Day, my lucid Realism overcomes my Romanticism and tells me that the true decision right here is not Maithripala versus Mahinda, but precisely the following: “do we prefer Ranil and Chandrika to Mahinda (with his clan)?” I have to confess that I for one particular am not convinced that the former mixture is the a lot more desirable. Nor do I think that the majority of voters will opt for that duo, any far more than the majority of Russian voters (who are provincial and patriotic) would have opted for the return of a combination of Yeltsin plus Gorbachev, over Putin.
I am inclined below the current circumstances, to choose the ‘containment’ of the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency, to his electoral overthrow. As a result, unless the Opposition discourse, agenda and trajectory are substantially re-set, I shall content material myself with wishing Mr. Sirisena good luck, hoping he provides Mahinda a real run for his cash, and merely staying home. As would seem to be the case with the JVP, my hopes for alter are almost certainly greatest transferred to the parliamentary election.