The Sunday Leader

MR’s Third Term, Mosquitoes And Ranil’s Opposition

All government MPs have been advised to stay put in the country, expecting constitutional amendments to come up in parliament and what grand confusion there is, in the opposition. The JVP slams UNP for discussing constitutional changes with Rajapaksa.

Mahinda and Ranil at a recent powwow

UNP wants MR to provide proposed changes in writing. Karu J as Senior Deputy Leader wants a broad alliance outside parliament to challenge MR’s “rogue government”. JVP says they have not been invited by UNP for any discussion. Hakeem meets MR in Kandy and tells media, presidency is “not a substantial issue” for Muslim people. Meanwhile Wickremesinghe and his UNP go mosquito hunting to help eradicate dengue.
What more opposition support would President Rajapaksa need in pushing his agenda to install himself for at least another extra term, after his already secured two terms ? Rajapaksa has his game plan laid out carefully, knowing well, where he would run into opposition. The first pawn was moved when President Rajapaksa announced a third term to none other than the UNP and Opposition Leader Wickremesinghe who met President Rajapaksa with his hand picked companions on a blind journey.
A few days later on Wednesday, August 25, responding to former UN diplomat Dhanapala, who in his submissions to the stage managed sittings of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LL&RC), had insisted that “formulation and implementation of the constitution would ensure the basic needs of the people and that, not addressing these issues is a betrayal of the aspirations of the people”, C.R. de Silva the Chairman of LL&RC, who copes with and reflects the political pursuits of this regime, is reported to have said, “They (people) are not least bit bothered about constitutions” adding that “these problems could still prevail even in the presence of a good constitutional document.”
A day later, this was given a political colouring by Minister Ranawaka, the most extremist Sinhala element in Rajapaksa’s regime, when he told an English daily on August 26, the JHU has no qualms about the number of terms a president could have, as long as people have trust in the person. Ranawaka who threw out S.L. Gunasekera from the party presidency and a certain appointment as a national list MP, knows for sure, the “trust of people” in Sri Lanka can be either bought, substituted or coerced at elections by the incumbent in power.
Within such political context in the South, a third term for MR is now in the  open. But then, what prompted this change of mind from an earlier proposal to shift to an Executive Premiership sitting in parliament, which in itself was a comical idea ? It certainly cannot be a latent wisdom in realising that any Executive PM in parliament would not be different to prime ministers in the past, till 1978. It simply is the understanding that a parliamentary system provides too open a system, Rajapaksa as PM will not be able to bluff through all the while. Its the realisation that it would not be as comfortable as this Executive Presidency, to leave his SLFP at bay, in governance.
No “klepto-dictator” survives with democratic structures in governance. Once in power, plundering autocracies have always manoeuvred to hang on to maximum unquestionable power, for as long as possible. This is also tied to the need to drag his term till son Namal can be positioned as heir apparent over brother Basil, against whom there is a long term silent friction, in the “home front”.
But what bogs down Rajapaksa going full throttle with his “home demand” of extending the  term till 2023, is the contradictions he has himself created over this issue, at least after the APRC was constituted. Rajapaksa is one, long standing SLFP politician who never wavered on abolishing of the Executive Presidency. This he stood for, since 1994 when Chandrika promised to abolish the presidency, until it was included in his own Mahinda Chinthanaya.
He was all through this time, playing with the inherent “anti UNP” feeling in the SLFP vote bloc that helped him emerge as their national leader. That he knew was going to be his rural political base with a hugely enlarged war image, again erected in anti UNP dressings. Meanwhile he had allowed the same SLFP sentiment to have its voice in APRC deliberations, as well. Within the SLFP seniors, abolishing of presidency was a felt need amongst those who thought they have a right to succession in leadership. A perception that kept the SLFP in the APRC to concede the abolition of the executive presidency.
On regional politics, the APRC constituted by Rajapaksa as President and mandated to evolve “a home grown new constitution” that could provide a “comprehensive approach to the resolution of the national question”, helped to keep the Delhi administration on a loose compromise to continue the war against the LTTE. The Delhi administration for their convenience, used Rajapaksa’s APRC, to hold back Tamil Nadu pressure.
Expecting Rajapaksa to be honest with his own decision, the APRC consented on a bi-cameral parliamentary system, with no executive presidency. It had compromised on what is presently available under the 13 Amendment, with some very innovative changes to accommodate minority aspirations as well. All agreed decisions included, the final report of the APRC deliberations was officially handed over to the President in June 2009, by Minister Tissa Vitharana, its Chairman.
This now leaves President Rajapaksa to bring the UNP and the TNA into discussion on APRC formulations in resolving the ethnic conflict and then make it available for a healthy public discourse. But that’s only for a democratic society. Under this regime, if this becomes a public discourse having both UNP and TNA on board with the other 13 political parties including the SLFP that deliberated and agreed to abolish the presidency, Rajapaksa would not have a way out to derail or deface social approval.
The APRC final report has certainly gone beyond Rajapaksa’s calculations. It was initially thought, with the MEP, JVP and the JHU sitting in opposition to the minority parties, the APRC would not be able to compromise on major issues like the “unitary State, land and police powers” that always remained very contentious. Yet the APRC has, through 128 meetings, brought a consensus on all these major issues, that now run contrary to the politics of this Rajapaksa regime.
With the SLFP consenting to the Final Report, it is now quite clear the party leadership and this Rajapaksa family regime are not one, but two politically opposed entities on the issue of abolishing the presidency. Their life together is a life under duress, forced by the powers of the Executive Presidency. Rajapaksa is one who knows too well, given a chance, the SLFP seniors would not allow him to extend his term a day more than what he could constitutionally avail himself with, as at now.

This political conflict is what the UNP and Wickremesinghe cannot read and understand and that opposition impotency is what MR is capitalising on. Wickremesinghe anchors himself in discussions with  Rajapaksa thinking he could outflank his party rivals. Sadly, those who want a leadership change in the UNP also compromise with Rajapaksa in trying to appease the same Sinhala voter. They little realise that the Sinhala constituency has its own original Sinhala leader with State power and would not come down for any substitution, as well proved by the fate of the JVP, who ran on a war platform headed by a war hero.
Rajapaksa has got his onions peeled carefully. The opposition needs to understand that Rajapaksa is moving towards a more subtle plan of cleaning up geographically entrenched minority patches, along with his constitutional changes. The UNP at least, needs to understand that relocating 66,000 people from Colombo, is an attempt to provide a majority for the Sinhala voter at the Colombo Municipal elections and Rajapaksa thus has a holistic approach in staying in power.
This could only be challenged by asking for the APRC Final Report that was funded by tax payers’ money for three whole years and has a broad consensus from one end of Sinhala politics to the other end of minority aspirations. This broad consensus is what Rajapaksa wants desperately to avoid and Rajapaksa’s scheme cannot be challenged by searching for mosquitoes. It could only be challenged by drawing the APRC consensus out into public discussions. As it is, its the opposition that’s down with a fatal attack of dengue and Rajapaksa would doctor his way through.

7 Comments for “MR’s Third Term, Mosquitoes And Ranil’s Opposition”

  1. MR will want to be in power even in his grave..Such is our greedy supposedly democratic president.

  2. Ponna Ranil may as well hand it over to MR on a platter as he is just a useless leader of the opposition.

    • Pri

      Have you met this ‘ponna Ranil’ ? It’s funny how you let other people and news influence your opinion so strongly..

    • Well said Hom Silva!!! Ranil now playing second fiddle as he know’s he is been challenged by some young and new blood!!!! RW now trying to hold onto his position as opposition leader for the next 30 years and MR(12) + NAMAL(18) , Hakeem and good saying THAMBI..GE THOP….PIYA HARENA HARENA PATHTHATA… THAMBI…YEAH HARE..IE.
      Hakeem will all ways turn around when his 3 quarter hat turns around his head….. True now.

  3. Maheendar will want to be in power and make as much as he can..Greed has no limits with this corrupt man

  4. So Hora Lokkah wants to continue as boss by hook or by crook..More so by crook as has been in the past..Corrupt parasites wont just go away..

  5. Ravi C Sam

    A new Era……. will be dawn if MR’s Third term come to pass. He will create history by being the first Executive President to Hold Office for more than two terms.

    And Opposition Leader will also create history by being the OP Leader who held office for more than two decades.

    And citizens too will create history by allowing them to create history.

    Hope for a better future…….

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