Battle has started and both sides appeal to their masses in a language filled with militaristic flavor as if a civil war is on the door step.
Sirisena and Mahinda, though one time clashed violently complaining that other is planning death, were both brought up in populism soaked in Sinhala racism against the upper class, English-speaking, liberal Ranil. This political division is fundamental and irreconcilable. At the bottom of it all was the surge of personal relations between Ranil and Sirisena. Given their class backgrounds, and also their political divisions which continues to have deep relevance in the country, was unavoidable.
That means, the current crisis was written into the script, compelled by Sinhala fascism from the day Sirisena defeated incumbent ex-boss Mahinda in the presidential polls of January 2015. He grudgingly and swore in Ranil as Prime Minister in a politically amoral way as his action now has been ‘unconstitutional’ to his fascistic critics. Sirisena has already clarified that his current action is sanctioned by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Ranil suddenly finds himself, not only jobless but once again disconnected from Sinhala petty bourgeoisie. However he is now surrounded by social movements and Sama Samaja political movement with a base in the Sinhala society. On the other hand UNP Sinhala leaders have stood by him and agitations started in the entire country. Tamil and Muslim leaders have surged to show their good will to the liberal who stood for their rights against Sinhala faciasm. Of course not only do CBK, Sirisena and Mahinda , all top-rung leaders of SLFP leaders carry their petty bougeise Sinhala populism on their sleeves, against the upper class English-speaking, Liberalism of Ranil. As Sirisena readily conceded soon after ‘sacking’ Ranil, this ideological problem was among the causes for his drift with his Prime Minister. It’s a clearly clash of ideologies. Briefly, liberalism backed by the left- Samasamajists against fascistic Sinhala populism.
On Sirisena’s unilateral actions, be it of ‘sacking’ Ranil or now dissolving Parliament, the ‘international community’, those who follow parliament form of democracy appears to have been convinced that the President may not be correct, after all. after remaining quiet for a brief while, some of the western envoys whom Sirisena too briefed, like Ranil before him, began demanding that Mahinda face a trust / no-trust vote in Parliament, when it reconvenes after presidential prorogation on November 14. It was in line with UNP’s line, just as they had refused to acknowledge the latter’s ‘sacking’, earlier. If Sirisena had originally targeted Ranil and his ministerial colleagues for usurping the ‘collective responsibility’ of the Cabinet by taking unilateral initiatives, there were reasons. According to Sirisena camp followers, Ranil first committed Lanka to international deals, including those on ‘war crimes probe’ at UNHRC, and the debt-equity swap-deal on Hambantota Port, with China, without explaining the contents in detail to the President and the entire Cabinet.
Even on the more recent Ranil offer for India to develop the Eastern Terminal of the Colombo Port, post-sacking, the Sirisena camp went to town, saying that the former had no business to give the kind of ‘ unilateral commitment’ he claimed to have given Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. They clashed openly in a Cabinet meeting last month, where Sirisena is also reported to have talked about an Indian intelligence agency ROW plotting his assassination — a charge that he denied in a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Modi. However there is no denying that despite best efforts, the numbers did not add up for Mahinda, despite his being a past master at the game from his first term as President. At the time, he caused the cross-over of 20 MPs belonging to UNP, to bolster his majority and reduce dependence on the 39-member left-nationalist JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) ally. He also got the JVP split in the process, taking over its cadre and whatever vote-based into his fold. It did not happen this time.
Ranil’s UNP optimism derives from the international support it has from the parliament oriented countries, and also the rational urbanized masses, of course aroused by social media and social movements backed by Sama Samajists who are worried as much by a possible return of Mahinda for a longer term as by Sirisena’s ‘unilateral and unconstitutional’ actions, which they thought was not possible under the 19th Amendment of 2015; but now negated illegitimately. Battle has started and both sides appeal to their masses in a language filled with militaristic flavor as if a civil war is on the door step.
Dr Vickramabahu Karunarathne, BARRACKS LANE, COLOMBO 2
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