“The history of madness is the history of power.”
Roy Porter (A social history of madness: The world through the eyes of the insane)
The current crisis is a contestation about the nature of Sri Lanka and her future.
Will the country continue along the path of democracy or will she re-embrace some form of autocracy? Will rule of law prevail or will it be replaced by the law of the rulers? Will justice remain a possibility or will impunity become sovereign again? Is Sri Lanka a country of free men and women or a land yearning for the heavy hand of a political overlord?
At a subjective level, Maithripala Sirisena’s anti-constitutional coup was motivated purely by personal-political considerations. He wanted and wants a second presidential term. Objectively, though, his actions have a systemic relevance. They are an attempt to reclaim for the presidency the powers it lost with the 19th Amendment. If that attempt succeeds, it will render the presidency omnipotent again, and reduce the legislature and the judiciary into mere appendages of a sovereign president.
The saga of Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne is a microcosm of this battle by the executive to regain control over the other branches of the government. The way that saga ended, with a handcuffed and deflated admiral being escorted to remand prison, indicates that there is hope of rolling the presidency’s power-grab, and restoring a degree of balance between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary restored.
The President was protecting the Admiral. That was common knowledge. So the admiral was able to ignore three judicial warrants, make a mockery of the courts, and remain a free man.