Is Time Running Out for Sirisena, Wickramasinghe and Rajapakshe
By Vidushan Premathiratne, CFA
On January 8th 2015, the people of this country exercised their true democratic grit to dispel the rule of Presidnet Rajapakshe and his family. The right of the people was exercised in a clear wave of hope to end corruption, inequality and establish justice, which most thought was diminished under the Rajapakshe rule. The result was unexpected and happened against the series of overwhelming public endorsements received by the Rajapakshe Government in successive elections prior to the people’s presidential verdict.  The scenario brings to mind a saying of Niels Bohr, “The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness”.  
 
High expectations were set on the coalition Government formed with the advent of Maithreepala Sirisena as President and the then minority United National Party. Three years have now passed, but the country still hangs over a wave of corruption, injustice and inequality. Despite many inquiries and court house dramas, the so called corrupt deals of the previous regime are yet to be justified and proven under a court of law.  The Government is also overshadowed by the Bond Scam, which has lost billions of rupees for state institutions and the impact to the country is in such high propositions that is yet to be accounted in full. In simple terms “Yahapalanaya” has not yet been established. 
 
One could argue the fact that the wrongdoers in the bond scam were exposed in the wake of good governance and the establishment of the Presidential commission was a result of such conducive atmosphere. The reality is that such measures were adopted as a result of the surging public uproar that spread throughout the country against such day light robberies.   
 
It has been over thirteen years with the country under the rule of President Rajapakshe and thereafter the coalition Government led by President Sirisena and Premier Wickramasinghe. The years of these rulers have witnessed the country making way for prosperity, but with no clear implementation plan to reach its vision. President Rajapkashe should be credited with the defeating of terrorism and subsequent drive in infrastructure development, despite the questions raised over its economic feasibility. The coalition Government spearheaded the movement to create better international relations, media freedom and establish economic freedom. Despite the positives, one thing common that we observe in all three political celebrities is the hunger and greed for power. The true nature and interest of such desire is unknown to the common voter. 
 
Will the Premier Ever Become President?
 
Twenty three years as the leader of the country’s biggest political force and four time prime minister, serves well to fall into the category of qualified personal to hold the office of President. However, the premier is thus far the most unsuccessful leader of the Grand Old Party which under his leadership has failed to produce a President from the party for the past 23 years and even having to sacrifice the candidature of the party to common candidates at two prior presidential elections. Even Mr. Wickramasinghe tried his luck at the presidency only to fall short on each time. The UNP under his tenure has detached itself from the common masses and even failed to from a Government that is stable and capable of implementing the policies owned to the UNP. On both occasions that the UNP came to power under the leadership of Mr. Wickramasinghe, the result was hinged on crossovers of key personal from the SLFP. Taking into consideration the past performance of the premier it seems that he might not be destined to become President despite the ambition that rests within. 
 
Will President Sirisena Contest Again
 
In his inaugural address to the nation as President, His Excellency (HE) highlighted that he had no intention of contesting another election. In further speeches that followed his term in office, the president reiterated his stance and made it clear on one occasion that he would consider shortening his term to four years given the possibility. However, the post of high office seems too attractive to give up easily, even for those who came to power to relive it off its superior powers. Many ministers in the camp of President Sirisena have already pronounced that the President in deed would seek another term, even though no clear indication came from HE. Though President Sirisena is yet to comment on his desire for re-election, he has also not rejected that possibility. His recent comments on seeking the view of the Supreme Court on his term and the speech made at a recent election rally clamming that his rule will end the day corruption ends in this country, are blurred but indicative that the President has a high propensity to seek re-election. 
 
After taking his Presidential oath, President Sirisena went on to snatch the leadership of both SLFP and UPFA  and even went on to the extent of appointing his own henchman to key positions of the party. However, the leadership of President Sirisena has not been convincing or spineless as one would call it, as he is yet to take action against prominent personal of SLFP, such as President Rajapakshe for his active involvement with the competing party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. President Sirisena seems to be in fear of the popularity of Rajapakshe and the subsequent repercussions of expelling him from the party. The same goes with the rest of the UPFA defectors that have resorted to supporting the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. 
 
Will President Rajapakshe Ever Come to Power Again
 
President Rajapkshe will always carry the title of the leader that ended the bloody conflict that cursed this nation for the past three decades or so. However, his rule also was marked by allegations of corruption, malpractices, lavish expenditure on his family, nepotism and uneconomical mega projects. The named reasons were the decisive factors behind the people’s verdict to end his rule. Despite nine long years in power, the greed for power never seems to die within Rajapakshe, as seen with the other two. The main positive with President Rajapakshe is that he is still a popular leader and major crowds flock to embrace his political wisdom. However, time will be the best answer on his future as the 19th amendment to the constitution now prevents Rajapakshe from seeking re-election as President. Despite the technicalities preventing the former President from holding top office again, the former Commander in Chief does not seem to be deterred by such impediments in his quest to regain the top office.  
 
Is There an Alternative? 
 
The imminent alternative is the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). However, questions can be raised over their administrative competence despite their rhetoric and vibrant orations of their frontrunners including their leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake. 
 
In the ranks of the UNP, Sajith Premadasa seems to be the next in line for the leadership, at least on paper. Sajith Premadasa made an unsuccessful attempt for the post during the crises years of the UNP which only resulted in him luring Karu Jayasuriya to vie for the leadership position, who eventually went on to suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of Wickramasinghe.
 
The current structure of the leadership in the Maithree fraction, does not indicate a leadership candidate or a prospective individual. In the Rajapakshe camp it is evident that the former president is grooming his elder son Namal to take up the reigns of his new party and even go on to capture the leadership of the SLFP, succeeding President Sirisena. Despite many calls for the former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakshe to seek office, it is yet inconclusive of his eligibility to contest for president. In spite of the growing calls for the Former Defense Secretary to main stream politics, it is clear that Presidnet Rajapakshe’s first choice is his son. The question now rests with how long President Rajapkshe is willing to stay in the opposition fray for his son to emerge as the next successor to the Presidency.  
 
Conclusion
 
It is apparent that President Rajapakshe, President Sirsena and Premier Wickramasinghe have an inherent greed for power and the perks that follow the post. Judgement on their suitability is a matter of the people and they will have the ultimate right of excise and decide the fate of each of them. In helping the people come to a conclusion as to whom to reject and whom to retain, it is evident that none of them is suited to hold the position of Presidency in leading Sri Lanka towards prosperity. The reasoning for such a conclusion is based on the observations that none of the three leaders mentioned above have been able to fulfill the very promises that they sought office for, in the first place. Attractive slogans such as “Wonder of Asia” have only been left as dear dreams for the population. Their rule has failed to curb the rise in corruption, and has been slow & inactive against the corrupt, spread of inequality, and economic depletion of the population, deteriorating state of Government services, misuse of public property, slow & mediocre growth in economic prosperity including exports and finally the fine establishment of a sound judicial system. 
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