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Friday 28 November 2014

Maithripala the prisoner

Maithripala Sirisena appears to be a non starter. He is supposed to be the common candidate but there is no common opposition with a common view. There are at least three oppositions with respect to Presidential elections. The JVP, based on Sarath Silva’s argument, is of the view that the Presidential elections are illegal if Mahinda Rajapaksa is allowed to contest. The JVP is thinking of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat after an Arab spring, with the support of the western countries, calling the masses to the streets to protest against the so called illegal presidential elections. The government of Mahinda Rajapaksa  needs no instructions to deal with the western inspired revolution (Arab Spring) of the JVP.

The opposition led by Chandrika Kumaratunga thought that at least thirty MPs would cross the floor of the House on the final day of the budget debate and would have wanted the former President to become the Executive Prime Minister within one hundred days from the day of the elections. This opposition thought that they have the majority in the SLFP Parliamentary group and was counting heads and days of the final cross over before the Sinhala New Year. They wanted the former secretary of the SLFP, whose membership of the Party has been suspended by the President of the Party who apparently has the authority to do so as laid down by the constitution of the Party, to be the common candidate on the strength of those who were supposed to cross over. The UNP and Maithripala Sirisena will go on referring to the constitutional secretary of the SLFP and the de facto secretary the way some pundits refer to the de facto Chief Justice, in vain. Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera was apparently involved in negotiations with the de facto dissolution of the good governance movement of Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera and the academic trade unionists and left out leftists, by promoting the candidature of Maithripala Sirisena. Chandrika Kumaratunga was aiming to become the executive prime minister within hundred days of the elections through Maithripala Sirisena. They were thinking of making use of the present Parliament to amend the constitution, oust Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists from the SLFP and the government, and getting Maithripala Sirisena to appoint Chandrika Kumaratunga as the Prime Minister first (after making her an MP on the national list) and then the executive Prime Minster, through the amended constitution.    

The Chandrika opposition worked with “Pivithuru Hetak” of Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera and was able to convince the UNP opposition, which is the third opposition, that Maithripala Sirisena should be the common candidate. They made their claim on the strength of the intended cross over MPs  and the UNP opposition had to give in.  The western countries support all the three oppositions and for them it is a case of defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa and installing a weak leader as the President or the Prime Minister. They are behind the GTF aspiration of defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa and producing him before a so called international jury. Probably they would like to have Maithripala Sirisena as the President or the Prime Minster as he is the weakest out of the lot. However, the UNP opposition settled for Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidate on two conditions. Firstly they wanted the thirty odd cross over MPs Chandrika and Maithripala were boasting. Secondly the UNP opposition wanted Maithripala Sirisena to appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as the executive Prime Minster. Chandrika Kumaratunga would have probably agreed to the conditions knowing very well that MoU’s are nothing but statements of misunderstandings. She who promised the JVP to abolish the executive presidency simply threw it to the wastepaper basket according to a powerful minister of the government.  

However, within the last few days the UNP apparently has changed its positions. It is now not thinking of amending constitution, abolition of executive presidency etc., but of installing Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Executive President (not the Prime Minister) within 24 hours of Maithripala Sirisena becoming the President. All these are figments imagination as Maithripala Sirisena has no chance of winning the presidential elections on the eighth of January. In practice nobody wants to abolish the executive presidency but the cat has jumped out of the bag in the case of the UNP. They want none other than Ranil as the EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT. Tissa Attanayke the boy from Hasalaka was telling Maithripala Sirisena the boy from Polonnanuruwa  that the executive presidency should be confined to Kollupitiya and Kurunduwatte, when the two boys met at Siri Kotha on Thursday.  At the press conference Tissa Attanayake specifically said that Ranil Wickremesinghe should be made the executive president within 24 hours under the Article 37(1) of the constitution. The UNP is planning to invoke Articles 43(3) and 31(1) in this regard. The relevant Articles are as follows.  

43. (3) The President shall appoint as Prime Minster the Member of Parliament who in his opinions is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.

37. (1) If the President is of the opinion that by reason of illness, absence from Sri Lanka or any other cause he will be unable to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of his office he may appoint the Prime Minister to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of the office of President during such period, and may also appoint one of the other Ministers of the Cabinet to act in the office of Prime Minister during such period:
Provided that if the office of Prime Minister be then vacant or the Prime Minister is unable to act, the President may appoint the Speaker to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of the office of President during such period.

It appears that the UNP strategy is to appoint Ranil as the Prime Minister soon after Maithripala Sirisena takes oaths using Article 43(3), and then get the latter to “abdicate” with the help of 37(1). This implies that Maithripala Sirisena has to admit that he is unable to  exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of his office as the President, on his own, and then appoint the new Prime Minister  who is none other than Ranil to exercise, perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of the executive presidency. Poor Maithripala Sirisena will be nobody after that and the UNP would rule the country with Ranil as the de facto executive president.

It is very unlikely that the Chandrika opposition would agree to this master plan by Tissa Attanayake and the UNP, and most probably would object to it vehemently unless Chandrika Kumaratunga in her usual way decides to treat any MoU as a statement of misunderstanding that should be thrown into the wastepaper basket as soon as possible. If the Chandrika opposition together with Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera decides to oppose the strategy of the UNP opposition then Maithripala Sirisena will be a non starter.

In any event Maithripala Sirisena is a prisoner of the Chandrika and the UNP oppositions and being a former member of the SLFP, could be expected to be more loyal to the Chandrika opposition than to the UNP opposition. What the UNP should realise is that any MoU or any agreement with locals is only a piece of paper as far as Chandrika Kumaratunga is concerned and the UNP master plan will never see the light of the day, even if Maithripala Sirisena were to win the elections. However, none of these plans would work as it is a foregone conclusion that Maithripala Sirisena is to lose the elections polling  less than what Sarath Fonseka polled last time.

Nalin De Silva