Sirisena faces dilemma

Fire and fury at Mon­day’s talks with UNF lead­ers; com­pro­mise plans end in stale­mate On Wed­nes­day, UNF will move new mo­tion, ex­press­ing con­fi­dence in Ranil as PM, but Sirisena says no, never All sides get ready and pledge to re­spect court rul­ings, but un

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - FRONT PAGE - By Our Political Ed­i­tor

It was eas­ily the most ex­as­per­at­ing week for Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena af­ter he trig­gered Sri Lanka’s worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis. Six weeks into the im­broglio, his ef­forts to talk things over and set­tle the ex­ac­er­bat­ing is­sues, ahead of a Supreme Court rul­ing chal­leng­ing the dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment, ended in dis­as­ter. It was only last week the Sun­day Times (po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary) re­vealed how Sirisena sought a “cease­fire” and a “negotiated set­tle­ment.” This was to be­come the fi­nale to is­sues that erupted af­ter oust­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe, in­stalling Mahinda Ra­japaksa in that of­fice, swear­ing in a new Cab­i­net, pro­rogu­ing and later dis­solv­ing Par­lia­ment. A deal was so near and so close. It be­came too far af­ter Sirisena lost the plot.

It all be­gan on Mon­day night when talks got un­der way with a del­e­ga­tion of the United Na­tional Front (UNF), where the pre­dom­i­nant player is the United Na­tional Party (UNP), a day later than planned. On Sun­day night, Sirisena chaired a meet­ing of part­ner lead­ers of the gov­ern­ment and the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion was dis­cussed. Basil Ra­japaksa, who rep­re­sented the Sri Lanka Po­du­jana Per­a­muna (SLPP) told the meet­ing that a fur­ther dis­cus­sion would be nec­es­sary to de­ter­mine what their plans would be in keep­ing with the Supreme Court rul­ing.

UNP Deputy Leader Sa­jith Pre­madasa, led the del­e­ga­tion. It was de­cided ear­lier that he should be the head of the team and the spokesper­son. Oth­ers were Kabir Hashim, Ak­ila Vi­raj Kariyawasam, Ravi Karunanayake, Ma­lik Sa­ma­rawick­rema, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Ravi Karunanayake, Rauff Ha­keem and Mano Gane­san.

Pre­madasa be­gan with an ap­peal. He said that the UNF should be al­lowed to form a gov­ern­ment with Ranil Wick­remesinghe as Prime Min­is­ter. “If there is no ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment, we will re­sign,” he de­clared. Pres­i­dent Sirisena started on a cor­dial note. He said he was keen to re­solve is­sues be­fore the im­pend­ing rul­ing by the Supreme Court (SC) and the rul­ing from the Court of Ap­peal (CA). He also said that the is­sues should be set­tled by the Ex­ec­u­tive and the Leg­is­la­ture without the in­volve­ment of the ju­di­ciary. He would even con­sider with­draw­ing the Gazette no­ti­fi­ca­tion dis­solv­ing Par­lia­ment. He later changed his mind on this move.

From Tues­day, for four days in suc­ces­sion the SC has been hear­ing coun­sel ar­gu­ing for and against the dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment. The SC sat till late hours of Fri­day and ex­tended its stay or­der on the dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment from yes­ter­day un­til De­cem­ber 10. How­ever, Chief Jus­tice Nalin Per­era an­nounced on Fri­day that the in­terim or­der would pre­vail un­til the rul­ing was de­liv­ered. That meant it could be any­time next week or there­after. The court va­ca­tion is due to be­gin on De­cem­ber 14. Po­lice Chief Pu­jith Jaya­sun­dera has drawn about 2,500 per­son­nel from po­lice sta­tions coun­try­wide for spe­cial duty in Colombo. They have been de­ployed in Courts, the Prime Min­is­ters’ Of­fice and other key in­stal­la­tions.

The CA has is­sued a quo war­ranto on Prime Min­is­ter Mahinda Ra­japaksa and his Cab­i­net. This is a writ ask­ing them to show by what au­thor­ity they are hold­ing of­fice. An in­terim or­der re­strains Ra­japaksa from func­tion­ing as Prime Min­is­ter and/or Min­is­ter of the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters un­til the fi­nal hear­ing and de­ter­mi­na­tion is is­sued. A sim­i­lar or­der was also is­sued on Cab­i­net Min­is­ters, Deputy Min­is­ters and Min­is­ters of State. The CA was of the view that “an ir­repara­ble or ir­re­me­di­a­ble dam­age” would be caused by not re­strain­ing them from func­tion­ing in their re­spec­tive pub­lic of­fices. This has led to no func­tion­ing gov­ern­ment in Sri Lanka.

Sirisena lamented that Mata asaadarana yak vuna or there was in­jus­tice done to me. He was strongly crit­i­cal of his for­mer Premier Ranil Wick­remesinghe. The tone was som­bre as Sirisena said if Prime Min­is­ter Mahinda Ra­japaksa can­not com­mand the ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment, he was ready to call upon the UNF to form a gov­ern­ment. How­ever, it would have to be without Ranil Wick­remesinghe as the Prime Min­is­ter. He claimed that would be ad­van­ta­geous par­tic­u­larly to the UNP. It will ob­vi­ate crit­i­cism over the Cen­tral Bank bond scan­dal where their lead­ers were in­volved. He raised his right hand from the ta­ble and moved it up­wards slowly to demon­strate “mehema nag­i­nawa” or the UNP’s pop­u­lar­ity will go up like this.

He urged the UNF del­e­ga­tion “not to take this as a threat” and de­clared “I will not con­test the next Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. I will go to Polon­naruwa. You all will then praise me.” He ob­served that a mo­tion was due for dis­cus­sion in Par­lia­ment on Wednes­day (De­cem­ber 5). It was against Premier Ra­japaksa. He dis­closed that he had told Speaker Karu Jaya­suriya dur­ing his meet­ing last week that he would act on the out­come of the mo­tion. Its adop­tion was a cer­tainty for the UNF with its own 103 votes and 14 from the Tamil Na­tional Al­liance. That was not to be for rea­sons ex­plained later.

“You can come with the out­come of the mo­tion on Wednes­day it­self. I will swear in a new Prime Min­is­ter. How­ever, don’t bring Ranil Wick­remesinghe,” he de­clared. He would rather re­sign than ap­point him, the Pres­i­dent said. The Pres­i­dent ex­tended his ban on Wick­remesinghe to oth­ers also, when he said he would not ap­point a PM from his (Wick­remesinghe’s) “clique.” How­ever, he did not name them. Lak­shaman Kiriela, a for­mer Min­is­ter and Leader of the House, was un­happy at the re­marks. “You can only swear in a new Prime Min­is­ter. You can­not choose who that should be. That is a de­ci­sion of the ma­jor­ity mem­bers in the House,” re­torted Kiriella. Pres­i­dent Sirisena flew into a rage. “Now, you are try­ing to threaten me,” he shouted at Kiriella.

UNP Chair­man Kabir Hashim in­ter­vened on an ear­lier oc­ca­sion to say that the UNF del­e­ga­tion had come to dis­cuss “se­ri­ous mat­ters” and noted that there was no gov­ern­ment in the coun­try now. Some­what ag­i­tated, Sirisena replied “Now I have full power. I am the gov­ern­ment.” He said he would take de­ci­sions af­ter con­sult­ing his le­gal ad­vis­ers.

For­mer Min­is­ter and All Cey­lon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathi­ud­din raised is­sue over the CA stay or­der on the Premier, the Cab­i­net, Deputy Min­is­ters and Min­is­ters of State. Sirisena replied that he had not yet read the judg­ment. Bathi­ud­din was to point out that Ra­japaksa had not only read it but was even pre­par­ing his ap­peal to the Supreme Court. Bathi­ud­din said he was present at the Court of Ap­peal when the in­terim or­der was de­liv­ered. He had talked to se­nior lawyers. They had asked him who the Pres­i­dent’s le­gal ad­vis­ers were and ques­tioned whether they were not mis­lead­ing him.

He then went on to re­late his ex­pe­ri­ence at the Court of Ap­peal. A se­nior lawyer, Bathi­ud­din said, had told him that the Pres­i­dent was li­able for vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion. If he now en­joyed im­mu­nity, even when he be­comes a pri­vate ci­ti­zen he would be re­spon­si­ble for al­legedly vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion. That was a crim­i­nal of­fence and one could go to jail, the lawyers had told him. The re­marks in­fu­ri­ated Pres­i­dent Sirisena. “Are you try­ing to put me in jail,” he ex­horted loudly. He could not hide his anger. Bathi­ud­din de­clared, “Sir, please do not get me wrong. It is not I who said this. It was a se­nior lawyer who told me.” Shot back Sirisena “I am not at all afraid to go to jail.”

Jathika Hela Uru­maya (JHU) leader Patali Champika Ranawaka in­ter­vened to say “you are talk­ing like this now. How much have we and the peo­ple suf­fered. We brought you to power. You threw us out.” It is at this stage that Kiriella told Hashim “there is no point in wait­ing. Let us get out.” Hashim told Sirisena “thank you very much” and the UNF del­e­ga­tion with­drew.

If Pres­i­dent Sirisena wanted to de-es­ca­late ten­sions with his feud­ing for­mer coali­tion part­ner, it had the op­po­site ef­fect with the UNF. His anger and fury prompted the UNF del­e­ga­tion’s with­drawal. How­ever, a source close to the Pres­i­dent ac­cused the UNF del­e­ga­tion of “pro­vok­ing” Sirisena. This is why they con­tin­ued to in­sist that Ranil Wick­reme­sighe should be the Prime Min­is­ter, the source said. On Wednes­day, Sirisena tele­phoned Speaker Karu Jaya­suriya to ask “Api deng mokkada

karan­ney” or what do we do now. The way out, the Speaker replied, was to re­store the gov­ern­ment that ex­isted be­fore Oc­to­ber 26 in of­fice with Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe. He said that would en­sure nor­malcy and halt fur­ther dam­age to the econ­omy.

The Maithri-Karu tele­phone call that Wednes­day was af­ter it be­came known that the Vote of No con­fi­dence on Premier Ra­japaksa, for which Sirisena had ex­tended his tacit sup­port to fast track an end to the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis, did not ma­te­ri­alise. The mo­tion signed by seven UNP par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, as re­vealed last week, was ti­tled “Fur­ther ac­tion to be taken in terms of Ar­ti­cle 48 (2) of the Con­sti­tu­tion.” It re­ferred to the two pre­vi­ous No Con­fi­dence Mo­tions against Prime Min­is­ter Ra­japaksa. These were adopted in Par­lia­ment. The new mo­tion called upon the Pres­i­dent to act in terms of Ar­ti­cle 48 (2) of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

There was a se­ri­ous er­ror in these columns over Ar­ti­cle 48 (2). What was pub­lished last week in­ad­ver­tently was Ar­ti­cle 48 (2) of the old Con­sti­tu­tion and NOT from the 19th Amend­ment. The er­ror, which is un­in­ten­tional, is re­gret­ted.

This was nev­er­the­less grist to the mill for a club of hand­ful who are not fans of the Sun­day Times. Their bastion was the Twit­ter and they gave vent to their dif­fer­ent con­spir­acy the­o­ries and loaded opin­ions to fit their agen­das. It is a firm re­solve of the Sun­day Times to al­ways cor­rect when­ever er­rors oc­cur and this oc­ca­sion is no dif­fer­ent.

The Ar­ti­cle 48 (2) of the 19th Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion reads as fol­lows:

"If Par­lia­ment re­jects the State­ment of Gov­ern­ment Pol­icy or the Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Bill or passes a vote of no-con­fi­dence in the Gov­ern­ment, the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters shall stand dis­solved, and the Pres­i­dent shall, un­less he has in the ex­er­cise of his pow­ers un­der Ar­ti­cle 70, dis­solved Par­lia­ment, ap­point a Prime Min­is­ter, Min­is­ters of the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters, Min­is­ters who are not mem­bers of the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters and Deputy Min­is­ters in terms of Ar­ti­cles 42, 43, 44 and 45."

The change of course for the UNF (al­beit the UNP) came af­ter de­tails of the break­down of Mon­day night’s talks res­onated in Tem­ple Trees. Ousted Premier Ranil Wick­remesinghe was briefed in de­tail. Adding to that in no small mea­sure were re­marks Pres­i­dent Sirisena made at the Sri Lanka Free­dom Party (SLFP) ses­sions at the Su­gath­adasa In­door Sta­dium. He de­voted most parts of his speech to crit­i­cise Wick­remesinghe. The speech was shown live by some tele­vi­sion net­works and widely re­ported in the me­dia the next day, Wednes­day. On the other hand, Sirisena loy­al­ists con­tended that he had to go “on the warpath” be­cause of the be­hav­iour of some mem­bers of the UNF del­e­ga­tion. They claimed that their con­duct dur­ing the meet­ing with Sirisena was con­fronta­tional.

Ousted Premier Wick­remesinghe asked par­lia­men­tar­ian Mayan­tha Dis­sanayake, one of the sig­na­to­ries to the mo­tion, to an­nounce in Par­lia­ment that they would not go ahead with it. As one se­nior UNPer put it, “we do not want to give Sirisena a face sav­ing exit. We want to show the coun­try that he has been mak­ing one blun­der af­ter an­other.” An­other opined that the pas­sage of the mo­tion would have pri­ori­tised is­sues re­lat­ing to a new Prime Min­is­ter.

In fact, Wick­remesinghe did face some pres­sure from mem­bers of his own Par­lia­men­tary group on Mon­day. In a rather un­usual speech, Sa­jith Pre­madasa de­scribed him­self as the “Paapisi niy­o­jya

naayakaya” or a car­pet deputy leader. He said dis­unity in the UNF was not be­ing caused from out­side but came from within. Some of the UNP poli­cies af­fected the com­mon peo­ple. Farm­ers were not looked af­ter. Vouch­ers for school uni­forms had be­come a joke. He said he could han­dle de­vel­op­ment work and “we will in­sist you are the Premier” he told Wick­remesinghe. Pre­madasa later told col­leagues he would al­ways raise is­sues con­cern­ing the party from within and not from out­side.

Sri Lanka Mus­lim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Ha­keem also sought a change in lead­er­ship if they were to win elec­tions. Oth­er­wise, he cau­tioned, he might not even con­test. There have been pro­pos­als to elect a leader through a se­cret bal­lot. At least on three dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions, some UNP se­niors had met at dif­fer­ent houses and the sub­ject had been the change of lead­er­ship. How­ever, UNP Chair­man Kabir Hashim said these meet­ings were to “en­sure that the party re­mains in­tact. Pres­i­dent Sirisena’s strat­egy is to break the UNP. So se­nior mem­bers want to en­sure noth­ing like that hap­pens.”

In a new course of ac­tion, the UNP will move in Par­lia­ment on De­cem­ber 12 a vote of con­fi­dence on Wick­remesinghe. Thus, the party is set­ting the stage for Wick­remesinghe to make his claims for Pre­mier­ship with ma­jor­ity sup­port in Par­lia­ment and not through a no-con­fi­dence vote on Ra­japaksa as Sirisena en­vis­aged. Here is the list of sig­na­to­ries and the one line mo­tion:

ADDENDUM TO THE OR­DER BOOK No. 1 OF PAR­LIA­MENT

Is­sued on Tues­day, De­cem­ber 04, 2018 No. 1 (3).]

NO­TICE OF MO­TIONS FOR WHICH NO DATES HAVE BEEN FIXED

P. 4/’18

Hon. Sa­jith Pre­madasa

Hon. Ravi Karunanayake

Hon. Ak­ila Vi­raj Kariyawasam Hon. Lak­sh­man Kiriella

Hon. (Dr.) Ra­jitha Se­naratne

Hon. Palany Thigam­baram

Hon. Man­gala Sa­ma­raweera

Hon. Rishad Bathi­udeen,—

Vote of Con­fi­dence,—

That this House re­solves that;

Hon. Ranil Wick­remesinghe, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment com­mands the con­fi­dence of

Par­lia­ment to func­tion as the Prime Min­is­ter.

This mo­tion, sure to be adopted next Wednes­day will see the cre­ation of a new dead­lock. Pres­i­dent Sirisena now in­sists that even if the 225 MPs re­quest, he will not ap­point Wick­remesinghe as Premier. He told the UNF del­e­ga­tion that he would not even con­sider the Wick­remesinghe “clique.” By next week, a recog­nised ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment would re­solve that they want Wick­remesinghe. In the stale­mate that is now in the mak­ing, will Pres­i­dent Sirisena carry out his threat to re­sign? Or will he, like in the case of the other con­tro­ver­sies he cre­ated, ig­nore and carry on.

On top of that, the UNF will also chal­lenge Wick­remesinghe’s re­moval, the in­stal­la­tion of Mahinda Ra­japaksa as Premier and the pro­ro­ga­tion of Par­lia­ment through gazette no­ti­fi­ca­tions. For this pur­pose the Ven. Dam­bare Amila Thera and Roshan Herath have moved the Supreme Court. Their case is due to come up on De­cem­ber 12.

Need­less to say, the task of a neu­tral coun­try diplo­mat, who is play­ing the role of an in­ter­locu­tor, turned dif­fi­cult this week. His lat­est ini­tia­tive, in the light of the im­pend­ing court rul­ings, is to dis­cuss with stake­hold­ers sce­nar­ios “A” and “B.” One in­volves the pos­si­bil­i­ties if rul­ings are in favour of the gov­ern­ment whilst the other is if they are not. He held a fresh round of shut­tle diplo­macy this week.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, Pres­i­dent Sirisena, who chaired the Sri Lanka Free­dom Party (SLFP) cen­tral com­mit­tee meet­ing at his Ma­hagam­sek­era Mawatha of­fi­cial res­i­dence on Fri­day night also spoke of his re­sponses to im­pend­ing court rul­ings. If, for ex­am­ple, the Supreme Court held that the dis­so­lu­tion is in ac­cor­dance with the Con­sti­tu­tion, there was no is­sue. He would plan for par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. He said one of the key is­sues to be taken up would be an elec­toral al­liance with the Sri

Lanka Po­du­jana Party (SLPP). He said he wished to have an al­liance and a com­mon sym­bol. This ap­pears to be a para­dox­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.

Af­ter en­sconc­ing Mahinda Ra­japaksa as Prime Min­is­ter, Sirisena did en­gage in a di­a­logue with the SLPP for the for­ma­tion of a com­mon front. It led to the two sides agree­ing on a name and to talk fur­ther about a sym­bol. How­ever, be­hind-thescenes, some of his own SLFP par­lia­men­tar­i­ans mounted pres­sure on him that their party would be swal­lowed up by the SLPP. Some also said they could not work with Premier Ra­japaksa. In the day-to-day events that fol­lowed, this saw the two sides dis­tanc­ing from each other. The SLPP strate­gist and ide­o­logue Basil Ra­japaksa con­tin­ued with the for­ma­tion of more SLPP branches and trade union or­gan­i­sa­tions. He even con­tra­dicted S.B. Dis­sanayake, the bro­ker who bun­gled the Sirisena-Ra­japaksa tie-up, by say­ing there had been no firm de­ci­sion for a com­mon front. This is not­with­stand­ing the di­a­logue.

Why then is Pres­i­dent Sirisena now try­ing to lean on the SLPP for an al­liance af­ter dis­tanc­ing him­self? More so when he has met se­lected SLFP par­lia­men­tar­i­ans in be­hind-the-scenes meet­ings where they voiced con­cerns over work­ing with Premier Ra­japaksa and his min­is­te­rial col­leagues? Is he try­ing to cre­ate a foun­da­tion to build on an al­liance that will make him the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date? At the 2015 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, he won with the UNP vote to be­come Pres­i­dent. Is he bank­ing on the SLPP vote this time? This is not­with­stand­ing his as­ser­tions that he would not con­test again. The irony in this sit­u­a­tion is that there has been no con­sis­tency in Sirisena’s ap­proach, blow­ing hot one day and cold on an­other. This has in fact caused a con­sid­er­able de­gree of con­ster­na­tion among SLFP par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. “Where do we stand,” lamented one of them who did not wish to be iden­ti­fied.

On the other hand, the bil­lion dol­lar ques­tion is whether the SLPP would be in a mood to go along with Pres­i­dent Sirisena’s lat­est call for an al­liance if the SC rules in his favour. Firstly, the SLPP lead­er­ship has been un­happy that Sirisena did not “suf­fi­ciently” sup­port Premier Ra­japaksa dur­ing the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cri­sis. “Premier Ra­japaksa is hang­ing on due to his own tenac­ity,” said a source close to him. The sec­ond is be­cause the SLPP lead­er­ship be­lieves that Sirisena tried to ‘short cir­cuit’ them in try­ing to push a mo­tion against Premier Ra­japaksa on De­cem­ber 5. This, how­ever, did not ma­te­ri­alise due to UNF’s de­ci­sion not to go ahead. Thus, Pres­i­dent Sirisena has raised some cred­i­bil­ity is­sues about him, par­tic­u­larly with shift­ing po­si­tions, for which the SLPP will de­mand firm, per­haps writ­ten com­mit­ments for any po­lit­i­cal ar­range­ment. Yet, both sides have not bro­ken re­la­tions and the glue of their op­po­si­tion to the UNF is keep­ing them at­tached.

In the event the SC holds that the Pres­i­dent has vi­o­lated the Con­sti­tu­tion by dis­solv­ing Par­lia­ment, Pres­i­dent Sirisena de­clared that he would con­sult the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee on the steps to be taken. He then made a sur­prise an­nounce­ment that shocked SLFP elec­toral or­gan­is­ers coun­try­wide. All of them would cease to hold of­fice from Fri­day night, he an­nounced, say­ing he would him­self ap­point new mem­bers with the help of a Com­mit­tee.

Those who have been work­ing hard would be re-nom­i­nated whilst those who have re­mained in­ef­fec­tive would be dropped. He said the SLFP would also have dis­trict and elec­toral man­agers in ac­cor­dance with the re­cent re­struc­tur­ing. The pur­pose of this ex­er­cise is to strengthen the SLFP just in case an al­liance is formed. How­ever, since the Feb­ru­ary 10 lo­cal elec­tions showed only a 13 per­cent voted for the SLFP, cre­at­ing a for­mi­da­ble force in a short time is a day dream. The party does not have the hu­man re­sources to do and it is also badly hand­i­capped by the lack of qual­i­fied se­nior lead­ers to un­der­take the task. These are some of the main causes for the ero­sion from the SLFP ranks to the SLPP. The SLFP’s for­mer Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Du­minda Dis­sanayake, came in for se­vere crit­i­cism over this.

Thus, Pres­i­dent Sirisena has been pole vault­ing from one po­lit­i­cal is­sue to an­other. Un­like lights at traf­fic intersections, the red turns to am­ber when he does this, but never reaches green. That heaps more and more po­lit­i­cal is­sues on a na­tion now reel­ing with un­cer­tainty and with no func­tion­ing gov­ern­ment. One sec­tor badly hit is the tourism sec­tor. And that too, dur­ing the cur­rent peak sea­son forc­ing hote­liers to of­fer cut rates to save their in­dus­try from ru­ina­tion. They showed their protest this week by boy­cotting an awards cer­e­mony at the Shangri La ho­tel where Pres­i­dent Sirisena was the chief guest. Yet, some of his close aides ar­gue dif­fer­ently. They say trains and buses are run­ning, banks are open for busi­ness, ve­hi­cles move on roads. “Noth­ing has gone wrong,” said one of them. Not sur­pris­ing. They are so blinded by the re­al­i­ties in a sit­u­a­tion which has never oc­curred since in­de­pen­dence.

“The best way out would be par­lia­men­tary elec­tions,” Prime Min­is­ter Mahinda Ra­japaksa told the Sun­day Times. Of course, now, we await the rul­ing of the Supreme Court, he said. Ra­japaksa said he would bow to what­ever de­ci­sion the Supreme Court would make. I do not want to com­ment any­more, he added.

“Sri Lankans and those around the world are aware that we are in a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. Pres­i­dent Sirisena says he will not ap­point Ranil Wick­remesinghe as Prime Min­is­ter even if the en­tire Par­lia­ment wants him. What hap­pens if he wins the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions with a large ma­jor­ity? He would do the same,” de­clared UNP Chair­man Kabir Hashim. He said it was an “ab­so­lute dis­ap­point­ment for us that Pres­i­dent Sirisena did not dis­cuss mat­ters based on is­sues or prin­ci­ples. He was only talk­ing about his per­sonal feel­ings.

He said if the Pres­i­dent did not ap­point Ranil Wick­remesinghe, noth­ing would work. “This is a gross vi­o­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion and tan­ta­mounts to a trea­son­able of­fence,” Hashim said. He de­fended the Tamil Na­tional Al­liance (TNA) sup­port for Wick­remesinghe say­ing “they are stand­ing up for our democ­racy.” He said claims of a “deal” were “ab­so­lutely false” and they are “stand­ing on a prin­ci­ple. Of course, we have still not de­liv­ered their de­mands for de­vel­op­ment and pro­vide em­ploy­ment to youth. Nor have we de­vel­oped road net­works, he pointed out.

A source close to the Pres­i­dent, how­ever, ar­gued that Sirisena had abided by the Con­sti­tu­tion when he took the dif­fer­ent mea­sures. “There­fore, claims of it be­ing trea­son­able are false and ab­surd,” he said.

The events this week show that Pres­i­dent Sirisena has painted him­self to a cor­ner, to an in­tractable po­si­tion. For good or for bad, some of the ills will re­solve when the Court of Ap­peal and the Supreme Court give their rul­ings. Yet, one supreme ques­tion on which the fu­ture gov­er­nance of Sri Lanka now hinges, the ap­point­ment of a new Prime Min­is­ter, re­mains. Who will come and who will go is the big­gest ques­tion as Sri Lanka en­ters the sev­enth week of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

With the Supreme Court and the Court of Ap­peal tak­ing up cases that could change the course for Sri Lanka’s his­tory, tight se­cu­rity has been im­posed around the Court Com­plex.Pic by Lahiru Har­shana

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