Unseating Wickremesinghe — A Winning Formula

Pivotal alliance between Premadasa and Dissanayake, the linchpin in the battle to unseat Wickremesinghe and reshape Sri Lanka's political terrain

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Anura Kumara Dissanayake with Sajith Premadasa [File Photo]

Editorial

Elections are looming, or so claim many politicians, yet more than 70% of households in the populace struggle to put daily meals on the table for their families. The opportunistic former IMF employee, Nandalal Weerasinghe, masquerading as a modern economic saviour, along with his cohort, now clamours for a “more independent” central bank, seemingly aiming to plunder the nation. Their recent salary increases reveal their true intentions, and a cursory examination of their asset allocations would expose the hollowness of the “patriotism” they peddle. With over 50% of schoolchildren lacking adequate nutrition, what significance does the valuation of the rupee against the dollar hold? If the prices of essential commodities fail to decrease, what purpose does the central bank’s theatrical performance serve? Who stands to benefit from this charade? Yet here we are again, in the carnival of elections.

The beleaguered and discredited political force of Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna, commonly known as the Bud Party (Pohottuwa Pakshaya), now faces a significant political quandary as its popularity dwindles. Basil Rajapaksa, one of the prominent founding members of Pohottuwa, known for his political machinations but enjoying scant respect among the general populace for various reasons, is now advocating for holding a general election as a priority. In a surprising turn, he has begun publicly defending the incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who ascended to power through dubious means.

Recalling the so-called Aragalaya, the instalment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, though a blatant manipulation of constitutional clauses, could be argued as a somewhat prudent decision. However, permitting him to assume the presidency was an unwise move for the political party, which Wickremesinghe later exploited to his advantage. Whether Wickremesinghe’s presidency bodes well or ill for the nation is a separate political debate. But for anyone who believes in the sanctity of democracy, Wickremesinghe lacks both the mandate and the moral authority to govern. This is a stark illustration of how democracy can be cynically undermined, often with the tacit approval of the US and its Western allies. Under the guise of the popular dictum of Western politics, “Do as we say, not as we do,” one can evade accountability for purported principles of democracy or the rule of law. The X (formerly Twitter) accounts utilized by foreign diplomats in Colombo to meddle in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs will remain conspicuously silent. Wickremesinghe is well aware of this dynamic and has adeptly played the game to his advantage.

The pertinent question then arises: how can Wickremesinghe be defeated? He stands as a formidable figure, seemingly indispensable for the nation’s progress. However, this perception stems not from genuine merit but from a series of conspicuous failures by a figure seemingly capable of learning from past mistakes. Nonetheless, defeating Wickremesinghe is no simple task, given the deeply entrenched polarization in Sri Lankan politics, driven not only by ideological divides but also by personal agendas revolving around economic and personal gains. Caste considerations also wield a significant influence, a factor that cannot be disregarded. In such a context, forging an alliance to oust Wickremesinghe proves exceedingly challenging. While the Wickremesinghe-Premadasa alliance has been floated, there is scant evidence to suggest that they can overcome deep-rooted trust issues. Wickremesinghe has betrayed Premadasa on numerous occasions and has actively sought to sideline him from politics, widening the chasm between them.

However, a more promising alternative for defeating Wickremesinghe lies in an alliance between Sajith Premadasa’s SJB and Anura Dissanayake’s NPP. If this alliance can be swiftly solidified, it presents a golden opportunity in the upcoming parliamentary elections. This alliance holds greater promise than the successful coalition between the JVP under Somawanasa Amarasinghe and the SLPA under Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1994. Nonetheless, unlike in 1994, this alliance may contend with issues such as caste dynamics, but such challenges can be surmounted. If they succeed, victory in the next elections with a substantial majority is all but assured. Consequently, the two leaders must reach an agreement on crucial matters such as the allocation of the Prime Ministerial and Presidential roles. We posit that opposition leader Sajith Premadasa would make an ideal Presidential candidate, with Anura Dissanayake poised to excel as Prime Minister. Dual are also in a good age. Though reaching such an agreement necessitates significant political concessions, it promises to reshape the political landscape and decisively vanquish Wickremesinghe’s politics.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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