Be Patient

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UNP leader, President and Defence Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (MP), elected on Wednesday not by the will of the 15 million + masses, but by the will of 225 Parliamentarians, showed that he means business, within just 48 hours, on Friday.

This was when he ordered armed Security Forces and Police to move into the Presidential Secretariat and forcibly evict unarmed, peaceful protesters and journalists, hours before the protesters themselves said that they would vacate those premises that very day itself.

It was these protesters who forced Wickremesinghe’s immediate predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa (SLPP) to flee the country by such occupations, also including President’s House Colombo; Temple Trees Colombo, the Premier’s official residence and the burning of Wickremesinghe’s private residence in Colombo, 15 days ago on 9 July.

Their protests centred on the chronic socioeconomic malaise gripping the country which symptoms were record high cost of living and inflation; shortages; rationing;  miles, days and months-long fuel and cooking gas queues causing  deaths to several; sharp losses in agriculture output led by rice because of a ban on imported chemical fertiliser, subsequently rescinded, but too late to reverse its harm; fishers being unable to go to sea due to a lack of fuel; record hours-long daily power cuts running for months because of fuel shortages; schools  and partial Government closures due to lack of transport because of such shortages; bribery; corruption; nepotism and cronyism.

The prime cause for this misery is the lack of US dollars in the country to make these imports, robbed and squandered during Rajapaksa’s and previously, during elder brother Mahinda’s (SLPP leader) Presidency and Rajapaksa’s imprudent policy of banning chemical fertiliser imports for a period of seven months, from April to November 2021.

Wickremesinghe, the solitary UNP MP in Parliament, owes his Presidency to the SLPP MPs who form the majority in the House, responsible for constitutionally voting him to power after Rajapaksa fled the country last Wednesday (13 July). Wickremesinghe was elected by Parliament on Wednesday (20 July) to serve the remaining two years of Rajapaksa’s term.

Wickremesinghe, if he continues to undermine democracy, may be assured that he will not get a red cent from the West and Japan, to rescue Sri Lanka from the miry socioeconomic clay  to which it has fallen, due to  acts of omission and commission committed by the Rajapaksa clan.

Wickremesinghe’s Friday’s high handedness on peaceful protesters was similar to the brute force used by then Premier Sirima Bandaranaike 49 years ago in 1973 and in which Government Mahinda served as an MP, to crush a series of peaceful “satyagraha” protests launched by the then Opposition, beginning with the protest against the takeover of The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd (ANCL), also known as the Lake House Group of Newspapers by Bandaranaike in July 1973.

J.R. Jayewardene who tookover the leadership of the UNP upon the demise of its leader Dudley Senanayake in April 1973, was confronted with similar socioeconomic ills and autocracy as prevalent today due to the Marxist-Socialist path that Bandaranaike chose to take and not necessarily due to the rifling of Sri Lanka’s dollar assets, coupled with a state of emergency in force, similar to now. Then too, like today, shortages, rationing, queues, unemployment of over 20 per cent, black market, bribery, corruption, nepotism and cronyism were the norm.

But on 21 July 1977, the masses showed their disenchantment over Bandaranaike and her policies, where, by the ballot, they elected Jayewardene and his UNP to power by a record five-sixths majority, a record which has held up to 45 years to date. Ironically, Wickremesinghe served as an MP in the new Jayewardene Government of 21 July 1977.

The masses, now, similar to the patience they exercised for at least four years from 1973 to 1977, should show similar patience for only half that period, for two years to 2024, when the next Presidential Poll is due, by democratically booting out Wickremesinghe, similar to what they did to Bandaranaike 45 years ago on 21 July 1977.