A man who has nothing to gain, can end everything

Date:

If you can keep your head when all about you  

  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, 

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too; 

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting …

…If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted byknaves to makea trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools….

….If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

Toserve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

     Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’…

Ranil Shriyan Wickremesinghe, a man who had absolutely no adequate mandate to enter the Legislator, but who yet somehow made it by finally naming himself to fill the only National List seat awarded to the UNP at the 2020 General Election, after keeping it vacant for more than a year, has today become the 8th Executive President of the Democratic Socialist republic of Sri Lanka and what more than the stanzas in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘IF’ is suitable to describe his political calculations and behaviour over the past 43 years.

Failure and Wickremesinghe were synonymous for the past two decades with the UNP repeatedly facing defeat as a single party under his leadership with the exceptions of 2001 and 2015, where it contested election as an alliance. Wickremesinghe, despite being able to be appointed as the Prime Minister for six times, was not able to hold the position for the full-term – with longest being in 2015.

Today, even after becoming the Executive President of the country, nobody, except those who are categorised as Colombo upper middle class or Colombo elites, believe he will achieve an ounce of success while more than 75% of the people of the country expect the new President to fail. This, what most view as the biggest weakness of Wickremesinghe, is in fact, his biggest strength.

If Wickremesinghe – even if couldn’t do much – could take the country to where it was before January 2022, it will be enough for him to win the trust of the majority of the Sri Lankan people. Any person who has an iota of understanding about Wickremesinghe and his attitude will not expect him to work on his PR skills, become people-friendly or hold children in his arms and turn a blind eye on anything that he deems as unconstitutional.

Not lucky enough

In 1993, following then President R. Premadasa’s assassination, D.B. Wijetunga was unanimously elected by the Parliament as President to serve the country for the remaining months. Wickremesinghe, who was the Leader of the House at the time, was chosen to the office of the Prime Minister.

However, in a similar scenario in the recent past, in 1994, when Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected as the Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe was reduced to a mere MP from being a Prime Minister with party dissident Gamini Dissanayake becoming the Opposition Leader after returning to the UNP. This was following a secret ballot and this led to Wickremesinghe also losing party leadership. However, with Gamini
Dissanayake being killed in an LTTE attack during Presidential Election in 1994, Wickremesinghe became the Leader of the UNP and held the position for nearly thirty years despite strong calls for him to step down with UNP facing back to back defeats in successive elections.

Wickremesinghe ran for presidency twice in 1999 and 2005 without a success and due to immense pressure within the party not to contest decided to let a common candidate contest the Presidential Elections in 2010 and 2015. His own party men and supporters believed Wickremesinghe was not ‘Sinhala- Buddhist’ enough or lesser of a nationalist to defeat the powerful Rajapaksa family.

Hell-bent

The story has it that the seniors at Royal College once warned Ranil Wickremesinghe not to arrive in school in his car from the 5th Lane as it is just few metres away. They realised that this warning had fallen onto deaf ears when the latter came in the car next day as well. In a bid to ‘teach’ him a lesson and discourage driving to school, they had cut a tyre of the car. Wickremesinghe returned to school next morning in the same car with a tyre replaced. This continued for more than good ten days and the senior students had given up on ‘teaching him a lesson’ but, Wickremesinghe did not give up his mode of transportation to school.

He has not even attempted to hide the sheer elite arrogance he inherited from birth and was hell-bent on what he thinks is right. This was evident once again with 99 members of the UNP having to leave the party and form the Samagi Jana Balawegaya after failing to convince Wickremesinghe to step down from UNP leadership for over a decade. Even after the cream of the party leaving and having to face an embarrassing defeat at 2020 General Election, Wickremesinghe remained in the Party leadership. It is not a secret that his long-term goal was to become the president of the country one fine day. The target he could not achieve with people’s mandate was finally achieved with the mandate of People’s representatives and that too was with the support of the same political party that was responsible of reducing him and his political party to zero.

Firmly grounded

Wickremesinghe is still known for his reverence to the Constitution even though his long standing title of being ‘Mr. Clean’ was tarnished with links to CBSL bonds scam in 2015-2016 Yahapalana regime.

He will not tolerate anything overstepping Constitution and will go to any level to defeat such moves – even if it means getting military forces under his command to attack peaceful protesters in their sleep.

As the President and the Commander in Chief, he rightfully owns the right to evacuate those forcibly occupying State buildings; that too is the Presidential Secretariat, to which the employees or even his predecessor had no access to for 105 days.

As soon as he was appointed as the Acting President, Wickremesinghe attempted to bring ‘order’ by ending the anarchy that prevailed yet, for the first time, top Military brass and Police evidently did not cooperate. The Armed Forces which were dubbed as one of the best in the world after defeating one of the most ruthless terrorist outfits, the LTTE, had by then failed to protect the ‘house’ of the First Citizen of the country including other three main buildings as unarmed ordinary people lay siege to those. They could not even prevent setting ablaze the residence of the Second Citizen of the country.

Above all, the tri-forces commanders and the Chief of Defence Staff in an unprecedented move participated in Party Leaders’ meeting and sought permission to use force on protesters in order to ‘protect’ the Parliament. However, this was not entertained by the party leaders and they refused to give any such permission and pointed out they have no authority to do so. Until, soldiers were attacked on 13 July on the Parliament access road, the military apparently did not support the Executive whole-heartedly.

This is the moment

Wickremesinghe, unlike most of his recent predecessors, has nothing to gain after finally realising his long-term goal of becoming the President. He has no clan to earn for as his clan is already regarded as rich, he has no reason to hold onto power until his brothers or children come to power, he does not need to make an effort to lead an elite life as he is a born one and above everything is educated.

This is Ranil Wickremesinghe’s moment to prove that he is a true son of this soil by calling an all-party government and going for much demanded Constitutional reforms. It would not be an exaggeration to say he, if willing, is the only person who would abolish the executive presidency – a much awaited and most neglected election promise since 1994. Now, that he has a Prime Minister who has been there with him since school days and is known for lobbying for electoral reforms, Wickremesinghe too can end this corrupt electoral system that prevents genuine and capable people from becoming rulers and creates thieves instead. In fact, he can be the one who goes down in history as the person who ended the constitutional quagmire created by his uncle President J.R. Jayewardene in 1978. The moment has arrived and it is up to President Ranil Wickremesinghe to decide whether to take it or leave it.

By GaganiWeerakoon

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