by Gnana Moonesinghe

By oneself alone is evil done: by oneself is one defiled.

By oneself alone is evil avoided: by oneself is one purified.

Purity and impurity depend on oneself.

No one can purify another.

"The major premise inBuddhism is that all phenomena are subject to impermanence. There is constant change".

Why should we have expected consistency in President Sirisena?

However, the sad fact is that we did expect consistency in his leadership to declared objectives, in the coalition’s national perspective to set up a national government with parliamentarians of credible moral temperament. We were given to understand quite unequivocally that the President will not tolerate persons with tarnished reputations. People who supported the President assumed that many of the sitting MPs will not get nominations this time on this count.

January 8, 2015, was the date we saw this country triumphantly giving the exit sign to a President who on his own admission tolerated and condoned malpractices among his co- workers in the government. The charge against the former President was largely based on the erosion of moral authority. Maitripala Sirisena, the surprise candidate to contest popular and politically adroit strongman Rajapaksa, had the backing of over 40 political and civil society parties and groups including former President Kumaratunga, Ranil Wickremesinghe and the respected Rev. Sobitha who pioneered the civil society organization, the National Movement for Social Justice.

There was euphoria in the air. People were happy with the no airs president, the simple man from rural Sri Lanka who seemed wedded to the culture of the country. In his simplicity people saw a ray of hope for us all.

The President took all the right steps that appealed to us citizens who were suffering from overexposure to the glitter and showmanship of the previous regime. Maitrpala Sirisena was inducted as president one evening in a simple non -trumpeted ceremony at Independence Square. It was a PEOPLES’ EVENT. Men and women who were around the place, in shorts and track suits mingled with the VIPS to make the event what it should be, a celebration with minimum protocol and pomp. None was shooed away by khaki-clad gun toting men! Everyone appreciated the value of this historic occasion, its simplicity being the hallmark of this occasion and it was hoped of other events to come.

The President appeared to be a man of his word. He appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as agreed upon prior to the elections as Prime Minister. This was part of the campaign agreement and had thus received public endorsement through the electoral process. Ministers were appointed. This was a minority government sans concealment. It remains a revealed endorsed fact.He unambiguously called for national unity through knitting all the ethnic groups and he sought to reach out to the minorities for reconciliation and cohabitation. Within a few days of his Presidency he met with leaders of many of the developed countries and reestablished friendly relations. The previous government had estranged many of the countries from the developed world.

He also categorically stated that it was not necessary to give nominations to the former president who has gone through, in stages, all the political positions available to him in this country- from Member of Parliament, Leader of the Opposition, Prime Minister and President (twice) and that it is therefore time to give others similar opportunities. The country stayed in peace with itself knowing that they had elected a President who had declared that he was the servant of the people and that he would return to his birthplace at the end of only one term as President. There was no clinging here. It was the popular belief that he had the peoples’ interest uppermost in all his reckoning and that he certainly would see that corrupt politicians of poor moral quality are kept away from politics.

Unfortunately for the country and perhaps for the president a new dimension came into the political playing field: The offer and the acceptance by Maitripala Sirisena of the leadership of the SLFP which was to introduce a conflict of interest to the President. There was confusion possibly even within the president himself of a split personality syndrome. He was the President of the country, the Chairman of the SLFP and the man obligated to the UNP and the other political parties who supported him, the UNP, sections of the SLFP, JHU, JVP, the minorities and the DUNF including several civil society groups. The inspiration for the convergence of a coalition against MR came from the lead given by the National Movement for Social Justice led by the influential and popular Rev. Sobitha.

The President had many hats on at one go and instantaneously at that.

Here lies the dichotomy - he cannot work against the UNP whose organizations at the grassroots level that catapulted him to win the election. He as head of the SLFP (which leads the UPFA) felt he should steer the party to success which means a hostile move to the UNP. He also had to dessert the other small parties who challenged the old regime to secure the President’s win. What of those MPs who left the SLFP to star the trail of Yahalpalanya? They are by the wayside scratching their heads not being able to comprehend or rationalize this new ‘change’ that was happening.

The president is the common factor for all the parties but he perhaps erroneously thought he had to assume a partisan role. It was however not necessary to do so. Many would have accepted, may have applauded, if he opted for a neutral role.

Whatever is said Maithripala supporters remain and some still are convinced that their man is a principled person who will not deviate from the pledges made to the people at the time of the elections. But the BETRAYAL was announced on all TV and radio channels; last Friday the announcement was made:

"MR will fight under the UPFA banner,"

"The President had agreed to give nomination to MR"

At the time of the Presidential elections Maitripala Sirisena came out strongly against MR’s regime claiming that it was full of authoritarianism, lawlessness, politicization and cronyism. The whole exercise of his leaving the government was to arrest this move and introduce democratic liberalism into the system. What has changed since then for the President to go contrary to his declared statements and give MR nominations to contest again? This is the searching question asked by those who wholeheartedly supported the Yahalpalanaya mission to establish a Unity Government.

Is there any space for the President to extricate himself and be free from the loud echoes of ‘FOUL’ that is resonating all around this country? Having taken so many right moves and given leadership to bind all the people in this country together for the progress of Sri Lanka AND having mended the bruised foreign policy left in tatters by the earlier regime why would anyone in their right sense upset the apple cart, lose his neutrality and independence, more so his CREDIBILITY?

Has the President concealed a trump card somewhere up his sleeve? A few more days and there will be clarity, certainly by the time this piece goes to the press. If nothing is forthcoming we as a nation remain doomed, anchorless without hope.


There is as yet one line of action available to us concerned citizens. We in unison can take the decision to vote across party lines eliminating anyone tainted with any form of moral turpitude and thereby elect to Parliament a group of honest men and women to represent us – as honest as possible. To-date in the discussions that has ensued there had been no talk of policies, strategies, programs to improve the quality of life of the people. The interests of the politicians seem to be only on nominations, winning elections and then forming the government. Our agenda can be clearly stated.

Let us hope a little bit of the spirit of altruism enters the calculations of the contestants about the general welfare of the people whom they are supposed to represent. Even at this late stage they should realize that their only role as functionaries is to govern the country as temporary holders of the sovereignty of the people.

For whom does the bell toll? For whom indeed! It tolls for thee and me said John Donne - for you and me!!

There are no winners. Perhaps we are all losers – yet again.

What a tragic ending to a hopeful beginning.

But HOPE remains eternal for better tidings.

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