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Presidential Perahera: For what?



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By DR UPUL WIJAYAWARDHANA


Undoubtedly, one of our national obsessions is processions, be it religious, political or otherwise. If affordable, there will be elephants too, to add to the glamour created by dancers, musicians and the like. While the country is still coming to terms with the Easter Sunday bombings, yet unaware who the masterminds are or whether all the ring-leaders are arrested or dead, politicians and ‘saviours of the nation’ seem only interested in swelling the ranks of the Presidential Perahera, which will take to the streets all over the country, before the year is out. There will be hands (waving the flags), flowers (Pohottu) and elephants, among the many.


Hand


Whether President Sirisena will lead the procession nobody knows, not even him! One day he says he will not seek another mandate but, by the next day, he has changed his mind to accommodate the wishes of his acolytes. Perhaps, we will have to wait till nominations close to know whether he is in, or out of the race. Contrary to the solemn promise he made on inauguration, he has made use of weapons at his disposal, to demonstrate to the nation the necessity for his continuance. First, it was the sword, and then it was the madu-waligey and now it is the gallows. He firmly believes that by executing four drug-lords, of his choice, the problem will be solved. As stated in the excellent editorial ‘Prez seeing devils’ (The Island, 8 July) anyone who is against his decision is in the pay of the drug cartels.


Even if the votes are split by a long perahera of candidates, the chances of his re-election are zilch unless he is nominated by the SLPP, which is extremely unlikely, or the UNP, which is even less likely. Therefore, those near and dear to him should convince him to retire, and enter parliament at the next general election from Polonnaruwa, which he should be able to do without any problems. Then he can have his second choice; of being the cabinet minister looking after Mahaveli and the Environment.


He may try to be President a little longer by going to the Supreme Court, though he did not have support previously. When he attempted a constitutional coup, his attempts were thwarted as follows, according to the keenest NGO supporter of Yahapalanaya: "However, led by a Chief Justice who was upright and feared God more than he did men, the Supreme Court withstood all pressures and ruled against the president’s actions." (The Island, 9 July) Some may say that this statement lets the cat out of the bag, at least a bit!


Unless he plays his cards carefully, he may go down in history as the man who drove the SLFP to extinction, a party even Chandrika does not seem to be interested in, if one goes by her recent statements.


Pohottuwa


The one who can win, in spite of the unexpected and humiliating defeat in 2015, cannot join the perahera because the 18A, he introduced, was subsumed by 19A of Yahapalanaya. Though astrologers did no good to him on the last occasion, he is supposed to announce on the auspicious day, August 11, his anointed nominee, but it is pretty certain that he will make it a family affair. It will be the Malli, if Singapore surgeons have been clever enough to fix his heart and Uncle Sam is willing to let him, failing which Aiya will be a good replacement. But the impatient Malli making declarations to the world, through the BBC, from his rehabilitation bed in Singapore, may irk him, is a moot point. There are objecting relatives like Welgama too, but they will be silenced.


Saviours


Mr. Nagananda Kodituwakku was a regular visitor to courts, fighting many issues, till the courts decided to suspend him practising law for three years; but this has not deterred his presidential ambitions, which he seems to have been nurturing all the time. He is being supported by a section of the intelligentsia, in spite of his lack of any political experience. One cannot fault his manifesto but whether he has the capability to translate it into action is another question, a very important one indeed.


The latest to be mentioned is the former auditor-general, who earned public plaudits for the admirable way he stood up to political pressure, during the biggest achievement of Yahapalanaya: The Bond scam. Suspicion should have been aroused when he started making pronouncements about financial mishandlings over the years etc., after his retirement, but does this qualify him to be the president? Worryingly, it is rumoured that he will be the JVP nominee. Would he like to be associated with JVP that became a prop of Yahapalanaya, misleading protests aside?


Minorities


If major political parties consider joining hands with minority parties, Muslim ones, especially in view of the terrorist attacks, toxic to their cause, maybe they field their own nominee.


Will former CM Vigneswaran forgo the opportunity of spewing his venom against the Sinhalese? Surely, not.


Elephants


The longest line seems to be the elephants, mostly because the maha-aliya remains undecided. Though the simplest solution for the UNP is for Ranil to be the nominee, he does not seem to be interested, in spite of his claims that King Dutugamunu can learn a thing or two from him about development of villages and, by implication, he can do better than Maha Parakramabahu in agriculture. Ranil would rather prefer a proxy to do the hard work for him to become the executive prime minister. One thing is certain: he will continue to be the leader of the UNP, so that, even if the worst happens, he can at least be the leader of the Opposition.


Lakshman Kiriella’s name was proposed by a Kandy Nayaka Thero and the recent admiring comments by Ranil may be considered a kind of endorsement. Unlike some of his colleagues, LK has not drifted towards the President, earning plaudits from Ranil.


Rajitha continues to groom himself and demonstrates his eagerness to support the minorities. He has been graceful enough to state that when he is no longer able to serve the nation, his son would be able to carry on his good work. What a noble thought of succession. May be like the BOGOF of the supermarket trade: Buy One, Get One Free!


Another to make an offer is Karu Jayasuriya, who is prepared to save the nation, if the party decides unanimously to request him to do so; unlikely as Sajith will not join the chorus!


In fact, Sajith seems very serious giving an undertaking he would serve the 22 million people living in 6.1 million households 24 hours a day. He did so in Matara, at a ceremony to mark the launch of Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera’s book ‘Khema’s boy - 3 decades in politics’, in the presence of the Leader of the Tamil National Alliance R Sampanthan, as well. Sajith has received the endorsement of not only Mangala but also the President himself, but these may be ‘toxic’ endorsements.


Ravi K is vehemently against Sajith and may be having a dream of his own: It would be wonderful, from Central Bank, through Power, to President!


All this: Is it worth?


All this effort may not be worth it, as according to some of the architects of 19A, "at the end of the current term, the powers of the presidency would be sharply reduced, and the parliament led by the prime minister would take on the full powers of governance."


Mahinda must be waiting, licking his lips!


 


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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