The rejection of Ranil’s rip-off regime
|Ranil Wickremesinghe reached the peak of his power on January 8, 2015.
Then he was neither the prime minister nor the president. But he had the power to make things happen. It can be argued that he had the world at his feet because he represented the promising moral force of the day. With that power he held his future and the future of the nation in his hands. Led by Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha, the respected moral spearhead of the time, surrounded by NGOs and civil society, backed the West and India, boosted by the grass root forces disillusioned with the Rajapaksa regime, hailed by the minorities, welcomed by the business community, he had all the power he needed to make “the difference” he promised, particularly with a newly elected President who was puttee in his palms. It was the greatest hour of his long career as the leader of the UNP. Gifted with a pliable President who could be easily pressured to follow his instructions he had the power to achieve whatever he wanted
The most remarkable exceptions were Dudley Senanayake who swept the polls on the sympathy vote of his father’s death and J. R. Jayewardene in 1978 who sailed into power (5/6th majority in Parliament) on the crest of the anti-Sirima-Marxist wave. Ranil had equal, if not greater power, to revitalise the nation and raise the political culture to higher levels. More than the political victory he had the goodwill of all the well-meaning reformists who expected him to give leadership to a radical change in the corrupt political culture and fulfill his moral duty.
In politics the moral power is far superior to the power of guns. In fact, guns used to enforce moral power are superior to guns fired to suppress risen forces of morality. All great revolutions that changed the course of history were moral forces that won against the mighty guns of corrupt and decadent states. History invariably validates guns used to protect and enforce political morality. Ayotollah Khomeni overthrew the powerful police state of Shah in Iran with tapes issued from his exile in Paris. When Mao said that power comes out of the barrel of a gun he failed to mention that his bullets were packed with the additional power of a superior moral force that was targeting the degenerate and crumbling feudal forces of Chiang Kai-Shek. The guns of pro-West, corrupt and anti-national guns of Chiang Kai-Shek failed because Mao’s guns were cleaned to target, with moral accuracy, the evil forces destined to die sooner than later.
Marxism was only a secondary ideology which was understood and used as a political tool to direct the operations at the ground level by the top echelons of the party. At another level it was the intellectual weapon used to combat the ruling evils of the decadent state. Conquering the mind was as important as conquering territory. Ideology was the trigger to fire the guns of morality. The vast masses who followed Mao were inspired and guided by the moral essence that percolated down to them from complex Marxist theories. Unlike the intellectual elite the masses grasp only the moral essence of an ideology and not the abstract complexities. Mao became the brightest star of the East because he represented a new political morality. His Long March was to achieve moral goals and his soldiers worked with the toiling masses to ease their suffering. The Chinese masses bonded with the new work ethic of the soldiers more than with Mao’s sophisticated theories. In short, the power that packed the punch into his guns was the moral force contained in Marxism-Maoism.
Morality comes in various guises. Marxist morality dominated the 20th century. Gandhism was another. Whatever the ideology it is moral content that shines through, like the Star of Bethlehem, to lead men. Gandhi is the better example because his fire power consisted purely of non-violent morality. It is the morality contained in ideology that bonds the people together. The power of morality reached its full height in the person of Gandhi. All advances in history have been to reach the higher levels of morality taming the beast in man.
On January 8, 2015 Ranil won because he was backed by the superior moral force led by Ven. Sobitha. Ranil acquired power by hanging on to the moral force represented by the Sangha. There was no one in the civil society, NGOs or in the political arena who could win the confidence of the people searching desperately for moral leadership other than Ven. Sobitha. Overnight the vilified Sangha became the saviours. Even the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist NGOs were following the yellow robes. It was the moral force of the Sangha that legitimised the other Sinhala-Buddhist symbol of the time, Maithripala Sirisena. Ranil, who was not acceptable to the people, rode into power by hanging on to the Sinhala-Buddhist bandwagon. Clearly, Sinhala-Buddhism represents the power of a moral force that has ruled, revitalised and bonded the nation particularly in times of peril. The victory of Gota should be read as the triumph of the Sinhala-Buddhist ethic rising once again to rescue the nation from the perils and evils of alien forces. The swing to Gota can be considered as a Sinhala-Buddhist force because the Catholic belt stuck with the UNP.
Cleansing the nation with the Sinhala-Buddhist principles has been a repetitive theme that runs, like clockwork, throughout its history. It happened in 1956 – the decisive landmark in post independent history. It happened on a lesser scale in 2015 when Ranil came into power. Empowered by the Sinhala-Buddhist political ethics the people expected Ranil to be a moral leader who could create history by creating a new and clean political culture. His duty was to be a courageous and reliable reformer without alienating the moral base of the nation. The people were willing to go along with him believing that he would perform his duties as “Mr. Clean”. And he had the power at the time to do it and raise the nation to great heights. His power was so great that he could even become Prime Minister without a majority in Parliament. He insisted in ousting the legitimate Prime Minister, D. M. Jayaratna, who was occupying the prime ministerial chair. Ranil had only 42 MPs and Jayaratna had 142. Under Ranil’s pressure the much beholden and obliging new President, Maithripala Sirisena, caved in. Ranil could even force the hands of the President and import Arjuna Mahendra, a Singaporean con-man to head the Central Bank when there were more competent and experienced locals who could have served the nation with integrity, competency and dignity.
Ranil was at a point where he could verily say that he was the lord of what he surveyed even though he was neither the prime minister nor the president. He was then the uncrowned king of the new moral force that was expected to take the nation into higher levels of peace, prosperity and unity free from corruption. But he threw it away with ideological myopia, congenital inability to understand the fundamental forces that were throwing the nation unmanageably from one crisis to another and sheer cussedness with which he manipulated his henchman and victims to achieve his personal agenda, filled with greed to hang on to power even if it means betraying the nation. With his short-sighted self-deception, which assumed that he was the superior intellectual in a cesspool of ignorant mediocrities, he rode all the way cockily into his own nemesis. Ignorance to him was bliss. He dug his own grave. He paved the path to November 16th and he has to lie in it now.
What he did during his tenure as leader to his own Party and the nation is unforgiveable. He grabbed all the power available and dragged both the Party and the nation into the lowest imaginable depths of corruption, destruction, and despair. He revelled in posing as the solution to the nation’s problems. Drunk with his self-righteous and self-defeating superiority complex, he refused to believe that he was the cause of the problems. He was, in fact, the bane of the nation. It has taken a thundering slap from the people for him to realise that he no longer has the credibility, even among his loyal supporters, to lead the Party. Having failed 30 times at the polls what can he offer the Party or the nation? At last the nation can get rid of him for good. The nation can now hopefully look forward to find its way to a new era without the negative forces generated consistently by the most unwanted man in politics.
Ranil’s biggest failure is his intellectual and moral inability to grasp the dynamics of politics that rule the nation at grass root levels. He lives in an airy-fairy world of his own. Take, for instance, his recent role in the Party at its most critical time of selecting the presidential candidate. He must have been aware that he has been categorised as the most rejected figure in politics.. He stands in stark contrast to Mahinda Rajapaksa who is still the most popular figure in contemporary politics. But he fancied that he could lead an election campaign to defeat Gota Rajapaksa, a war-winning hero who was perceived as the best guarantor of security for the nation – a nation traumatised by the Easter Sunday bombers. Everyone except the blind followers of Ranil knew that pigs have a better chance of flying to moon than Ranil winning the presidency. Elections results have proved it. The UNP hierarchy who knew this fatal flaw had to fight tooth and nail to reject him as a born loser and pick Sajith to lead the election campaign.. Ranil’s insistence on grabbing the nomination as a presidential candidate was insane. It damaged the image of the party as a viable force to lead the nation..
Once again it is the personal ambition of Ranil that split the Party right down the middle at the most critical time when it should have been united. His divisive politics sent the wrong message to the electorate. A divided party, fighting bitterly to slaughter each other, cannot expect the nation to believe that they are capable of providing security or leading the nation. In fact, Ranil killed Sajith before the nation savaged him on November 16. Gota took the lead at the time Ranil was tearing his party apart. In the end Sajith had to pay for Rail’s sins. Sajith did his utmost to whitewash Ranil’s sins with his rhetoric But no one believed him. Even his appointment of Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka as his Defence Minister was a flop. The people opted for Gota as the guarantor of their security.
In hindsight it is obvious that Ranil had divided the Party beyond repair. It was a divided Party that sat to launch Sajith’s manifesto in Kandy. Ranil, the leader, was not even given the opportunity to say one word on the manifesto. Instead the Mangala-Sajith combo, the new leadership, invited Victor Ivan, the JVP bomb-maker who began his career in journalism determined to destroy Sajith’s father, President Premadasa, to deliver the key-note speech.
The signs of UNP’s decline and impending fall were clear at the Kandy launch of Sajith’s manifesto. The UNP had fallen from the moral heights of Ven. Sobitha to a bomb-maker who produced weapons of mass destruction that killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Ranil was made to sit on a chair on the floor while Victor Ivan was invited to the stage to define the future directions of the Party. And what did Victor Ivan do? He refused to speak on the manifesto – the most important subject required to raise the image of the UNP in the eyes of the nation. Instead he rambled on, spinning yarns about the need for constitution-making which was the most sensitive issue that had angered the nation on both sides of the communal divide. The rejection of this issue of constitution-making was confirmed on November 16th. Constitution-making was wrapped in the 13 demands put forward by the TNA to the presidential candidates. Gota had wisely rejected it in toto. However, the hand-picked pundit of the UNP got up on the party’s most critical day and indirectly lauds the 13 demands which were focused on constitution-making. Oddly enough, Ranil, the most committed proponent of constitution-making to appease the minorities, was demoted to a chair on the floor of the Kandy launch. It was obvious that the UNP had gone to pieces. There was no pragmatic or viable centre to hold it together. A leaderless, pointless, worthless Party was heading blindly to November 16 – the day of reckoning. The in-fighting within the Party was worsened by the lack of an alternative and credible leadership that could win the hearts and the minds of the critical voters who had waited patiently to get even with the Ranil-led regime.
The massive swing against the UNP indicates clearly that the nation was biding its time to cut the neck of Ranil’s regime with the sharp edge of their lengthy ballot papers. And they did it in right royal style, peacefully and decisively, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that they can’t fooled by bogus theoreticians in the civil society, NGOs, or even the vacillating and partisan Mahanayakes of Malwatte who had lost their moral compass. The people’s reply was loud and clear. And the besieged nation is now settling down again hoping that a change of regime will at least bring them a clean administration. This is an indispensable factor for the survival of the new Rajapaksa regime. If Gota fails to achieve this he too will have to go home like Ranil with his tail between his legs.
The trust placed in Gota is to prevent the pollution of the political culture under his reign. Quite significantly, the Sinhala-Buddhist ethic was defined by Gota when he took his oaths – not at the traditional Malwatte – but at Ruwanweli Seya in Anuradhapura. He went back to his roots that ran all the way to the epic period of history written by Dutugemunu. The symbolism and its meaning resonated deeply in the hearts of the Sinhala-Buddhists threatened by the arrogant minorities. When, for instance, M. L. A. M. Hisbullah crowed that the Arab nations will come rushing to rescue the Muslims if the Sinhalese attack them he was pushing the Sinhalese to unite against Muslim arrogance.
After Tamil extremism lost its military power at Nandikadal the minorities were banking on their voting clout to dominate the nation. Their main aim was to gain through electoral politics what they could not gain militarily. Gota win on purely Sinhala-Buddhist votes stunned the political pundits and the UNP leaders who believed that the majority could not win without the minority. Gota’s victory rewrote the political equation that was accepted by the interlectuals and the NGO pundits as the indelible truth written in stone. The anti-Sinhala-Buddhist intellectuals and academics must revisit their fake theories and reconsider their spurious assumptions of the grass root forces that determine national politics. It is reasonable to assume now that the Rip Van Winkles in the majority community will rise as one when they are driven to the brink. They may lie low for some time patiently. But when they are pushed against the wall they will rise to defend their heritage . They did so at Nandikadal when Prabhakaran pushed the nation to the brink. And they have risen again to preserve their heritage when Ranil was dragging the reluctant nation once again to reinforce his CFA (February 22, 2002) through his “constitution-making” – the ill-fated policy unwanted and rejected by the majority. With his CFA he was ever willing to hand over the nation’s territory to the bitter enemy of the nation. The mantra he was chanting then, together with the NGOs, was “confidence-building for peace”. He thought he would win the Nobel Prize for the his CFA. But neither the majority nor the minority fell for it. Ranil’s much –vaunted CFA, praised by him as his political masterpiece, exposed his stupidity: Prabhakaran treated him like a fool by shooting Ranil’s peace formula to pieces.
This time it was Gota who saved the nation when Ranil was about to handover territory and powers through “constitution-making”. It was the Number One item in Sajith’s manifesto launched in Kandy. The Tamil Net corroborated it: “While one of the mainstream candidates, Sajith Premadasa, at least dropped the term ‘unitary’ and the phrase ‘foremost place to Buddhism’ in his election manifesto, Gotabaya Rajapaksa made it undoubtedly clear that genocidal Sri Lanka would remain unitary with the foremost place to Theravada Buddhism.”
The key-note speaker Victor Ivan spoke only on that and nothing else. Ranil, though silenced, was quite happy that Sajith was working his guts out to fulfill his original plan in the CFA. Both were dependent on Tamil votes and both were willing to sell the nation to win a handful of votes. They underestimated the power of the Sinhala-Buddhist vote and relied entirely on the minority votes. If they won they would have argued that they got a mandate from the people to re-write the constitution. It was Gota’s War II, fought with ballot, that stopped Ranil’s CFA that stopped Ranil’s move to hand over powers and territory to the Tamil extremists.
The post Independent history is a stunning record of an Invisible Hand moving into place in the nick of time to save the nation from falling into the hands of its enemies. How else can one explain Prabhakaran rejecting Ranil’s CFA and Chandrika Bandaranaike’s handing over of the North and East to Prabhakaran for ten years without an election? If Prabhakaran accepted any one of these two offers he would be ruling the roost today, constructing kovils in the two names— Ranil and CBK — for the Tamil to offer poojas whenever they run out of luck.
The predictions, the electoral mathematics and the punditry of our intellectuals have been thrown into the dustbins by this Invisible Hand. Ever since 1956 they have been laboring in seminars, forums, publications, academia and media to undermine and diminish the power of Sinhala-Buddhists. But November 16 has proved the resilient power of the grass roots that guide the destiny of the nation. Under Ranil they were delighted that they were incorporated into his regime as stake-holders of the nation’s future, marginalizing the Sinhala-Buddhists. He even was chuckling on the sidelines that his ministers were ridiculing and belittling the Sangha. In the end it he who was made to pay for the stupidity of his ministers foul mouths.
A realistic assessment will confirm that it was not Sajith who was defeated. It was Ranil. Sajith was faced with an uphill task, battling to wipe out the evil memories of Ranil and present a new face to the public. But the public knew that Sajith was merely the mask hiding Ranil’s anti-national, anti-majority, pro-West, corrupt regime. He made a desperate bid to distance himself from Ranil. But not all the gewgaws, lollipops and tampons of the world could save him from going down the toilet. Predictably, in his desperate bid to win, Sajith too swallowed Ranil’s calculation that the minorities could save him. He signed secret agreements with Ranil, and Ajith Kariayawasam, the Secretary of the UNP, to sell the nation to the Tamil separatists. But the people saw through it and refused to accept his rhetoric.
The alliances made by Ranil with the minorities boomeranged on Sajith. The more Ranil got closer to the minorities the more it threatened the security of the majority. The demonised majority reacted en masse to defend their cherished heritage and their way of life from the arrogant minorities who assumed that they could make the majority dance to their naga salam. Ranil fell for that line and danced all the way to November 16 believing that the Northern drumbeat would do the trick for him. The people refused to trust the man behind Sajith’s mask. With a silent stroke of the pen the voters cut the neck of the selected protector of the nation, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. There was no one to protect the protector when he lost his Kelaniya seat. Chandrika Bandaranaiake who came flying in on a rescue mission could not win her seat to save Ranil. Even the Presidential candidate could not win his seat in Hambantota. To change the metaphor, this lot put all their eggs in the minority basket. And the majority rejected them.
Asath Sally boasted of the power of the 30 per cent minority that could teach a lesson to the majority. Make no mistake: It was the Sinhala-Buddhist forces threatened by the minorities in the North and the East that triumphed on November 16. It was a clear cut power struggle between the minority and the majority. This election turned out to be the most defining event since Nandikadal. Nandikadal was won with bullets. Novmber 16th was won with ballots. Both were led by Gota.
The nationalist forces that swept Gotabaya into power is not confined to Sri Lanka. It is the force that is sweeping the globe. Though it is an odious comparison, it is the Sri Lankan version of “Make America Great again”. Similar corresponding forces dominate global politics in the post-Cold War era. Easter Sunday highlighted the dangers haunting the nation. They have yet to learn that violence of all three communities – the JVP, Tamil Tigers and Zaharans – will not pay any dividends. In fact violence will boomerang on the minorities. Running against the trend, Ranil ganged up with the minorities. This alliance with the minorities became his first and last defence line. But it boomeranged on him too. The Sinhala voters rallied as one united force to reject Ranil’s formula for peaceful co-existence. This is the election that taught Ranil at last that he cannot make the waves roll back according to his commands. He, his fellow-idiots in the academia and NGOs, and the minorities must realize that they can go only thus far and no further. Ranil must learn that he can’t change 2500 years of history by buying MPs in Parliament.
The Sinhala forces that saved the minorities from the fascist tyranny of the Tamil Pol Pot at Nandikadal have risen again to define peacefully and democratically the parameters within which the minorities can co-exist in a shared society with equal rights to all. Hiding behind the bogus claim of “reconciliation” (which came only from the Sinhala side) the minorities ganged up to dictate politics to the majority. It was this threat to the majority that kept the numbers ticking for Gota as results tumbled down on live telecasts. Except for a brief moment or two, the consistent 50+vote never left Gota as the results captured the emerging polling trend on the screen. There were no prizes for the runner-up. The winner took it all.
As for Sajith he was made to believe by Victor Ivan, the new guru of the UNP, that thousands were behind him. He was theorising that Sajith has behind him the thousands of beneficiaries who were recipients of his visionary father’s (1) poverty alleviation through samurdhi, (2) house-building on a national scale (3) decentralising bureaucratic power and taking it to the grassroots through gam-udawas, (4) creating jobs by incentivising businessmen to take garment factories to the villages , etc. President Premadasa also peoplised” the UNP by taking it away from Kurunduwatte to Kehelwatte. But Ranil reversed it. He took it to his new haven in Kollu”-pitiya, which is next door to Kurunduwatte.
Obsessed with his delusional beliefs, Ranil also ran after Geoege Soros, the Hungarian billionaire, hoping he would rush to save him with investments. He joined the IDU – the exclusive club of white, Christian, Western leaders – hoping that the Western entrepreneurs would flock in their hundreds and thousands with investments to save him. In the end, the collective actions of his allies in the West and in the North helped him only to go gurgling down the drain. It must be conceded that Sajith in his own flamboyant style tried to reclaim his father’s heritage. But there is more to the shaping of historic events than a slick tongue, theatrics on the stage and packing the Galle Face space with bussed Bandas bought with buth packets. The expected crowds predicted by Victor Ivan did not turn up at the polling booths. As usual his cock-eyed theories went down his anatomical pipes like the beer he sips.
Gota’s second victory against the anti-national forces is as great as his first victory in defeating the “invincible” Tamil Tiger terrorists. The battle lines were drawn clearly between the nation and the anti-national forces. If Sajith won it would have taken the nation in the same direction as Ranil. Despite all his chest-beating bravado Sajith was a mere ventriloquist for Ranil.
Gota was won this war because the Sinhala people rallied behind him to fight the battles against the anti-national forces. When his brother and mentor return as Prime Minister they will collectively capture the power that was denied in the 19th Amendment. Ranil has been hoisted by his own petard. He designed the 19th to strengthen his prime ministerial hand because the presidency was beyond his reach. The irony is that all Ranil’s labours have ended in consolidating the power of the Rajapaksas. Jointly they both have another chance to act jointly to overcome all the obstacles placed in the 19th Amendment. The coming events will mock the constitutional-makers who were straining every muscle to curtail the powers of the presidency by increasing the powers of the prime minister. But when the President’s brother is also his mentor what obstacle can stand in his way to override the 19th Amendment? Soon Gota will have all the powers except making man a woman, and vice versa. Together they will have unlimited power to achieve what they failed to fulfill in their first run.
Gota cannot do what Ranil do to the nation: betray the interests of the people with immoral politics and anti-national betrayals.
Gota owes everything to the Sinhala people. And the Sinhala-Buddhists, he must remember, never failed to protect the minorities and give them security and prosperity at all times, even when they were persecuted by their own leaders or the foreigners. For instance, the Muslims will remember that when Sankili ethnically cleansed Jaffna, partly by throwing pig’s heads into their wells, and when Prabhakaran persecuted and chased the Muslims out of Jaffna within 24 hours it was the Sinhala south that gave refuge to them. He will also remember the Sinhala people can protect the minorities as long as long as they live under the protective umbrella of the democratic, sovereign, undivided state and not if they fall under the separate rule of fascist Tamil or Sinhala Pol Pots.
There is no doubt that the two war-winning brothers will be back again after the next Parliamentary elections.
That, of course, will be another story for another day.