bring it downAs we move towards the end of the dispensation that came in with the Presidential election of 2015, I feel immensely sorry for the President. It is true that many of the problems he now faces he brought on himself, but this was because of weakness, and because he relied on those who had no interest in ensuring he succeeded.

Chief amongst these was Chandrika Kumaratunga, and I write today on the subject of how Sirisena lost the plot because last week I was told of how willfully she betrayed the interests of the SLFP. When Sirisena won in 2015 he entrusted his section of the governing coalition to her, as he told me in explaining that she had been in charge of allocating executive positions to those not in the UNP.

Naturally she looked after only those who owed allegiance to her, the youthful Mr Dissanayake and the aged Mr Goonewardena, neither of whom could serve the country or the President with distinction. She failed to fulfil the commitment in the President’s manifesto with regard to me and Mr Radhakrishnan, to have us in the Cabinet, and she viciously betrayed Vasantha Senanayake by claiming he had joined the UNP, though she knew very well that he had done nothing of the sort. Ironically he is now perhaps the closest in thinking to the President of UNP Ministers – and though only a State Minister, he has to function as virtually a Minister given Tilak Marapana’s lack of interest in the subject.

Chandrika was nasty about Vasantha when I expostulated with her about how shabbily he was treated, but I now wonder whether she was not also motivated by a desire to build up the UNP. Around that time she told a friend who was interested in politics that there was no place in the SLFP for sophisticated people like him, unlike in the days when she led the party. She said Ranil was now much better than in the days when they had been bitter rivals, and she advised him to join the UNP instead. Of course it was precisely such people that Maithripala Sirisena needed if he was to lead an SLFP capable of running a government on its own, but doubtless Chandrika feared anyone else with international standing being in the party where she was now flexing her flabby muscles.

In March she alienated the President from the leadership of the SLFP by expanding the Cabinet to include junior elements with no great party popularity. Nimal Siripala de Silva, who led the Opposition then, told me that he had not been consulted about this.

All this led to the SLFP wanting Mahinda Rajapaksa to be given nomination when, breaking his promise, the President dissolved Parliament prematurely before introducing the electoral reforms he had pledged. At this stage the President agreed to nomination for his predecessor, but then he backtracked when those whose hatred of Mahinda Rajapaksa was greater than their affection for him condemned the move.

By withdrawing from the campaign he handed it over virtually to Mahinda Rajapaksa, which meant that the acolytes of the latter used platforms to attack the President. I told Mahinda he should not have allowed this, whereupon he said  those were junior voices and the President should not have taken them seriously. But as Mahinda should have known, this meant that those who disliked him were able to curry favour with the President by panicking him and insisting he take retaliatory measures.

And so he let down his party by virtually sabotaging its electoral campaign. Here I believe the worst betrayer was Faiszer Mustapha who engaged in legal shenanigans including the totally illegal dismissal of the UPFA Secretary. That dastardly move is why the Joint Opposition claims it cannot trust the President. That assertion is justified, and Maithripala Sirisena should have made up for his lapse instead of engaging in further blustering.

A measure of the man’s innocence is his winning over Sriyani Wijewickrema, a delightful but not very bright lady. Meanwhile he has lost Nimal Lanza, supposedly not very nice, but shrewd enough to know which way the wind blows.

Ceylon Today 26 Dec 2017