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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Scott, the British writer I admire most of those active in the second half of the last century, was adept at exploring how people let each other down. In one of his novels, he refers to the various betrayals his protagonist engaged in.

I was reminded of that in thinking, as we reach the half way point of Maithripala Sirisena’s presidency, of the various betrayals he has been forced into. I do not say he has perpetrated these, for I still see him as a passive onlooker, but that does not absolve him of responsibility. After all he was elected President, and he should have worked towards fulfilling as many as possible of the promises he made in his manifesto. Instead he has allowed the country to sink into more corrosive corruption than ever before.

Last week I wrote about perhaps the most expensive mistake he made, namely allowing an exception to the pledged constitutional change to limit the size of the Cabinet. He, or rather those who make decisions in his government, have now exploited that provision with the utmost cynicism, so that we have 45 Cabinet Ministers apart from the President, and another 45 State / Deputy Ministers.

Each of them is entitled to private staff, many of whom have little to do, and little understanding of what should be done beyond expanding the influence of the Minister. They have innumerable vehicles and personal security, and they all have offices, many of which have been redecorated at vast expense. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

October 2019
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