By Veeragathy Thanabalasingham/Daily Express
Though Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has convincingly defeated the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) brought against him in parliament by the Joint Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the challenges he faces are far from over.
But Wickremesinghe is an old hand at dealing with them, having faced trials and tests since he took over the leadership of the United National Party (UNP).
That he has been able to continue to remain a principal player in Sri Lankan politics, is a measure of his political acumen. And the deftness with which he surmounts each challenge can only be deemed a riddle in Sri Lankan politics.
It is not uncommon for political leaders to face revolts within the party. History is pockmarked with such revolts. But in Sri Lankan politics, there has been perhaps no other political leader who has faced so much of rebellion from within his own party as Ranil Wickremesinghe has.
Conversely, there has also been no other leader who has so efficiently and shrewdly overcome the challenges and safeguarded his leadership.
Wickremesinghe who has been serving as the Leader of the Grand Old Party for over a quarter century also has the dubious distinction of holding the position ‘Leader of the Opposition’ in parliament for the longest period in the modern political history of Sri Lanka.
Since the UNP couldn’t win any national election and come to power for a relatively long period under his leadership, there have been numerous revolts in the party, with the members demanding that he step down and there be a change in leadership.
But to his credit, he has never lost a parliamentary election and has been in parliament for four uninterrupted decades. Yet the topmost office of the country, the Executive Presidency, has eluded him.
Wickremesinghe has already lost two Presidential elections and there is no credible chance of his winning the next one in 2020. Having been forced to endorse common candidates of the opposition parties in two consecutive Presidential elections, Wickremesinghe is in a position where he cannot even contemplate asking his party men to support yet another outside candidate in another Presidential election.
So, Wickremesnghe might have emerged victorious from the challenges posed by the Joint Opposition through their No-Confidence Motion, but there is no doubt that his political future will largely depend on the strategies he adopts in the next two years.
The experience of the last three years clearly shows that it would not be beneficial for him or his party to continue the uneasy co-habitation with President Maitripala Sirisena or his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
When the UNP and SLFP came together to form the National Unity Government three years ago, many thought it was a historical opportunity to arrive at a consensus in addressing the major problems faced by the people and the country, including the long drawn out and vexed “national” or the Tamil question.
However, such expectations and hopes have been dashed by both the leaders and the politicians belonging to the two parties, which have been traditional rivals.
The past three years indicate that no section of the Sri Lankan society would be able to benefit from a continued alliance between the two main parties. Unable to arrive at a consensus, the Unity Government has failed to provide a solution to any of the problems faced by the people.
‘Corruption’ was allegedly the hallmark of the Rajapaksa regime, which indulged in rampant abuse of power. Law and order were a casualty for almost ten years. Yet, after three years of the so called Good Governance Government by the leaders of the two main political parties, the people of Southern Sri Lanka have been pushed to a pathetic situation where they are now forced to look up to the Rajapaksa family to save them. That is how the government led by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have ruled.
It is very disappointing to note that immediately after the defeat of the No-Cconfidence Motion against him, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, declared to the media and the country in general, that the current national government would continue.
Is this what we really want?
(The featured image at the top shows the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe)