President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the scion of the dilapidated ruling class since 1948, has provided the necessary logistical support and impetus for the rich and nouveau riche to regain lost momentum in a crisis-ridden country.

Although limited provisions were provided for the upkeep of the rich, they seemed happy with what was happening, while the steps taken to date have virtually wiped out the lower middle-class in society.

Taxes were slapped on middle-class wage earners, forcing them to cringe under everyday pressures.  The reality is that it has widened the gap between the rich and the poor. People with high productivity and holding high-profile jobs in the public sector found it extremely difficult to meet their ends. With their current economic difficulties, they are exploring every possible option to leave the country, resulting in a brain drain.

Until he became prime minister and after he extended legitimacy to peaceful protests, Wickremesinghe’s innate qualities were branded by his associates as those of a free thinker and a liberal. More so after he was elevated to the top slot by the Rajapaksa orchestrated parliament.

The rich were part and parcel of the Aragalaya until a non-elected ally of the oligarchy took over the reins and abandoned it. Ranil dispelled the Gotabaya fear of the rich. A military man with a dictatorial bent,  Gotabaya turned out to be a half-baked politician who made mistakes at every turn and in every decision that was taken. His organic fertiliser policy and the cut in taxes sent the country into a tailspin. These are but a few of Rajapakse follies.

The fact that Ranil is arrogant and unyielding to pressure proves that he is of a different stock with a wealth of experience behind him. As he assumed office, he set the ball rolling.


The pitch darkness that engulfed the country for long hours gradually ended with the advent of Wickremesinghe to the higher echelons of the Rajapaksa power block, a meticulously designed formula they (the Rajapaksa clan) needed for their survival in politics.

The Rajapaksas unquenchable thirst for power was summarily ended by the Aragalaya youth, who saw the end of it nearly a year ago.

Wickremesinghe was not elected by the people but was propelled into the highest position under the sponsorship of the deposed Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He saw a glimmer of hope in Wickremesinghe as he saw an end to the turbulent period that exerted immense stress and pressure on the family. They (the Rajapaksa clan) ran helter-skelter, seeking refuge in naval cantonments and other places, while some members fled the country during the uprising that reached its culmination with the exit of Gotabhaya.

In the initial stages President Wickremesinghe, who was a total outsider to Aragalaya, regarded peaceful protests as legitimate. As he assumed duties as prime minister, the elite of Aragalaya’s fame gradually dwindled into thin air.

People now call him a dictator in democratic garb. His hardline policies and aggressive approach to issues have resulted in growing opposition to his rule. His critics have pointed out his tendency to override parliament and his refusal to grant citizens civil liberties. This has led many to conclude that he has become a dictator in disguise.

In the shadow of Wickremesinghe, Mahinda Rajapaksa has emerged into the limelight. He is making several political claims that appear to be favorable to the opposition at times.

It seems the ultimate goal for Mahinda Rajapaksa is to become prime minister for the fourth time. Various ploys have emerged in the political sphere to test the waters. He has so far used his cohorts Rohitha Abeygoonewardene and S.B. Dissanayake for this purpose. During one campaign phase, this team lobbied the current prime minister to give up the reins.

The latest reports indicate that President Ranil Wickremesinghe is poised to re-appoint him as prime minister in the first week of March, just before the Aragalaya celebrates one year, after deposing the current prime minister.

The President’s argument is that Mahinda Rajapaksa has better control over the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna parliamentary group than Dinesh Gunawardene, who represents a different political entity affiliated with the SLPP. In this scenario, it is most likely that Wickremesinghe would use Rajapaksa as a pawn on the political chessboard. Through Rajapaksa, he believes he can dictate terms to the parliamentary group on what he wants them to do.

On the 20th of this month, Wickremesinghe became more powerful, armed with yet another political weapon.

From now on, he can dissolve parliament as he wishes. This is because the current parliament has completed the mandatory two and a half years since the first date of election.

He will very well use this option to his benefit. With this option, the president could effectively manage the SLPP, which is otherwise alien to him, and keep them on their toes. A whirlwind dissolution and a snap parliamentary general election at this point would mean the SLPP would have to leave its office without any questions ever being asked.

SLPP parliamentarians will have incalculable ramifications if the House is dissolved at this stage. However, if such a step is taken, it could be harakiri for the president too, since he could end up with a hostile parliament.

Be that as it may, the President summoned the Cabinet of Ministers to Kandy last Monday to coincide with the Republican procession (the Janaraja Perahera).

The president also addressed the legal profession and the business community in Kandy.

There, he openly hinted at his disapproval of the holding of local government elections.

He said that the Supreme Court could set a date for the local government election. However, the country’s economic woes cannot be solved in the courtroom even if all the judges, including the Chief Justice, sit together.

He said the responsibility for maintaining the economy rests with the House and that the 225 members of parliament should get together and work towards restoring the shrunken economy.

“However, if the JVP and the SJB want, opportunities could be afforded to members like Harsha and Eran to make their proposals to the IMF.”

He went on to say there is no other institution except the International Monetary Fund to support an economically doomed country like this. As part of his message, he also urged people to come forward and let him know if there were any options for reviving the economy.

The president emphasised that no one can play with the future of the country and its people.Commenting further, he said the purpose of the meeting was to clarify the current economic situation of the country. He said it was also to get the views and suggestions of the participants on the recovery process from the present predicament. We are living through difficult times today. Whenever the economy of a house collapses, the inmates are affected by it. If a business falls apart, businessmen feel it. However, if a country’s economy collapses, the entire population is affected’, he said.

The president tries to tell a different story about the local government election, which was planned for 9 March. He says that though the Supreme Court can act according to the law, there is no way that any institution can obtain the necessary funds for elections.

Meanwhile, the Colombo Archbishop has also slammed politicians and bureaucrats for denying people the right to vote. The Church of Ceylon issued a statement urging the government to ensure people’s rights and democracy. While the government is under heavy pressure from all corners to respect the rights of the people, the president appears to be focusing on rebuilding the nation and the economy as a whole. The president says his first, second, and third priorities are to build the economy.

On Thursday in parliament, there were critical moments. The president said that there was no decision to postpone elections since there was no such election announced by the Election Commission legitimately.

He denied the government had taken measured steps to prevent the election from taking place. This was on the basis that the ElectionsCommission had not called for an election in terms of the law.

Wickremesinghe made it a point to defend the Finance Secretary. This is because the opposition benches had wanted to censure him for his failure to disburse funds for the election. He said that the assumption of the ElectionsCommission that the Finance Secretary said there are no funds for the election is wrong. There was no election to act on first. It is critical that they sit down and decide whether there should be an election.

He also pointed out during his speech that the opposition wanted the local government election delayed. This was because they were trying to stop the forward march of the JVP in the countryside. He pointed the finger at many opposition members who had agreed that the election should be delayed.

The President also quoted from a Supreme Court judgment where it was mentioned that if impediments existed, the election could be postponed. In spite of this, the rights of the people should not be denied.

On the opposition benches, he raised hornets’ nests while the government extended its support to him. Some said the president was trying to conduct the parliamentary sessions on the premises as if it were the working committee meeting of the UNP.

President Wickremesinghe ordered an opposition MP to shut up and sit down when he attempted to interrupt him in parliament. The opposition MP was trying to counter the position taken by the president.

Despite the fact that he was enraged that a rather junior member who had come into politics through his leadership had tried to interrupt him, he tolerated Kabir Hashim, a former cabinet colleague.

Kabir Hashim intervened. He asserted that their proposal to set up a presidential commission to probe the economic assassins who brought ruin to the country’s economy was not heeded by the president. Hashim said the president promised to appoint a presidential commission or parliamentary select committee for the purpose. Harshana Rajakaruna said he proposed it three months ago, but it never materialised.

Rauff Hakeem requested the President appoint an opposition member as chairman of the select committee probing economic crimes. The president said the government had to decide that. It could well be that Wickremesinghe intends to continue with the current parliamentary set up until investigations into economic crimes are concluded.

Hakeem also brought up the issue of the Public Finance Committee. The president replied and said the chair will be appointed from the opposition as a rule, according to standing orders. It is up to the opposition to decide, but now it has been reported that Mayantha Dissanayake has been appointed to replace Harsha De Silva. Mayantha Dissanayake refused to vacate the position to pave the way for Harsha De Silva. The appointment of Dissanayake, which could effectively split the SJB, is a hallmark of Wickremesinghe’s Machiavellian politics which have been practiced during nearly half a century in politics. 

In response to Daysiri Jayasekara’s request to appoint a new election commission if the current one is temporary and to hold the election, the President agreed to do so.

The current Elections Commission is a caretaker commission. With the passage of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, its life span came to an end. However, the present Commission could continue until the members of the new commission are appointed.

Following the president’s speech, SJB MP Marikkar and the head of the SLPP breakaway group, Dallas Allahapperuma, slammed the president as the key person behind the cancellation of the local government elections.

It is not the Finance Secretary’s or the Government Printer’s fault, but that of the President’. Dallas said that he had done this before too. He listed one by one how the UNP and other parties in power meddled with the franchise from time to time. He said thedemocracy is dead and remains lie in the premises of the Wickremesinghe florist.

As it stands today, the political system in the country appears to be in total disarray.

According to the latest survey carried out by the Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey (SLOTS) in January, it shows political disarray in the country even as it battles a severe financial crisis marked by a continuing shortage of foreign exchange and sky-high prices of essential commodities.

The survey found that even the front-runners in the political arena, namely, the National People’s Party-Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (NPP-JVP) combine and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), got approval ratings of 32% and 31%, respectively.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here