The Wickremesinghe government is inching forward with a grand plan to stay in power for another term. This is to implement President Wickremesinghe’s economic strategy for the country.

Wickremesinghe is planning to entrench and infuse more right-wing economic theories into the local system so that it will be difficult to reverse it.

The paradox is that he is using the Rajapaksa presidency’s term and space to initiate his plan. This is almost diametrically opposed to Rajapaksa’s governance style. The Rajapaksas are known for their authoritarian rule and reluctance to move towards economic liberalization. However, the current president has taken advantage of his term in office to start initiating economic reforms that would move the country in the direction of a more open market structure.

Rajapaksa’s business model has been to safeguard state assets and implement centre-left economic policies to appease nationalist elements. It is a mid-twentieth-century phenomenon in which state-led development and industrialization took shape mainly in nonaligned nations throughout the world. This model emphasizes the importance of government intervention in the economy to ensure fiscal stability and nationwide asset protection. It also focuses on using economic policies to promote economic growth and reduce inequality, while maintaining social welfare and labour rights.

As opposed to this, President J.R. Jayewardene opened up the economy and embraced the market economy as a pillar of people-oriented economic development. However, subsequent governments made a valiant effort to reverse the same, but failed miserably.

Some people blame the market economy for the current economic instability in the country. They say Sri Lanka imports everything from safety pins to envelopes that were produced locally during the time of socialist governments. The reason for today’s predicament is that there was no technology transfer from the small and medium-sized industries. Market economies and investment promotion zones have always been open to technological transfers to the local market from investors and a market for backup products. The current failures are due to the inaction of subsequent governments to devise a proper policy framework to develop the country’s economy and industrial products. Those failures have resulted in the present crisis.

President Wickremesinghe, who assumed office amid trying circumstances when the economy was on a downward spiral, is now trying to consolidate himself politically after a pause when the economy showed signs of a slight improvement.

However, he has a difficult task ahead of him to lure more people who are loyal to UNP policies. The UNP’s breakaway group, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), may have in its ranks people with similar thinking patterns to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Rajitha Senaratne says that there is a group in the SJB that wants to work with President Ranil Wickremesinghe but is reluctant to contest elections with him. They know Wickremesinghe is not a winner. These members of the SJB understand that Wickremesinghe has a reputation for being unable to lead the party to victory in elections. As a result, they are hesitant to be associated with him in the ballot and risk losing the election. Wickremesinghe was an unsuccessful candidate at the presidential hustings many times. Hence, it is difficult to erase from their minds how Wickremesinghe snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the 2005 presidential election. This is why they are uneasy about throwing their weight behind him and unwilling to risk a lost election.

Wickremesinghe is not ready to give up and pave the way for another. Therefore, he is devising a way to stay on with his masterfully manipulative politics.

In the latest political move, Wickremesinghe is banking on quite a few SLPP candidates, starting with Kanchana Wijesekara. The others are Shehan Semasinghe, Ranjith Siymbalpitiya, Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Siripala De Silva and Wijedasa Rajapakshe The president has given them responsibility and brought them to the limelight after they languished in the Rajapaksa fold for some time with no direction or personal development. People will recall how Kanchana Wijeskara remarked when asked a pointed question that Ranil Wickremesinghe would be their presidential candidate in the 2024 elections. It is not sure whether Wickremesinghe would be the common candidate of an alliance backed by the SLPP, but he is determined to contest the presidential election after bringing in some relief for the people.

Many think President Ranil Wickremesinghe grooms Kanchana Wijesekara. This may pose a potential threat to Namal Rajapaksa, who yearns to be the next leader of the SLPP. Probably he wants to sit on the opposition benches and be the leader of the opposition. This will enable him to shape his political career with a different flavour by being in the opposition with a rank. It is obvious that his mentor is pushing him into the political limelight to carve a niche as a politician with substance; however, many believe it is the other way around.

Amidst all this hullabaloo, Wickremesinghe’s game plan is very clear. He will give prominence to the young Turks of the SLPP but not Rajapaksa loyalists who are tagged on to the Rajapaksa clan, come what may.

Tagging along with the Rajapaksas any further would have a negative upshot for Wickremesinghe since the Rajapaksas are already dumped by the people as leaders who brought misery to a country that otherwise could have developed to reach its economic milestones, especially after the end of the separatist war.

Wickremesinghe has many things up his sleeve to be politically alive in the mainstream political realm. The bailout package from the International Monetary Fund is one. In addition, other donors such as the Asian Development Bank, Japan, and many other bilateral lenders are willing to help overcome the economic crisis. However, his anti-terrorism bill aimed at replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979 is construed as one of the more draconian pieces of legislation, which could have far-reaching consequences if it is passed without wide public discussion and amended in line with international norms. This bill has been criticized for its lack of protection for basic civil liberties, such as the right to privacy, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. In addition, the vague language and broad scope of the proposed legislation have raised serious concerns from human rights organizations, as it could potentially be used to target and criminalize peaceful dissent.


When drafting the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act, then President J.R. Jayewardene would have drawn parallels with the Thatcher administration of the United Kingdom. He would have drawn parallels with civil liberties and limitations under Thatcher in the United Kingdom. Jayewardene is likely to have beeninspired by the Thatcher administration’s success in curbing terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom. He was also likely influenced by Thatcher’s use of preventative measures such as increased surveillance, more stringent immigration policies, and increased penalties for terrorism-related crimes.

There was an ongoing terror campaign in the UK between the government and the IRA (Irish Republican Army) of Northern Ireland. This campaign was something Thatcher had to handle meticulously and carefully. The current anti-terrorist law devised by Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe could create a standoff between the government and the Sri Lanka Bar Association. This could have led to a massive backlash that Rajapakshe took cognizance of and decided to play on the back foot. This could have delayed its presentation in Parliament while allowing a more comprehensive debate on the matter since most civil organizations and clergy stood as bulwarks against such an obnoxious piece of legislation. Human Rights Watch also urged the government to withdraw the new law as soon as possible since it tramples on the basic rights of the people.


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