By Upul Kumarapperuma
The Roman Empire was plagued by coups, conspiracies and wars nevertheless it was the most formidable Empire in Europe.
Julius Caesar became one of the most decorated war heroes after defeating the slave leader Spartacus and his slave army that had caused much humiliation to the Roman Empire, and was later on crowned as the Empire of Rome.
Caesar formed a political alliance with Crassus and Pompey which dominated Roman politics for several years. However, there was opposition to their political alliance by the conservative ruling class within the Roman Senate. During this period the Roman Empire was extended up to the English Channel and the lands beyond the river Rhine, which caused Caesar to gain enormous military might.
The Roman Senate was perturbed by the political authority acquired by Caesar, which authority was capable enough to veto the Senate.
The resentment between Caesar and the Senate developed like a cancer day by day and it went beyond the point of no return. There was a conspiracy hatched to assassinate Caesar. His best buddy Mark Antony felt the danger and came to know the modus operandi of the enemy, but it was too late; the conspirators led by Brutus who was a politician of the Roman republic won the battle by killing Caesar.
This is not a comparison of Caesar and Maithripala Sirisena, but even in the present context, characters identical to those in the Roman Empire are engaged in similar roles in Sri Lanka’s current political circle. These characters have been instrument in causing great debacles in the country as well as ruin the political careers of certain individuals.
After the historical victory at the Presidential Election, the first move of President Sirisena was to capture the power of his own political party – the SLFP, which stood against him at the election. He relied on a technical interpretation of the party Constitution and became the party leader. This was the starting point of the present debacle of his political career, where the masses have lost the confidence placed in him as an apolitical President.
After Sirisena’s victory, the victorious Sirisena has heavily depended on the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) where two parliamentarians of the JHU have been with him on a fulltime basis. Sirisena has even gone to the extent of appointing JHU General Secretary, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka as his representative to the Constitutional Council that has been established under the 19th Amendment, instead of appointing a member from his own party, the SLFP.
The JHU has systematically invaded the crucial points of the administration of the country and positioned their own people in key positions. Even though the UNP is the largest single political party that fought for Sirisena’s victory, its voice and the influence has been suppressed and diluted with the nationalist influence of the JHU.
Some of Sirisena’s personal staff consists of anti UNP or pro JHU elements, and the JHU has launched a series of attacks against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while holding ministerial portfolios in his Cabinet. Some of the members of Sirisena’s personal staff openly vouched that they would not let Ranil Wickremesinghe to be appointed as the next Prime Minister. There was no reconciliation process initiated either by Sirisena or any other interested party to maintain the moral of the political alliance led by the Sirisena group.
As a result, there has been a gradual deterioration in the trust and confidence between Sirisena and the UNP. After the completion of the 100 days, the UNP and the JVP both knew it was impossible to maintain the status quo since a resentment had developed among members of the alliance. Even the civil movements like “Purawesi Balaya” demanded the dissolution of parliament, the JHU and its bureaucrats however wanted to continue with the parliament and pressurised to submit the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
Irrespective of the pleas of other members in his alliance, Sirisena was mum on the dissolution of parliament until last month.
In the meantime there was huge pressure building up against him by a faction of his political alliance UPFA holding island wide campaigns with huge participation of fans of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa demanding his appointment as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the UPFA at the forthcoming election. With pressure mounting up against him from his own political party and the big guns who have led the battle against him, the advisers and other loyalists who have flocked around Sirisena have also become nonentities.
It is evident that Sirisena has mishandled the situation with a serious mismanagement on his part. Firstly Sirisena could not have accepted the party leadership, which led to a serious loss of confidence placed on him by his political alliance including 6.2 million voters.
Secondly, Sirisena should have intervened and stopped the hatred campaign launched against Ranil Wickremesinghe by the members of his own alliance and own staff.
Thirdly, after the completion of the 100 days or after achieving the main goals of the 100 day programme he should have dissolved parliament as promised and called for general elections.
Today, Sirisena has become a prisoner of his own party and the very person who stood against the corruption and other crimes of the former Rajapaksa regime and who raised his voice against kingpins of that regime has revoked his deed and will to fight, and has become the saviour of a group which had attacked him negating all norms of political ethics of a civilised society.
The very reason for Sirisena’s U turn within 200 days of his election to office indicates the lack of confidence and determination. The negative attitude cultivated on the culture provided by the JHU led to a disastrous end with his alliance mainly with the UNP.
Sirisena has blindly believed that he could take the controlling power of his political party once he became the party leader, with the help of several outsiders who have been converted as his party members.
He has forgotten the driving force of his government is the UNP and other credible supporters like the JVP, TNA and SLMC and several other individuals where ground level power and the strength has been concentrated. Unfortunately with his ties with the JHU, the other parties have quietly kept a distance with him, which leads to his unavoidable isolation among his crowd.
Rajapaksa loyalists have studied all the moves taken up by the rival camp and when Sirisena has lost his back up force, they launched the final assault on him with their demands.
Unfortunately Sirisena has not considered the necessity of maintaining the power of his alliance around him. He became a victim of another group who have deployed a political conspiracy to sweep away Ranil Wickremesinghe from the political platform and as a result Sirisena lost the much needed political support of his alliance at the most critical moment of his political life to manage the situation. During the time that Caesar was in power, he had a close confidant; Marc Antony; who tried to save Caesar but failed. But in our case there is no Marc Antony to come forward to save Maithripala Sirisena at the much needed moment. Why, what happened to Marc Antony? The simple answer is Brutus has killed Marc Antony and afterwards assumed the role of Marc Antony before Caesar. Unfortunately Caesar turned a Nelsonian eye.
(The writer is a senior Attorney-at-Law)
- Sunday Leader