“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” ~Alfred Adler
The state of our State is fast approaching a collapse of dangerous proportions. It is not an overstatement, nor is my attempt to sensationalize a lackluster performance of a government and make it look like a potentially shattering event. Yet realization on the part of a greater majority, especially amongst Sinhalese Buddhists, that the present coalition government has failed miserably to deliver what it promised on before the last the Presidential and General Elections in 2015 should be a fact. The coalition government that was formed in the wake of the Parliamentary Elections in August, 2015, made up of the United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) headed by President Maithripala Sirisena, has come apart at its seams. The cozy relationship that was bonded after the Presidential Elections in January, 2015 between the two leaders, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena has turned out to be a one waiting to burst asunder, if it has not already occurred.
The consequences of the breakdown of the Ranil-Maithri Combo are increasingly looking to be beyond repair. No go-between can make even an attempt at such a patch-up, leave alone a genuine cause of a dialogue between the two. Both leaders are showing the worst aspects of their weaknesses in this tragic affiliation. Ranil is ostensibly oblivious to the genuine needs of the majority Sinhalese Buddhists while Maithripala is displaying a gross dearth of knowledge, intellectual capacity and fundamental understanding of the art of governance. But both are showing astonishing signs of growing propensities for hanging on to power at whatever cost. Sacrifice of basic governance at the altar of power politics is in obvious display.
From a narrow point of view of power politics and in the realm of 21st Century geopolitics, such skills may be looked on as tremendous aptitudes for an avaricious politician, yet in the context of overall governance of the country, the scope of responsibilities and the array of duties, such skills alone will not be sufficient. Empathy, the first quality of an above-average leader is sadly absent in both these leaders. Both Ranil and Maithri were educated at Royal College.Ranil in Colombo while Maithri in Polonnaruwa. Resemblances end there. The social gulf between the two couldn’t be wider. Ranil’s political education was under JR Jayewardene, a more than keen student of history, an earnest Indophile and a master in power politics and the solitary architect of the current dreadful Presidential system of government; Maithripala’s maturity in politics was under a different set of leaders. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was an astute leader of men and women; but her political goals and purposes were limited and the scope of her vision hardly exceeded the narrow boundaries of parochial thoughts of unworkable socialism and family bandyism. She expected total subservience from her cohorts and Maithripala was one of them. His knowledge on foreign affairs and economics is not something that deserves to be written home about. The gulf was indeed unbridgeable.
Both these leaders came together, ostensibly to defeat a regime that was rotting from the core. Their collective purpose of good governance ended with a series of disastrous decisions taken by Sirisena, from the ill-advised swearing-in of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister despite the obvious lack of votes for MR in Parliament and unconstitutional dissolution of Parliament. Both these decisions helped Sirisena to be named as a political imbecile. His propensity to extract vengeance from the one fellow who helped him to ascend to the throne did not tell a story of a grateful man.
These two leaders have grossly failed the nation. This coalition of socio-political forces in the country is still remaining the same. Those forces do not like a restoration of the Rajapaksas. They were more against the system and process that the Rajapaksas nursed and nurtured than the Rajapaksas themselves. A process that was bleeding from inside, a process that was being exploited and made nauseatingly unsavory for a developing democratic polity claimed many an unsuspecting victim yet persisted on without any break. A decisive cessation of the prevailing norm was not only necessary, it was crucial to the well-being of a nation yearning for a pause in that unhindered incredulous process.
Who can replace these two and yet appear to be not belonging to either of the class and segments of the culture they willfully and fondly created? In this context, there are two types of candidates, not necessarily Presidential ones alone, just candidates who dare to challenge the prevailing norm, one who has actually been spared by the nihilistic and obscene features of the processes that was fathered and nurtured by the previous leaders of our land.
Yes, there are two types:
One of many definitions of a ‘movement’, as per Cambridge dictionary is: ‘a group of people with a particular set of aims’. Movement-Candidates are the ones who lend leadership to a socio-political movement; such candidates are few and far between in history. Post-Independent Sri Lanka can boast about only two such leaders. One is Rohana Wijeweera and the other perhaps, Veluppillai Prabhakaran, whether one likes it or not. One might argue that SWRD Bandaranaike too belonged in that category. Nevertheless, the mere fact that it was the movement that lent Bandaranaike leadership rather than the other way about is true. Added to that is the fact that Bandaranaike was brutally assassinated by the very movement that he allegedly gave leadership to, does not auger well for a statement (or a misstatement) that Bandaranaike was a movement-leader.
Both Wijeweera and Prabhakaran gave leadership to an extreme element in their communities respectively. While Wijeweera was held in very esteem by his followers of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), in the ‘movement’ that he was considered the undisputed leader, while he was still among the living, Prabhakaran was held in an exalted position not only by the members and fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), he enjoyed supreme status among most Northern Tamils. Wijeweera and Prabhakaran had one single trait that all such ‘Movement-leaders’ need, ‘Charisma’.
Taking the current political situation in Sri Lanka into context, there is ample room for such a movement-candidate to emerge, for there is evidence that fundamental elements, if taken in full and properly combined, of a movement do prevail. The dirty and avaricious politicians have taken the country down a terrible path of cultural destruction; a movement for a clean and efficient governing system may be dormant but existent.
‘Coalition-builder’ is one who has the poise, foresight, stamina and patience to work with a combination of social forces towards a set number of aims and goals. Although Maithripala Sirisena was a product of such combined forces, he certainly was not the creator or builder of those forces; by no stretch of imagination can one call him a ‘coalition-builder’ as such. He didn’t build that coalition; if there was one single personality who could be accredited for such leadership in 2015, it was none other than late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera. That coalition is without a leader today.
The most indispensable quality of a coalition-builder is the common identity of the one leader with all the elements of the coalition. Each and every element as separate components as well as a whole, must trust the coalition-builder. In today’s political context, Tamils, Muslims, Sinhalese Buddhists as well as Sinhalese Christians/Catholics and Burgers, must trust this leader as a leader worthy of their individual and combined trust.
Such a coalition-builder will indeed become a ‘National Candidate’ as apart from a parochial candidate representing some narrower principles of a single political party. That ‘National Candidate’ could also be a ‘Movement-Candidate’ if he or she could adopt and adapt to the verified principles of a given ‘movement’ at the time. Who amongst us could fall into that exalted category of a ‘National-Candidate’? Is there such man or woman in our midst who can represent both categories of a movement-candidate and coalition-builder.
Karu Jayasuriya, the Speaker of the House of Parliament today indeed is the only personality who could come close to represent all the forces in the country today, not only as a coalition-builder but also as a movement-candidate. He is one person against whom there does not seem to be any allegation of corruption and dishonesty. His commitment to democracy and law and order was amply displayed during dark days of 2018 October – 52-day fiasco. The courage and bravery one demands of a movement-candidate and coalition-builder were all in public display, especially during last few months when the current administration’s reputation spiraled down from fair to abysmal.
The state of our ‘State’ is pathetic and dangerously akin to collapse. The Need for a ‘National Candidate’ is urgent and never been felt more exigent than now.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org