What the nation is witnessing today is the Rajapaksa brothers in their political death throes, feebly clutching at straws to stall the certain doom the fates have preordained for them. The people have delivered their message in no uncertain terms: They must go. The longer they hold out, the longer they prolong Lanka’s agony. The [...]


Rajapaksas clutch at straws in last political death throes

The people have delivered their message: They must go

What the nation is witnessing today is the Rajapaksa brothers in their political death throes, feebly clutching at straws to stall the certain doom the fates have preordained for them.

The people have delivered their message in no uncertain terms: They must go.

The longer they hold out, the longer they prolong Lanka’s agony. The more they strive to remain in office, the more the nation bleeds. The more they use the last residues of fast vanishing political power to resist their exile, the harsher will be the people’s judgement and more merciless the sentence.

With pre-poll adulation turned to hate, with a much vaunted two thirds in the House now vaporised, with the accumulated powers, arrogated unto himself under the 20th Amendment, now rendered useless, the President vainly tried to appease the swelled tide of protest demanding his exit by throwing out his trusted and faithful old guard — his last line of defence — and bringing in a bunch of untried, untested tyros instead.

Last week, he swore in this sad lot, drawn from the ranks of his B team, and offered the brooms that had swept the state ministry corridors as the ‘system change’ the people wanted. He couldn’t have been more wrong. The system change the people demanded was for the President and Prime Minister to go home, pronto. Nothing short of it would do.

This Tuesday, he placed the heads of his entire cabinet on the sacrificial altar, including that of the Prime Minister, his brother Mahinda, and lined them all for the presidential chop by inviting all the Opposition parties in Parliament  to form an interim government with a clean slate, provided, of course, he remained at the helm as President.

Aye, there’s the rub, for both the SJB and the JVP have already sworn not to touch any interim outfit with a barge pole as long as President Gotabaya stays in office. They have said they will form no truck with any party that refuses to demand the President’s prior resignation.

Meanwhile, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s desperate effort to cling onto his Prime Ministerial post, is even more pathetic and descends to the tragicomedy.

It reveals how the overpowering craving to grasp at fleeing power and wealth takes tenacious hold at the mortal hour on a tormented soul wracked in the last throes of extinguishment; and encapsulates the ridiculous comic extent proceeded to prevent the inevitable relinquishing from drawing to its destined end.

THE END IS NIGH: People Power demands the President and the Prime Minister to leave forthwith

Mahinda’s ordeal began when the idea of an interim all-party government was again mooted last week when it was realised that the appointment of the new ‘system change’ cabinet had failed to pacify public anger but had instead intensified the call for the President to resign. Sensing perhaps, his job was on the line, Mahinda moved into top gear to safeguard his own position as the Prime Minister. His once unassailable position under an SLPP government now seemed as solid as sandcastles built on the beach.

His insecurity made him give a radio interview to an obliging channel last Saturday. It made his position even worse. His opening salvo to assure his detractors he was fit to lead did nothing but to attract mockery when he said, ‘I am in good health. I just finished my exercises after doing a run. I can outrun all those youths, anytime.’ The rest was pure arrogance when he haughtily declared, ‘there can be no interim government without me as its leader. Whatever happens I must be the leader.’

This impudent outburst raised protesters’ ire further and made them give new roar to ‘Mahinda go home’ while it led detractors to insist on his exclusion as Prime Minister from any new interim all party government.

Gammanpila’s claim on Monday that 120 MPs will support the no-confidence motion against the Government and that the Prime Minister was to resign, was immediately denied by Mahinda’s office which stated that he had no intention of resigning as PM since he still retained the majority in the House. His senior officials told the Daily Mirror, he had not discussed his resignation with party officials since he has over 100 seats in Parliament

But did ‘over 100’ equal 113, the magic number for a bare majority?

Rattled, no doubt, by his failed quest to still obtain the elusive number, the Prime Minister sought support from an unexpected quarter: the widely discredited group of SLPP Pradeshiya Sabha members, some of whom even faced criminal charges. Summoning them all to Temple Trees on Tuesday at state expense, the sole item on the menu they were invited to partake and gnaw was a well prepared bone of a resolution extending their unequivocal support to Mahinda Rajapaksa to remain as Prime Minister. Though it did not carry a modicum of weight in Parliament — the arena where he had to show his majority to remain as PM — he was ever grateful to this low rung SLPP members for their support and assured them: ‘I will not resign. Don’t be scared.’

The following morn he was at it again, seeking revalidation from this band of political non-entities, after the President had issued an invite to all parties to form an all-party government without the newly appointed cabinet and the Prime Minister. After receiving another hearty round of support for him as Prime Minister, Mahinda told his newfound cheer squadron: ‘The President has never asked me to resign, nor will he ever ask me to resign.’

The President, of course, need not ask him. Under the 20th Amendment — unlike 19A — the President can summarily dismiss the Prime Minister. He doesn’t have to ask him to leave but can replace him overnight without notice.

No wonder Mahinda proposed last week that 20A be abolished by bringing 19A back with amendments as 21A. Last week it had appeared as a concession to placate the protesters. Only now does the penny drop that the proposal was to secure his personal position as PM and render him invincible to presidential dictates.

On Thursday evening the SLPP’s parliamentary group was summoned to a meeting with the President and the Prime Minister. The President, playing by the Rule Book, said that he would allow anyone who showed the majority numbers in Parliament to continue the government. He also said he had not asked Mahinda Rajapaksa to step down from the Premiership and Mahinda can continue as the Prime Minister.

On Friday, the independent group, comprising Wimal, Gamman and the Sirisena-led SLFP group among others, who had been so aligned with the government until the final crunch, trooped faithfully to meet the President to consider forming an interim all-party government.

Maithripala Sirisena, giving his own version of what was discussed, ruled out the need to talk to the media of Mahinda Rajapaksa resigning as PM, saying that this was not the time to discuss who will lead the new interim government; even though the SLFP secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera had told the media that if Mahinda does not resign, they too will have to join the street protest.

However, Sirisena said, the President had agreed to form an interim government representing all parties in Parliament with a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet with the details of how a new PM is to be appointed, sorted out later. On this basis, he said, that the President will be inviting all parties soon to discuss the matter further.

But isn’t this a nonstarter? The spanner in the works is that both the SJB and the JVP have already expressed their steadfast refusal to play any role in an interim outfit under the overall command of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Until he and his brother Mahinda both resign from public office, they have avowed to remain in the opposition ranks.

But despite this obvious snag, it will not stop this so called independent group of 41 MPs from returning to the familiar fold to eat the cake they’d left unfinished when they decamped on April 4 to the opposition banks.

If this group agree to the President’s offer, a political remix can be effected with the SLPP, SLFP, Wimal and the rest forming an interim government. As for a new PM, the President will play by the rule book again with the SLPP, having the largest number, electing Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister with the President’s constitutional blessings. And all will be well that ends well.

But will it? Will it end the clamour on the streets, will it cease the protest on Galle Face Green which enters its fourth week today? Will it stop the marches on public roads, will it close the Gotagogama branches set up in major cities or put up the shutters on the Mynagogama outside Temple Trees? Will it stop repeats of Thursday’s national strike which crippled all government services or make the unionists call off the hartal planned for this Friday? Will it weaken the people’s unswerving resolve to chant the national mantra ‘Gota go home’ until he and his brother do?

Or will it only intensify in degree when the cost of living rises higher, when the damning effects of the nation’s bankruptcy slam home with full force? When the ruin rained under Rajapaksa reign manifests in horror, despair and anguish? When the interim government, soon to be established, is starkly shown to be nothing more than a sham, perpetrated to prolong Rajapaksa rule?

Has President Rajapaksa, wittingly or unwittingly, so misread the national mood to realise that he has lost the people’s mandate to govern? Has he lost sight, despite the tenuous constitutional right to remain in office and not resign, even though the heavens should fall, that he is morally bound to resign after he and his chosen team had made Lanka go bust?

There can be no political stability as long as the Rajapaksas do not heed the people’s demand and leave. And without political stability there can be no economic revival, not even the forlorn hope of seeing Sri Lanka’s economic Phoenix rise anew from the ashes.

It’s time they take their bows, say their farewells, make their exits and let the final curtain fall on Lanka’s tragedy. For the good of all, they must go.

Is Ali Sabry a fake Finance Minister?

SABRY: Is he or is he not?

On April 3, Ali Sabry resigned as Minister of Justice by sending a letter written under his hand to the President.

The President did not appoint a new Minister for Justice when he announced his mini cabinet on April 4. Neither did he appoint anyone as the Justice Minister when he swore in his new look ‘system change’ cabinet of 17 on Monday April 19. Accordingly, the Justice Ministry remained vacant since April 4 without a Minister in charge until Ali Sabry was sworn in as its Minister by the President on April 25.

Ali Sabry was sworn in as Minister of Finance in the new four-member mini-cabinet announced by the President on April 4 after he had resigned as Justice Minister the previous day along with the rest of the cabinet.

The following day, Ali Sabry sent a letter written under his hand to the President resigning as the Finance Minister stating, ‘I hereby tender my resignation from the post of Minister of Finance with immediate effect.’

But three days later, on Friday 8 April, he tells Parliament: ‘Today I am addressing this House as the Finance Minister. I revoked my resignation as the Finance Minister as no one was willing to take over the ministry.’

But can he unilaterally revoke his resignation after having sent a letter to that effect to the President? Article 47 of the Constitution states that a Minister shall continue to hold office unless he ‘resigns his office by a writing under his hand addressed to the President.’

That Sunday, April 10, Sunday Punch commented: ‘Clearly this does not make any provision for any private understanding between the President and the Minister nor hinge on the President refusing to accept the written resignation. Once the Minister has given notice of his resignation written under his hand addressed to the President, the Minister stands resigned. Only a fresh swearing in can make him a Minister again. ‘

This procedure was correctly followed when Sabry was sworn in as the Justice Minister this Monday, after having resigned from the post on April 2 ‘by writing under his hand addressed to the President.’

But after resigning as Finance Minister on April 5, he has not been sworn in up to now as the nation’s Minister of Finance.

Pray then, will the freshly sworn in Justice Minister, President Counsel Ali Sabry clearly explain what legal right he constitutionally had to claim on Friday 8 April in Parliament that he was the nation’s Minister of Finance? Did he have the proper legal credentials to represent the nation as the constitutionally appointed Finance Minister of Sri Lanka at the IMF in Washington or was he a just an imposter?


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