Even as hundreds of Sri Lankans calling for democracy thronged Colombo Tuesday asking President Sirisena to make his decisions on Prime Ministerial change through parliament, a full circle ideology revolution was seen in action as a defiant President Maithripala Sirisena took on the world. Meeting foreign envoys the three year ago darling of the western world once seen as a saviour of democracy, literally told the West to go to hell. The very man that the international community thought could save the country from the ‘clutches’ of the Rajapaksas in 2015 and mollycoddled for a while, declared that come hell or high water that he was establishing a government with former enemy, ex President Mahinda Rajapaksa who he last Friday appointed Prime Minister.
Thus, according to Sirisena the international community could go fly a kite with their dollars or euros. When the European Union (EU) Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue warned that the trade concessions provided to Sri Lanka under the General System of Preferences Plus (GSP Plus) scheme could be withdrawn if democratic norms and constitutional provisions are not adhered to, a disgruntled Sirisena had given a dismissive response akin to ‘never mind, do what you like.’ This is from the man who went around the first two years of his tenure boasting that he has patched up relations with the Western world that Rajapaksa had allegedly ruined. Interestingly Sirisena’s scant regard for GSP comes in the midst of a financial crunch and a wildly depreciating rupee.
Between 2010 and 2017, when the GSP Plus was not granted, Sri Lanka lost up to LKR 250 billion (US$ 1.45 billion) in export earnings from the EU.
Insisting that he acted in accordance with the constitution, Sirisena chastised the foreign envoys for being unaware of the “pulse of the common man”.
The President advised the foreign missions to get surveys done to ascertain the current mood in Sri Lanka declaring that surveys would reveal that a majority of around 75% of the people ‘are with him.’
In the same vein as his speech to the UN General Assembly (which was a stark comparison to his 2015 speech), President Sirisena told the foreign envoys Tuesday to let Sri Lankans handle their governance by themselves. Insisting that Sri Lanka’s post war ethnic reconciliation process will not suffer as a result of the political changes, President Sirisena then cited a string of reasons as mentioned in his address to the nation, on why he could not govern with Wickremesinghe. As he pointed out to the envoys the ultimate solution was the reverting to govern with the man he could not politically cohabit with in 2014; Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Meanwhile amidst reports of horse trading going on in full swing, Tuesday saw the fifth UNP affiliated member, Dunesh Gankanda joining the Rajapaksa-Sirisena side and promptly being sworn in as State Minister for Environment, as a follow up to yesterday’s swearing in of 12 cabinet ministers, 1 deputy minister and 1 state minister (which included 4 cross overs).
Meanwhile Speaker of the Sri Lankan parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, has asked President Maithripala Sirisena to convene parliament on Friday November 2, and to let parliament decide as to who has the majority numbers and should be the Prime Minister. The request by the speaker was based on a petition submitted to him by over 125 members of parliament.
Separately on the invitation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, R. Sampanthan, the leader of the largest Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which was the formal opposition in parliament, met the ex-President Tuesday
The post of Opposition Leader was not discussed during the meeting held between Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Leader R. Sampanthan and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the TNA told the press amidst criticism in some quarters over the meeting. The TNA has stated formally that it will provide its support to any side which will look at a long lasting political solution to the Tamil question and usher in a new constitution. The UNP-SLFP regime kick started the constitution making process but no progress has been made following protests from the Buddhist clergy and Sinhala nationalists.