Most Sri Lankans are quite adept at `saying things without saying them` or in colloquial Sinhala it is called nokiya kiyanawa. Minister Maithripala Sirisena practised this method on Wednesday at a media briefing, where he gave away copies of his political biography.
Minister Sirisena, who is considered one of the contenders for premiership in a future UPFA government, has, as we reported yesterday, dug out a letter the JVP wrote to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who was dilly-dallying on the appointment of a prime minister way back in 2004 after the UPFA`s victory at the general election. According to the letter, the JVP proposed that Minister Sirisena be appointed PM, if President Kumaratunga found it difficult to choose between Ministers Anura Bandaranaike and Lakshman Kadirgamar. Minister Sirisena has said that he evinced no interest in the proposal and told President Kumaratunga instead that the then Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was the ideal candidate for the job.
What is Minister Sirisena saying `without saying it`? His message to President Rajapaksa is: `When the question of appointing a PM comes up, please remember that I sacrificed premiership for you.` Everybody tries to be somebody in politics and there must be several other SLFP heavyweights sending similar messages to the President.
The letter at issue sheds light on the JVP`s readiness to compromise principles for political expediency. In 2004, the SLFP`s moves to forge an alliance with the JVP to contest parliamentary polls met with stiff resistance from the then Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was not well disposed towards the JVP. However, the SLFP-JVP political marriage came into being and after the UPFA`s victory, the JVP, by way of tit for tat, went all out to prevent Rajapaksa from being appointed PM. But, he managed to become Prime Minister and the following year, the JVP had no qualms about making a U-turn and throwing in its lot with him at the presidential election. In other words, the JVP wanted as President a person it did not want as Prime Minister only a year back!
The JVP said that it was backing PM Rajapaksa in his presidential bid because it wanted its b te noire, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe defeated at any cost. In 2005, Rajapaksa became President with the help of the JVP, which he had not wanted to touch with a barge pole in 2004! Adversity makes strange bedfellows!
Within about one year or so of President Rajapaksa`s induction, the JVP launched a campaign to dislodge his government and went so far as to vote with the UNP against budgets in Parliament, while claiming to support the war effort, which would have collapsed automatically if the government had lost crucial budget votes. Last year, the JVP threw its weight behind former Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka and joined hands with UNP leader Wickremesinghe in a bid to oust President Rajapaksa!
The JVP, which campaigned for making Minister Sirisena PM in 2004, today claims he is not fit to be even Minister of Agriculture! The outfit also makes it a point to lash out at him at every turn for what it terms his collusion with big time rice mill owners who keep prices of rice high by creating artificial shortages. Minister Sirisena, too, has nothing kind to say about the JVP and ironically often questions the political wisdom of the outfit, whose `letter of recommendation` he flaunts to gain political mileage and to remind the President of a political quid pro quo.
The appointment of a prime minister is best left to the President and whether he will return favours or not remains to be seen. The significance of the JVP`s letter, as far as we are concerned, is that it exposes the extent to which politicians are ready to compromise principles in furthering their interests.