A Herculean task | Daily News

A Herculean task

The appointment of veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new Prime Minister has stirred a hornet’s nest in many quarters, but President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had little option than turn to the one man among our politicians who has the experience and expertise to turn things around and bring the country back on an even keel. True, neo-liberal Wickremesinghe may not possess the art of winning elections and is woefully wanting on the public relations front, but even his bitterest critic would concede that he has the intellect, stature and international recognition far above other politicians in Sri Lanka that could usher in necessary changes in taking the country forward. Indeed, it is in the latter field that the country would need his expertise the most since Sri Lanka needs foreign assistance as at no other time and international lenders are increasingly showing reluctance to come to our aid due to the parlous state of the country’s economy and political instability. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Wickremesinghe is the only politician who has the ear of world leaders and lending agencies and who has the required persuasive skills to convince them about our bonafides and make them change their minds. Immediately on being sworn in, leaders of several Western countries and the Prime Minister of neighbouring India offered their congratulations to the new PM which could extend beyond that to include financial assistance.

Answering the media at the Valukaramaya, Premier Wickremesinghe said his foremost priority would be to revive the fallen nation and provide LP Gas, fuel and other necessities which the people are suffering to obtain and would talk to lending agencies in this regard. He would also work towards stabilizing the rupee against the dollar, the chief cause for the runaway inflation and the soaring Cost of Living. He said he was confident of commanding a majority in Parliament (which will be tested when Parliament meets on the 17th) and noted that as the lone Member of his party in Parliament he was able to make this achievement whereas others in the Opposition with over 50 Members failed to make an impact. Premier Wickremesinghe said he hoped to bring the 21st Amendment to Parliament within the next two months, adding that he would at no time interfere with the aragalaya at Galle Face and that steps would be taken to usher in the system change demanded by the agitators.

Premier Wickremesinghe should also consider as his top priority the restoration of law and order in the country which is at a low ebb and work towards eliminating waste and corruption, which gave rise to the protests in Galle Face and elsewhere. We should have a small Cabinet and abolish all perks and privileges enjoyed by Ministers and MPs which also is a major cause of the bitterness among the masses.

There are many who oppose his appointment, among them the Buddhist and Catholic clergy who insist that his appointment was no answer to the demands made by the agitators. They also affirm that whatever changes contemplated should be strictly within the framework of the Constitution. President Rajapaksa has done just that – appointing a Prime Minister who in his thinking is able to command the confidence of Parliament. The bulk of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya has already pledged their support to their one time leader while the 14-party group that commands 53 Members and had already opted to go independent plus the 10 other SLPP Members who have taken a neutral stance too have offered their support to Premier Wickremesinghe with reports of several others from the Government waiting to vote for the new PM across party lines, assuring him of the necessary majority to continue as PM.

Should this happen, Premier Wickremesinghe, who has already created world history by becoming Prime Minister six times, will also be creating history in the democratic world by becoming the PM in a Parliament where he is the sole representative of his party and that too from the National List. The UNP which obtained only a little over 250,000 votes islandwide at the last General Election, is miniscule compared to the 6.9 million votes obtained by the SLPP and the 5.5 million secured by Sajith Premadasa, will also go down in history as the party which secured no less than the premiership, however distorted a result this may appear to be.

Hence, it is all the more reason for the new Prime Minister to deliver the goods and deliver fast. The people’s hardships keep mounting with each passing day and their collective patience is wearing thin. The breaking point may not be far away. The Premier should address the issues that gave rise to the agitation at Galle Face and elsewhere in the country. This may, perhaps, be the last chance for the country to redeem itself and avoid being cast off as a failed state in the eyes of the world. Wickremesinghe, as the new Prime Minister, should rise to the task and make sure this does not happen.

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