ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is under intense pressure to step down after he led the United National Party (UNP) to a humiliating defeat at local elections, but will he go?
Economynext Political Correspondent weighs Wickremesinghe's options and discusses whether he should go or remain.
Five reasons why he should go:
1) He should take responsibility for the 13 percentage point decline of the UNP vote. Poor strategy of trying to break the SLFP by supporting the Rajapaksa-faction. Results show it was the UNP which was split between him and President Sirisena's group, while Rajapaksa kept the entire SLFP block with him.
2) His failure to prosecute high profile individuals of the former regime, such as Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, in connection with the Lasantha Wickrematunga assassination, Wasim Thajudeen murder and dozens of white-van abductions. His mismanagement of the law and order apparatus as well as the attorney general's department.
3) His failure to effectively deal with a wave of work stoppages that dogged the government in the past three years. Complete ineptness in dealing with trade unions in transport, health and energy sectors, including the gasoline crisis. Too frequent protests and strikes affecting the life of the community and inability to ensure citizens were not inconvenienced.
4) His failure to provide jobs in the state sector to his own supporters. Relying too heavily on the private sector to provide employment.
5) His failure to take decisive action against those accused of fraud in the Central Bank bond sales, allowing the bond scam to continue, shielding the alleged perpetrators at a high electoral cost and antagonising party stalwarts by giving more powers to an inner ring of old-school mates. Defending an allegedly corrupt Sri Lankan Airlines board responsible for compounding losses in billions of dollars.
Five reasons for the UNP to retain him:
1) He is possibly the most widely-read member of the UNP with a clear economic vision for the country. A staunch secularist who sincerely believes in ethnic unity and reconciliation. Deep knowledge of Buddhism as well as other religions and history.
2) His loyalty to the party despite serious threats since 1994. Unwavering support for the cause of the party unlike leaders such as the late Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali and more recently Karu Jayasuriya who briefly defected to the Rajapaksa camp and returned to the party.
3) He was never given a complete term to produce results while his policies were often undermined by an interfering President Sirisena who reversed fiscal policy measures and obstructed policy reforms.
4) His international appeal as a market-friendly steady hand and the absence of an experienced, mature replacement.
5) The party should not pander to the demands of a disgruntled media institution blaming him for the vote debacle in an unashamed attempt to influence politics. If this argument is applied to Wickremesinghe, President Sirisena will have to step down first because his party did even worse than the UNP. (COLOMBO, February 13, 2018)