What is at stake today is not the future of Ranil Wickremesinghe or the UNP. What is at stake is democracy itself, and its necessary pillars, inviolability of the constitution, rule of law and freedom of expression.
There was a democratic way to remove Ranil Wickremesinghe and appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister – defeat the government at the budget vote. That would have been constitutional and wouldn’t have plunged the country into a crisis.
But such a course of action presupposed Mahinda Rajapaksa having a parliamentary majority. The constitutional coup was mounted to install as prime minister a man who does not enjoy a parliamentary majority.
The decision to prorogue the parliament without consulting the Speaker indicates that Mahinda Rajapaksa is uncertain about being able to secure a majority soon.
Having violated the constitution in such a fundamental sense, will the new ‘government’ abide by lesser laws? Will it bow down to a Supreme Court decision or allow the lack of a Parliamentary majority to stand its way? Or will it use the prorogation and its control over nerve centres of state power to create favourable facts on the ground? The occupation of the state media institutions illegally on Friday night (October 26) is indicative of what lies ahead. The government cannot afford to confirm to the rule of law or democratic practices and it will not. The Rajapaksas are back in power. And they will do whatever it takes to stay in power.
The main narrator of the assassination drama, Namal Kumara, gave a press conference on Saturday, naming Ranil Wickremesinghe as the man behind the plot. He admitted that he doesn’t have any ‘evidence’; he just knows. Clearly, post-October 26th, Sri Lanka is set to exit not just democracy but also a fact-based reality. It is important to bear in mind that DIG Nalaka Silva has been arrested under the PTA. If any politicians are arrested in relation to the ‘plot’, those arrests too would be under the PTA. Whether such arrests will be used as a tactic to create a parliamentary majority for Mahinda Rajapaksas remains to be seen,
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, when he spoke to the Sunday Times on Friday night was accompanied by the notorious Sinhala-Buddhist monk, Ittakande Saddhatissa, the head of Ravana Balaya.
The first and so far the only country to recognise the new prime minister is China.
With Friday’s constitutional coup, Sri Lanka has entered a ‘state of exception,’ during which the law will be violated again and again, by those in power and democracy will be sacrificed in the name of national security.
Our march away from democracy into autocracy has begun.