President Maithripala Sirisena has reason to be grateful to Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP. True, gratitude-reason is a two-way street, but we are talking of the President, what he owes and to whom. He might owe something to former President Chandrika Kumaratunga too but probably not as much as the lady believes. Rajitha Senaratne also helped. What checks were associated with this ‘support,’ their value, whether or not they were cashed and if cashed (in kind) what the benefits were only the transactors would know. What we know is that gratitude is a virtue. The downside is that it is also associated with obligations, sometimes sanitized with the word ‘moral’.
If the President feels that he owes the UNP something (and he does!) he might feel obliged to save that party and the august behinds of some of the top rankers. He might think that the morally upright thing to do is to use executive powers (not directly but by the threat of deployment in other context) and his position as the head of the SLFP to scuttle the no-confidence motions against Ravi Karunanayake and Ranil Wickremesinghe. He can do that and still postpone dissolution. He can forget it all and dissolve. Up to him. He decides, the people and history will judge.
So yes, he has some moral obligations to worry about, one can surmise. But is it only to the UNP, Ranil Wickremsinghe, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Rajitha Senaratne that he owes the position he holds today? No. If he is the democrat that he painted himself to be with all those mouth-watering election pledges, then he must acknowledge that he is not obligated to any of the above-mentioned worthies as he is to the people who voted for him. He has to acknowledge that among the reasons he won was an overwhelming electoral need for change. He has to understand that ‘change’ was not only about Mahinda Rajapaksa but was about rectifying system flaws.
Maithripala Sirisena has a moral obligation to see that promises are delivered. He cannot leave it all to Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP or the UNP’s new found partner in the crime of abandoning the reform process, the JVP. He cannot abandon electoral pledges just because an individual or a party he is obligated to wants to cash a check. That would be irresponsible and utterly petty.
The bottom line is that important though these individuals are neither Ravi Karunanayake nor Ranil Wickremesinghe are ‘bigger’ than the people. Their interests pale in the face of the larger public interest of getting things right. That’s the job that was handed to Maithripala Sirisena on January 8, 2015. Scuttle that or be party to such scuttling and the President loses all moral legitimacy to rule. He becomes a puppet of the United National Party or rather gives credence to that identification tossed around by his detractors.
This is the true test, the true presidential moment. If the President blinks, it will open eyes.
The President must prove that he has a good sense of morality and the relative merits of moral obligation. He has to see the 20th Amendment through. He has also got to get the reform process back on track. Dissolution without reform and as a mechanism to orchestrate a jail break, so to speak, so those implicated in the Central Bank bond fiasco can go scot free is not just a promise-break. It confers an ‘F’ on the President. It gives him an uncontested ‘U’. U for Unsuitability.