20 September 2012

The strange give-take of political position

It is not usual for people who have been found guilty of wrongdoing to resign or to be asked to resign (for purposes of fuss-minimum and embarrassment-sparing).  It is not unusual for disgraced representatives to resign, either on account of wrongdoing or not-doing, theft or incompetence.  Not unusual for them to defect or cross-over. 

There are also people who resign out of deference to principles.  M.D. Banda did so in the sixties in the midst of an election petition being heard.  It was a trivial ‘offense’ and nothing compared to the kinds of abuses we see today. It was something he didn’t do.  It was something one of his supporters said. It was hard to prove that he, Banda, knew or sanctioned, but he knew and he chose to be true to his conscience.  Gamani Jayasuriya resigned from J.R. Jayewardene’s cabinet because he opposed the Indo-Lanka Accord.  There have been a few decent politicians. ‘Few’ is key here. 

There are people who know when to go, when to retire, when to step back, and when to say ‘no’ and ‘no, thank you!’  Most have no clue.  If incompetence is reason enough for resignation, if wrongdoing is too, we would have a considerably reduced cabinet and a considerably reduced parliament.  We would also have a crippled corporate sector too, not to mention trade unions (including FUTA and the GMOA) and media institutions. 

In 1992, the current Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe offered some biting remarks on the subject of resignation:

“The Government has not run away. We have said here is the forum, go to the forum and prove the case. The opportunity is available….. But you are sorry because what you all (sic) what is some mud to throw because you cannot win the election. How can you win the election? You are talking of the Westminster system.  The first thing is that when a leader loses the election, that leader should step down and a new leader should take over. Without doing that do not go and blame this on black cats, white cats and other cats, tigers and the JVP. Firstly your leader has not resigned. In this period look at the (British) Labour Party. Mr Callaghan resigned. Mr Michael Foot resigned; Mr Neil Kinnock resigned. What has happened to the SLFP? That is the First, you must face the situation. Have a new leadership. Have a new set of policies. Then if you are beaten you can go into the matter. Hon Deputy Speaker, we cannot wish for a better Opposition than the Opposition there is now. This is the Best Opposition we can have. We like you, we want you to stay in this place. You cannot face up to the fact that the people do not want you and that you have been thrown into the dustbin.”
[Hansard 1045/1046]

Brilliant.  Today, September 20, 2012, Ranil Wickremesinghe should resign on grounds of shame, considering the above, over and above the many reasons why he ought to resign or ought to have resigned a long time ago.

But today, we hear of a different order of resignation, that of the Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, S.M. Chandrasena.  It’s a ‘sacrifice-resignation’ or a ‘barter-resignation’, a ‘give-take resignation’ if you will.  He resigned not to give someone else a ministerial post but to ‘make way’, strangely, for his brother, S.M. Ranjith to be appointed as Chief Minister of the newly elected North Central Provincial Council.  It’s hard to calculate what was lost and what was gained, but this brotherly love is a first of sorts.  The logic of evicting one from a cabinet to accommodate another as Chief Minister in a separate institution is baffling.  It is not as though there was one post (cabinet minister or chief minister) and either Ranjith or Chandrasena and not both could be appointed to it. 

So there are resignations and resignations. And strange comparisons too!

On October 5, 1988, during the US Vice Presidential debate between Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Lloyd Bentson and his Republican counterpart, Senator Dan Quayle, the latter cited similarities between himself and the much-loved US President Jack Kennedy.  Bentson responded, ‘Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.’

Only a handful of people living today would have known M.D. Banda or Gamani Jayasuriya as closely as Bentson did Kennedy.  On the other hand, one need not have known either to say with conviction, ‘Mr. Chandrasena, you are no M.D. Banda, and neither are you a Gamani Jayasuriya!’   Someone might whisper, though, ‘sibling love is sweet’.  And someone else might say ‘we live in strange sacrificial times, especially since we give up decision-right to political traders who operate according to theories of demand and supply that are yet to make the text books!’ 



Anonymous said...

Wait two more months, SM Chandrasena's services will suddenly be the most wanted thing, an invitation will follow, and in the end - the desired result (getting rid of Berty) will be realised.