Opinion: An apolitical Karu Jayasuriya is an attractive presidential candidate

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya (78) risking physical harm to enable a vote of no confidence during Sri Lanka's recent constitutional crisis.

September 6, 2019 (LBO) – The polity is becoming fed up with politics. Citizens who cast their ballots in favour of the successful January 8th mandate are disillusioned, however they are not defeated. Although the mandate has not lived up to exceptions, citizens still yearn for good governance.

This good governance movement has been damaged by politics. Because of political expediency, leaders elected on the Yahapalana platform have not always made political decisions that are faithfully true to the principles of good governance. As is always the case in politics, compromises have had to be made in order to keep the government afloat.

Governance has also not met the expectations of the January 8th voter. Corruption has not been eradicated. In all likelihood it has been significantly less than previous governments, but voters are not satisfied with the the state of affairs.

In perhaps the biggest transgression and letdown, democracy has also been violated. However, on the bright side, the constitutional crisis did have an ending that made democracy even stronger. The resilience and independence of the Judiciary is likely a significant indirect achievement of the good governance movement.

With the state of politics in the country, there is much evidence that voters are in search of an apolitical candidate. The candidacies and airtime being given to Rohan Pellawatte, Nagananda Kodituwakku, and even fantasy candidate Kumar Sangakkara show that many people are looking for something different. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is also a political outsider, hence his unique appeal to a certain part of the electorate.

In the face of this yearning for an independent candidate, the UNP led alliance has an option. They can bring an independent candidate whom they trust, is in line with good governance principles, and will be able to work effectively with Prime Minister and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. Karu Jayasuriya is this gentleman.

Karu Jayasuriya’s finest political hour is still well etched in the minds of the Sri Lankan electorate. As speaker of parliament, this 78 year old man endured threats, intimidation and even physical violence in his firm stand against antidemocratic forces. In addition to the judiciary, he is one of the most distinguished heroes of Sri Lanka’s constitutional crisis.

As Speaker, in a letter during the constitutional crisis to public servants requesting them not to carry out illegal orders he stated the following:

“Every citizen who is entrusted with responsibilities under the Constitution should think first of the country and not of party politics or personal affiliations. We must all act with patriotism and independence to safeguard the future of democracy in our country.”

“As a former military officer, I have always been prepared to make whatever sacrifice that my country may require of me. It has been my privilege to stand up to the executive and defend the rights of parliament, the supremacy of our Constitution, and the sovereignty of the people. For the record I am prepared to face any consequences for these actions without hesitation.”

As the Speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya has distinguished himself as one of Sri Lanka’s finest independent political leaders. Karu has supported Ranil Wickremesinghe on principles of good governance, and supported President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his campaign to finish Sri Lanka’s civil war. He has also aggressively challenged both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe when he thought necessary.

Today, Karu Jayasuriya sits right in the middle, presiding over the house as its’ Speaker. It is thus only natural that Karu continues on the middle path by contesting the presidency, not as a member of the UNP, but rather as an independent. Many in the UNP are yearning for a UNP president, but the nation may be yearning for an apolitical one.

Karu Jayasuriya should offer to resign from Parliament and from the UNP. If his offer to resign is supported and accepted by the party leader, he should then be supported by the UNP led alliance as an independent good governance presidential candidate. If Karu Jayasuriya gives a pledge to the electorate that he will act apolitically, this is a pledge that will be honoured. Karu Jayasuriya is not the usual politician full of empty promises shouted out to the political gallery. He is a serious man, a patriot, buddhist, military veteran with a record of political leadership that speaks for itself. He is the ideal torch bearer to lead the next leg of the January 8th movement.