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Biden-Harris administration unveils strategy for global vaccine sharing

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Announces allocation plan for first 25 million doses to be shared globally

As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic at home and work to end the pandemic worldwide, President Biden has promised that the United States will be an arsenal of vaccines for the world. To do that, the Administration will pursue several additional measures beyond our robust funding for COVAX: Donating from the U.S. vaccine supply to the world and encouraging other nations to do the same, working with U.S. manufacturers to increase vaccine production for the rest of the world, and helping more countries expand their own capacity to produce vaccines including through support for global supply chains.

This vaccine strategy is a vital component of our overall global strategy to lead the world in the fight to defeat COVID-19, including emergency public health assistance and aid to stop the spread and building global public health capacity and readiness to beat not just this pandemic, but the next one.

 Today, the Administration announced its framework for sharing at least 80 million U.S. vaccine doses globally by the end of June and the plan for the first 25 million doses.  

 

Specifically, the Administration announced that:  

 The United States will share vaccines in service of ending the pandemic globally. Today, the Administration announced its framework for sharing these 80 million U.S. vaccine doses worldwide. Specifically, the United States will:

 Share 75% of these vaccines through COVAX. The United States will share at least three-quarters of its donated doses through COVAX, supplying U.S. doses to countries in need. This will maximize the number of vaccines available equitably for the greatest number of countries and for those most at-risk within countries.  For doses shared through COVAX, the United States will prioritize Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, in coordination with the African Union.    

Share 25% for immediate needs and to help with surges around the world. The United States has received requests for vaccines from countries all over the world.  The U.S. will share up to one-quarter of its donated doses directly with countries in need, those experiencing surges, immediate neighbors, and other countries that have requested immediate U.S. assistance. Specifically, we will:

Set the stage for increased global coverage.  The allocation of this first tranche of donated doses reflects the desire of the United States to respond to all regions and lay the ground for increased supply and access throughout the world. 

Prepare for surges and prioritize healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations based on public health data and acknowledged best practice. We will share with countries in urgent need, with a priority on vaccinating frontline workers. The United States will not use its vaccines to secure favors from other countries.  The U.S. will work with partners who are both ready and in need.  And, our donations will prioritize countries with vaccine readiness plans that prioritize individuals at highest risk of severe disease and those working to help care for them, like health care workers. 

Help countries in need and our neighbors. The United States will share vaccines in our region and across our borders. We first made doses available to our closest neighbors – Canada and Mexico.  Our dose sharing approach prioritizes Latin American and the Caribbean on a per capita basis.  

The U.S. announced the proposed allocation plan for the first 25 Million doses. Based on the framework above and pending legal and regulatory approvals, the United States plans to send our first tranche of 25 million doses:

Nearly 19 million will be shared through COVAX, with the following allocations:

Approximately 6 million for South and Central America to the following countries: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.

Approximately 7 million for Asia to the following countries:  India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands. 

Approximately 5 million for Africa to be shared with countries that will be selected in coordination with the African Union.  

Approximately 6 million will be targeted toward regional priorities and partner recipients, including Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as for United Nations frontline workers.  

The sharing of millions of U.S. vaccines with other countries signals a major commitment by the U.S. government.  Just like in the United States, we will move as expeditiously as possible, while abiding by U.S. and host country regulatory and legal requirements, to facilitate the safe and secure transport of vaccines across international borders.  This will take time, but the President has directed the Administration to use all the levers of the U.S. government to protect individuals from this virus as quickly as possible.  The specific vaccines and amounts will be determined and shared as the Administration works through the logistical, regulatory and other parameters particular to each region and country.



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‘Fraud on a Power’- Exercised in Vaccinations Management?

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by Chandra Jayaratne

The doctrine “Fraud on a Power” (also known as “improper purpose” doctrine) was one of the key fundamental building blocks in framing the potential charges in a high profile suspected corruption and money laundering case investigated under the ‘Yahapalanaya’ regime. This investigation was assisted, by a set of independent professionals acting as authorized independent volunteers. It appears that the prosecutors of the Attorney General’s department make limited use of these concepts.

The pigeon holed investigation report delved in to the real issues that should be pursed in a purported corruption and money laundering investigation; and in addition dealt with the failures in governance, failures of fiduciary duty, lack of professionalism, transparency, accountability, oppression and mismanagement and even willful misrepresentation. These findings regrettably had not been covered even in a specially appointed Commission of Inquiry, which cost the state coffers millions of rupees.

More regrettably, the report under reference lies in many a cubby hole of the leading investigators and prosecutors, without essential follow up action; nor are these findings even being used to develop ‘lessons in good governance’, whereby similar actions can be prevented from being repeated in the future in any state entity.

Article 3 of our Constitution states “In the Republic of Sri Lanka, sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise” whilst Article 4 inter alia states “The Sovereignty of the people shall be exercised and enjoyed in the following manner: the executive power of the people, including the defense of Sri Lanka, shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the people;” It is thus evident that the President, the Cabinet and the duly appointed Secretaries of the Ministries, empowered with Executive Power by the Constitution must exercise such power for the benefit of the people; and are whilst holding such office and executing such power are committed to act as Trustees of the Sovereign People.

The readers of this article are kindly requested to review the following facts as narrated and assess, firstly whether the facts as set out as purportedly connected with the “Pandemic related Vaccinations Management” in Sri Lanka are accurate. Provided the purported case studies as noted below are factual and can be validated by evidence, the readers are requested to assess whether these actions tantamount to those in governance, including those directly involved and those in the apex of Governance under “Command Responsibility Principles” are guilty of;

 The violation of the Constitution and impacting on the Citizens Fundamental Rights to Life, Freedoms, Justice, Equity and Equality;

 The violation of any of the International Conventions to which Sri Lanka is a signatory and which have validation by local laws;

The violation of International Humanitarian Law and connected Jurisprudence, including joint Criminal Enterprise and Command Responsibility;

Any offenses under the Criminal Procedure Code;

Criminal Negligence and or Failure to Avoid Disasters;

Policy/Priority Corruption, Administrative Corruption and / or Financial Corruption and /or offenses under Bribery Act Section 70 dealing with Corruption.

It is also up to the readers to assess whether the undernoted purported events as listed below as Case Studies developed from purported information, media exposes and narrations by connected parties demonstrate and support the possibility that the vaccinations management and administration are tainted by bad intents, “power having been exercised for a purpose, or with an intention, going beyond the scope of or not justified by the instrument creating the power (ie. The Constitution)”, “Abuse of Power”, “inadequate deliberation” and/or “failing to take relevant considerations or taking account of irrelevant considerations”, “acting on considerations for their own or their family personal benefit or for the benefit of any other third parties, outside the interests of the effective beneficiaries”, “misbehaving with their power” and “is sufficiently serious as to amount to a breach of fiduciary duty” and thus tantamount to “Fraud on a Power”:

 

Case Study 1

1. Frustrating several attempts by leading Business Associations and Chambers, at no cost to the state, in accessing vaccines for their staff, whose well being was considered essential for the production operations and long term competitiveness and thus keep value addition to the economy uninterrupted ( Refer Separate Case study below) and

2. In the process of such frustration the State loosing the opportunity to receive at no cost a significant number of vaccines to be administered to the common citizens;

3. Not allowing the already established private sector agents of the vaccine manufacturers from actively engaging and enriching the procurement process, whether such procurements be by the State or as a part of a private sector business initiatives

 

Case Study 2

1. The Failure to make timely strategic decisions related to guarantee required supplies in a phased out manner and ensure procurement processes and supply chain management plans executed with effective risk mitigation

2. The failure to have in place a priority list in the administration of the limited stocks of vaccines

3. Failure to transparently and with integrity administer the vaccines, strictly in line with the agreed priority

4. Ensuring, where two doses of the vaccine are essential for effective risk mitigation, that adequate stocks are maintained for administration of both doses to the covered participants, within the recommended time gap

5. The validity of the opinion publicly promoted by Health Officials of the Ministry that it is better to give one dose to many participants as against the required two doses and also attempt to stretch the number of vaccinations from a vaccine vial from 9-10 by administering 11 or above vaccines

6. The GMOA submission of 1st June titled “Strategic Interventions towards achieving optimal control of Covid 19 in Sri Lanka” identifying the immediate need to restructure the Epidemiology Unit, ensure effective oversight and initiate an audit in to all activities connected with the vaccinations administration

7. A fully functional vaccine registration, administration, and management system developed by the State entity Information and Communications Technology Agency (ICTA), purportedly lying dormant awaiting formal authorization by the Health Authorities for formal launch. This purported reluctance to launch the system is despite clear understanding that if such a systems was in place, good governance, better transparency and operational and decision making integrity would have been assured with the optimization of economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the vaccinations management process

 

Case Study 3

.

Whereas the Apparel Exporters and the Apparel Industry as a whole and the sector Country Ratings being internationally assessed by Importers based on “ON TIME DELIVERY” (OTD); and Sri Lanka in 2020 having had OTD of around 60% vs Bangladesh 98%; and Sri Lanka’s Exports in 2020 significantly declining vs Bangladesh showing a 5 % growth within a highly restricted market, the Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka (JAAFSL), recognizing that despite 2020 low market performance as against competitors and yet having the Order Book for 2021 full by December 2020; and realizing that staff availability, their health and ability to function in the Covid impacted environment was a key driver of competitiveness is purported to have approached the Government in January 2021, with the under noted proposal:

The JAAFSL offers to fund at its cost, with an outlay of USD 20 mln, against a secured and confirmed order negotiated via local agents for WHO accredited vaccines at 3 $ each per vial, sufficient to cover approximately 6. 7 million vaccinations of which 0.7 million doses would be retained by JAAFSL for the 2 does each of the 350,000 apparel workers, with the balance handed over to the government for use to vaccinate common citizens, and

This offer by JAAFSL is purported to have been topped up by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) with an offer to provide funding of up to an additional USD 30 mln, and

With the total pool of funds garnered by JAAFSL and CCC, the order could have been made out to support at the offered price per jab of USD 3 to vaccinate 16. 7 mln jabs in total, and regrettably

The State is purported to have not approved this initiative, stating that the State will be the sole importer of the vaccinations

Case Study 4.

The Public expose already in the social media and other media that Bangladesh Government Order for Sinopharm vaccinations are at USD 5 per vial less than the price at which Sri Lanka is procuring the same vaccination direct from the same source of supply in China and that similar reduced charge procurements have purportedly been made by Pakistan too

 

Case Study 5

The media / social media expose of the ad hoc nature and selective manner of vaccine administration; reporting that unannounced administrations are taking place at unusual locations; and in some instances purportedly even being unauthorized and totally outside of the announced priority of administration being; thus clearly evidencing the by passing of equity and principles of priority in the application of the second dose of the Vaccinations

 

 

Case Study 6

The Media reporting that in some instances, those receiving the first dose of the vaccine were forced to sign a declaration prior to such administration affirming that that they are not insisting on the second dose of the same vaccine being administered to them as a prerequisite.

The report of the International Tribunal for a post-event global actions review in dealing with the pandemic, headed by the former lady president of Liberia and former lady PM of New Zealand has recommended inter alia the creation of a global mechanism to be adopted in similar situations; withsuch mechanism taking charge of action accountability for global good; and be in readiness to action them anywhere in the world, in the event any of the countries, their leaders and global institutions fail to take the best option strategic action.

Does this recommendation, which comes from the highlighted failures of timely strategic information sharing, lack of urgent strategic actions, lack of a single mined agreed action plan with focus on prevention and contingency plan, all resulting in implementation delays and failures to align the global leadership to such a path, culminate in placing the blame on WHO, China, US, G7 the and possibly even the UN and its other agencies? In such a backdrop, can National leaders who failed their people in the current pandemic like Presidents Trump, Bolsanaro (now on trial by the Senate of Brazil) . Philippines President and Premier Modi and others, be charged under International Humanitarian Laws and associated Jurisprudence or under Public Interest Litigation, for failure to avoid disaster within the principles of command responsibility?

 

Should caring intellectual elders of society form themselves in to a Peoples Commission of Inquiry and conduct a post audit of the vaccinations management, seek the citizens assessments and suggestions and determine the weak links in the administration this time round and develop a local mechanism to be adopted in similar situations in the future and place such recommendations before the citizens and those in governance.

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Is America’s Help on the Way?

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by Dr Sarala Fernando

Despite the opposition predictions that the US will “punish” Sri Lanka for its pro- China policies, the truth is that the US humanitarian assistance for the Covid 19 crisis has been flowing to Sri Lanka unabated since 2020 despite the crisis in their own country, led by USAID supplying vital PPE including gowns, gloves, masks, safety goggles etc, importantly all purchased in Sri Lanka to help the local economy. Even the US Department of Defence had donated PPE equipment to the value of $191,000.

In 2021, USAID stepped up donations, including 200 portable ventilators. It has re-directed US$ 2.5 million from USAID to support Covid 19 relief and continued to source locally produced PPE, thermal scanners, hand-washing stations, hygiene kits, disinfection sprayers etc. In addition, USAID has re-programmed $5.2 million for working with WHO as key coordinator for Sri Lanka’s Covid response, UNICEF and civil society to handle second and third order effects of the pandemic.

With the new Biden Administration resuming its relationship with WHO, most recently the US allocated 19m doses as the first tranche of vaccine donations to WHO vehicle, COVAX. It was announced by the White House that in Asia vaccines will go to South Asian countries India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives. It is now up to COVAX to confirm the amount of vaccines that it will send to Sri Lanka. It must surely be known that some 600,000 persons in Sri Lanka, mainly seniors, are eagerly waiting to complete the immunity with the second jab, having got the first jab thanks to the generous gift of Prime Minister Modi and the COVAX first round earlier this year.

Everyone knows that Sri Lanka is woefully short of the vaccines required to reach the WHO goal of 20% of population inoculated by end September 2021. Clearly the epidemic in India has been a major cause which has shut down the pipeline to the import of vaccines from the main manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India. The Opposition alleges it is incompetence on the part of the government to secure the required doses on time and being too early to declare victory over the Covid 19 without sufficient testing in the general public. The general public are asking those in power to set out a clear programme of priorities instead of this secret scramble for the remaining vaccines by political grace and favour which has led so many front line workers, from PHIs to nurses, to go on strike.

Yet does the problem also lie in insufficient attention paid to high level networking and mobilizing the traditional pillars of our friendship-with-all foreign policy? The Seychelles President was recently interviewed on international tv where he spoke of his success in obtaining early donations of vaccines through personal interaction with the heads of states of the UAE, India and China. Recently the Indian press gave prominence to a phone call from US Vice President Kamala Harris to Prime Minister Modi where the US has promised substantial donation of vaccines. The US has also lifted restrictions on products required for the expanded manufacture of vaccines in India. However, the special attention to India is understandable as it is a strategic partner of the US and a member of the Quad. Now that the US has announced its policy to donate some 60 million doses of vaccines including Astra Zeneca, has Sri Lanka moved at the highest levels to lobby for the current need of the balance 600,000 doses required to give the second jab to our citizens? In the midst of the Covid crisis, the priority seems to have been given rather to moving the Foreign Ministry building to a new location with all the dislocation that will engender and distress to the staff.

The international shortage in Covid 19 vaccines is the perfect vehicle to test Sri Lanka’s traditional friendship –with- all foreign policy and to avoid the trap of reliance on one or the other of the contending superpowers. To those who argued that our foreign policy should be Indo-centric, India being the nearest regional power, finally when the crisis hit the Serum Institute manufacturing process, it was China who came to our rescue. Even the Sputnik vaccine availability seems to have run into some problem perhaps because of the crisis in India where Russia would be more concerned to supply India’s needs as a long time strategic partner. Now the picture has got even more complex with the US disposing of some 60 million doses of Astra Zeneca which they intend to donate to the developing world as soon as possible. The question is whether Sri Lanka will be able to get the missing 600,000 doses from the US and how should this urgent need be lobbied? Fortunately there is a competent professional at the head of our Embassy in Washington who must be moving heaven and earth right now to secure the deal, all the while combating LTTE rump disinformation and hostile initiatives in the Congress. The question is whether that level is sufficient to bring results given that elsewhere heads of state seem to be picking up the phone to call President Biden, sending their Foreign Ministers to Washington and even chosing to lobby through CNN and BBC interviews as Nepal did recently?

There is another problem; the Sri Lankan Minister in charge of obtaining vaccines recently dismissed attempts by third parties to obtain the missing 600,000 doses in the local roll-out saying most of these offers proved dubious. However, why not empower the local agent for Astra Zeneca to move in this matter as they would certainly be the most competent with regard to quality and logistics. A letter published in the local press from the local agent suggests that their role has been limited to sending information to the State Pharmaceutical Corporation which has insisted on being the sole agent negotiating for the missing doses and at what price. Lack of transparency in this process has led to recent political charges that the price paid for the Chinese vaccines was exorbitant which has in turn led to a storm of social media criticism which must be surely unwelcome to the Chinese.

It has been announced that Pfizer vaccines are also on order, but surely with the cold chain conditions, this cannot be given at mass vaccination sites, so will it now be given through the hospitals? Contrast the hitherto “closed” procedure in Sri Lanka to the opening up in India where even states were given the option to negotiate and purchase the amount of vaccines they required and route them through hospitals – even private ones! It is a classic contrast between the advantages of an open market system with a vibrant private sector against a closed state-centric system, something unthinkable at this time of crisis when the nation’s health safety is at stake and after so many years of a liberalized open market system in Sri Lanka.

(Sarala Fernando, retired from the Foreign Ministry as Additional Secretary and her last Ambassadorial appointment was as Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. Her Ph.D was on India-Sri Lanka relations and she writes now on foreign policy, diplomacy and protection of heritage).

 

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Reflecting on Ranil

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After 20 years of frequent defeats and occasional triumphs, Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister without winning a single presidential or parliamentary election to merit that post. He had tried a proxy candidate once before, to no avail; Sarath Fonseka wasn’t going to return anytime soon. In Maithripala Sirisena he faced a more reliable ally: someone who could lead the government, literally, to the Opposition. The occasion was historic: half a century after Dudley Senanayake’s UNP connived in the defection of key MPs from the SLFP, including C. P. de Silva and Mahanama Samaraweera, Maithripala Sirisena, the secretary of the SLFP, a man who could have become the next President were it not for the nepotism that ruled the day, broke with the most popular SLFP government and SLFP President Sri Lanka had in years.

This was a tricky election. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity had ebbed, but not completely. His popularity in the south stood strong and held firm. The north and east hardly seemed to matter to him, though he made conciliatory gestures that ended up being rebuffed or rejected. Against such a backdrop, the UNP could not afford an organic candidate, given the disastrous policies it had stuck to during the last stages of the war. It had to contest as part of a common front. The question as to who would lead that front, though, remained unresolved.

Interestingly enough Sirisena was not a first choice. Having notified the UNP of his impending defection, he suggested that Karu Jayasuriya take up the candidacy, leaving him with the task of canvassing the rural vote: a Karu-Ranil alliance underwritten by the SLFP. How did the UNP respond? We know from an article written by a group of UNPers two months before the 2019 election that Wickremesinghe did not take to the idea; he preferred a proxy.

Wickremesinghe’s strategy was simple: win the election, become Prime Minister, and oversee a gradual abolition or retrenchment of the Executive Presidency. In this he had the backing of not just the liberal and left-liberal intelligentsia, but also a section of the (Buddhist) clergy as well as disgruntled sections of the SLFP. The clock ticked in his favour: barely two years after the worst bout of protests against his party leadership, he had returned to the spotlight. The pressures of a presidential election soon relegated to the background the fighting that had defined the party since 2010. It was a pincer move: Sirisena would win the presidency, and he would become the President’s deputy, quieting party dissidents while building up the party profile.

As usual the liberal and left-liberal intelligentsia, famous for its myopic idealisation of the values it holds dear, failed to see the time-bomb ticking away. Very few commentators acknowledged or noticed the fatal contradiction between winning a presidency through a proxy candidate and prevaricating on crucial internal party matters. Dayan Jayatilleka was one of the few: in one of the first pieces he wrote after elaborating on his stance against Sirisena’s candidacy, he bluntly asked why anyone would vote for a candidate who would relinquish his powers to an unelected Prime Minister after becoming President. The essay is one of the few prophetic pieces penned by a political commentator here, and as always, the weight of liberal optimism held against it. Five years later, with deteriorating relations between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe culminating in that famous 52-day government, I’d like to think Dr Dayan had the last laugh.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, celebrated for so long by many liberal commentators as their last great hope, lost his halo after April 2019. It would be unfair to take him to task over this; it is not he, but those who drew that halo over him, who need to have their perceptions of reality examined. I can’t think of a single interview where he confirmed this opinion of him, still less a despatch or press conference where he displayed his liberal convictions. Unlike Mangala Samaraweera, who as a Groundviews piece penned by “Some Colombo Liberals” puts it has “spoken up for/paid lip service to the liberal view”, Wickremesinghe’s predilections have been less concrete. This makes him hard to define, though defining him should be the least of our concerns.

Today he stands as “the last representative of the old elite”, as Asanga Welikala pointed out in a tweet: a distinction he shares with Chandrika Kumaratunga. Like Mahinda Rajapaksa, he’s one of a kind, in a class by himself, a cut above the rest – and the last of his pedigree.

One can regret or celebrate this. I choose to reflect on it. If politics is the art of the possible, as he once cautioned his cousin, Rajiva Wijesinha, it is a transient art, an art that goes beyond the lives of personalities and the ideas they champion. Wickremesinghe’s ideas, of course, remain inscrutable and hard to square, because, as Michael Kelly argued in a rather unflattering piece on Bill Clinton during the latter’s term as US President, the man who holds them seems to exist for the moment. To say his politics falls within the right or centre-right, to say he’s a neoliberal, to criticise the capitulations of the State he inadvertently engineered vis-à-vis his engagements with the LTTE, to call him Chamberlainesque (as Dr Dayan repeatedly, and probably justifiably, does), is perhaps to miss the point. He is all these things; he is also none of these things. He is a liberal who’s also illiberal, a conservative who’s also not conservative.

If I bring up the analogy of Baudelaire’s Devil, who managed to convince the world he didn’t exist, frequently, it’s because it applies to many of our political representatives. It certainly applies to Ranil: for a quarter-century, indeed well more than a quarter-century, he got liberals to believe he was one of them. That Groundviews article is so interesting not because it reads like a confession, an attempt at absolution by some of those liberals who realised how wrong they were about him, but because it is patently, deliciously, utterly insincere: it reads like an attempt at absolving him while ticking the liberals off for believing him to be what they idealised about him. Even that anonymous 2019 anti-Ranil tract abounds in hypocrisy: while criticising him for fostering an illiberal culture in the party, it praises him for fostering a liberal culture in the country. The Colombo Liberals of the Groundviews piece don’t give him that much leeway: after all, as they remind us, Wickremesinghe “set fire to a liberal constitution.”

He also led his party through its most disastrous period. As Dayan Jayatilleka has observed correctly, Sri Lanka’s democracy deficit had two faces: the Government’s and the Opposition’s. The UNP’s decision to abstain from the vote on the 18th Amendment rather than oppose it in 2010, in that sense, showed that its leadership preferred to maintain its status quo to changing the government’s status quo, if changing the latter threatened the continuation of the former. The ramifications of this were very clear: any reform of the government could come only with a proper reform of the Opposition. In other words, as Dr Dayan put it, one could hope to change the Rajapaksa raj only if one tried to change the Ranil raj.

Liberals and left-liberals failed to appreciate this pertinent point. That is how 2015 led to 2019: not because Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Joint Opposition derailed the government, but because those who batted for the UNP neglected to resolve its internal crisis before engaging in regime change. Those who viewed the latter in isolation from the former, who thought that the former was less important, didn’t realise the one had to follow from the other.

Perhaps their failure to comprehend this shows their myopia; that may well explain why those who criticise the SJB over its failures – failures that, to be sure, it has in plenty – did not seem to bother themselves much when Wickremesinghe’s faction tightened its grip in the party, going as far as to beat up those who challenged it. That may also explain why the likes of Victor Ivan can conjecture whether Maithripala Sirisena’s candidacy was a ploy by a faction in the UNP to oust Wickremesinghe, without asking why anyone would have wanted to oust a man who had held the party leadership for so long, and against so many, in the first place.

Perhaps it’s pointless pondering these niceties. Perhaps it’s pointless excoriating the man at the centre of them all. In any case, it doesn’t matter. In the popular imagination, Wickremesinghe remains our most intelligent politician today: “the best President Sri Lanka never had”, perhaps the most liberal of them, though liberals who celebrated him once disavow him now.

One of my favourite Westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, has a reporter telling the hero that he will print the legend “when the legend becomes fact.” Myth tends to survive fact: that is how political personalities survive even their deaths. In Ranil’s case, the myth hasn’t just become the fact; it’s outlasted the fact. The most enigmatic politician we’ve had in recent times is set to return to parliament in June. What sort of man we will see, of course, is debatable. Yet even without his liberal halo, he remains a liberal myth: perhaps the biggest and most enduring political myth we’ve swallowed since J. R. Jayewardene’s Dharmishta Samajaya.

 

The writer can be reached at udakdev@gmail.com

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