20 September, 2021

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A Presidential Candidate The People Want

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The main opposition party, the SLPP, was the quickest off the mark to propose its candidate. Their candidate, former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has the advantage of being both a known and unknown quantity. On the one hand, he is known as being one of the primary architects of the military defeat of the LTTE, once believed to be an undefeatable politico-military force and enjoying local and transnational support. On the other hand, as a former army officer and public servant, his performance as a politician is untested and unknown. In the context of the widespread disillusionment against established politicians, this is an advantage to which the SLPP’s political opponents need to find an answer.

The inability of the government to deliver on its key promises to boost economic growth, fight corruption and to address war time grievances had eroded its popularity even prior to the Easter Sunday calamity. The synchronized bombings of six high profile targets that day and the killing of over 250 people added another failure to the list, this one being national security. This last failure in particular, and the widespread and systemic culpability of the political leadership, has been its death knell. It is in this context of widespread disillusionment with the established political leadership that the current presidential elections are taking place.

The ruling party, the UNP, has been grappling with these issues in its own search for the best candidate to present at the presidential elections. The first choice of its leadership appears to be its leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has become an outspoken champion of liberal causes at the present time. He has supported the reform of Muslim personal laws, gone to the North and spoken about constitutional reform and the need to strengthen devolution of power and is attempting to push through the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation grant that would upgrade the road and land registrations systems. However, there now appears to be a realization that these matter less when getting the people’s vote than a heady mix of patriotism and bread and butter issues.

Voter Matter

The rise of the UNP deputy leader, Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa is related to the recognition that votes are what matters in an election. The person who can mobilise the people to vote for the party and its candidate will be the candidate that the party will need to put forward to win the election. Ironically, over three decades ago at the presidential elections of 1988, the UNP party leadership was faced with a similar situation. It nominated Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa to be its presidential candidate despite the president himself wishing to contest again. There were also other favourites of the party leadership. But only Prime Minister Premadasa was seen as having the capacity to mobilise the voters and rally disheartened UNP supporters in the face of the JVP insurrection, where the JVP threatened to kill those who voted at the election.

At the present time, the deep disillusionment that the people have with the government would make it a challenge for the UNP to mobilise the voters. At the community level, matters of constitutional and legal reform, transitional justice and foreign policy are not much understood or of interest to them. At the elections of 2015, they were promised a corruption-free government and economic development, which was not delivered. In this context Minister Sajith Premadasa has a special relevance as a politician who has been able to convince the masses of people that he is for uplifting the poor and will focus on their wellbeing. The houses he has been building and providing them with is seen as hard evidence of his intention to serve their interests. There is a demand for him from the grassroots where the bulk of the country’s voters and who believe he will deliver to them what they want and need.

On the other hand, amongst the party leadership and the intelligentsia, there are questions about Minister Premadasa’s overall policy direction. So far there is little to say where he stands on controversial issues such as constitutional reforms, dealing with the past and foreign policy. His speeches at the rallies which are seen as the launch of his campaign are pitched in general terms about his commitment to the welfare of the poor and to unifying the country and its people. His statements that he will spend more time in the villages and not live in mansions goes down well with the people who attend his meetings. Despite his public silence on controversial policy issues, he has always gone along with the party decisions which gives an inkling of where he stands.

Nationalist Challenge

One of the less savoury features of Sri Lankan politics has been the willingness of politicians to cross over to rival parties that offer them a plum position. Another unsavoury feature of Sri Lankan politics is to believe and accuse others of being engaged in conspiracies. Like his father, the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa, Minister Sajith Premadasa has fought within the party for his due position. During the period of the constitutional crisis in October-November last year, President Maithripala Sirisena mentioned on several occasions that he had offered Minister Premadasa the prime ministerial position which he did not accept. He also came out publicly to denounce the constitutional coup attempt. But this has not deterred those who wish to undermine him to accuse him of being willing to split the party.

A recent example is the rumour that President Sirisena was plotting yet again last week to appoint Minister Premadasa as prime minister after replacing incumbent Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. This may or may not have been a plan in the mind of the president. He has been growing increasingly concerned about his inability to find a secure niche for himself after the forthcoming presidential election. However, it is unlikely that Minister Premadasa would have been in agreement with this unworkable plan, as it would have required a majority of parliamentarians to support him, and this would have included his arch rivals in the opposition SLPP.

Another criticism is regarding Minister Premadasa’s alleged lack of interest in the devolution of power. This is akin to an article of faith to the Tamil polity and essential to win their support. There are only a handful, such as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga who have been unwavering in their public support for this reform. During the past four years as housing minister Sajith Premadasa has gone along with the party leadership’s decisions. This is the team that needs to work together to meet the nationalist challenge posed by the former Defense Secretary and SLPP presidential candidate, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    2

    GREEDY RANIL will give power to JVP or Goata. Unless there is a unity in UNP there is no hope for them at all…

    • 5
      1

      JP: Election season has started early to distract form the US and Saudi owned IS attacks inquiry and the foreign hands involved, and from the MCC project to land grab and control transportation in Sri Lanka for its military base and Colombo BIA Trinco servicing, that is gathering steam and this time.
      US puppet Bondscam Ranil who got 75 million from Aloysius is dead in the water, and US citizen Gota Jarapassa is a national security threat to Sri Lanka
      You do not mention JVP which has been very disappointing when it comes to educating the people about the single biggest Terrorism and national Security threat that Sri Lanka faces at this time.
      US MCC and SOFA project to turn Lanka into a military base and land grab, and the need to hold corrupt Muslim MPs who are the US cats paw in the MCC land-grab project accountable. The result is that innocent Muslims are being attacked by Buddhist fundamentalists and the US project to weaponize ethnic and religious identity politics in Sri Lanka and get SOFA signed continues

      • 2
        0

        Ranil Wickramasinghe must be IMPEACHED immediately by Sirisena.
        There is enough evidence that Ranil on the advise of his US puppet masters at MCC and their Economic Hit Men Fake ‘Advisors” are behind the looting of the Central Bank.
        Massive Corruption and Looting CBSL is one of the results of Fake Aid from USAID and also the reason for the lack of FDI and economic growth under Jarapalayana govt. and Ranil must be impeached even now for mortgaging the national economy and debt trapping Lanka to US and EURO Bond soverign bond traders and the Washington Consensus network including Japan and ADB.

    • 3
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      Lankan,
      As far as I know, the main problem is not Ranil; Rather, it is the small but powerful elite group that control the party. The main issue is not offering the ticket to Sajith. It is about the need of the elite group to keep the party in their control.

      Many in the party who back Sajith do so mainly b’cos Sajith not only can win the presidency, but also his success will help to UNP to gain a 113 + majority in the upcoming parliamentary election. As I said before, I do prefer Ranil for his his experience & deep knowledge but he doesn’t have the public appeal strong enough to challenge a national election. In any case, since PM will have more power in decision making under 19 A, it would be much prudent for Ranil to content with the PM post.

      I’m not UNP loyalist; and I never have been in my entire life. But, I’m supporting UNP now for the simple reason that there is no better alternative. In terms of global politics & economic affairs, SLFP has always been very week since its inception. MaRa made it worse by shutting down any talent from emerging in order to make room for his children. Under these conditions along with their known historical failures, it will be a grave mistake to hand over the power back to them again. I strongly believe that if SLFP+SLPP were to become a viable political option, they must go through a process of reforms. How long & how smooth such a process would be will depend solely on the new leader. The sooner it happens the better for the country b’cos democracy demands equally well-equipped alternative party.

    • 0
      0

      At present the UNP does not posses any one of real presidential quality including Ranil.
      The first thing UNP must do, if they desire a UNP president,is to find a proper person who places the country and its well being in the foremost place to lead them rather than the present lot whose greedy enriching themselves and to hell with the country policy.

    • 0
      0

      Don’t worry. We will treat him at the Gen Elections.

  • 4
    1

    If SajithPremadasa seeks support from TNA, he wouldn’t get the votes of the majority of Tamils in North and East. TNA has not done anything to Tamils and out of fear of reprisals from public, they move with Police / STF guards whenever they attend functions held by their pantham holders. These shameless politicians play tigers’ liberation songs too to attract crowds to their meetings.
    Sometime back they had a public meeting in North and the people went there underwent a body check by the police at the request of TNA, before they were let in. They now show their faces whenever Sajith opens a building as if the building was built by their request. Hope Sajith aware of the dirty games of these pretenders.

  • 6
    0

    ranil has said only after an alliance is formed with other parties a candidate will be announced who is in harmony with their policies.he seems to be playing for time hoping that sajit will make a mistake .Sajit should play it cool and continue with his campaign ignoring ranil who will be feeling the heat every day under his arse until he has to make a move.Ranil is a master at these cunning moves.

    • 1
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      Shankar,
      No; the plan is to offer the ticket to presidential contest to one of the leaders of the alliance (Gen SF, Patalee, Rajitha) while Ranil keeping the PM post so that the elite group don’t lose the grip of the party. With Sajith, that plan won’t work. He has decided to challenge the current power structure of the party. That is the real issue here; not the presidency itself.

      • 0
        0

        Sajith fell in the trap Ranil set for him. Doesn’t Mangala know Sajith is not a suitable candidate for president,at least not just yet? It was all Ranil’s close confidantes that led Sajith up the garden path and Sajith like a fool jumped in the band wagon.
        Now Sajith has only the option of contesting from another party,
        which will surely be the end of his political carrier,if Ranil refuses to give him nomination and the leadership of the party.
        If he is offered only the candidacy it will be the same out come for Sajith.

        • 0
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          NAK
          “Now Sajith has only the option of contesting from another party”

          are you sure of that?To contest to become the president,i don’t think you need to have a party.Nagananda is contesting,i don’t think he has a party.Sajit has said at the rallies that he will definitely contest.He has not said as a party candidate.

          I like it like that.Let ranil put whoever he wants and let sajit contest without any party.UNP people will hoot at ranil if he or his candidate gets less than sajith.

  • 0
    3

    When Mahinda Rajapakse was the President there was lot of pressure from so called Champions of Democracy in the West to form NPC and hold elections. President Rajapakse held elections and formed the NPC and gave Democracy to people in the North.
    The ‘Yahapalana’ jokers keep on postponing elections but not even a ‘hum’ from those Champions of Democracy in the West. Even the local civil society guys and NGOs who make lot of noise about preserving democracy are completely silent on this.

    Without Provincial Councils things are functioning without any hitch. So why waste tax payers’ money to maintain this ‘White Elephant’ which has helped to decentralize corruption.

    • 2
      1

      Yes EE you are right in saying that Provincial Councils are a white Elephant
      No need for Governors for these councils.
      Let’s have senior SLAS staff run the districts

      • 0
        0

        may I add “with strict ‘AR’s and FR’s.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 1
    1

    The ISIS attack was launched by Yahapalanaya on the Tamil Churches to teach lesson on the British Resolution at UNHRC. Yahapalanaya has long promised that it had dismissed the resolution and Old Royals are fully safe. Ranil was showing Secret Solution as the alternate to Resolution 30/1. New King thought as State Secretary John Kerry was gone and America was not in UNHRC, so the America sponsored resolution was no longer valid. In March, 2019 Tamils, demanded some action on the resolution from IC. Earlier, Tilak threatened if IC tries to continue the resolution, Lankawe would quit UNHRC. But, as surprisingly America had gone ahead in quitting UNHRC before Tilak renew his threat, Lankawe being not able to find a new idea, it signed again on the Resolution 40/1, hoping to but out another two years until they find an alternate. That where they came up with idea of putting to work the “idling ISIS preparations”. This has given Old Brother Prince’s hand domineering than Yahapalanaya, (New King and Ranil). Old Brother Prince’s need is felt by Sinhala Buddhists more than the other two, Ranil & Vaalaiththodam. This is what one calls Yahapalanaya’s “Sontha Selavilai Sooniyam” . (They spent their money and did sorcery to defeat them.) There is other side also to the coin of ISIS attacking Tamil churches. That side is the response from India and America. Media saying America is trying to use the ISIS attack to rein Lankawe, but India fears of Lankawe mass producing ISIS & exporting to its land. So it appears India’s reaction can be more severe than USA’s actions. Though America just want a place in South Asia to lands its Army, India wants to do a house to House search in Lankawe. But as they both cannot win Lankawe easily, they would plan for joint attack and may a sharing after that, North East to India & South to America. We cannot try to beat Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena on so we come to this point at the end.

    • 0
      0

      ISIS attacks??? Where did we get that from. There was no ISIS according to the cardinal and the intelligence agencies. The group of attackers sympathizers had phoned and begged the ISIS to accept them as their own what’s drama. Who really is behind this ????

  • 1
    1

    Certainly minimum period for the clouds been gathering over Lankawe was from last Coup; (Maximum is Resolution 34/1’s date). Lankawe not just having unstable governments, but it has become the super fertile ground to international troubles brewing. For more than a decade, Lankawe sets up anybody against anybody else to water its business flourish. Human Trafficking, Money Laundering, Arms dealing, Drug dealing, Contrabands exporting /importing, terrorist manufacturing……… . Lankawe Customs and Central Bank has been outperforming Harry Potter movie in Black Arts. Parliament is No Hold Barred wrestling ring; anything goes! Legal System & Supreme Court is the factory which turns the coal into diamond. You can send anybody (Other than Tamils) with any criminal record, it will always find a reason why they have be released. Yahapalanaya earned the name of Impunity government of Lankawe. The system did not find any fault in CB looting. It did not find any fault on EP & the ministers organized the Tamil Churches bombing. If courts’ eyes cannot see the elephants like these, there is no hope for anywhere in near future. In this trouble days, amazingly, candidate finds nothing to offer or promise to voters. Political commentators are exasperated by the emptiness of these leaders.

  • 1
    0

    The Foxy Ranil is master in out maneuvering the IC, but the other two, Old Brother Prince and Vaalaiththodam Jr. are mere violent + Rogues+ Bastard. It looks like that they won’t stand for a month, on the job, if they win, based on the current Internal-external weather forecast. Though Ranil’s nomination is still not confirmed, but when he went to Jaffna, he said he will have the new constitution passed as soon as he gets the majority. It was not on an election meeting or as an election promise. But in South, it will have very high impact on him if he stands for election, if he not, it will affect the UNP candidate. The constitutional change was the talk wiped out UNP and SLFP in the LG election in benefit of a leaderless Slap Party.
    Ranil’s object was not jeopardizing his chance or UNP’s chance. He intends to save the country in his own way. We know he saved all War Criminal from all kinds of jaws, including UN Electric Chair. This was possible by convincing the IC that he will make an agreement with TNA on the Secret Solution, provided the War Criminals were not pursued and Resolution 30/1 would be given up. In fact he had full success on that cheating, until the miss-planned October Coup, which necessitated the Tamil Churches attack. That is where international countries started to take their own path as we discussed in the first para. Sampanthar has asked IC to help him on cancelling the EP election and work on his Secret Solution. Ranil knows that will not happen. But he fears Sampanthar’s call may bring back the pressure of Resolution 30/1 again. He further thinks this technique may slow down India or USA in their rush to punish Lankawe for using ISIS to attack Tamil Churches.

  • 1
    2

    we ant someone who has no corruption charges against him
    someone who is sexully straight
    someone below 60 years of age
    someone who has no connection with other parties

  • 1
    0

    If the constitution was amended to change the parliament to a upper house and lower House and if they really want to keep The Presidency, they could always move him fully part to the parliament and if the only lasting peace solution for north and east is through power sharing the best and safest solution to protect the Country’s unitary status would be a northern Ireland premier system answerable to one PARLIAMENT, infact they should bring all the Chief ministers under one parliament .
    What a criminal waste of peoples funds these useless elections are , what difference will it make ? With the same constitution , if we are blessed with a good man, he will come and do some good work ,but only a part of the country and a segment of the people will benefit , not even all the Sinhalese will benefit, it is impossible to solve the grievance of the entire people and develop the entire nation with the present system ,. having another provincial council election is another waste , either you give the Provincial council and and the Chief minister true Athority and their own funding and in turn let them extend that to their electorate divisions and each body extend from there to all others until the most interior Villages, like the villages
    shown by News 1st & if one has an atom of conscience watches it and feels sincerely & deeply not caring of race or religion of those suffering , could easily slip into depression and not be able to eat or sleep for days , there is no way even 100 Gotabayas , Sajiths or Anuras can ever reach all the people & fullfil their needs , never can they ever develop the entire nation ,.not in a hundred years .
    How on earth is it possible for one President , one PM and few hundred ministers to reach 22 million people and develop 65 ,000 sq km of land ?.

  • 2
    0

    Ranil has proven to be a failiure as a politician and a leader in the country.
    The Easter Sunday bombings, bondscam the US and West leaning mentality will not go that well with the general Sri Lankan populace.

    What ever it is I think that the people of Sri Lanka don’t want to sell Sri lanka to the highest bidder.
    Where ever the US has taken an intrest the result has been blood shed and anarchy.
    Iraq, Afganistan, Libiya, Vietnam.

  • 3
    0

    I have now realised no politician deserves any compliment or condemnation and honestly they are not responsible either, we the people are .
    They are just feeding each of us what is palatable to us.

    Its bait the bait , the fisherman for sure has no worms on his menu menu , but the fish does .

    Only solution is for a good number of citizens to come together from all communities and insist to change the constitution before any elections are held and I have total faith in the JVP to get the people together to realise it.

  • 0
    0

    The driver who picked me up from BIA the other day, in his White Van (pardon the pun ) said something really interesting ,when I baited him to a get real time feel about our middle class Dalits opinion on the Election..

    Obviously the dude must have voted for Yahapalanaya last time.
    But he is so pissed off that he said, “Sir what have we done to get into this Shit after Four and a half years of Yahapalana.? “

    He then rattled on and on about all the bad things including Kollonnawa Rubbish to Wahabi Suicide Bombs in Negambo.
    He said one of his Driver mates had to take a Jap Business Delegation 4 times ,to meet one Minister Gamage.
    They managed to meet Gamage at the last Trip at Gamage’s own house and the asking price was 30%.to get the deal.

    He even mentioned how Dr Ranil’s Cabinet has allowed all the machinery in his Cu Factory to be sold or relocated, while Ibrahim is behind bars, as examples of the dirty deals of Dr Ranil’s Yahapalanaya.

    But the most interesting thing about this Dude is his knowledge of “Stats” for a Dalit ,and his ability to articulate it .
    He said, “Sir there are 1.5 Million Blue Shirts That is the hard core SLFP supporters.
    And 3 Million Green Shirts who are the UNP supporters.”.

    And he emphasized that no matter what, these Votes don.t change because most of them are the receivers of a Bath Packet and a Pint of Arrack..at election times.

    He didn’t stop his commentary until I reached Wellala Gardens. And tipped him 500 Bux.-

    And started analyzing it over a shot of Aberfeldy 12 Year Single Malt which was on Special at Flemingo Duty Free Shop.

    • 0
      0

      KASmaalam K.A.Sumanasekera


      “And started analyzing it over a shot of Aberfeldy 12 Year Single Malt which was on Special at Flemingo Duty Free Shop.”

      Isn’t it another cheap whisky from Scotland?
      The name Aberfeldy sound posh and up market however it is really cheap and common like Cider (or like you).

  • 4
    0

    Jehan:

    The inability of the government to deliver on its key promises to boost economic growth, fight corruption and to address war time grievances had eroded its popularity even prior to the Easter Sunday calamity. The synchronized bombings of six high profile targets that day and the killing of over 250 people added another failure to the list, this one being national security. This last failure in particular, and the widespread and systemic culpability of the political leadership, has been its death knell. It is in this context of widespread disillusionment with the established political leadership that the current presidential elections are taking place.

    *** Can you tell me how MR & Gotha can be bettter candidates to turn the tables to address the above. They both are THIEVES who have stolen Billions and how can they clean up. As for the Economy if Gotha and MR are elected no country other than China will engage with them. Especially Gotha when he will be required to attend Trials in the US for Murder , Torture and at Home for Embezzlement.. Is he the best candidate Sri Lanka can offer. With his Racist views he will ferment further civil strife.
    I have never come accross an idiot like Gotha. He says he Renounced his American Citizenship. But what he means is he has submitted an application which hasnt been processed and will not be processed until the State Department and the FBI have cleared him. He committed all these CRIMES as an American Citizen. If American Citizenship means anything USA has to get its act together.

    I appeal to all of you the so called Intelectuals Sarath De Alwis , Sharmini Serasinghe and Laksri Fernando ( who hoisted a PhD on MR) and many others to seize the moment and spare your Motherland from disengagement by the rest of the World for the next 5 years. It will be a DISASTER from which you will never recover.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Jehan Perera, your opinions regarding the presidential candidates, that you mentioned may be correct. My personal view is it is too early to compare candidates, since we do not know who else going to vie for the presidential election. As you know it is very rarely politicians are brought to law. Even they have cases they are not going to be heard in this friendly political culture. Opposition parties talk wrong doing of the opponents politicians only at the elections. But when they come to power they never bring the culprits to the courts and do not let the cases against them be heard . Truth is present politicians and political parties are directly and indirectly interact each other and promised not to bring them to law. Because they know if court decide one of them is guilty their political game is finished. Good example ,president offer prime minister ship to Mahinda and Sajith, and 2015 president joined to the UNP. These people are one family in different colours. So Jehan it is time to talk truth about these people. Our voters should be educated about this cunning politics and what country has achieved after the independence.Just to mention in 1948 debt per person is zero (0) ,today it is RS 530000.00. I think we need new political leaders and alliances. For example Nagananda Kodithuwakku. I hope there will be good newcomers and meaningful political discussion. If we need a change we have to forget the present politicians and parties and promote reliable new leaders. Doing same thing and expecting a different result is a big mistake.

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