By Kumar David –
The risk in an article to be uploaded a day or two before the results come rolling in, is that my assumptions may be blown away by the outcome. However, the assumptions in this instance are universally believed to be true and readers will forgive everybody if everybody is wrong! These unanimous assumptions are:
1. The SLPP will win a parliamentary majority and form the next government
2. Gota-Mahinda-SLPP will not win a 2/3 majority.
I make no assumptions about three other issues; sharing of UNP seats between Ranil and Sajith, performance of the NPP-JVP, and thirdly the division of seats between the TNA and other Tamil parties. I don’t need predictions about these for the purpose of today’s column as I will touch on just two different matters; the headlong rush to authoritarianism and militarism, and buying MPs or political parties to secure the elusive 2/3.
On the first matter the threat has been clearly and succinctly spelt out by Friday Forum. Here it is: –
QUOTE: “The military has moved out of its traditional role and is taking on responsibilities of civilian institutions in public administration and the Police. We have Military Task Forces which exercise significant powers, and exclude the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. They report directly to the President. We have governance by gazette notification. The army has been made responsible for ‘de-radicalising’ those with ‘extremist ideas’. But those who advocate violence against minorities do so with impunity. What implication does governance by Presidential gazettes have for public administration and our personal liberties? Do we want this ‘new normal’ of unchecked power, ‘authoritarian leadership’ and militarisation?” (Abridged). END QUOTE.
The peril is magnified if assumption 1 is correct. The President, his militaristic entourage and clique of hangers on will discard the caution they exercised during the runup to the elections and be emboldened. But it requires those who oppose the “new normal” to form alliances inside and outside parliament to fight this monster. (Don’t forget how we threw back pissu-Sira’s 51-day bout of lunacy in 2018). In the early stages of the fight back it is not protests and demonstrations that will be the priority but (a) getting organised (trade unions, grassroots democratic entities, left parties, religious groups etc), (b) patient public education campaigns and (c) winning international support China and India included. The roots of democracy are too ingrained in this country for the authorities start massacring straight away as in Chile. Arrest and harassment are more likely at the beginning – vide the hounding of former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera and general intimidation of the Police. The AG blames the police for not being energetic, the AG is missing the point it is political intimidation that stops them.
If say the SLPP polls say 55% it by no means implies that 55 out of every 100 people are neo-fascists. They voted so because of discontent with yahapalana or they are motivated by Sinhala-Buddhist emotions. But when militarisation and authoritarianism spread, most people after a brief period of euphoria will become opponents of the autocratic state. These are the folks that the ‘public education campaign (b)’ must target.
My second point; if the shortfall to 2/3 is small say about 10, individual sales will be settled for cash, jobs for children or appointments for wives. If the shortfall is larger, bulk-purchase contracts will have to be concluded with the Ranil-UNP or the Sajith-SJB. There is NO difference in ideology, economic outlook, politics, tradition, evolution or historical role between these two UNP wings. They are doppelgängers of each other. What has surfaced in the UNP in recent months is a dispute about who can pull more votes; essentially that’s all and that’s the bottom line. They only argue about who is the truer greener UNP vote puller, not policy or action plans.
Ranil is reeling from the “Et tu Brute” stab in the back from his closest associates – Manik, Eran, Mangala, Champika, Harsha and Fowzie. But Wickremesinghes and Rajapksas have had a good working relationship, not prosecuting each other’s households and giving way to each other on vital issues. As for Sajith, his manifesto is as silent as the tomb on constitutional issues; it is fair game to surmise that his chamber door is open to a Gota seduction bid. The Constitution is the hottest topic in the election arena so Sajith’s silence is deafening and it is reasonable to conclude that he is game for a love-in with Gota. What this means is that either Sajith or Ranil are capable of selling out and crossing over to give Gota his coveted 2/3. Those who voted for Ranil or Sajith as a way of resisting the drift to an autocratic executive are deluded. They are dumb on this issue. Neither twin will take a courageous stand to oppose this draconian trend if cutting a deal is personally more beneficial.