23 September, 2020

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Anticipating Post-Geneva Politics

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

There are two huge reality checks coming up in seven weeks. The Geneva vote will be a reality check for the Government while the Western and Southern Provincial Council election results will be a reality check for the Opposition. Both votes will illustrate and exacerbate the crises of the policy paradigms of the respective players. The twin results will illuminate and add to the overall crisis of post-war Sri Lanka, in its external and internal dimensions.

The Geneva vote takes place in a setting that structurally favours the Sri Lankan state, because 72% of the votes are from the three regions of Asia-pacific, Africa and Latin America. Therefore a loss, especially by a margin as wide as those of 2012 and 2013, would reveal a huge inadequacy in the foreign policy of the current regime. A defeat at the UNHRC could be a microcosm and precursor of an eventual defeat in a vote in the UN General assembly in New York. Similarly, a loss by the main Opposition in the Western province, which is the most modern and pluralist, and the least rural of all the island’s provinces, would indicate the result that would prevail at a national election in the country in which almost 75% are Sinhalese, 67% Buddhist and over 60% rural.

As President Obama’s former chief of staff and currently the pre-eminent Chicago politician Rahm Emmanuel once said, a crisis must not be allowed to go to waste. It is imperative that the twin votes of March 2014 be utilised for purposes of course correction by Government and Opposition.

After Geneva, the Government would have one of two choices to make. It can (i) re-examine its external and ethnic relations in the spirit of Realism and punch the re-set button so as to prevent defeat in a Cold War which will result in dismemberment as a state, or (ii) it can circle the wagons still tighter. But are there that many wagons left to circle? How can you sustain a garrison state on an economic bubble and on the doorstep of a quasi-adversarial giant?

For its part the Opposition can gear up to face the Presidential and parliamentary elections in less than a year with a candidate and a team that can minimize the incumbent regime’s margin of victory or will it continue to act as the government does in the realm of external relations—burying its head in the sand and raising it only to whistle in the dark?

On the part of some in Government there seems to be a notion that Presidential elections should be advanced to 2014. This is a pretty silly idea. As Ronald Reagan so famously said, once you’ve played your last card, you no longer have it. It is far wiser for the President to play the card of an election just before things start getting bad economically, rather than to go in prematurely for pre-emption.  It would also be bad to attempt to strong arm the Supreme Court to secure a date in 2014, just as it would be unwise for the Court to make waves by a ruling which appears customised.

So much for the regime; now for the Opposition— and I should preface this part of the discussion saying that I would like to be reminded by any reader of the last time (actually, decade) I got a public prediction regarding a Presidential election wrong.

Some truly weird ideas are in public circulation, which in compressed form amount to a project of a single issue candidate who calls for the abolition of the Executive Presidency and/or a Chandrika ‘common candidacy’. Anyone who thinks that an ethnic or ethno –religious community which forms almost three fourths of a country’s population, and feels existentially threatened by external and ethnic forces (Jayalalitha, the West, the Northern PC etc) will consent to weaken a strong centripetal centre by abolishing the Presidency and thereby be ruled by a parliament that could be manipulated by a bloc of minority MPs, is ignorant of politics, both Sri Lankan and global. The Sinhalese may be many things but they aren’t suicidal suckers to fall for that recommendation of biting a political cyanide capsule just when Tamil Nadu and radical Tamil nationalism in the Diaspora are on the march. Ven Madoluwawe Sobitha’s candidacy will not be taken seriously by the highly politicised national electorate and almost certainly cannot secure a million votes. It will probably net only a few hundred thousand, if that.

Then there is the argument for Chandrika as a common Opposition candidate. Successful comebacks are made by patriotic figures such as General Charles de Gaulle, who at a time of national crisis could credibly invoke ‘la patrie’, be seen as its embodiment — and therefore appear as a Bonapartist redeemer. It should be fun to watch how CBK’s ‘ common candidature’ will fare when  State television repeatedly re-telecasts the second Channel 4 movie in which she is seen telling an audience that her son wept and proclaimed he was ashamed of being a Sinhalese— sentiments not contradicted and indeed approvingly disseminated in the public domain, by his mother. This is hardly a Vihara Maha Devi figure or a Sirimavo Bandaranaike i.e. a strong Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist matriarch.

General Fonseka would do much better than CBK —perhaps as UNP candidate rather than a ‘common’ one, but the incumbent is hardly likely to enable such a candidacy by generously restoring his civic rights.

Then there’s the scenario of either Karu Jayasuriya or CBK as candidate but with Gen Fonseka covering the patriotic front as a strong running mate as it were. This may make a mischievous Mahinda Rajapaksa actually re-enfranchise Gen Fonseka, thereby tempting him to run for Presidency himself.  Even if that doesn’t happen, Mahinda Rajapaksa has still not peaked as perhaps the most formidable vote-getting machine the country has seen, and is therefore likely to beat a Karu-SF-CBK combo. Face the fact: a Presidential election is primarily a popularity contest and Mahinda Rajapaksa is liked, lots, by lots of (Sinhala) people.

Does that leave any options before the Opposition? Yes, and I’d call it the ‘AK effect’ or equivalent, by which I definitely don’t mean the AK -47, but Anura Kumara (Dissanayake). The wave of social and mass media enthusiasm that greeted the generational change in the JVP is indicative of the vast energies that would be unleashed and would carry over into a Presidential and parliamentary election if —and only if— the UNP and Opposition leadership were to switch to a similar figure: a young or early middle aged parliamentarian who is a good speaker, has a progressive patriotic-progressive populist profile, is from a Sinhala  Buddhist background and whose appeal can resonate in the provinces and among the economically underprivileged. Who might the UNP’s equivalent of Anura Kumara Dissanayake be?

On two earlier occasions, when it was facing a strong Sinhala nationalist resurgence, the UNP had no doubt.  In 1956 in Ruanwella (facing Dr NM Perera who was at the peak of his popularity) and in 1988 in the country as a whole, the UNP picked and promoted Ranasinghe Premadasa. The young UNP rebels Shiral Laktilleke and Maithri Gunaratne have no doubts as to who can revive he UNP’s fortunes in the aftermath of the upcoming defeat at the Western and Southern PC and in time to give the incumbent a run for his money at the Presidential elections: Premadasa’s only son. I have a rider: if Premadasa Jr is going to play Hamlet, then the UNP and Opposition will have to look for an Anura Kumara Dissanayake approximation. A progressive populist young man or woman may fare better than a disenfranchised and testy war hero, a single issue monk, a bitterly shrewish Marie Antoinette or a tired gentleman who chose unwisely.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    I think Dr. Dayan Jayatileke understands the anti-Tamil nature of the Sinhalese. That’s why he thinks only a Viharamahgadevi type can unite the Sinhala people.

    This Viharamahadevi character had a peculiar craving,.. She longed to drink (the water) that had served to cleanse the sword with which the head of the first warrior among Tamil king Elara’s warriors had been struck off, (and she longed to drink it) standing on this very head, and moreover (she longed) to adorn herself with garlands of un faded lotus-blossoms brought from the lotus marshes of Anuradhapura.

    • 1
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      His background like the two greatest men post-independence ANS and Cyril they had to sell their souls for education and that second pair of trousers to be finally sent by the church to make it.
      None of these converts protested when the school was to be taken over, except for the fee paying none converts who lobbied very hard and paid hefty donations for its upkeep until kussi amma Sirima had them all.
      Now Dayan Silva is worse so much so that he is going down the shanty line like the maggot he is looking for an apple to brush shoulders in the land of romance where he left a stink before he left and start murdering the public.

  • 2
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    DJ’s article is the best evidence that Kumar David’s thinking is sound. DJ is not a fool. He knows that a Madoluvave candidacy will be the end of MR. He is palpably worried. Poor DJ.

  • 0
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    DJ is trying to threaten non rural sinhala folk that “you guys not going to get better than whatever we can give you”. Did anything better than “UNP.. SLFP… UNP… SLFP” every happened in Sri Lanka? So, now it is time for SLFP to go and it will go. DJ can not keep it on the power.

  • 2
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    ‘A progressive populist young man or woman may fare better than a disenfranchised and testy war hero, a single issue monk, a bitterly shrewish Marie Antoinette or a tired gentleman who chose unwisely.’
    The statement is determinedly subjective and merits no further comment. Obviously Dayan considers General Fonseka, Sobhitha hamuduruwo, Chandrika and Karu as poor alternatives to Sajith Premadasa.

    • 1
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      I agree.

  • 2
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    Dayan Jayatilleke alias UDI is a big intellectual fraud.
    All his writings have one aim – to get on board the Rajapaksa bandwagon. See the Sunday Observer headline
    report where he says countries of Human Rights Council
    can be won over. He is really making a case for his inclusion in Government delegations. The tragedy is that this intellectual prostitute thrives with his garbage but has not been able to get somewhere. Not after he was discovered as an Ambassador, humbugging and humbugging.
    He makes out that he is the greatest gift to Sri Lanka in foreign relations. It is a great tragedy that intellectual tarts like him are still willing to raise
    sorry bring down his trouser for personal gain.

  • 1
    1

    It seems Dayan Jayathilake has been having nightmares after reading the article of Prof Kumar David and seeing the vast interest shown by the people about the interview given by Sobhitha Thera. This sentiment has been already shown by nice people, Sri Lal,Robert.R ,Sellathurai and few others.

    One has to compare the two people, Prof. Kumar David who supports Sobhitha Thera wholeheartedly and Dayan Jayathilake who thinks Sobhitha Thera certainly cannot secure a million votes.

    Kumar David was a distinguished academic at Peradeniya University during 60s and 70s at a time only the cream of the student population(who top the batches) is absorbed into academic staff. Merit is the only criteria in appointing academic staff. Further, not only Prof Kumar David has done a Ph.D. in the most prestigious area in Engineering his contribution after obtaining the doctoral degree is immense and the quality is exceptional.

    Now, Dayan Jayathilake claims that he has a Ph.D. and we need to believe it. However, his contribution to this world is almost nothing. He has been sucking up to presidents starting from R. Premadasa all his life after obtaining the so called Ph.D. and doing jobs as a political appointee. He writes articles for his own benefit whereas Prof Kumar David is spending time for the benefit of others, ordinary people suffering due the prevailing situation in the country.

    People should think intelligently to decide whom to believe, Prof Kumar David or Dayan Jayathilake.

    • 0
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      People are well aware of the fact that DJ is a person who would do anything to be close ones of MR regime. His views prior to last Aljaseera Interview with MR in which DJ was branded as -A POWERFUL NGO WORKER, were totally different than in the aftermath of the incident. Anyway, this man seem to have lost all respect – but his shameless attitude is contrast, above the self respect.

    • 0
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      “People should think intelligently to decide whom to believe, Prof Kumar David or Dayan Jayathilake. “

      DJ has no credibility what so ever , who would listen to him ? neither Sinhalese nor Tamils will take him seriously , may be his mentors Sajin Vass and sajith P would!

  • 0
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    A country of 2 million people in a world of 7 Billion people cannot prevent what has to happen from happening.

  • 1
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    The single issue monk represents a return to sanity. Dayan identified himself with President Premadasa perhaps for the same reason that the Church endorsed Mussolini. Obviously he is comfortable with the present Constitution. Sajith Premadasa too has scrupulously avoided supporting the new UNP view of the executive presidency.
    These contradictions should not blind us to the fact that Dayan was a clever envoy who succeeded in Geneva and also paid a price for championing power devolution within the present firmament. In prewar Italy the church preferred the Monarchy and Mussolini in that order. Yet the Church eventually had a polish pope. There in lies another tale.

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