By Sudat Pasqual –
By Commoners, I mean the lunatic fringe in Sri Lanka who are forever (well, since Mahinda Rajapaksa became President forever that is) in the lookout for a “common” candidate to oppose Mahinda Rajapaksa. Almost ten years of Mahinda Rajapaksa must feel like an eternity to these Commoners.
Tea Baggers, more formerly known as members of the Tea Party are the American gun loving, missionary position loving, all things Obama hating, gay people hating, black people hating, brown people hating, immigrant hating and fence around the USA advocating lunatic fringe. Oh, the Baggers are pro-life. Phew, that’s a relief. In the case of the Baggers, their hatred is multi-faceted and rainbow colored. They are a group of flexible and malleable haters. Mostly the Tea Baggers have acted as a negative force in the Republican circles of the US by playing the spoiler.
In the case of the Commoners, their hatred is more concentrated. One could say that the Commoners are a single issue hate group. They hate the Rajapaksa family, pure and simple. Many of the Commoners likely got their initiation into the hate business when the Bandaranaike clan were in power. It is likely that the real hate started when the original Madam B brought in the Land Reform Act of 1972 which drastically reduced the amount of land that could be owned by individuals. In spite of the foundation of the Commoner hatred to all things Bandaranaike first and Rajapaksa now, one of the Bandaranaike’s have been cozying up to the Commoner camp recently. Maybe not so surprising when one factors that the political ascension of Mahinda Rajapaksa started when the Bandaranaike in question was the President. However, the two parties were not exactly bosom buddies. In addition, the Commoners have also embraced a former legalist with the scruples of a charlatan as an advisor/strategist. Embracing this legalist got to be like getting tongued by a Golubella. Remember the phrase from the original Ghostbusters movie, “He slimed me!”? That just about sums my take on this partnership. Hatred coupled with desperation has obviously triumphed common sense. Just imagine Barack Obama courting Sarah Palin for a prom date.
The Commoners had a candidate at the last Presidential election. General Sarath Fonseka was probably the best they could ever manage under the given set of circumstances and he did as well as one would expect. Still, the end result was not even close. Well, the General is not eligible to contest the next one. If he was eligible, the Commoners might have got their knickers all in a twist scrambling to get their man again.
Let’s take a look at the parties that are completely or partially opposed to the Rajapakses. At the top is the United National Party led by the barnacle of local politics Ranil Wickremesinghe who has been at the helm since 1994. He has been the Prime Minister twice but has lost out on two Presidential elections. The party is free market friendly and pro-West. Then there is the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which, purportedly, represents the interests of Northern and Eastern Tamils. TNA’s major goal, since the defeat of the Tigers (LTTE) is to secure separate but equal status for Sri Lankan Tamils or ealam by other means. This is the Jim Crow party of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) is a reluctant partner of the Rajapaksa regime. SLMC would be more comfortable with the UNP, but to be part of the opposition as a minority party does not make much sense. SLMC might be the reluctant bride, but it is one that knows who will butter the bread.
Then we have the Rathu Sahodarayas (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna). They are socialists who don’t trust anyone in authority including them. When given authority, they will turn it down not out of principle but to keep the option of blaming others for the ills of the Sri Lankan polity. JVP does not play well with others, but they do throw a heck of a May Day party. JVPers are brilliant prop makers and creative sloganists. JVP were the Tonton Macoutes (with guns and tyres) of Sri Lanka during the 1980’s. UNP and the JVP used to kill each other in the 1980’s.
Then there are some conservative Sinhala Buddhist groups like the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) who support Mahinda Rajapaksa but are showing a bit of buyers’ remorse with their man, though almost certainly not enough to reject him in favor of the UNP because Ranil Wickremesinghe is considered a traitor and a lackey of the West by most of these conservative Sinhala Buddhist population. These folks might grumble about abuse of Presidential power and nepotism, but are unlikely to defect from the President.
Ok, there you have the main oppositional makeup of the Sri Lankan polity. The Commoners believe that these disparate and in most cases, mutually distrustful/hateful parties will be able to come together like a dysfunctional family at Christmas to open the presents. They are fervent believers that the Commoner Big Tent is capable of accommodating all of the opposition. Sorry to be a wet blanket here folks, but this is not a Big Tent waiting to happen but it certainly got the feel of a Big Bang waiting to happen. Not even a serpent handling and Serbo-Croatian mumbling revivalist will be able to keep these people under one roof.
The Commoners should stop wishing for horses that fly and concentrate on making this election a fighting one with their only real option; Ranil Wickremesinghe. Wickremesinghe is damaged goods and has the charisma of a bar of soap, but at least you know what he has to offer. So, stop your bellyaching and crying foul and get out there and hustle. Also, please stop talking about abolishing the Presidency through a constitutional amendment because it sounds ludicrous to be contesting for an office you want to abolish. Before you start waxing philosophical about amending the national constitutional, can you please show us that you can do the same to your own party constitution? Seeing is a lot more certain than believing.
In terms of the campaign, kindly note a high commissioner getting shoved or slapped is not a pressing national issue and nor is an old building contract awarded to some shady characters in Switzerland. All that effort on righteous indignation is lost on the locals. They really couldn’t care less. Just about everyone is aware about the nepotism and money making of those close to the first family. You are wasting time by preaching to the choir. Please realize that MTV and Sirasa are not national in scope when the subject matter is non-entertainment related. Please stop dressing up like St,Patrick’s day revellers in Hyde Park and go to the villages and townships and listen to peoples’ hardships and tell them how you will alleviate those pains. Talk about the need for changing the primary and secondary education system to a community and value based one that will make responsible and caring citizens of our youth. Tell us how you will create meaningful jobs for university graduates.
Tell us why the country will be better off under the UNP.
Most importantly, start by thanking the armed forces and their families for the enormous sacrifices made during the war. Ask their forgiveness for not believing in them and supporting the forces when they needed your support. Tell them you will never forget the sacrifice. Say it like you mean it.
Thank Mahinda Rajapaksa for ushering in peace and standing up to all our detractors at home and abroad and improving the infrastructure of the country.
After that, explain why the time has come for the country and Mahinda Rajapaksa to part ways. Buy some decent walking shoes and take your case, not through MTV and Sirasa but on foot from city to city; from village to village and from house to house to convey that message.
Oh, yeah. Make sure you take away nayakathuma’s passport. He cannot be trusted to keep good company overseas.
Even if all of the above is undertaken and the planets are in perfect alignment, Ranil Wickremesinghe may still not beat the incumbent President, but at least he and his party would know that they gave it their best effort.
If so, regardless of the outcome our country will be a more united, kinder and a gentler nation as a result of those efforts.
Show us that you are bigger than the Tea Baggers.
Sometimes their motivation seem not so much as a true belief but knowing that RW is not going to cut it. The Commoner is their fall back option.
*Sudat Pasqual aka Passa. Youngest Sri Lankan to represent the country at a cricket World Cup (1979/17 yrs). Holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Political Science from US.