By Vishwamithra –
“A hallucination is a fact, not an error; what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.” ~ Bertrand Russell
Pradesheeya Sabhas became a devolved subject under the Provincial Councils in the Local Government system of Sri Lanka. This mechanism of local government was introduced in 1987 through the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The legislative bodies that preside over the third tier municipalities in the country, they total up to 271 and are collectively responsible for governance of approximately 16,726,000 people. Ranging from 5 to 23 per council, there are 3,624 Councilors in total.
“The world loves to be amused by hollow professions, to be deceived by flattering appearances, to live in a state of hallucination; and can forgive everything but the plain, downright, simple, honest truth.”
The above quotation is attributed to William Hazlitt (10 April 1778 – 18 September 1830), an English writer, drama and literary critic, painter, social commentator, and philosopher. He is now considered one of the greatest critics and essayists in the history of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Such a writer would not put his pen on paper and write rubbish. In relation to Basil Rajapaksa’s prediction on the upcoming local government elections, one must understand the ‘simple and honest truth’ this quotation reveals.
Only last week this very newspaper, under the headline ‘SLPP slated to win over 200 PSs – Basil’, reported thus: “Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) front liner Basil Rajapaksa said yesterday they would contest the upcoming Local Government election as a broad alliance with other political parties and would secure more than 200 Pradesheeya Sabhas”. There are 271 such councils in Sri Lanka. Of the 271, 65 fall within the Northern and Eastern Province. Northern Province has 28 while the Eastern Province has the rest, 37. There is no way any party other than the Tamil-affiliated Parties in the North and Muslim-led parties in the East would sweep those 65 Pradesheeya Sabhas, barring, Seruvila, Kantalai, Morawewa, Gomarankadawala and Padavisripura in Trincomalee District and, Dehiyattakandiya, Damana, Uhana, Mahaoya, Namaloya and Padiyatalawa in Ampara District. That is eleven (11) Pradesheeya Sabhas. These 11 Pradesheeya Sabhas have an overwhelming majority of Sinhalese Buddhist voters in their voter registers. Altogether Basil, the so-called architect of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election victories (except when the architect’s designs went wayward, in the humiliating defeat at the 2015 Presidential Elections) predicts that his SLPP will win 200 out of the 217 (271-65+11). It is indeed a staggering result, if one could achieve it. A ‘mere’ 92% of the Pradesheeya Sabhas! Basil is not dreaming, he is hallucinating.
The newspaper report, attributing to Basil Rajapaksa, further says: “We would align with the parties in the joint opposition and several other parties. We have also discussed with Northern Tamil parties which are against Tamil National Alliance (TNA). We have not decided whether to contest under a common symbol or as a front just as how the UNP contested at the last general election or under different symbols”.
Basil said however, they had agreed on several key matters including those of contesting the election campaign on a common manifesto and under the leadership of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Mr. Rajapaksa said they would launch their election campaign considering it as a referendum against the government on its anti-democratic actions, economic crisis, mounting cost of living, selling of state resources, crippling of village level development, non-generation of employments and matters related to the Constitution.
He said they appreciated the government’s move to increase women representation at the LG polls and added that they would field more youth for the election whereas the government acted to decrease the quota for the youth…” he said.
Basil Rajapaksa is no intellectual. He has no ideology in a conventional political sense. His political birth is mainly associated with his biological birth, as a brother to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. His catapulted rise to be reckoned as a ‘political force’ was an ‘accident of birth’. These ‘accident-of-birth-politicians’, during their heyday, nearly emptied the national coffers; they virtually ran the affairs of the country as if the country was their private backyard; when some government officers did not carry out their whimsical orders, they ousted them like an aimless drifter taking out irritating leaches. So steeped in a nauseatingly corrupt brigade of rulers, they mistook the servility of government servants as loyalty of substance; they were so much entrenched in their own comfort zone of political power, once power left them, they simply could not adjust to a powerless state of existence. That is why Basil fled the country within twenty four hours of their humbling defeat at the last Presidential Elections. The FCID had arrested Basil Rajapaksa over a land issue in Matara on 12 May 2016. He was previously arrested in April 2015 too on alleged financial misappropriations in the Divi Neguma Department. Now he is out on bail!
However, Basil may have chosen to forget why they were sent fleeing on February 8, 2015, but the people at large have chosen otherwise. Of all people, for Basil Rajapaksa to shamelessly come forward and pontificate to us about ‘anti-democratic actions’ of the current regime is simply put, laughable. Let us leave Basil’s ‘political philosophy’ aside and see whether what he predicts falls within the realm of ‘the possible’. Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is not Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). It’s not being led by a leader who has made any sacrifice of any sort. When Gamini and Lalith left the United National Party (UNP) and formed the Democratic United National Front, they were accepted by the people as ones who had made some sacrifice of leaving lucrative Cabinet portfolios; besides, both of them were widely acclaimed intellectuals who, once charged with responsibility, delivered with flying colors. The Tamil Diaspora may paint them as racists, they may try to sling mud at them without an iota of evidence, but their records spoke for themselves. Yet, when they left a traditionally accepted mainstream party such as the UNP, an overwhelming majority of people chose to stay with the traditional mainstream party. Gamini and Lalith could muster only 23% of the total vote.
It is a travesty to mention Basil Rajapaksa’s name in the same sentence with Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali, leave alone make any comparisons. Yet it begs scrupulous inquiry into the inscrutable dynamics that define the current political picture.
In order to win the political debate in the rural hinterland of Sri Lanka, one invariably has to have a very steeply ingrained political structure that feeds from top to bottom and bottom to top. In the current setup, only the United National Party has that political structure, unbroken and functioning. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party is bogged down in an ongoing intra-party squabble. The so-called Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna is too new for the people to digest and make a choice on. And its leaders, who they think are their strength, must be made to be their week-link. A choice campaign against the Rajapaksas with the necessary evidentiary material and highly fine-tuned, focus group-tested talking points and carefully crafted campaign slogans could easily deliver the majority of the Pradesheeya Sabhas to the UNP. But a great majority of youth voters will certainly stay away from the elections. For them, there does not seem to be any magic waiting to be unfurled; there is no real change at the center waiting to be effected.
That effect, the effect of non-participation of youth at local elections, will have an impact on all parties. Yet, I’m sure, in the North it will be different. Wait and see, massive numbers of youth would fall in line at the polling stations in the Northern districts, come Election Day.
Today, the SLFP is in a very sad state. Its leader is the President who was elected by the UNP, Tamil and Muslim votes. More than 75% of the SLFP may have voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa. But that 75% was not enough to vote in a President. As a result of this brutal reality, the fissures that appeared on the outside seem to have been deeply rooted. Some leading SLFPers while enjoying the luxuries of Ministerial portfolios are willfully trying to pull the rug under the feet of their leader. They still have not come to terms with the Presidency of Maithripala Sirisena. The jealousy is killing them. It’s almost childish and utterly deplorable.
In this convoluted milieu, Ranil Wickremesinghe is waiting, willy nilly allowing his name to be entangled in the notorious Bond-scam. There are many critics of the Prime Minister who hold the view that he is not fit to be the leader of the country while at the same time queuing up at the Temple Trees to pay their puja at his feet. These are those cocktail-cockroaches, whose wives demand that they be on the invitees’ lists for every event, big or small!
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org