13 August, 2022


Can President Sirisena Save The SLFP-MS?

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Will the Local Government election prove to be the “great fall” of the Humpty-Dumpty coalition, or will all the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s men be able to put Yahapalana Humpty together again?

And how many of the UNP’s Humpty-Dumpties will survive the stress-test of the local authorities’ election? Will the new, non-unitary Constitution project survive? Will the Budget, with its policy triad just described by Mangala at a Colombo University forum as “non-negotiable” i.e. “free enterprise, liberalization and globalization”? Will the commitment to implement the 2015 Geneva Resolution survive the electoral reality check?

The stakes for the official SLFP are even higher than for the UNP. In what shape will it survive an election? The SLFP (Official) is caught in a trap. If elections aren’t held in January, any social issue could trigger a riot. SAITM and the fuel shortage almost did. We stopped just short of the brink. Next time it might go over. So an election in January and no later, is a good thing.

When the UNP falls as it will in 2020, it will be to a Silent Revolution as in 1956 and 1970, but the morning after the election will not be silent, and will be at least as turbulent as in 1970 and 1977. Why should the UNP’s junior partner the SLFP face the same prospect? Why doesn’t it just get out from under; hit the ejector button right now?

But then again, surely the question is: why is any of this happening, and why is the prospect so bad for the SLFP faction backed by and backing the incumbent? What’s wrong with this picture?

The problem for the SLFP (O) is that it is about to pay for three political mortal sins.

One SLFP sin is being elected on anti-UNP votes in August 2015 and decamping to a UNP dominated Cabinet the morning after.

The official SLFP’s second sin is going along with the deprival of the bulk of the SLFP MPs elected in August 2015, of the formal post of Opposition, and the substitution in that role of a (minority) party with a minority of parliamentary seats.

The SLFP’s third sin is abandoning the Middle Path of moderate nationalism, allowing itself to be taken in a strategic policy direction, domestic and foreign, economic and political, that is unique to the Yahapalana ‘Gang of Four’ (Ranil-Chandrika-Mangala-Jayampathy) and way beyond the policy paradigm of the classic UNP, let alone the SLFP or a saddle-point between the two. 

The even-handed “curate’s egg” verdict on Mangala’s landmark Budget is vastly amusing, with its high marks for reconciliation, environment, women and youth, and low marks for taxes, poverty and inequality. Such eclecticism and empiricism eschew the category of ‘totality’ and holism in analysis, completely ignoring the logic of the political economy, the structural logic, of the neoliberal model manifested in Mangala’s Budget. On the heels of Sumanasiri Liyanage’s conceptually literate critique (‘Budget 2018 & the failure of Neoliberalism’), Prof Kumar David correctly notes in his latest article (‘Oligarchic Capitalism & Party-State structure’) that “the government has made a sharp turn to economic neo-liberalism in the new budget”.

Nowhere has “fast-tracking” “free enterprise, liberalization and globalization” as Mangala espouses and attempts to put into practice, succeeded in protecting the environment, youth and women and fostering reconciliation. Greater equity and less poverty are not apps that can be programmed into the neoliberal model. These are not options that the designers of the neoliberal model have absent-mindedly forgotten and need a gentle reminder to re-install. They are factors that are excluded from the model itself. Growing social inequity, exclusion and marginalization structurally inhere in the model.   

When even a Yahapalana intellectual such as Prof Kumar David has noted the discontinuity (“sharp turn to economic neoliberalism”) that the Mangala Budget constitutes, it is disingenuous to equate Mangala’s and the Rajapaksas’ policy packages or place them on a continuum, with the worst possible epithet being that Mangala is almost as bad as Mahinda Rajapaksa! The Rajapaksa paradigm of statism, nationalism and ethno-populism, by its very logic, imposed certain parameters on the disposal of strategic national assets, and excessive privatization was a deviation, not an aim and objective of the model and an inevitable result of the strategy.

By contrast, inherent in the very logic of unregulated free enterprise and the enthroning of “market principles” as Mangala calls it, is the growth of inequality and poverty, the ruin of the environment, and super-exploitation or marginalization (or first one and then the other) of youth and women. The retrenchment of the State leads either to left-wing populism (if we are very lucky, and we aren’t), or ethno-religious nationalist populism of the radical Right, or downright anarchy.

The JRJ-Ronnie de Mel model of the Open Economy was itself vastly different from and infinitely superior to the current Ranil-Mangala model. The late Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga use to bemoan the fact that 60% of the economy remained in the hands of the state even under the UNP’s Open Economy– a figure which JRJ used as argument to prove that his Constitutional retitling of Sri Lanka as a ‘Democratic Socialist Republic’ wasn’t simply evidence of his deadpan humor.

The most authoritative evidence of the sharp contradistinction between the JRJ and Ranil-Mangala models comes in a recent interview given by Pradip Jayewardene, who was very close to his grandfather. Making a damning indictment that “the core values of the UNP are eroding”, he emphasizes that:

“My grandfather was of the view that State control had to be maintained in the liberalization process of the economy, to guarantee a social safety net…There is no argument that private sector should run business, but State control and regulation of key areas is vital…”

Right now “the chickens are coming home to roost” (as Malcolm X said), or are about to. The thing is that this is not inevitable. There are still a few moves and a window of opportunity in which to make them, if the official ‘moderate’ SLFP is not to be almost totally eclipsed by the populist–nationalist SLFP/JO.

The SLFP (official wing) is not led, managed and influenced solely by MS, as he shares influence with CBK, whose pro-UNP, anti-Mahinda stance is a huge political liability in the countryside and the SLFP ideological space. Her grip on reality and reason are so tentative that she thinks it credible and politically viable to remain a political partner of the UNP and its leader Ranil on whose watch the unprecedentedly colossal Central Bank bond scam took place, while loudly accusing the Rajapaksas of theft and opposing an SLFP rapprochement! She also thinks that her SLFP audiences would approve her attacks on Mahinda and lack of criticism of Ranil and the UNP.

President Sirisena needs to de-Chandrika-ize the SLFP; politically and ideologically purge it of CBK and her para-UNP influence. The official SLFP must become an SLFP-MS, no more an SLFP-MS-CBK. It is the official SLFP that stands to lose most from the destructive inner party and electoral influence of the cosmopolitan ‘Chandrikaist deviation’, unless mature leaders like Mahinda and Maithri are able to arrive at a “march separately, strike together” (Trotsky) pre-election pact of contesting separately but forming administrations together, postelection, at the local and provincial levels, which freeze out the UNP.   

But can President Sirisena, who leads the country and the party, muster the political will and the support to make those moves? Does President Sirisena have ‘The Right Stuff’, or more accurately, the Center-Left stuff, to do likewise, and even more pertinently, to do so in the time frame that can make a difference?

The factor that may enable him to do this is the same as that which enabled Madam Bandaranaike and Mr. Premadasa to do so. He is, as they were, the leader of country, not only the party. It is by leveraging his role as the nationally elected Executive President and head of state (as Mrs. Bandaranaike was not, in 1964), that Mr. Sirisena can save his party or his faction of the party, from ignominy, marginality and near irrelevance if not near–oblivion.

The only way President Sirisena can conceivably change or slow the electoral chain reaction that starts with the Local Government elections is by changing the profile, discourse and strategic direction of the UNP in government and of the Yahapalana government as a whole. He has to shift to Yahapalana Mark II, a radically revised and re-engineered model, making the same drastic change that Premadasa made with, within and to the UNP government in 1988.

President Sirisena can give the UNP the alternative of staying in Government without Ranil-Mangala or staying with the latter duo while leaving the Government. If the UNP thinks it can outwit him by forming a government with the TNA, President Sirisena should let it, and send his wing of the SLFP into Opposition where it can launch a second front or be a claw of a pincer against the UNP-TNA bloc, shattering it at a referendum on a new Constitution and arriving at an arrangement with the JO as part of the inevitably winning coalition in 2020.

An SLFP (MS) presence in Opposition can also dilute the Sinhala Buddhist ultra-nationalism that is building up in and around the expanding anti-Government space.

A loyalist SLFP faction in the Opposition can be an investment for President Sirisena in any second term bid, giving him a chip to bargain with in negotiations with the JO which has no unambiguously obvious Presidential candidate—though Gota, Dinesh, Chamal and Basil are potential frontrunners.

President Sirisena could, if needs be, immediately and urgently split the UNP and unite its progressive liberals with his faction of the SLFP, while extending a generous invitation to the JO and MR, thereby creating a new, moderate-centrist political space, coopting or borrowing from both right and left, a la President Emmanuel Macron of France, while inclined to the center-left.

The SLFP needs a game changer and its leader President Sirisena has to effect that game-changer or be that game-changer, before the year 2017 ends, because it may already be too late when New Year 2018 dawns. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.   

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Latest comments

  • 8

    Hey Dayan,

    Wouldn’t it be better for you to count your sins first? Don’t forget the Zero casualty claim.

    Or would you rather that someone else counts it for you?

    • 3

      Dr. Jayatillake,

      Can Mahinda Rajapaksa, save his cronies and family, from the corruption and killings?

      Does the Sri Lankan constitution allows for impeachment on grounds of “serious misconduct”, “violation” of the constitution or “failure to obey, uphold or defend” it, or “incapacity”.

      Can these be applied to Mahinda Rajapaksa?

      “The main charge is that he has allowed his sons, brother, wife and relatives to usurp constitutional power when they has no right to run government. But MaRa cronies have insulted civil servants, police, army, carried out killings and abductions, without the due process of the law.

      MaRa has refused to implement the constitution of Sri Lanka, and initiated communal riots.

      Besides, MaRa and family had stolen billions of public funds.

    • 3

      Mahinda Rajapaksa is a power hungry despot; his legacy is a testament of that. However, he is reasonably a good judge of characters. He sees through Dayan better than many people. He knows Dayan is a spurious and insignificant fool. If MR were to regain power, unlikely in my view, he will not reward Dayan for all his underhand activities propping him up! Dayan’s endeavours will end in ruins! Dayan is a man of zero principles and he is neither this or that but he is profoundly a narcissist to the core.

  • 10

    You can save the SLFP by bringing back Gotapaya & Mahinda but you cannot save Srilanka becoming a land of Ghost filled with blood and corpses under Gotapaya & Mahinda.

  • 3

    the postponment of the elections is good as it reduces election expenses and gives time to the govt if it wants to restructure the top heavy govts burdoned with so many politicians. Bank robber Ranil wants to increase the number..
    It is True. It is time for Maitrhipala sirisena to walk the talk and change everything the country needs. Other wise, by 2019 he also should be discarded as others are. SLFP anfd UNP, the horapalana govt has 41 people who were communicating with Arjun Aloesius. Further to that, IT says Arjun Aloesius is the Japanese –
    Mitsubishi bank Representative as that bank is the financier for the KIRIELLA’s High way project. If Maithripala Sirisena does not do the changes, his image will be either he has big things to hide as well as he is not strong to be a president.
    He said, even the appointing CIABOC is non-intentional. I”T meant if he knew he would not have established it and Baon Scam Ranil would continue to stay the Mr. CLEAN.

  • 5

    Basil the President could shift President’s office to his palace to Malwana that is already there. DJ could have his office at Orutota, the other stolen piece of Basil. People in Gampaha see these looted palaces everyday, although DJ living in his illusionary world don’t know. People want theses thieves to be in govt. hostel without any more delay.

  • 7

    “Can President Sirisena Save The SLFP-MS?”

    To hell with SLFP, UNP ………….

    The question is, who is going to save the bloody country? ………….. You buggers have screwed it right royally for generations! ………. Just think about it, if your father did any good deeds for the country, it’s because of intense “English-training” he underwent; it didn’t come from the entrenched indigenous SL culture …….. so, it’s an aberration, which your foolish pride won’t let you admit but will run and take cover in Marx or Castro or Lenin or some cockamamie crap ………. and you, even though you display a slight veneer of western-ess, your thinking is no different to Wimal Weerawansa ……….. pure 2500 year old SL backwardness. ………….

    Now what happened to “Mahinda is not a name ………… but a country!” …….. See how stupid you look now. It didn’t take long …….. only 2 years! Ha ha ha ………………

    I am telling you again buddy, if you want a post under the Rajapakses …… this is not the way to go about it.

    Like before you will do all the hard spade work ………….. other more smart/cunning ones now sitting in the shadows will come forth and reap all the benefits ………as before you’ll be thrown out to wail and gnash your teeth is the wilderness ……… that’s the easiest prediction.

    And, I’m not even Sumanadasa. ………… anyway, with my prediction-record, perhaps I should take over his business.

    • 0

      Every politician is corrupt. The previous govt did so many things. Avant guard should be their best heist. Ranil came saying he would change things. but, he had done the same. Even though Ranil tries to explain that it was an error upto now it has been proved that Central Bank robbery is pre planned and only thing is they never expected it would come out, not even the president.
      You can not expect the good government from anyone whether the ex or incumbent politicians. They all have involved in stealing from the public. there is only one way to go. Remember bond scam was going at this rate since 1994. So, every president involved.

  • 3

    Hello Dr. Prof, DJ

    Hope you are not drunk!

    You want to bring back the former Butcher of Nandikadal and the god Father of white vans.
    It is better for you to advise your former comrade to bring back the looted money from overseas banks and in off shore accounts which amounts to 18billion dollars.

    If your former boss was not beaten in the 2015 presidential elections by now we would have faced economic sanctions and travel bans of the top leaders.

  • 5

    Viyatha maga and Eliya are breaking into pieces.
    You have a personal Grudge with Ranil and the UNP.
    Do not worry too much and Sirasa Killi Maharaja is pumping lot of money to your account.

  • 2

    Dayan has reached the stage of letting his wishful thinking, fantasies, daydreams to dominate him. How does the bottom of the barrel look like Dayan?
    Dayan, instead of speculating on how to rescue SLFP, why not look into the people who were bent on wrecking it and the people who salvaged it?

  • 2

    People do not have to worry about what MS is going do with SLFP, but he should not support Rajapakses to gain power and take the country back to murderous and corrupted state.

  • 2

    we have had enough of your political convolutions on daily basis
    take a break go on holiday to cuba rajapaksa will pay for it for sevices rendrered

  • 2

    Agree with Dayan, Re-emergence of neoliberal economics state has to keep 60% of the economy in their hands, look at Singapore 100% capitalist economy but business entities such as Singapore Airlines,Singapore Telecom & DBS bank all are owned by state.

  • 2

    Why is everyone attacking Dayan left & right.
    He should be free to express his views without attacking.

    • 2


      Likewise others should also be free to say what dumb narcissistic fool he is!

    • 3


      A legitimate exception is reserved for proven charlatans as DJ has repeatedly proven himself.

      Remember what Mahinda himself said about DJ in the Aljazeera interview?!

      Remember how DJ hoodwinked a trusting truth-seeking global form (trusting because of DJ’s education and responsible official status) by claiming Zero civilian casualty after many thousands of women and children were massacred in open field!

      Remember how DJ cheer-leaded the State to celebrate annually the massacring of thousands of its own defenseless civilians, mischaracterizing the fight against apartheid in South Africa as asserting majoritarian right to subdue minorities!

      The prolific attack you note on DJ is a result of his repeated intentional lying while holding a responsible office at tax payer-expense, and doing it for self-promotion with gross disregard to the implications to the society, despite being an educated social scientist!

    • 2

      Every one has the right to express their views about Dayan’s motives of writing. He is allowed to express his views. No one is trying to abduct and torture him or murder him for his opinions as his masters did to the writers in the past. He wants the murderer of Lasantha to be the President of Srilanka. Do you agree with him?

    • 0

      You seems to be have completed your law degree at Royal Son Prince Law College. You seems to be able to recognize Thero’s freedom of expression to insult others’ common sense, but not being able to recognize the right of those who are hurt by Thero’s purposeful insults, to openly cry.

      You may not have heard a Tamil saying “Pollu Koduththu Addi Vaankirathu”. (Giving a Thirukkai waal in enemy’s hand to get beaten up by that). Probably Tamils might have invented that proverb to Mahendran, Kathirgamar like people. But you can use it to Thero De Silva too.

  • 0

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