By Kumar David –
Uva declared that the tide had turned, but the flood gates have not ruptured; it may be imminent or months away. The point is not 20% decline in UPFA vote from 2009 PC or 14% drop from 2010 general elections; rather it is the dynamics. The political stage is changed acutely; the Rajapakse game has reached terminal decline. Lanka’s egregious misery cannot last, it has to snap. The worm, the pliant citizen, has turned, but when will chrysalis turn angry wasp?
A related concern is the crown prince in waiting. Does Ranil’s scalp fit the soon to be vacated executive crown? What about the Single Issue Common Candidate (SI-CC) suggestion that I have pushed so hard for years? I will not attempt to answer all questions today; that must emerge from a broader discourse. Discussion is already passionately joined, if not in the print and electronic media, at least in small rooms and seminars. My purpose here is to fertilise this debate in three steps. Must Lanka jettison the Rajapakse regime? What about Ranil and the SI-CC? What afterwards?
Throw out the Rajapakses pronto!
The Mahinda–Gota–Basil outfit, its henchmen, hangers-on and familial bloodsuckers must be driven out pronto, that is as soon as constitutionally feasible. Consider people of Lanka, this litany of execrable wrongs that blight our nation under cover of Rajapakse darkness!
- Indignities, abuses and humiliations inflicted by henchmen.
- Political hooliganism terrorising workplaces and police forces.
- Drug peddling in city neighbourhoods with politically guaranteed impunity.
- A kept and traduced superior judiciary; the elevation of sycophants.
- Minorities in thrall to a military jackboot, or to thuggish state-sponsored monks.
- Robbers appointed as Corporate Chairmen and Board Members.
- Ignorant nincompoops as Ambassadors to here and there
- Forget not the rapists who run provincial and local councils.
I have friends loyal to the Rajapakse outfit, pro-government folks of many social classes and a bunch of lower and upper echelons in the Dead Left. Not one, no not one single person disputes this list of iniquities. The argument of non-leftists is: “He (they) won the war, so they should be in power – but of course they can do better”. Dead Leftists cower in shame and change the subject. Even in pro government circles I now perceive a shift. The Mahinda worshipping middle-class now intones: “Oh they did a good thing; we are grateful; but now it is time for them to go”. There was an unexpected response from pro-government campaigners in Uva to my remark that it was the economy that had turned away voters. No, they said, people are fed up with the whole rotten thing. (“Naa sahodaraya, me jarava sampooranegma epaavela”). RIP Rajapakse, the masses have spoken in Badulla and Monaragala. Case closed!
Ranil as Sir Galahad
The theory is that Ranil is a born loser and can never match Mahinda as a vote getter. I have reservations; it’s not so simple. If there is a shift and people imagine power is in the balance, kissing babies’ bottoms and Mahinda Mama charm as a man of the people will not count. And if there the shift is profound, it means disgust with the government on a bigger canvas has crystallised. Then, superficial popularity breeds contempt and kissing babies’ bottoms is ridiculed. If there is an anti-regime swing, the siblings too will no longer be strengths but encumbrances. One will be projected as a cryptic tyrant the other a venal trickster.
I have repeated “if there is a swing”, that is to say if crucial objective circumstances have matured at their own pace. My antennae say conditions have matured, but we need more evidence than just one Uva. President Rajapakse faces an acute dilemma; can he risk Presidential polls now, or should he put it off for a year or more? An election now may mean defeat; but waiting will allow anger to ferment and blend with international regime-change strategies. Delay provides time to plot extra-parliamentary options – post-election violence in Badulla signals what’s to come. Faced with electoral defeat and legal action for crimes in office, rulers are tempted to incite unrest as a prelude to emergency rule and palace coups. Trapped in a heads I’m ruined, tails I’m damned, Catch-22?
It is amusing that the UNP lost, but is elated and rides victory marches; the UPFA won and is despondent. The former enjoys pleasant reveries, the latter fears kismet. There are two amusing supplementary hypotheses in circulation as well. One says: The UNP achieved nothing of significance in the last four years but performed well; the simpleton explanation is: Harin the wonder boy, he transformed all! Without depreciating Harin – he seems to be a fine young man – this overlooks the obvious. Yes the UNP has done nothing smart, but the government simply despoiled itself. The other hilarious hypothesis is that the revival of the UNP in Uva is thanks to Sajith. The Ranil-Sajith patch-up worked wonders; Eureka the UNP sprang to life! This is false; dullard Sajith contributed nothing in Uva. He is best left to croon pop lyrics and play his organ on stage.
Where does Uva leave my SI-CC strategy? Will a reenergised UNP deem that Ranil can go it alone on a full EP bid? Or is SI-CC now stronger? Will Ranil demand the Common Candidacy as his rightful due? I have reflected and concluded that the first option, the UNP going entirely alone, will end in defeat. We of SI-CC persuasion then need to think over the second and third questions in case the UNP demands one of its people is anointed Common Candidate in recognition of its enhanced new muscle. In the Colombo Telegraph of 13 July I reflected on what the options would be if the UNP polled 40+% in Uva though this seemed unlikely to me at the time. I continue to stand by it.
“Ranil and the UNP should take note of five points. (a) Mahinda Rajapakse can be defeated because he will be hard pressed to secure 60+% of the Sinhala-Buddhist vote, that is 40+% of the national vote. But he can be defeated only if the main opposition parties and groups field a joint candidate. (b) The way to get a joint candidate is to focus solely on the abolition of the executive presidency and exclude all diverging social and economic policies, including the UNP’s. (c) The road map must be unambiguously endorsement by all to give the public iron-clad confidence in the procedure. (d) If Ranil wishes to be prime minister in the future parliamentary system, there is no point in craving for a six-month temporary presidency. (e) If the UNP wishes to propose a name from its ranks for this “short-term job” it had better do it now”.
The UNP including Ranil surely understands (a); Mangala has said so explicitly. It follows that (b) and (c) are imperative. We can leave aside (d) and (e) for the UNP to decide for itself; but (d) is so obvious, it is stupid to ignore it. If Ranil seeks broad endorsement as Common Candidate, then (b) and (c) must be answered. Will he state loud, clear, repeatedly and unambiguously: “I pledge to abolish the executive presidency within six months”? If yes the UNP can endorse Sobitha’s Road Map or propose one of its own.
The UNP needs allies and Sarath Foneska is at the end of his go-it-alone thther; they need each other and Fonseka may bring a scale-tipping 5% vote. Another critical concern is security. The military has been blatantly politicised by this regime, hence a new government must bear threats to constitution and democracy in mind. Fonseka if given a key defence appointment can blunt this threat. Furthermore, if Ranil and UNP pledge to abolish EP expeditiously, it would bring in substantial pro-Sobitha votes. However Ranil lusts for EP; so I have no clue what the eventual decision will be.
First make the pleasant assumption that we will be rid of EP and have in its place a UNP-led or a SLFP-led parliamentary government. The second lamentable case is if Ranil is elected executive president. The third calamitous option is what to do if Rajapakse secures a third executive presidential term. I will reserve this for a later piece for reasons of space and as it now seems the least likely.
In the first case, whichever the parliamentary government and which the opposition, it is best to keep both at arms length like putrefying fish. Democracy and the public interest will be served by a strong, even if minority, radical left opposition in parliament. It is not possible to wind back the clock but there was a time in our history when irrespective of which big party was in office it was the people’s tribunes of the left who guarded public interests and democratic freedoms. Uva has shown that a third force, the JVP in this case, will be squeezed when the contest between the big players becomes acute. However in a parliamentary option there will be constituencies to mimic Yatiyantota, Akuressa, Colombo Central or Panadura of yore. A phalanx of bold opposition members in a future parliament is where we should place our trust.
If the UNP refuses to pledge abolition of the EP and Ranil seeks glory, which rascal wins makes little difference; repulsive EP will go on. Does it matter whether it is Rajapakse-3 or Ranil-1? Our task remains unchanged; to pull down EP which is the root of our autocratic evils.