By Kumar David –
Bigwigs one would have expected to be staunchly pro-Ranil (Mangala, Malik, Kabir Hashim, Champika, Navin, Eran and Harsha) have deserted what they perceive to be a sinking-ship. Talk in three-wheelers and tea boutiques is that poker-faced Ranil is unpopular. To outsiders like me, it seems Karu too has missed the boat. Sajith these bigwigs think is popular and will poll well. I think it’s not quite like that. Brawling for the same vote-bank as Gota, Sajith may end up choked and in so doing sacrifice middle-class, minority, elitist and the ‘traditionalists’ in the UNP’s nationwide repository. Why should Sinhala nationalists and hard-core chauvinists prefer Sajith to Gota? What’s the difference? Isn’t Sajith said to be dumb and Gota smart? Isn’t he too dumb to be president? These factors will weigh against him.
It is possible that with a popular PP candidate, some UNPers and middle-of-the-road folks may find Sajith unattractive and opt for PP as a protest against the failures of yahapalana. As for the minorities (both Tamils and Muslims) I am on firm ground in asserting and that both Gota and Sajith are in the bottom drawer. Indeed, PP will come first among minorities in a contest against Gota and Sajith if it handles its campaign correctly; that remains to be seen (sigh!). Will the TNA see the light or will it find it impossible to break the chains that bind it to the liberal bourgeoisie? If it stays manacled will the Tamil people tell it to go to hell? Too early to tell.
What if it’s Ranil versus Gota? Ranil will not be competing for the identical chauvinist votes, so the effect is difficult to forecast. But I think PP will poll better if the UNP puts up Sajith instead of Ranil as the latter will split minority and moderate Sinhala votes. But whether it’s Ranil or Sajith is not my concern, it’s what effect it may have on the PP campaign. The difference is that PP will have to tailor its campaign with more emphasis on economic content if the candidate is Ranil; Sajith in this respect is blotto. The 2015-2019 road, though it made gains on democracy was barren on economic achievement.
Economics means such issues as the directive role of the State; accommodation of capitalist and finance capitalist sectors; fiscal-deficit, debt, current-account, investment. Informal sector, service sector and IT, agriculture, industry, fisheries, plantations. Export-orientation vs inward-looking. Employment, female foreign employment. Environment and Energy. Regulatory failure: Bungling telecoms, electricity and hundreds more inept regulators. There’s enough to do for a month before this section is ready.
A civil society alliance (NMSJ, Purawesi Balavegaya and Vame Kendraya) adopted a programme at a BMICH convention on 23 August. It is good intentioned and begins with a commendable demand for the complete abolition of the Executive Presidency, but replete with errors, contradictions and gaffes. The section on ‘The Economy’ (Section 10) is wishy-washy and best ignored. Section 2 on National Security is downright reactionary. The draft ignores the national question and says nothing about devolution. Overall, like a curate’s egg, good in parts. Regarding all-pervasive corruption where action not talk is needed, it is weak. Nonetheless I am grateful to this alliance for doing some ground work. The People’s Power movement can use this draft as reading material to develop its own programme. There is a world of work to do to make ready, in the long-term, for an alternative government and state. It is serious-minded approaches to these issues that can mark off the PP-Alternative from the degenerate established parties. This is the way things are moving all over the world; long established structures are crumbling and making way for emerging entities.