16 December, 2018

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Choice Of Candidate A Significant Factor In Defeating Gotabaya: Stop Gotabaya-Rex!

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Gotabaya’s candidature for the presidency has been announced with much fanfare. All the backward forces of Sri Lankan society gathered at a great event organised by an elitist-chauvinist outfit called Viyathmaga in a resplendent hall to greet their new champion. Narrow nationalists and Sinhala chauvinists were there; leaders of the Joint Opposition attended; a sprinkling of the Dead Left deserted geriatric beds to put in a showing. Vasudeva did not attend but tied himself in knots saying one thing and then another according to the Daily Financial Times; goodly numbers of businessmen salivating for spoils were there. Understandably some fed up with Ranil’s pluperfect incompetence, stunned by Sirisena’s treachery and mystified by the venality of presidential skunks in carparks also drifted into the meeting.

Neo-populism has made sweeping gains in Europe and America. In Italy the equivalent of the Bernie Sanders base and the Trump base have allied and formed a government. It is possible that Lanka’s chauvinist alt-right, petty-bourgeois populists, business clusters and retired military-fascists thought it not too early to show their hand. Or maybe the knives are out in Rajapaksa-Joint Opposition circles (the Dead Left wants Chamal, crooks want Basil, chauvinist want Gotha), so it was necessary to stake an early claim. The meeting was billed as the launch of Gota’s economic programme; though GL Peries denied it, it was in fact the launch of a presidential bid pending Mahinda’s endorsement. Why on earth would one launch an economic programme except as the first step in a presidential bid?

What did the sayings of this monetary, fiscal, financial and economic genius add up to; prosaic platitudes, plain prose and banalities. Here’s a sampling.

  • The foremost priority is economic growth, the foundation and the cure for all ills.
  • Growth will ensure the sustained prosperity and well-being of the people.
  • Transforming the economy; futuristic policies; right people; dedicated execution.
  • We will be driven by humans with power and many sided abilities.
  • We will open up to foreign investors and international partners.
  • We will safeguard sovereignty and cultural values.

So there is not much to it as an economic programme; no fiscal policy, no debt reduction targets, no export strategy, no specific relationship between state and capital, and no planning perspective; it was all piss and wind. More interesting was what was missing from the speech of this high member of the last government. Basil’s pilfering from every project and contract; can how the same people be restrained. Mahinda’s megalomaniac outlays and how the same regime can avoid it again.

Aborting Gotabaya-Rex

Gotabaya-Rex (GR), a label suggested by a smartarse friend, can be stopped, must be stopped, and not difficult to stop unless yahapalanamakes a fool of itself, again. Aye there’s the rub, folly has become a habit. Not just Ranil and the damn fool UNP but even my comrades in the January 8-th Movement, as we call ourselves, had no clue what was coming on 10 February. I can say, not proudly but sadly, that I was the only one in my circle (left, radicals and liberals) who saw impending defeat.

The JVP was in cloud cuckoo land; the economic genius of Ranil-Charitha-Malik-Eran-Harsha delivered a stillborn old-style-liberal programme which it is now busy cremating; the TNA, “brilliant” Sumanthiran included, could not see the flop of the new constitutional project staring it in the face (how can we get a constitution when the president undermines it at every turn?); and our wacky president lives in never-never land. Lal Wijenayake has exposed in polite but no uncertain terms that His Excellency is not excellent at telling the truth. The aforementioned economic quintet, deep in slumber, couldn’t see Modi’s state driven strategy delivering 7.7% growth, two years in a row, just across the Palk Strait. The 100-day Programme was only a transitional stabiliser before getting to serious business which never came.

Yet GR can be stopped despite crummy yahapalana.Gota can be defeated because voting is driven by ethnic prejudices. I have done this arithmetic before but it bears repetition. (Those weak in arithmetic can give algebra or calculus a try but they can’t subvert logic and number). Unless Muslims and Tamils (Ceylon and Upcountry) catch suicidal abstention-influenza they will vote 100% against Gota. That’s a good 20% of the population. Not all the Cardinal’s Hail Mary’s and novenas will swing much of the Catholic vote. Counting down to fractions is absurd but the broad picture is immutable; 23+% of the population, the minorities, constitute an anti-Gota rock. Hence I contend that unless Gota polls over two-thirds of the Sinhala-Buddhist (SB) vote (70% of the population) his prospects are dim. (The UNP has never polled less than 25% of the SB vote; add the JVP and civil society). Ethnic account keeping may make you sick, as it does me, but get real; this is Mother Lanka in modern times, not Plato’s Republic.

Yet our yahapalanachapps are expert at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory! There are two threats; mass abstentions as on 10 February when one in four or one in five UNPers gave Ranil a kick in the butt and abstained, second the tricky question of identifying the anti-Gotha candidate who can draw the largest support. At this point in time my mind is a bit blank; I can conjure up only two names, Ranil and the JVP’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD). I don’t think the Field Marshal is a persuasive suitor though he has offered himself; better he goes head to head with Mahinda in Kurunegala at a general election. I rule out a surprise dark horse as in 2015 a second time; that cock won’t fight again. This time the Rajapaksa slayer must come from active political ranks and the SLFP’s offer, now howling like a cornered hyena in a carpark, is already kaput.

Both have weaknesses. Ranil has soiled his linen and muddied populist waters, but to my mind this is less serious than yahapalana’scalamitous inability to put a single Paksa-era mega crook (Lalith Wis small change) behind bars. Mariano Rajoy was evicted as Spain’s PM because 29 of his party members were proved to be crooks; the new Malaysian government will fix million-dollar mega-crook Najib Razak; last week I gave examples where mega-crooks including Presidents have been nabbed and convicted. Lanka’s at-cross-purposes yahapalana, its bovine prosecutors and a soporific judiciary add up to a worse-than-useless decoction. For better for worse Ranil will bear the brunt of this at the next election.

On the plus side, the UNP base and Muslims, Tamils and Catholics is a sure-bet block vote against Gota (observe I prefer not to say for-Ranil for reasons of accuracy). The minorities and a minority-of-the-majority will defeat the majority-of-the-majority at the next presidential election; that’s how it will be. That’s fine and how democracy sometimes works. One can’t limit elections to the majority only can one! Having made this formal point it is true that for reasons of stability as large a part of the SB vote as possible should be wrested away from Gota.

A plus point for Gotha is his ability to get things done. Whether I tis sprucing up the city, demolishing low cost flats, evicting tenants, making beggars vanish by magic or fighting a war Gotha, is a doer and has built himself a brand name in contrast to hobbling Ranil. SBs who see human rights and democracy as mollycoddling Tamils, cast an approving eye on Gota and see the Jolly Roger as a fitting escutcheon for his candidacy. Many in the business community see in Gota a firm hand to keep ‘rowdy’ workers in place and enforce discipline. Despite all this I see a pattern ‘overdetermined’ by ethnicity; but for this anti-Gotha ethnic polarisationyahapalanawill fare much worse.

On balance, and if the UNP backs him (not necessarily a big if, depending on how the next 12 months may pan out), how strong a Gotha-slayer will JVP leader AKD be? Before dismissing the option let’s recount the strength of his case. Prior to the local government elections many were saying “Cha, good buggers, they are not corrupt, they are disciplined and given a chance can do something; but cha, can’t vote for them no; can’t waste a vote”. Yes there is goodwill towards the JVP not only in subaltern but also in the middle classes. However, there is apprehension about whether the it will “run wild” if entrusted with power; memories of 1971 and 1989-90 are still fresh. The possibility of AKD, as an anti Gota-Rex candidate of a broad alliance, with the UNP as the senior partner in control, is not ruled out though I suspect the UNP base will not stand for it. “What! Again! After one rotten egg in 2015 do we want another outsider who won’t let ‘our government’ execute policy?”

For these reasons I cannot, as of now, see any other strong anti Gota (or anti Basil or Chamal) candidate in the wings. It seems we are stuck with Ranil, warts and all, and it’s mostly warts. I would love to hear serious, strategically thought out views about other options; concrete proposals, names. The condition, the shared bottom-line, must be defeating any Rajapaksa who shows his face. Sans this, I am not much interested.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    4

    Sri Lankans who want the white vans, journalists killed, threatened, kidnapped, grease yakkas, people living in fear, homes and lands seized, humungous commissions, nepotism, and race wars, go ahead and vote for this man.
    People are foolish, do not learn from the past, and are gluttons for punishment.

    • 1
      0

      These things happened under the last presidents as well .how can u forget the bheeshanaya?unless you are Tamil like the author of the article they don’t like the rajapakses?

  • 1
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    Are we, SRI LANKANS , all such fools and idiots who keeps on under cutting each other just to hob nob with power and who cares two hoots for the development & corruption free Sri Lanka.

    Divided we are…. Politically, by Religion, Caste, Up Country/Low Country, Schools, Town and Village, rich/poor……….We just don’t care where the country is heading too as long as I can make a buck & have the right connections.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2
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    The most important question: “Can Gota be a candidate at all?”.
    He is still a US citizen. There was a ‘neither confirm nor deny’ report that his application to renounce his US citizenship was rejected. Hard to believe but some think that Gota’s sharks could not survive the vegetarian food regime!
    .
    We are being conditioned to accept corruption/nepotism/impunity as necessary for governing. What a choice we are left with!
    SLPP recently showed that language/religion-divide is a lethal weapon. Use this to last!

  • 2
    3

    Prof. Kumar David, I cannot think as to why you are so against Gota. We are sure he will do the right things if becomes the President. Are you thinking now we have got so called freedom and a good economy under Maithree and Ranil. People will elect the right person when the opportunity comes. You Prof must not get annoyed. Better write about the pathetic situation Sri Lanka face now.

  • 4
    1

    gota piya is not going to be given candidacy undr SLPP that is for Basil. What development did gota do just beautifying colombo with borrowed money and using Army personnel as laborers is not development, He did not even know about sustainability of what he did. You cannot make a Singapore out of SL without any economic development program, Basil did real development in tourinsm. Dolphins were there in Kalpititya long enough its only Basil who made it a tourist attaction. Passikuda was there when Vijeya landed in SL but it Basil who made it an international tourist attraction, What did gota do , he just spent the money his brother borrowed mortgaging the country to china on non sustainable beautification.

    Got will bring economic disaster to SL I hope MR will atleast have some sense not to support him.

  • 3
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    Ranil and MY3 failed and proved they are not good administrators. For 3 long years they could not make coalition government a success and struggling to just settle in their positions. Ranil has lots of ideas (even millions) how to develop the country, but they are useless theories on papers and in his brain, never proved anything practical. On the other hand, MY3 a good tobacco controller has no idea at all on anything but farming and tobacco control. And both of them don’t seem to get along is another major issue for the country. Gota has proved himself upto a certain extent including on the darker side. It is either MY3/Ranil learn more, OR Gota drops a few darker things and reforms himself – Which is more feasible?

    • 4
      1

      Why not Nagananda Kodituwakku? I know that he’s too legalistic, but the most urgent need is accountability – and end to corruption.
      .
      Help him broaden his appeal.

  • 3
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    Kumar

    You census statistics aren’t correct. As per the 2012 census, Sri Lankan Tamils were 11.2% of the population. Muslims (Malays included) were 9.7% of the population. Indian Tamils were 4.2% of the population. Sinhalese Christians were presumably 4.7% of the population. This all adds up to 29.8% of Sri Lanka’s population. At least 25% of the Buddhist population goes UNP. The total adds up to more than 50%.

    That said, are you sure of the consolidation of the minority vote? Basil is corrupt. Ranil is uninspiring. Many would say that Gotabhaya is capable and what you see is what you get rather than the double speak of Sirisena or Mahinda.

    Over to you!

    • 1
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      Yes, apathy for Ranil will keep guys like me away from the polls – in any realistic way.
      .
      I will vote for three honest minor candidates (they always exist) to register my dis-satisfaction.

  • 7
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    Gota is not capable to develop the country. He can spend money without thiking where it comes from and use military has his servants to get thing gone in the way he wants without giving due consideration to establish procedures and does things that are not economically productive or even viable, if this is what you consider is good for this god forsaken country go ahead

  • 2
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    According to latest Gallop poll Nagananda has 10% primary vote as President, if he includes Sugandhika and Ranjan Ramanayake, it will shot up to blooming 25%!

  • 0
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    I must thank the author for inadvertently providing the clearest, most logical reasons as to why Gotabya will win the elections. The people of Lanka have one chance to try a totally different leader in Gotabya, who has shown himself to be someone who can get things done, as the author himself admits. To think that a docile, inept, weak, and lazy man like Wickremasingh will win over him is pure fantasy.

    Glad to see Lanka finally going in the right direction. Those who love Lanka like me must be counting days to the elections and to welcome President Gotabya.

    • 0
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      I agree with sirisena gota does not understand what development really is. He is a man who ran away in fear of war then becomes the defence secretary with all protection. chambers can you metion a single work done by gota which was viable. has he doen any thing to generate income? has he ever followed official procedures? Basil is the man of the hour.

      the US ambassador has told MR that gota does not have support who leaked this to the media, it is MR. Because he does not want gota

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