8 February, 2023


Coalition Crack-UP: UNP Putsch, SLFP Rebellion

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

What were the reasons for the governmental crisis? The UNP arrogantly attempted a political putsch. Having promised the people that it would form a UNP Only government if it won the Feb 10th election, which it was sure it would, the UNP then went on to make that attempt even after it resoundingly lost the election, securing 1.5 million votes less than in August 2015 and dropping by 13 %. In other words, having got a negative mandate for its slogan of a Government of Greens (plus the TNA), the UNP proceeded this week to threaten a grab for power. The UNP’s bid was/is a bloodless version of the anti-SLFP, anti-nationalist, rightwing coup attempt of 1962!

There was of course another, non-ideological dimension; one that was not present in 1962. A “pure UNP government” under its present leadership would hardly have been perceived as “pure”. Rather, it would be accurately seen by the President, the SLFP, the JO and the public as a Government of the Bond Scammers, by the Bond Scammers and for the Bond Scammers.

The SLFP reacted fast to pre-empt this scenario and was supported with conditions by the rising political power, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s SLPP-JO. 

While the SLFP did worse than the UNP at the local election, it strongly felt that the debacle was the direct consequence of its close association with the UNP rather than its own deficiencies. This perception was well-founded in that their erstwhile colleagues and comrades in arms, the JO/SLPP had done extraordinarily well at the election by adopting an anti-UNP stance.

Since the SLFP and SLPP were together at the August 2015 parliamentary election it wasn’t rocket science to figure out what had gone wrong since. It was the alliance with the UNP, and specifically with the polarizing Prime Ministership of Ranil Wickremesinghe. The SLFP felt that not only was it paying for Ranil and Chandrika’s sins, it had also forfeited the chance of rapid electoral growth as demonstrably achieved by its former colleagues of the JO-SLPP.

The SLFP sees that between the SLPP and itself, they can garner a whopping 60%. This is an anti-UNP vote. Such a massive vote can see an SLPP-SLFP front easily winning any and all elections. All the SLFP needs to do is unhitch itself from the UNP which is an electoral millstone around its neck, and plug in with the SLPP which is on an upward parabola.

Hence the rebellion. It gave the UNP a chance: get rid of your radioactive leader as PM and we’ll stay with you, or else we’ll leave. The UNP chose to remain with Ranil Wickremesinghe as PM. It thereby ran the risk of losing power. However, in its arrogance which is based on its class prejudices and overestimation of the importance of Western backing, it thought it had eyeballed it with the SLFP and won. An example is the lead story on Feb 14th in EconomyNext, a sophisticated pro-UNP, pro-US website: “Sri Lanka PM out foxes naive Sirisena, gets cracking” authored by its Political Correspondent. By the very next day, the axe was poised to fall.

What the UNP and its backers, local and foreign did not know, was that its slogan of a ‘pure UNP government” or a UNP government backed by the TNA, would be perceived by both the SLFP and the SLPP-JO as a thinly disguised rightwing power grab; a peaceful coup. This threat perception would not have been so acute if the UNP had been led by a less polarizing figure than Ranil Wickremesinghe, but the party had decided to stick with him. Therefore, the slogan of a UNP government sounded like an attempt to seize power and implement a program of the rapid sell off to the West and India, of strategic national locations and assets.

This swiftly brought about a convergence, however provisional, of the rival tendencies of the center-left, namely the SLPP-JO and the SLFP, under an anti-UNP or anti-Ranil umbrella.

The Tamil Dimension

The Southern electoral tsunami and the consequent governmental crisis has understandably obscured from view, important new trends in Northern politics. These trends not only speak well of the Tamil people but open up the possibility of serious negotiations at a future date with a political front that represents the South far more fully than does the current government.

In the all-important Jaffna district, the heartland of Tamil nationalism, a little over 18% of the vote at the recent local government election was obtained by a party led by a tough-minded pragmatist with solid anti-LTTE credentials—Douglas Devananda.  In other words Devananda’s  party not only got over three times the percentage obtained by the JVP in the Sinhala areas, it got a significantly higher percentage than the official SLFP did with all the benefits of state—and executive presidential–power.

It is impressive that while the five-party front, the ITAK, dominant in Tamil politics obtained 150 seats in the Jaffna District, 81 seats were won by Douglas Devananda’s EPDP.

EPDP has done relatively well in Jaffna district. It captured two PS in the islands and increased it percentage of votes significantly. For the first time, it has members in all the districts in the North and almost all the districts in the North and east. The EPDP has gone it alone. No one can now accuse EPDP of winning the votes with patronage. The Government was allied with the TNA and the EPDP had no source of state patronage. Even more significantly, the EPDP has won votes and seats at a time when Tamil nationalism was running high, and Douglas scores low on the pure Tamil nationalism index.

The TNA vote has gone down significantly all over North and East. TNA cannot form administrations in any Jaffna councils without EPDP support. They are sending feelers to the EPDP. The All Ceylon Tamil Congress of Gajendrakumar has increased their vote share in Jaffna. They do not have any significant presence in other districts. The Suresh front contesting with TULF has not made any impression.

In the East, the TMVP of Pillayan has gained impressive votes in some areas of Batticaloa. The main national parties have also made their presence felt among Tamil voters though on a small scale.

Douglas Devananda is back and is a player in Tamil politics. Once again Douglas comes into view as the last Tamil moderate standing, the sole viable negotiating partner for any Colombo administration whatsoever. He is the only one who will agree to the implementation of existing Constitutional arrangements for devolution and won’t make dogmatic demands which sink their Southern partners in Government –as the TNA, propelled by hawkish civil society and Diaspora sentiment and funding, has just done to the UNP and SLFP.

The Yahapalana strategy and model of January 2015 was the alliance of the majority of the minority and the minority of the majority. That model didn’t work for either the majority or the minorities. Until we are able to unite the majority of the majority and the majority of the minority, perhaps we shall have to be satisfied with transitional arrangement that inverts the Yahapalana alliance of January 2015. We can try a combination of the majority of the majority and the (moderate) minority of the minority. That’s where Douglas Devananda and his EPDP come in.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    TNA wants a Homeland for the Vellalas, while Doughie wants a Level Playing Field for the non Vellalas.To live as equals with the rest.
    That is why Pirahaparan wanted Doughie dead.
    TNA and their Diaspora didn’t help Doughie then. Neither they did at the Election.
    UNP wants a special playing field for the Rich and the pretend to be cool Colombians..
    And divide the Nation into Haves and Have nots, plus Vellala Homelands ..
    Dr Rani has given an undertaking to the West to do both.
    But he F***** Up big time by getting the priorities mixed up.
    Pohottuwa musn’t do anything to upset Dr Ranil.
    He is the best asset Pohottuwa has going for the Big One.

    • 5

      Dayan may be day dreaming if the govt would go to the hand of Mafia King, he would have the chance to honey moon in Paris again. This man is so selfish as no other.
      No doubt, he would also go after the path of Wimal Buruwase making few more passports to cover his identities.
      How come an academic fell to the level.

  • 11

    I am sure you are so cracy and mad. Do you know Douglus has changed a lot and he is no longer a supporter of Mahinda. He is one of the participant in the construction of new constitution proposal under this government which you and Mahinda are completely against. TNA represent North East but Douglas is only represent Jaffna. Douglas lost his politics in Jaffna because of his alliance with Mahinda. Mahinda used him to do all violence in Jaffna.

  • 5

    Dayan the public racist

    You could suggest all kind of permutation and combinations and how many ways they can award themselves, ultimately what is in it for you?

    Is it true Sarath Fonseka is awaiting for letter of confirmation from the president, a Tsar overseeing the government agencies which deal with investigation into various frauds, crimes, …… ?

    Oh man is it going to be the end of Dr Gota’s ambitions? He recently indicated that being an American citizen he was not interested in the post of President. Probably he got the wind of Fonseka being appointed the Tsar of tough agency.

    • 2


      Why get so upset?……….Dayan has no relevance to the Lankan voter; zilch …………except some emotional consolation for that side of politics………enjoy for what it is ………..sorta Alec Baldwin in SNL………if you don’t, in a couple of years you would regret and come to miss the comical-value ……look around who else entertains you daily better than Dayan?

      He’s singin’ his song for me at his own expense – Dylan

      They say, Kant freed the Philosophers by destroying the concept of absolute truth………..but except for good ol’ Nietzsche every other philosopher went back again and created a new prison for themselves ………

      Siresena/Ranil conducted one of the free-est and fairest elections in Lankan history …………using that freedom, the voters voted and the newly freed media whole-heartedly canvassed to go back to prison/bondage

      I’m not making this up, this is what happened ………..easy to observe from afar ……….

      The way we Lankans behave is ingrained in our genes (like monkey behaviour is ingrained in their genes and no amount of training/education has any long term effect) …………will take years to change ……….if ever……..

      How long did it take apes to walk upright?

    • 0


      That’s what I’ve tried to tell my friend Lacille De Silva …….you might have a “Whiteman-name,” Lacille, Shyamon, Sarath, Dayan, Malinda, Boniface, John ……………but the man is quintessential Lankan……..

      I wished I was named Sextus Perera and my house Sexville (in the Lankan tradition of naming houses) ………and if the house lived up to it’s name ……….would give me an incentive to live in the damn shithole country (pardon me patriots for the expression ……..can anyone of you describe it any other way?) ……….

      Most of the writings in the forum are just “outing” emotions………trying to express/project what one wish as reality ………..

      I try not to get emotional ……. well, even I can’t hold back if a bronzed-skinned, blue-eyed, painted-hair blonde Lankan bombshell walks past me ………….then, that’s a whole different shebang……………….

      Ah!…………low hanging fruit! ………..Mahinda, Ranil, Sirisena, Dayan, …………..men, women …………….And the elusive moral-man ……….Who said, the good ol’ human-condition was easy?……………

      Being born a Lankan gives you nothing …………..except perspective ……..or should………….

      And tomorrow when we wake up …………..it’ll be a different story/crisis ……………….

      And we are all Buddhists!

      I shall utter what is verbally true;
      I shall utter what is mentally true.
      May that (Brahman) protect me;
      May That protect the speaker, may That protect me;
      May that protect the speaker – may That protect the speaker.
      Aum! Peace! Peace! Peace!

  • 4

    We can understand your excitement! Local government results had given you the ideal ground to harp with your beloved anti- Ranil (and anti- Chandrika) rants and the chance to fantasise about your darling Mahinda and Mahinda magic and masturbate to your hearts contents! Good luck. Mahinda or Gotabaya can never be the head of the state.

  • 5

    Dayan, your assessment of the power of Douglas Devananda is wrong. If elections are conducted on a first past the post electoral method, he will never win a seat. He had been able to hang on for so long because of the proportional representation, capitalising on non FP/TULF/TNA/TC voters. Go through his history. He was in EPRLF hiding in Madras, where he committed crimes, abduction of a child and murder of a woman for which he is facing court cases and is on the wanted list. He was expelled by EPRLF and with criminal charges pending, he was bankrupt and desolate. He wrote to Premadasa praising him and offering support. Premadasa who was then looking for Tamil acolytes immediately gave him the life line. So Douglas did not join Premadasa in a genuine way but to save him from poverty. When he arrived from Madras by plane he was wearing slippers and carrying only a kit bag with clothes. How can he explain the wealth he has acquired over the years, which he would have never made with the salary. He was the executioner of Tamils for government and armed forces for which he was paid handsomely. He jumped from one government to the other in order to keep his positon till this government distanced him. He is powerless without handouts from government, unable to pay his cadres.. He is turning a blind eye to crimes of his cadres who are accused of selling sand and working with military intelligence.

  • 2

    SLFP was fighting as three groups. On the othe rhand, SLPP and UNP were fighting as single groups So, the comparision is invalid. If Maithripala Sirisena can take the right decisions, in making the cabint, SLPP will go to pieces. MY3 should pickup right people and make a new cabinet. He will succeeed the second term without any problem. IF SLFP/SLPP and UPFA are considered the same vote base, the results shoulbe different. Ranil could not finish the five years even during the his prime minister time. This time he proved, that he is agin a failure. His presence inthe UNP will be onlya disaster to the UNP while govt will have some much screaming from everybody as you said.
    TNA was fighting for Orumiththanadu Even Tamils have rejected it and EPDP had won for the more equal rigths for Non-vellahla atamils ans more eopportunities for them. IF any Politicians promtoe TNA, that will be a stupid decision. Instead, give more eual status to non-vellahla Tamils every way and give them opportunities every where based on their abilities.
    I think, Sarath Fonseka shoukld be the PM and should be asked to clean the parliament and expect performance from the cabinet. but, he should not be REVENGEFUL from his professional enemies. Nimal siripala DE silva as the new PM is it is the same same Old same OLd recycling of old and very corrupt politicians. I dont ot MY3 will convince the voter base with that appointment. I think Nimal siripala De silva just ahnged inside afew traine engines and ordered some from India to collect the commis which went to Brexit,. that was all his work this time. MY3 should give up the ideas of the OLBD BOYS club and should take new turns.

    • 0

      I have concerns about Sarath Foneska as he is supported by Puravesi Balaya. PResident can govern easily without a PM.

  • 0

    Thero is on his usual game. EPDP got substantial votes of anti-TNA, with whom Tamils are getting more and more disenchanted because they are not talking about the Tamils’ Problems in the parliament, but simply nodding for SLFP-UNP coalition, known as The Yahapalanaya. So the reality is far away from what Thero trying to show. Gajen who was completely abandon by Tamil in the past two elections has performed very well. That happened by the TNA going with Sinhala Parties.

    TPNF is highly critical of TNA’s secret Solution as surrender to South. They don’t want to be moderate TNA.TULF Suresh is higher on critical of Secret Solution. Sangari is not that much.

    It is that kind of votes that are not represented by the 17% of EPDP.

    Other than TPNF, almost all other Northern Parties and many Eastern parties, including EPDP and TMVP, have shown interest to work with TNA in LGs. We need to wait and see what happen in that.

    Douglas has separated him from SLFP. Angajan is the one representing SLFP. Angajan said he will consult with Southern leaders before he extend his hand to TNA in forming LG.

    Angajan reminded Tamils that they too have the Tamil Nationalistic feeling.

    Irrelevant of whether they are with TNA or not, almost all parties played LTTE’s liberation song in their election campaign. This includes SLFP too. No exception.

    EPDP connection with EPRLF is long gone. Thero should try to renew his friendship with Suresh and Sangar not with EPDP. That is where Varathar is.

  • 1

    Sri lanka is over repsented by Tamil MPs. TNA has extra members as Tamils have moved to the South. Therefore, Tamils have not expressed that openly. but they have said that West push thm to go political solutions. but they are happy to stay in the govt and continue.

  • 1

    “The SLFP felt that not only was it paying for Ranil and Chandrika’s sins, it had also forfeited the chance of rapid electoral growth as demonstrably achieved by its former colleagues of the JO-SLPP.”

    Dayan; you may be correct, because that is how vulgar political operatives function in Sri Lanka.Under national perspective what is the difference between Ranil, Chandrika and Mahinda. Or for for that matter what was the difference between the dead fellows such as JRJ and SWRDB.; none .
    How about the political paradigm shift under Maithree as President and Sajith as Prime Minister and Sarath Fonseka as Law and Order and internal security Minister. If and when it becomes a reality very soon our country will be free from the curse of last 70 years.. Most likely, Dayan you too will be exiting Sri Lanka in a hurry and not dare to compile any garbage articles like this one any longer. . Rajapaksa gang and all of his cohorts may not find a place to hide.

  • 1

    This hypocrite comes out with fake theories to promote his own interests. He decides to wash the backs of powers that can restore his UN position where he lived like Duke. He is angry with RW because he calls his bluff! He will stoop to any low who can give him the position he aspires!

  • 0

    Dr. Dayan tries to say that the UNP tried a coup d’état which is similar to 1962 coup. This is pure mud slinging. UNP stalwarts are more interested in what the America dictates to them. Lanka C News recently published an article from WSWS.com an international web journal whose leader is Gerry Healy from England. This article says that the so called January 08 revolution is engineered by the USA with the help of Clinton Foundation. What is most important to USA and India is to maintain a regime that is hostile to China. So, they would do anything to prevent Mr. Rajapakse’s return to power as he is a strong supporter of China and also is harboring anti imperialistic tendencies. The present coalition will continue as long as it supports Donald Trump.

  • 1

    dr dyan de silva jayatilleke
    now you have introduced a new kid on the block-devananda
    what a combo-mr and deva
    take a break from your prognostications we have had enough
    you can start again closer to 2020

  • 2

    Dr Dayan Jayathilake is a friend of mine since the Premadasa regime.His father the late Mervyn de Silva as the editor in chief of the Ceylon Daily News encouraged me to contribute to that paper and later to the now defunct Lanlka Guardian. I used to try to understand what Dayan wrote in the LG, but could not learn much. But Dayan now writes lucidly. I agree with some of his analysis. I respect him even today. At the same time I feel I like Ranil Wickramasinghe’.s perception of upgrading Lanka with future in mind and prefer he continues to be the PM.He should attune himself to the needs of the underprivileged.I don’t think he is only concerned with the upper classes. He is widely knowledgeable person who can stand to any occasion. President Sirisena is honest and sincere but seems to be cautious of his former leader of the SLFP. Both the the UNP and the SLFP are progressive parties at national level. In the event of changes in the parliament, I wish Mahinda Rajapakse become the leader of the opposition. I am not saying anything about Thamil politics for the present.As Sirisena has stated several times we must all forget the past and wok toegther to bring the Nation truly multi racial, multi religious and multicultural.

  • 0

    We have had coalition governments before but there was a dominant partner and the others were errand persons like Wimal.
    For the first time we had coalition of equals. Remember this was cobbled up with great secrecy and at very short notice. The coalition had checks and balances. This is bound to be the pattern in future. So we must learn how to succeed. In other countries with similar electoral systems, coalition negotiations are thorough and take months.
    Dayan does not see beyond the lolly scramble. He masquerades as a political scientist! Dayan sees a hero in Douglas Devananda – a man wanted for murder, kidnapping for ransom in Chennai.
    Dayan is shallow but not this shallow!

  • 1

    I was wrong and you were right about the Electoral outcome.
    But here is a fact. If you boys who live overseas think SF is a good candidate for Law & Order and not the lover-boy at present, then you are foolish
    Who the hell do you think ordered the attack on a male journalist who was sodomized and assaulted and had to flee the nation after publishing an expose on the egomaniac SF who awarded himself medals in the Military he was not entitled to?
    Sunday Leader also published details about how much the Army had to spend for his daughter’s first marriage to her childhood sweetheart, a Brigadier’s son. Now she is married to a relative of the Bandaranaikes; that is a different story. But Sunday leader published details of the expensive first wedding.
    You buggers are stupid if you think, SF is a reformed man. He will order men to be raped and killed. Is that what you want instead of actual justice? Then are you not wanting to go back the MR era ? GR and SF were totally in cahoots on the Sunday Leader Editor’s death and the sodomy and assault on the journalist who exposed SF. Thajudeen is another matter, but if the JO forms a government that too will be covered up.

  • 1

    Mr. Jayatilleka.

    What is the 19th amendment’s role in all this. While this was a surprisingly anti incumbent warning, the 19th protects the PM from being summarily dismissed does it not?

    Also if you claim UNP lost, bigger losers were SLFP/UPFA no?

    Let RW continue as PM. No need for a new Parliamentary election. You did not call for one when UNP won Uva province during MR’s regime. So why the hurry? MR will still remain an autocrat. People do not fear the government now. There is media freedom. Independent Election commission too. And they are doing their best.

  • 0

    More appropriate head line would be coalition is acting like CRACK DEALERS. Come to think of it 90% of them will make dame good Crack dealers even with out trying.

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