23 May, 2024


Continuing Relevance Of Ranil In Time Of Elections 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

There are five important issues that the country faces at the present time. They are dealing with the post-Easter Sunday bombing fallout and resulting anti-Muslim sentiment, taking forward the constitutional reform and inter-ethnic reconciliation process, reviving the economy that has not attracted the investments in productive capacity that are necessary for self-sustaining growth, finding an accommodation with the big powers that are putting contrary pressures on Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, and the latest problem of the reintroduction of the death penalty that is jeopardizing the country’s standing as a humane and civilized one, and also runs afoul of its commitments that will keep special economic privileges such as the European Union’s GSP plus tariff concession. So far hardly any of Sri Lanka’s political leaders have publicly demonstrated the intellectual capacity to grasp these challenges in their totality and find a framework to cope with them.

The presidential elections are due by the end of this year and these five issues are one that the contestants will necessarily have to take up. But with less than six months to go there is no definite indication of who might be the presidential candidates from the UNP and SLPP, which are two main parties at this time. The SLFP, which was hitherto one of the big two, has now dropped to third place and has made it clear that their choice is incumbent president Maithripala Sirisena. But here too there is a caveat. They want the president to be the common candidate of the SLFP and SLPP which is essentially a breakaway from the SLFP though it now dwarfs its party of origin. There is a realization within the SLFP that only in combination with the SLPP that President Sirisena will have a fighting chance to obtain re-election despite taking extreme measures, such as signing death warrants on convicted prisoners.

However, the present indications are that the SLPP is not willing to satisfy President Sirisena’s hope of becoming the common candidate of both the SLPP and SLFP. In these circumstances, the crucial contest will be between the presidential candidates put forward by the UNP and SLFP. Both of these parties speak in terms of forging political alliances, just as the SLFP is doing, that they will lead at the forthcoming presidential and general elections. They too are speaking in terms of common candidates. At the present time the SLPP’s choice of candidate is likely to be from within its own ranks. On the part of the UNP, the need for a common candidate arises from the fact that their natural choice, UNP leader and prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, is generally seen as unable to mobilise the electorate sufficiently to vote for him.

Many Liabilities 

Prime Minster Wickremesinghe faces many liabilities. The main one is that he is unable to provide the strong leadership that the country is believed to need to overcome its many challenges, not least the challenges to national security. The prime minister is unfortunate in that he has to share power with a president with whom he does not see eye to eye, and who is vested with considerable powers under the transitional clauses of the 19th Amendment to the constitution. With the president having the powers of commander-in-chief of the armed forces which ordinarily would be a symbolic power as it is in most other countries, when it is bolstered by the constitutional power of also being Minister of Defence, it becomes a real power. As a result, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is leading a government which has little or no control over security forces, including the police.

A state is a political organization with a centralized government that exerts authority within a certain geographical territory. A widely-used definition is a state being a polity that, within a given territory, maintains a monopoly on the use of force. A government which does not have the power over the security forces cannot be a strong government even if those who run the government are strong in their character and in their thinking. However, where winning presidential elections is concerned, Prime Minister Wickremesinge has further liabilities to overcome. He has contested and lost at two previous presidential elections, the first in 2000 when he lost to then incumbent president Chandrika Kumaratunga and then again in 2005 when he lost to then prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

On both occasions, the LTTE dealt him adverse blows. In 2000, the abortive assassination attempt on President Kumaratunga generated a sympathy wave for her, and in 2005 the LTTE blocked the Tamil voters in the North and East from voting for the then former prime minister. They were unhappy with him for engaging with them in a peace process that had not led to the advantages they had sought and instead led to their effective break up in 2004. It was this outcome that paved the way for the eventual military defeat of the LTTE by the government of President Rajapaksa.

Barge Pole 

The loss of confidence in the ability of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to win a presidential contest in the context of two defeats suffered previously, led the UNP to put forward common candidates from outside the party to contest the subsequent presidential elections of 2010 and 2015. This is an indication of the likely choice that will be made for the 2019 presidential election especially as it will be crucial in determining the outcome of the general elections that will soon follow. In the aftermath of the 19th Amendment to the constitution, the general elections are more important than the presidential elections in terms of the quantum of powers that will be on offer.

At the psychological level, the party that wins the presidential elections will hold a significant advantage when it comes to the general election as they will go into the elections on a winning wicket to borrow from the cricket parlance in vogue during the World Cup championship. This would suggest that both the UNP and SLPP would put forward their most charismatic and vote-pulling candidates to contest the presidential elections. Where the SLPP is concerned the front runner as potential candidate is former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The former defense secretary is widely credited as being a person who can achieve tasks that require unity of purpose and decisiveness, such as demonstrated by the government of which he was a member that defeated the LTTE in battle. On the UNP side no clear candidate has still emerged, though Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa appear to be the key contenders.

Even if the UNP were to decide that they will not put Prime Minister Wickremesinghe forward as the party’s presidential candidate, his relevance to Sri Lankan politics will remain. He is one of the very few national level politicians who has taken an enlightened public stand on the more controversial, but tremendously important, issues that the country faces. This became evident when he together with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, accepted an invitation last week of the National Peace Council to attend a graduation event for community leaders who had passed out as master trainers on the topic of transitional justice. This is a most controversial area of political discourse, which hardly any politician is prepared to touch with a barge pole these days.

Educational Challenge 

With elections approaching most politicians prefer to play safe and be patriotic towards their own community, and voter base, rather than address controversial issues that have to be dealt with such as the human rights violations that took place in the context of the war, and the truth seeking, accountability and reparations that must necessarily follow. The previous government refused to deal with the past, which led to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to mobilise international support against Sri Lanka and brought the country to the verge of travel embargoes on its leaders and to economic sanctions, such as the loss of GSP plus tariff concessions from the European Union.

At the graduation event, the prime minister was willing to address these issues, and to point out the strength of the reconciliation process that contributed to non-retaliation in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks that killed over 250 persons and injured another 500. With elections looming it is important that other political leaders with presidential or prime ministerial ambitions should demonstrate their thinking with regard to the five major issues that confront the country at the present time. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has done so, even though his views may not be conveyed adequately, or correctly, to the masses of people.

It is the tragedy of Sri Lanka that the demagogues and populists hold the upper hand in taking their message to the masses of people. Voltaire, one of the greatest thinkers of the European Enlightenment period of history wrote these words in 1765: “Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities.” The challenge for civil society and the intelligentsia in Sri Lanka is to educate the people and understand these challenges in their correct perspective, instead of believing in absurdities which can lead to further conflict within the country and with the world itself.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    The country needs a charismatic leader to move forward and the general view of the unbiased intelligensia is all 225+1 are not elligible to rule this country anymore for they all seem equally corrupted.

    • 5

      Bottom line is, US puppet Bondscam Ranil must be impeached.
      He has promoted a culture of corruption, parliamentary privilege and perks and rotted the parliament –with the help and fake “advice” and Xperts of his American friends under the guise of reconciliation.

      The corruption epidemic in Sri Lanka today is part of the US sponsored bi-partisan UNP-SLFP corruption racket with the 2 Rajapaksa US citizens and support of TNA and JVP), to corrupt the politicians and promote US military, security interests and colonize, loot and beggar Sri Lanka.

    • 3

      Charisma certainly is an essential ingredient to win elections but it alone will not help to Govern. MY 3 certainly showed a stronger charisma on stage during the campaign b’cos of his deep throat but we all now see how poor his quality is. I also hear this popular sentiment that the country needs a brand new young charismatic & intelligent leader. My personal opinion is that the prevailing SL socio-political system is such that there is very little room, if any at all, exists for a total outsider with near perfect qualifications to emerge to take over the political system of the country. I have very serious doubts whether SL is ready for the French Macron phenomenon.
      I think that the lessons learned from the two last consecutive presidential elections should be good enough for the “intelligentsia” to understand that electing leaders based solely on the euphoria of the time is the worst thing to do. SL elected MaRa nearly with 2/3 margin in 2010 based solely on the war record. Only four years later, relatively unknown MY 3 was brought in to get rid of MaRa but the problem remains largely unresolved. This bad lessons must stand to question the merits of the idea of choosing candidates on charisma or some other euphoria of the time alone ignoring how the winning team would run a Gvt. This leads me to conclude that, instead of looking for only a charismatic leader, the “intelligentsia” must look for the party that posses abilities both to win & to govern after winning. If you ask me what that party is, I would reply UNP without any hesitation!

  • 11

    Jehan Perera, please, the biggest threat that the country faces today is US terrorism, and its SOFAs, ACSAs, MCC compacts for which the Easter Sunday Carnage was perpetrated in order to Divide, Distract and Colonize the country. US has been weaponizing religion – Buddhism and Islam in Sri Lanka and Asia for a very long time and US puppet Bondscam Ranil has been collaborating in this project with his Muslim MPs.
    Bondscam Ranil must be impeached along with this fellow neoliberal butterfly Mangala the moron.

    Jehan Perera you are shamelessly taking US and EU funds and writing nonsense, deliberately playing up your ethno-religious conflict narrative and business strategy –on the instructions of your paymasters. NPC should be shut down since its “research” was funded and used by the US Special Operations Forces (SOF) that organized the Easter Sunday attacks.

    • 7

      Jehan: Please ask your US, UK and EU paymasters when they plan to vacate the Chagos Islands and end the ongoing Human Rights Violation of Chaggosian people?

      ICJ ruled against UK occupation and also the odious Diego Garcia CIA black site which is an on-going human rights violation in the Indian Ocean.
      Also, the US exports 50 % of all global weapons, and its war machine is a HUGE Environment Pollutor and consumer of oil and geeenhouse gas emittor so please ask Alina Teplitz and co. to stuff their weapons up their Asses take the Sri Lankan butterflies Bondscam Ranil and Moron Mangala, and get out.
      Also pl. tell Alina to stop weaponizing Buddhism and visiting Buddhist monks to sell SOFA to them and stop putting out fake data on trade as part of its Economic and trade war on Sri Lanka to force it to accept SOFA.
      USA pretends to be the biggest buyer of Lankan goods when this is not the case. Sri Lanka does not need GSP plus bullshit trade concessions that are aimed to control trade. This is part of the Economic War game to crash the rupee and asset strip Lanka. Sri Lanka and bring in SOF and SOFA to colonize Lanka. Sri Lanka does not need to MCC ‘s paltry $$$ or fake trade concessions from Trumpland.
      Foolish Dr. JP please educate your self

  • 6

    Double standard paradoxical article.

    The Author is trying to explain the challenges faced by Sri Lanka. His opinion is that RW is a must to resolve these challenges. On the other hand, the author says these challenges are not perceived by the masses of Sri Lanka.

    To me, the challenges, faced by Sri Lankans are basic human needs, Food, health, Education, Shelter, Security, Law and Order, Environment and Dignity. When people get these things, they will be happy and live peacefully. But not the revised Constitution or reconciliation process. But I do not see any of these things are listed by the author. RW and his team have miserably failed to deliver these things to Sri Lankans.
    [edited out]

  • 4

    “At the graduation event, the prime minister was willing to address these issues, and to point out the strength of the reconciliation process that contributed to non-retaliation in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks that killed over 250 persons and injured another 500. “

    Non-retaliation cannot be considered as a result of reconciliation program of this Government. There was no bloody reconciliation program when LTTE terrorists killed 600 policemen who surrendered, blew up a bus carrying Buddhist monks, killed the people who were praying at Sri Maha Bodhi, bombed Temple of the Tooth etc. etc.; yet there were no retaliation from Sinhalayo.
    During Rajapakse regime when there was no serious reconciliation program there was only on attack on Muslims at Aluthgama. But while the reconciliation program of this Government was in operation, there were six attacks on Muslims; Ampara, Digana, Poddala, Halawatha, Kuliyapitiya, Minuwangoda.

    Despite reconciliation program, Wellala TNA racist politicians pass anti-Sinhala anti-Buddhist remarks.
    Chandrika and Jehan should explain why?
    Reconciliation program of this Government is a total failure and all the resources put into that was a waste. Waste for the country but a Jack Pot to Choura Regina.

  • 7

    This country needs a leader. Not a technocrat, manager, dreamer or a schemer.

  • 5

    ” They were unhappy with him for engaging with them in a peace process that had not led to the advantages they had sought and instead led to their effective break up in 2004. “

    i do not think that was the reason.The LTTE thought that if mahinda won then a sinhala hardline government was better for them than a government that was pro west.They thought that if mahinda won then LTTE will get more support from the west and mahinda will not get any support.

  • 4

    Dr Ranil’s Strongman, Gallen Ravi has alraedy demolished the Kid from Keselwatta unless the Kid can do a Lazarus by producing his OL Results to the UNP Exec Committee at Srikotha.
    Even then he has Buckly’s ..

    Uncle Karu I don”t think the flavor of the Clombo Elite, Anglicans and the Velalalas in Colombo..
    So Dr Ranil I don;t think has any worries to get the Gig despite Dr Jehan’s reservations.

    And Dr Ranil now controls the whole Muslim Community . and does not need Dr Rajitha anymore to herd the muslim Voters.
    Vellala voters have always backed Dr Ranil to the hilt..

    Dambara Amila Thero is alaraeady herding the UNP Sinhala Buddhists by attacking both the Cardinal and the Asgiri Boss ,

    I can already the see signs of a landslide for Dr Ranil.
    And even a better one for the UNP at the General Election..

    Wonder whether Galleon Ravi is the next all Powerful PM in Lanakawe ,after the 19 A kicks in soon after Dr Ranil swears in….

  • 4

    Has Ranil ever had any relevance? I don’t think so.

  • 4

    To Jehan Perera “He (RW) is one of the very few national level politicians who has taken an enlightened public stand on more controversial but tremendously important issues that country faces”. Please read the entire presentation that deals with the issues faced and how and why RW has failed and especially the facts mention under the sub -para titled “Many Liabilities”. At the end, this writer, claimed to be an “Intellectual” makes a suggestion:- ” The challenge for the civil society and intelligentsia in Sri Lanka to educate the public………” With these types of narrations by “Intellectuals” mingling with the public, I would request the PUBLIC to be very cautious and first get educated on these types of civil society organisations that have produced Jehan Perera and very many of such “PSEUDO” intellectuals. So far we have endured enough of these “Road Shows” by these Civil Society “Intellectual and it is high time to say “Good Bye” and rely on our “Common Sense”.

  • 2

    Jehan Perera: You know Ranil is irrelevant now. Very soon they have a series of Seminars in which both the president at the beginning of the Seminar series and Karu Jayasuriya, the National candidate for the president, at the end of the seminar series will outline what they have done and what they will do.
    Jehan Perera also explains that t[edited out] Karu Jayasuriya is going to be the contender.

  • 2

    Judging by various comments, it appears the Western stooge or the poodle is totally exposed as to who really is and what his agenda is. One problem though is that the dollars these vasal bastards receive are still being used to brainwash some of the youngsters (though a tiny minority) who can be used to subvert SL

    • 1


      “One problem though is that the dollars these vasal bastards receive are still being used to brainwash some of the youngsters (though a tiny minority) who can be used to subvert SL”

      What a messianic message.
      Mind you the Chinese also deal with and settle all business transactions including bribe, commissions, ….. in dollars.
      For confirmation please contact the clan, particularly Basil.

  • 4

    Very clumsy and lethargic looking PM. Time for him to pack up.

  • 1

    dont flog a dead horse just because he spoke at a peace council meeting
    he is already old hat and it is time for him to retire
    the nation needs an action oriented young leader not an old nato one

  • 1

    Mr Perera, We the People thought that no one would notice.

    The RELEVANCE of Ranil? The man is now IRRELEVANT!

    After losing one election, he accepted that he will be ‘non-playing captain’. Sadly, the country is falling apart around him, but he is blissfully unaware, or doesn’t care. All that matters to him is that he has a ‘title’ and a thick skin to survive the barbs directed at him.

    Does he really think that the country will miss him if he retires to his favourite hideaway in the south?

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