23 September, 2020

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Critically Supporting The Anti-Regime Campaign

By Kalana Senaratne

Dr. Kalana Senaratne

Dr. Kalana Senaratne

It had to happen that way, and the break was only possible with a serious split within the regime. The moment had come for members of the SLFP to take the plunge. And when finally Vasantha Senanayake, MP, crossed over (the first member of the brave ‘suicide squad’) and mentioned that he knew who the common candidate was, the matter was settled. It had to be Maithripala Sirisena. And yet it was somewhat remarkable, in this day and age of unprecedented surveillance, how the opposition forces kept the regime guessing, until a couple of hours before Minister Sirisena left it. But the gates are now open; this is set to be a wonderful and exciting battle, but also a very grotesque one. So grotesque that even the Pope would feel helpless.

Sirisena-campaign

The challenge posed by Maithripala Sirisena appears to be a formidable one. His is unlike the Fonseka-campaign of 2010, for the individuals are two very different political animals, the former being a seasoned politician, a man with a following within the SLFP voters and has stood by the SLFP, and one that all parties, including the UNP, have no serious problem endorsing as a ‘common’ candidate; especially against the present regime. Fonseka was a man who could have been easily isolated, and was. Not so, Sirisena.

And unlike Fonseka, Sirisena’s campaign appears to have what it takes to sustain the challenge even beyond the Presidential election on 8th January, 2015, in case the latter loses it. Also unlike Fonseka, whose statements during public rallies showed he could be as ruthless as the regime, Sirisena can easily position himself as the more caring and compassionate one. Many of the backers of the present leadership promote the idea that the SLFP seniors are still in awe of the very friendly demeanour of the leader. This is only partly true. For numerous reports and sources (not simply newspapers) suggest that MPs fear even meeting the leadership. Mr. Vasantha Senanayaka, MP, himself admits that his reform proposals did not proceed beyond the point of being acceptable to the senior SLFPers, since they feared talking about them (as he told the Irida Lankadeepa of 23 Nov.). And it is not just the factors of corruption and the inability to work for their constituencies, but also the fear-factor (the latter is often forgotten), which have led to the break-up of the SLFP.

MaithriIn a sense, the task of the opposition forces ought to be somewhat easy. For this election is not necessarily about upholding the ideal moral and ethical values or presenting candidates who have consistently maintained an anti-government policy; for such people are rare in contemporary politics, and also because people today are immune to the many inconsistencies of individual politicians, especially when they know that such inconsistencies exist even in those within the regime, and where they feel that the opponent has to be defeated. So, much depends on whether the opposition will be able to show that the present regime is so corrupt and evil that any alternative is a better and credible choice. This is largely a consequence of the present regime being correctly perceived as one of the most corrupt regimes in Sri Lanka’s recent history and that this is the lowest we can hit. Perhaps that’s a generous assessment of the depths we can potentially fall into; and yet, it is a widespread and accurate feeling that after the war, this regime is beyond reform. To push this perception, the anti-regime forces actually don’t have to do much; the regime will do that for them.

The reformist agenda and key players

What of the Sirisena-campaign’s reformist agenda?

One of the advantages of the campaign, once again, is that given its share of nationalists, the convenient and famous labels – too much to mention here – would not really work. And boosting its appearance with a reformist agenda becomes somewhat easy when the regime has none.

But broad alliances come with their weaknesses, and the present anti-regime alliance is one such which has weaknesses. Firstly, the anti-regime campaign has its own critics within. One is almost tempted to state that the anti-regime campaign is so diverse and therefore problematic, that President Rajapaksa does not even need a reformist agenda, but only needs to print thousands of copies of Victor Ivan’s writings on former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and former CJ, Sarath N. Silva, and distribute them free-of-charge. Secondly, then, the Sirisena-campaign would need to ensure that the role of Mrs. Kumaratunga needs to be minimal especially in front of the cameras. Her principal challenge and contribution to this campaign would be to show that Mr. Sirisena is not her puppet.

So the effect of much of this can be mitigated only with the active involvement of the likes of Patali Champika Ranawaka, the Pivithuru Hetak/JHU forces, and younger elements of the UNP (Harin Fernando, Buddhika Pathirana, et al), and with some clear support from Anura Kumara Dissanayaka/JVP and other critical forces. That’s a political platform which can be very formidable. From what transpired at the Sirasa TV’s Satana programme last night (which the regime blocked-out for some), the JVP would offer its critical support for the Sirisena-campaign. But what was also noted in that programme was Maithripala’s emphasis on the SLFP ideology (and the adoration of the Bandaranaike-family). While such emphasis is understandable, this approach, in a broader coalition with the UNP, could easily distance the UNPer and the UNP voters. That’s the misfortune of broad coalitions; and a task before Maithripala would be to ensure that the anti-regime coalition does not appear to be one hijacked by the SLFP.

There is also, however, the question about the JHU.

As was argued sometime ago, if there was any single movement that was going to add strength to the anti-regime campaign, it was going to be the Pivithuru Hetak movement led by Ven. Athuruliye Rathana (JHU) which adopts a clear ‘regime-change’ policy (not a ‘course-correction’ one). In other words, to attack the regime’s arrogance and break its monopoly over the Sinhala-Buddhist vote-base, a convincing and formidable challenge had to be posed from within the Sinhala-Buddhist ideological camp. The UNP, or a few SLFPers, couldn’t do that.

And for the moment, the JHU has emerged victorious. During recent times, it was battling with other Sinhala-Buddhist forces such as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) – which are also entities nourished by the regime – for supremacy within this Sinhala-Buddhist camp. Also, it may be that the JHU was getting distanced from the Prince’s ear. And with one bold move initiated largely by Ven. Athuruliye Rathana, the JHU has been able to regain their position within the Sinhala-Buddhist camp, and do so by portraying it as a reformist outfit; even though ‘reform’ may not be the only motive behind this entire campaign.

In such a scenario, attacking the JHU and its monks as the regime is seeking to do today, is going to backfire; not only because such a policy is going to anger the broader Sangha community, but also because of the widespread view within the Sinhala community that the JHU (especially Champika Ranawaka) cannot be blamed for corruption and financial misdeeds. Furthermore, politics is such that it is today difficult to find anyone, even within the NGO/civil society community, who will be openly critical of the JHU or Champika Ranawaka. That just might say much about political praxis, but it also says a lot about the palpable need to defeat the present regime.

But it is still unclear how the reformist agenda promised by the JHU will be implemented. For instance, Maithripala Sirisena promised the abolition of the Executive Presidency in 100 days, while the JHU adopts a reformist approach towards the Presidency. Also, the JHU proclaims to be concerned about introducing independent institutions when it was the only party that was against the 17th Amendment. We know that Champika’s main argument regarding the 17th Amendment was that the Constitutional Council so created was anti-Sinhala (which was a fantastic claim). And as he has explained recently, that problem is seen to have been somewhat addressed through the Parliamentary Council system of the 18th Amendment. So what form should independent institutions take in the future?

Many such questions arise about the reformist project promoted by the JHU.

The forgotten Tamils

But there’s always a forgotten other in these political campaigns, and once again, it’s the Tamil people. The primary function expected of them by the Southern leadership in this election campaign would be to ensure an anti-regime vote, which the Tamil people would ensure (and that says much about Sri Lankan regimes too). But apart from that, they are almost totally neglected as a people and community; by the regime (for certain), but also by the anti-regime forces and movements.

While this is not at all surprising, the underlying reasons as to why the Tamil question is not on the agenda in this campaign, reflects perhaps the long history, but also the developing dynamics, of politics. Sri Lanka’s post-war politics appears to be largely a struggle between different versions of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. Its internal struggle is akin to a high-jump contest, where every time a group intervenes in political debate, it raises the ideological bar that much higher. But this inevitably lowers the ceiling set on devolution. And as is quite clear today, the new ceiling on devolution which is gradually solidifying in the country is: 13th Amendment minus (13A-). This in turn doesn’t make standing for 13A progressive; it only makes standing for something ineffective appear progressive and reformist.

This is one thing that the Pivithuru Hetak movement/JHU has done with its 19th Amendment proposal. And there’s broad consensus on this matter, for not only is this the Rajapaksa-regime’s avowed policy, but it also receives support from the UNP leadership (with only a few voices of resistance, such as that of Mangala Samaraweera, MP, being heard). Given the current state of affairs, it would be quite amazing if at least the few conditions set out by the TNA (i.e. demilitarization, resettlement and an end to land grabs) can be accepted and implemented by the anti-regime campaign. Therefore, it’s not just the regime (for which the above conditions are unacceptable) but also the anti-regime campaign which needs to be critiqued strongly and continuously for the approach adopted towards the Tamil question.

Conclusion: critical support

Sri Lanka has now got her best chance to topple the present leadership democratically; one which is either moving from a benevolent dictatorship to a mad and ferocious one (sonduru aaknyadaayakathwayaka sita viyaru aaknyadaayakathwayakata, as Maithripala stated) or one which has already reached the latter stage (according to Anura Kumara Dissanayaka). Whereas one would have expected a war-winning outfit to remain in power with some convenience for a decade or so, the regime is shaken to its core from within, just 5-6 years after the war; which explains the state of affairs in the country. Against the anti-reformist and corrupt governance of the present leadership, there’s little reason why the anti-regime campaign should not receive the support of a majority of the Sinhala masses. Even for those equally committed to the Tamil question, one believes it would be a vote for the anti-regime campaign with firmly held noses.

In other words, given the seriousness of the situation, critical support, then, is what the Sirisena-led opposition campaign deserves, not any blind and uncritical support merely motivated by hatred towards the existent leadership/regime. But, why?

It is only critical support which guarantees that supporting the anti-regime campaign is not motivated by a belief in its promise of a bright and better world; rather, such support is motivated due to the fundamental reason that one of the principal tasks today is to challenge and defeat authoritarianism. Support also has to be a critically oriented one to remind ourselves that the task does not end on 8th January, that democracy is always a thing waiting to be realized, a path that needs constant critique and renewal. It is about taking a firm decision against authoritarianism without vacillating, while being fully aware of the many indeterminacies and uncertainties inherent in politics and political campaigns. And it is amidst these uncertainties that one now sees some hope; a little more than there is today. That too could be a little myth, but politics isn’t possible without myths.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    0

    well thought out Kalana as usual.
    then again, it will be interesting how MS is going to face the dirty mud slinging and all other unethical practices and intimidation carried by the regime using its absolute power and control of all leading media houses which is run by wheeler dealers who are into gambling/narcotics/money laundering and similar line of businesses.

    The need of the hour is to use the social media extensively as they did in the Egypts uprising and recently India’s new PM Na-Mo. It was reported that the regime have got few cyber experts from China with the equipment to monitor and distort the anti regime opinion among social media, a new office setup in Narahenpita and managed bu Ba-Ra and Dulles on this regard and they are looking to hire hundreds to work on this project.

    Its upto someone like Mangala to spearhead a campaign against this special unit and with a strong anti regime wave, there will be enough volunteers that will join forces among the Sri Lankan diaspora to counter attack.

    This will be the last chance to get an election from this evil Rajapaksas and its right time to standup and send these morons in a Mihin Lanka plane to any of the African banana republics that they have swindled the black money.

    • 1
      2

      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/

    • 4
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      Yes, indeed! Good analysis here..
      Wonder what the slimy Dead Leftists – Dew, Vasu and Vitarne are up to?

      Their days are numbered!

      The first challenge is to ensure that the Rajapaksa Ebola virus that has corrupted all institutions in Lanka will be wiped out in January 2015.

      JVP and students should launch a campaign to paint graffit over the posters of MR that are polluting the country at this time.

    • 1
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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/

    • 3
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      Greedy Mahinda Rajapakse wanted 6 years more – to be the corrupt Dictator of Lanka – and now he will have 2 years LESS!
      There is much work to be done to restore democracy:

      1.This corrupt dictator and his family members, in laws and casino and drug cronies have looted Sri Lanka and they must be held ACCOUNTABLE for FINANCIAL CRIMES.

      2. The Military business complex that Gotabaya Jarapassa built up to ensure Jarapassa family dictatorship must be dismantalled along with the Executive Presidency to restore proper democracy.

      3. Independence of Judiciary restored and Mohan Peris impeached.

      4. Nivard Cabraal at the Central Bank and PBJ must also be tried in open court and sentence for life for FINANCIAL CRIMES and piling on the national debt while Jarapassa looted national funds.

      5. All the lands that the Jarapassa family and cronies have grabbed for themselves and to build fancy hotels via military take over of land must be returned to the people.

    • 3
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      Kalana: the point is that Maithripala Sirisena and Chandrika Bandaranaiyake (CBK )represent the REAL SLFP. They are trying to SAVE the SLFP from the Rajapaksa clan which has tried to turn the second largest political party in the country into a Jarapassa family business. This is why Sirisena invokes of the Bandaranaiyake family’s role in the SLFP.

      The joint opposition is truly a National Opposition SLFP, UNP and all the other parties. The corrupt Rajapaksa family is utterly ISOLATED and exposed in all their venal greed, as the SLFP has melted away from them and become the opposition.

    • 0
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      Will MR have to resign as President, and all his other Political Positions, before handing in his Nomination for the Election of the New President?

      Will he then be an ordinary Citizen with no Powers, like all other aspirants to the Post of President.

      However he will have an advantage over all other Candidates because of the Family Support from within the Government Ranks.!

  • 1
    1

    Kalana Senaratne – and Matilda Ellepola

    “The need of the hour is to use the social media extensively as they did in the Egypts uprising and recently India’s new PM Na-Mo.”

    Yes. Expose It has to be intensive. Put on Titter, U-Tibe and other social media.

    1. The Politicians have come together, with common sense and comm goals prevailing to rescue the country and its people, both Paras and Native Veddah Aethho from the excesses of the Executive Presidency, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa , his Family, his cronies and their shills and whitewashes.

    The populace need to thank Especially the current set of Common Candidates Team for this Patriotic Move to rescue the country from Mara aka MaRa.

    2. Now the populace and the writers need to do their job and complete the Mara Dumping Project.

    The populace need help. They need to be informed.By whom? Everybody, especially the and media personnel, writers, printers, publishers and distributors.

    3. What can the writer do? Need Anonymous and named writers. They need to write Common Sense Pamphlet, 2014 Sri Lanka version. They need to do what Thomas Paine did for America in 1776 to get rid of tree King.

    Common Sense (pamphlet)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_%28pamphlet%29

    Common Sense[1] is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 that inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. In clear, simple language it explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution and became an immediate sensation. It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. Washington had it read to all his troops, which at the time had surrounded the British army in Boston. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history.[2]

    Common Sense presented the American colonists with an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of whether or not to seek independence was the central issue of the day. Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, and relied on Biblical references to make his case to the people.[3] He connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity.[4] Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”.[5]

  • 5
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    Everybody knows how Sri Lankan politicians are.

    Thieves, high way robbers, rapists have more seela or morals and ethics than these politicians.

    In such a world, when you question who is better, who is going to that and this is simply stupid.

    Here, Kalana Senevirathne shows his biases because of religion. It shows with how he is talking about Tamil QUESTION.

    He thinks That Mahinda Rajapakse supports BBS. He does not talk that Mahinda Rajapakse shows that he is Catholic in front of Catholics (he had told that he is a Catholic to the Bishop) and then go to Anuradhapura or Mahanuwara he becomes a devout buddhist. Mahinda Rajapakse is the same with Hindu Kovil or the Moslem Mosque. He does not have any favouration for the majority culture or the civilization. He wants to show that he is everybody’s president. A former Catholic can do that easily.

  • 3
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    Dr. Kalana Seneratne,
    Very good and realistic analysis of the scenario of the fielding of a candidate to contest the Presidential Election. Your observation on the “silence” of all who worked to nominate a candidate and the candidate himself on the Tamil issues that the war had not solved is a kind reminder to candidate Srisena, his supporters and the English speaking voters that the issue cannot be ignored. CBK did mention that a just solution need to be found. Such words do not resonate with the Tamil people anymore as they had heard it before election time in the past. Beside she could not get her August 1995 or the diluted 2000 proposal passed at her Party conference end of that year. It was Tabled in Parliament and gathering dust. Will she get Mr Srisena and a new Parliament to pass it? Probably not as that would start a revolt by the Sinhala-Buddhist masses, defection and chaos.

    What is absent from your article is that an analysis of the political scenario IF Mr. Srisena wins. May be you will address that in your next article. That questions that arise are: 1. Who will get the Ministerial posts?
    2. When will he dissolve parliament and hold new election?
    3. Will he and his supporting parties get enough seats to have a Two-Third majority to amend the constitution (or write a new constitution.) for SL to be a Parliamentary democracy?
    4. Does he have to have a Referendum for the amendment to the present constitution to be legal? If so will it get a majority?
    5. What happens to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord and the 13A?
    6. If 13A becomes null and void, what will replace it?
    7. Will India sit and watch?
    8. Will the Provincial Council be dissolved or cease to exist without the 13A?
    As I don’t believe in Astrology or numerology I shall add other questions.
    9. Will Srisena administration permit International Investigators to hear evidence from the people in Sri Lanka on whether war crimes and crimes against humanity was committed by all parties to the war?
    10. Who will be sent to the UN as SL representative? Who will be appointed as Ambassador to China, UK, USA, France and more importantly Geneva?
    11. Will President Srisena have same stance as President Rajapaksa at the March 2015 (ie before the 100 days) UNHRC meeting where Sri Lanka will be discussed?
    12. Should Candidate Srisena answer this questions truthfully?
    13. If he did will he win the election?

    I am sure you know that without a political solution acceptable to each of the communities in Sri Lanka there will not be any Reconciliation.

  • 0
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    Kalana………… The UNP’ers have been relegated to the level of poster boys.
    They have to erect stages, put up buntings, paste posters, distribute leaflets for the Commom Candidate with his side kick CBK to speak.

    CBK who was issued with the an alleged contract to oust MR with Diasspora $$$$ Out Sourced it to Maithreepala.

    CBK had two motives. To get a foothold on SL politics and Out Source the job of Presidential candidate to the most suitable.
    She has suceeded in one. To get a foothold need to wait for the election rsults.
    In the meantime CBK is laughing all the way to the bank with a gunny load of tax free $$$$$$

    If the UNP’ers protest at being poster boys, to erst stae, do buntings lay out pavada, then Sampanthan’s TNA with Suresh Premachandra & the Northern catholic Clergy, Tissaranee will have to fill the vaccum.

    JVP/JHU will not want to be seen supporting an alleged pro_West agenda with Diaspora money.
    They will go it a alone or mind their own business.

  • 0
    0

    Will the cure be worse than the disease?

    I do not have to enumerate the utter abuse of power that the MaRa brothers practiced.

    Will the Maithripala Sirisena outfit be any better. MS’s first media statement spoke about the restoration of SWRD’s policies. Well, such a statement is surely bound to send shivers down the Tamil spines and also in the spines of other minorities.

    Is MS’ going to be any better than MaRa Inc. That is the million dollar question. My advice to all Sri Lankans is, yes we must get rid of the Rajapaksa family dynasty. On the same token we must extract clear cut assurances from MS as well as all those elder politicians who back him that the cure will be better than the disease.

  • 0
    1

    HI !
    OHCHR INVESTIGATION AND THE WORLD FOCUS ON SRI LANKA. TAMIL SHOULD SAY TO THE WORLD THAT THEY ARE AFTER A FREEDOM NOT PARTY POLITICS AND ALTERNATIVE SHINGALEASE GOVERNMENTS WHICH WORK ON THE SAME AGENDA OF DESTROYING AND WIPING OUT TAMILS FROM THE NATION. THEY HAVE CONSISTENTLY DONE IT FOR THE LAST 63 YEARS. LET ALL TAMILS REGARDLESS OF DIFFERENCES STAND TOGETHER AND EXPRESS OUR POINT OF VIEW TO THE WORLD. WE CANNOT BE SAVED BY UNP OR SLFP BOTH HAVE DID MASS DESTRUCTION TAMILS UNP IN 1983 AND SLFP IN 2009 AND BOTH ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR GENOCIDE OF TAMILS IN SRI LANKA. YOU AS TAMIL CANNOT VOTE FOR EITHER OF THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE GUILTY AND ONLY OUTSTANDING IS AN GENOCIDE INVESTIGATION THEY ARE SURE TO BE PROSECUTED FOR THE GENOCIDE!

    WE CANNOT AS A TAMILS VOTE FOR THE GENOCIDERS’ TO APPROVE THEIR CRIME ! WE SHOULD ALL BOYCOTT VOTING IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UNLESS ANY MAIN PARTY UNP OR SLFP PROMISES TO CONDUCT UN LEAD REFERENDUM AMONG THE TAMILS BOTH IN NORTH AND EAST OF SRILANKA AND DIASPORA EELAM TAMILS WHO ARE DISPLACED BY THE 30 YEAR WAR

    FOR THE TAMIL NATIONAL QUESTION. IF THE MAIN PLAYERS DO NOT DO THAT THEN LET SINGALEASLE CHOSE THEIR LEADERS ! THIS WILL SHOW THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY THAT SINGALEASE LEADERS ARE NOT LEADERS OF TAMILS AND DO NOT WANT TO HONOUR THE BASIC FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT OF TAMIL TO HAVE THEIR SAY IN THE FUTURE! TAMILS SHOULD NOT INTERFEAR WITH THEIR CHOICE OF LEADERSHIP!

    THIS WILL SHOW THE WORLD COMMUNITY WHAT TAMIL WANT IS A UN LEAD REFERENDUM NOT A REGIME CHANGE IN SRI LANKA! AND SINGALEASE PEOPLE CAN DECIDE WHETHER THEY WANT THE REAL RECONCILIATION WITH TAMIL COMMUNITY OR THEY ARE ARE GOING TO SUPPORT THE LEADER SHIPS WHO ARE DOING THE GENOCIDE OF TAMILS! THE SINGALEASE CAN ALSO BOYCOTT THE ELECTION IF THEY FEEL UN JUSTICE IS DONE BY THOSE LEADERS WHO ARE STANDING in solidarity with Tamils
    requesting referendum.
    MANIVANNAN

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