By Vishwamithra –
“You are pitiful, isolated individuals! You are bankrupts. Your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on – into the dustbin of history!” ~ Leon Trotsky
Sri Lankan politics in the twenty first century has been one heck of a dissipating riot. It’s been one riot with a modicum of order but no character at the core and no core in the character. Those who engaged in this enterprise have turned their brethren’s lives upside down, dashed their hopes and shattered their dreams. They flirted with their friends’ paramours and allowed their own paramours to feel free to indulge more and more loosely. The gains at the end of the lurid and lewd path were measured in lucrative dollars and sterling pounds while the inward lust-sustaining exercise was ultra-satisfactory.
These politicians, a slimy lot of humans who come together to exploit their fellow humans while pretending to be saviors and messiahs, have been successful in cheating the electorate one hundred times more easily than climbing up the greasy pole. Their moral compass was broken long time ago in the blind alleys of dirty transactions and casino clubs in which the minimum bet was one’s own disreputable reputation and obscene character. Some even engaged in blue murder and the bodies are yet to be found! A painful drama of a falling nation’s name and character is unfolding and hopefully the last act is just about to begin and complete the saga with a crescendo which might be treacherously out of control at its perilous and enigmatic end.
Yet those politicians who held back their natural greed and applied their discipline towards the onslaught of a more commonplace phenomenon of power and money were considered an endangered species. That class of leaders, that variety of select few has now become beyond endangered species; they are extinct. With each election our people exhibit some remarkable trait of stupidity. And after the elections, year after year, month after month and day after day, the people cling onto a vanishing trek of hope and faith in their reprehensible politicians who have found their livelihood just as an implement to extract as much as possible from the enterprise they chose to be employed in.
The people of Sri Lanka had volumes of hope and faith in Gotabaya Rajapaksa and elected him as President. A fresh Rajapaksa who founded his reputation on an exaggerated notion of patriotism and master ‘doer-personality’ was exposed to the vagaries of stormy and cataclysmic nature of power politics on the one side and challenging national issues and the timely fashion in which those challenges needed to be met with consequential success on the other. Only two years were necessary for the electors to make their unpleasant discovery. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not up to the mark. He lacked depth of knowledge and breadth of experience to be in charge of State affairs.
As added weight to his less than mediocre skills and capabilities of handling State affairs, Gotabaya’s atrocious affinity with corrupt dealers and convicted murderers has generated sufficient space for the most unbelievable stories about his own personal corruption and extravaganzas which hereto have been kept concealed behind the presidential curtains.
Rajapaksa-bashing is enough. We should focus our attention on a more realistic goal; that goal might have gone through a whirlwind of corrupt practices ably and readily backed by politicians of all colors, creeds and shades. Only the Members of parliament who represent the Tamil parties seem to have evaded the rising storm of corruption and dishonesty. But on the other hand, those Tamils MPs were not in power at any given time as a government party.
The country is in real instability and approaching a point from which any reversal without extreme hardships to the people seems unreal. Any alternative offered in the circumstances needs to be seen as honest, accurate, tangible and attainable in all conditions. Instead of making wild promises, a political and economic manifesto that contains deliverable goals and plans should appear as the core ingredients of the Substance. In other words, a total Terms of Reference as regards the future political and economic plans for the country.
There seem to be four major alternatives:
1. Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) led by Sajit Premadasa
2. 43 Brigade led by Patali Champika Ranawaka
3. National People’s Power (NPP) led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake
4. National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) led by Karu Jayasuriya
SJB and Sajit Premadasa
Samagi Jana Balavegaya and Sajit Premadasa, though would like to be categorized as a fresh face and an alternative to the Rajapaksas, they are really not fresh nor are they an alternative in a real sense of the word. They are certainly a substitute for the Rajapaksas. Of the past seventy four years after Independence, nearly thirty seven years, slightly more than half of the time the country’s political and economic leadership was in the hands of the United National Party (UNP). SJB is only another name with a different leader whose only preoccupation is in safeguarding his own turf at all costs. Sajit Premadasa is his father’s son in all its character and ambitions.
Without a clue about the geopolitical standings of the country and burnt by hatred towards India and the Northern Tamils, Sajit in more instances than a few has antagonized our Northern Tamils and there are instances where he had refused to sit down on the same podium with the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance. His lack of depth in matters of statesmanship, lackadaisical approach towards intellectual compromise and woeful lack of empathy for his political bedfellows and an astonishing inability to be a team player have all contributed to an immensely depressing feature of him being a very negative substitute for the Rajapaksas. His notorious dependence on one single head of a well-known Colombo business house is widely known and in another cruel irony, Sajit Premadasa is in essence a creature of Ranil Wickremesinghe who still claims to be the leader of the UNP. If Ranil had the guts and shrewdness or even one tenth of J R Jayewardene, we wouldn’t be talking about Sajit Premadasa as a leader of any political entity today. Sajit’s lack of tangible achievements while he functioned as a minister in the Yahapalanaya government is a brutal example of his achievements or lack thereof.
‘43 Brigade’ and Patali Champika Ranawaka
Patali Champika Ranawaka is the de facto Deputy Leader of the SJB. Yet he has already formed his own rearguard position by establishing the 43-Brigade. According to the website of 43 Brigade, the brigade is made up of those Sri Lankans who were nourished and nurtured by the Kannangara Revolution of 1943 that offered ‘personally non-paying education’ to all Ceylonese children.
Patali Champika has a relatively short yet colorful history in local politics. He too, like Sajit Premadasa, belongs to the category of ‘those who are in a hurry to grab power’. History has shown that such men very rarely, if at all, reach their ambitious summit.
However, Patali Champika is being portrayed as a very serious, committed and an intellectually adequate politician. The recently released document, which is somewhat akin to an election manifesto, by his ‘43 Brigade’ spells out some of his thinking and the jury is still out there whether such a document would be eventually helpful in attaining his very ambitious goal of becoming an alternative to the Rajapaksas.
NPP and Anura Kumara Dissanayake
I have written quite extensively on AKD and his political coalition NPP. Despite the fact that the NPP and its principal partner Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has more than atrocious baggage of indiscriminate violence against innocent people in the ’87 – ’89 period and belief in outdated economic theories founded on Marxism, the empathetic approach its leader AKD displays in public meetings holds them in sturdy stead. One wonders whether the JVP has grown out of its traditional ‘cellish’ system of operation. Its performance at the various elections held during the last decade indicates that its evolution as a political organization has been slow but the secretive nature of its existence still prevails and that its functioning style has, in fact, been an impediment to an electoral victory as our democratic processes have neither accepted nor embraced secretive political maneuvers as such procedures have been proven utterly destructive to the more popular ways of democratic life.
In other words, the NPP or JVP has little to do with its current popularity apart from its charismatic leader AKD. That indeed is a tragedy. AKD still appears as the most capable of rallying the youth of the country; youth who seems to be dangerously close to being a decisive segment of the voting population in Sri Lanka and the question remains whether it alone could deliver the NPP to power without convincing the older generation of voters who are still the majority demographic segment in the country.
NMSJ and Karu Jayasuriya
Karu Jayasuriya (KJ) seems to be the only trustworthy leader left as the most plausible alternative, not necessarily to the Rajapaksas, but as a realistic alternative platform that could muster the support of all the Opposition parties and challenge the corrupt and dishonest regime of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Nonetheless, KJ needs to fine-tune his political message. Instead of giving priority to constitutional changes he needs to emphasize the insufferable economic hardships faced by the country’s most vulnerable sector and drive home his own plans and policies for the betterment of the economy.
The supreme advantage KJ has over all of the leaders mentioned above is that he remains the only leader whose word can be trusted to deliver on the promises made at the election campaigns. Furthermore, KJ still is the only leader around whom the rest of the other leading Opposition politicians would rally. None other, whether it’s Sajit, Champika or AKD, would command that respect from the others. But KJ’s age is still a question; he has to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that he is still fit and ready to engage in a robust and wholly exhausting election campaign and govern at least for a couple of years up to the time the Executive Presidency is abolished.
The country is in a grave crisis. The crisis demands a fresh turn. Its leaders who offer themselves as alternatives to the Rajapaksas have to repeat another 2015 miracle. If Maithripala Sirisena, who was by all means a very weak candidate, could defeat the most popular Rajapaksa, why cannot anyone of the above leaders defeat Gotabaya who has surpassed Sirimavo and an her daughter Chandrika as the most ineffective heads of government? If the Opposition fails at this time, Trotsky’s quotation would come true: “You are pitiful, isolated individuals!”
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org