By Kumar David –
Choosing between urgent immediacy and long-term perspectives
If it is certain that Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) will not be the next Prime Minister, it makes sense to use ones vote to craft a meaningful opposition instead of increasing the Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW) UNF-GG parliamentary majority. A strong JVP serves two objectives: (a) an opposition that can keep the next government on a tight leash (the debauched UPFA opposition can serve no such purpose); (b) test out a dish that may mature into an alternative government one day. Yes, I can hear voices in protest: “Kumar, you are crazy, you are playing with fire! How can one be sure till the votes are counted that the UPFA has been defeated? How can we take a chance? We must pool every vote to defeat MR; we can think of the JVP afterwards, that is after the immediate peril has receded”.
I grant the dilemma but have a simple and I think plausible solution. Vote JVP in every district where it has a good chance of securing a seat; in other places vote for the UNF-GG. (The North and East are a different story). This can be called tactical voting adjusted for the PR system. A corollary is that one must vote JVP in Colombo District and push two into parliament – Anura Kumara and Lal Kantha. There are six other districts where the JVP will secure one or two seats – Vijitha Herath and Bimal Ratnayake (Gampaha), Nihal Galapathi in Hambantota, Sunil Handunneththi (Matara), Samantha Vidyaratne (Monaragala) and possibly Vasantha Samarasinghe (Anuradhapura). I must also make special mention of my politically principled and thoroughly decent friend Dr Nalinda Jayatissa in Kalutara.
Getting say 12 to 15 JVPers (including Appointed MPs) into parliament is not a waste of anti-MR votes; but on the contrary it will help bury the rent-seeking Paksa family and its crony mafia. However, there is one possible source of confusion in the minds of tactical voters which the JVP must dispel by announcing that it will never allow MR to become PM and that the alternative is “less worse!”
Let me explain. I refuse to make predictions but qualitatively there is rather a fine balance. On 8 January Sirisena (MS) polled 62 lakhs which included the UNP mass base vote which RW with cleverly managed to keep in line for the Swan; MR polled 58 lakhs. The minorities to a man and JVP voters backed Sirisena. That is the problem! In this election about 4 lakhs of Jaffna and Vannie Tamils will vote for their own parties (the Muslims are within the UNF-GG umbrella) and say 3 lakhs of JVP voters will also go their own way. If other things remain the same the UNF-GG vote falls to 55 lakhs.
Of course other things have not remained unchanged. MR cannot use state machinery (vehicles, police and government servants) and money, corruption has been exposed and most serious, the SLFP is in a spin. A few lakhs of UPFA voters will keep away and a few lakhs switch allegiance. MR himself now personally engages in explicit communal racial rabble rousing at the hustings; however, I am unable to judge its effectiveness. All this number counting, of course, is speculative and may be off the mark; the point is that it is wise to appreciate that the outcome may be finely balanced.
What is easier to predict is that RW is likely to be the next PM. I am confident that the MR-camp will not secure an absolute majority (113 seats). In that is case President Sirisena has the discretion to ask RW to form a government on the “He is the person most likely to secure support in parliament” principle. This is a decision within his prerogative if the UPFA fails to get a majority. RW will then go ahead and the TNA will give the President a wink. The JVP can do itself a favour and win over marginal voters worried about “wasting” their vote by reassuring the anti-MR public that it (the JVP) will “reluctantly” facilitate the choice of RW over MR since the latter is the “more worse” alternative.
[In parenthesis let me deal with a tangential matter. If the UPFA secures more seats than the UNF-GG alone, say 90-plus UPFA to 90-minus UNF-GG, and if RW forms a government its legitimacy will be contested. “We won the election, they formed the government! What mockery! It’s a Tamil plot!” The anger may extend to burn, loot and mayhem. Therefore a RW government, based on plurality, needs to win at least one seat more than the UPFA (say 90-plus UNF-GG to 90-minus UPFA 80) for moral legitimacy. For that the UNF-GG needs to make gains in Kegalle, Kalutara and Anuradhapura Districts where Sirisena polled 4.8%, 6.2% and 8.2%, respectively, less than MR in January 2015. In general the UNF-GG must secure a +5% swing in Sinhalese areas].
The JVP grows up
I now return to the theme of this essay, the JVP option. Allow me to say good things before I balance it out with critical remarks. Anura Kumara has matured into an able leader; he comes thoroughly prepared, his points are well argued and correctly presented and his delivery is sober. With the old left leaders (NM, Colvin, Pieter and Bernard) no longer heard in the Chamber, AKD and his colleagues are beginning to fill the void. The existing slew of UPFA politicos are the dregs; it is unimaginable that NM, Dr Wicks and their contemporaries, or Anura Kumara and his comrades would debase themselves and call an opponent a pakaya in parliament. JVP parliamentarians are a cut above UPFA garbage and in most cases higher quality than the UNP’s ranks – there are of course some 10 or 20 quality people in the UNP parliamentary group as well.
Let us not judge the world by Westminster behavioural standards alone; what of the JVP as a national political entity. It is the most serious minded and far thinking of all parties currently represented in parliament. I have three reasons for arriving at this judgement. First the JVP seems to have undertaken an evaluation of some mistakes of its past – and they were gross – recognised them and moved away. It has issued no confession or apology but to judge from its current behaviour it seems to have recognised some, if not many of its former defects. Only a serious party can review and learn from past mistakes. See how badly the Dead-Left has failed, or indeed regressed, in this respect.
The second reason is that the JVP seems to be struggling to evolve an economic strategy that takes into account current global realities. After the end of the Soviet Union and a new model of mixed economic growth became apparent in China, which of us socialists is not grappling with the complexities of globalisation and with both the crises and the survival of world capitalism? The JVP manifesto is an honest attempt to cut a way through this maze. Superficially it may read like RW’s 60-month plan and the UPFA’s load of platitudes (these days economic strategy, verbally, all over the developing world read like photocopies of each other). Still I sense an underlying seriousness; The JVP grasps the need for a mixed economy, creating opportunities for the middle classes, and guaranteeing protection for the masses. Crucially it sees that all this must be embedded in strong directive principles. Economists call it a dirigisme approach. The JVP has not worked through the details in this first shot, but it is thinking seriously.
My third point is controversial; I see the JVP inching in a progressive direction on the national question. It has a long way to go; it is unwilling to accept the right of Tamil people to govern themselves in their traditional homelands. Nobody expects the JVP ever to adopt a Marxist position on the right of nations to self-determination; it is too rooted in its past to escape. It even gets loose bowels at the mention of devolution and the word federalism gives it diarrhoea. Nevertheless a recent statement was vouched in interesting language. I quote from a web-report of about 10 days ago.
JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva said that the TNA had failed to meet the expectations of the Tamils in the North and now it is attempting to use the communal issue to win votes. He said the TNA election manifesto will go in favour of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as it speaks of a Federal solution and devolution of powers. He said hard-line Sinhalese are opposed to a Federal solution and Mahinda Rajapaksa is using this to win votes.
This is a damned sight better than the hot chauvinism years ago. The emphasis is not that devolution or federalism are bad per se, but that the TNA is playing into the hands of Sinhala chauvinists. I don’t mind at all if these JVP chaps move towards a reasonable position on the national question without admitting that they were all wrong in the past; something is better than nothing. After all it is only a person of Lenin’s calibre, for whom educating party and the class was bounden duty, that could openly discuss mistakes, why the party erred, and how to avoid them in future. It is not reasonable to judge the JVP by this yardstick.
The big lacuna
Where the JVP has failed badly is in managing its relationship with other left parties. Let me give the most recent washout. In recent months alternative focal points emerged in the LSSP and the CP rejecting MR and proposing support for MS. Many leading figures were expelled from both parties without discussion of the issues. I have a relationship with them and have been assured that they have the support of the majority in both parties, but bureaucracy and structure are manipulated to prevent them gaining control of the formal machinery. In this context they made overtures to the JVP about a unified left but the JVP leadership gave them short shrift in no uncertain terms. This is the latest example; from long ago the JVP thought itself a cut above others and showed no interest in dialogue with anyone else on the left. Its hot but short-lived love affairs were with Chandrika, MR and Sarath Fonseka.
It is hard to believe but true that the leadership is so short-sighted. Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and HDP in Turkey, all multi-party left alliances, are examples lost on the JVP. There is no way the JVP will ever form a left government in Lanka except as leader of a left alliance. Unfortunately, as always, it learns its lessons very late.
Nirmala knagarathnam / August 16, 2015
Please Professor do not allow us to waste our vote for JVP. They lack the conscience re national question and I am amazed that you are encouraging us to give the valuable votes to a force who failed to spell out the programme for the national question. They only have some slogans with no real depth and lack proper analysis. What about reconciliation and power sharing. Can you explain their stand Professor.
Amarasiri / August 16, 2015
Prof. Kumar David
RE:If MR’s Defeat Is Certain, Why Not Vote JVP!
How do you know if MaRa defeat is certain?
Did you check up with a new set of Astrologers?
” A strong JVP serves two objectives: (a) an opposition that can keep the next government on a tight leash (the debauched UPFA opposition can serve no such purpose); (b) test out a dish that may mature into an alternative government one day”
While this is the ideal situation, the most important goal should be to defear MaRa at any cost for now.
MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa
MaRa MaRa Amana MaRa
MaRa MaRa HoRa MaRa
MaRa MaRa Dhushana MaRa
So what are your Predictions?
Mine is:Seats Error, + or – 5%, depending on the ” Mood” and turnout.
UNF ( UNP Coal) 119
Mahinda Rajapaksa will be an MP. Still too many Modayas, Mootals and Fools left among the Sinhala Buddhists. Why don’t they vote for Sarath Fonseka?
Kumar David / August 16, 2015
I have conceded that the JVP’s position on the national question is far from good enough though it has improved in recent years. I have also conceded that the JVP has done nothing to consolidate a national left force. But the point is this; taking the whole political situation into account, and noting the much greater defects of the two main alliances, is it not worth getting 10 to 15 JVPers into parliament?
It may cost the UNP 4 or 5 seats island-wide, and may cost the UPFA 3 or 4 seats. [It will cost the UNP nothing in Colombo District because the extra UNP-to-JVP votes will hardly affect the UNP landslide and bonus seats].
We have to take an overview. The tactical voting approach which I advocate tailored for a District-wise-PR system is the best thing to do.
Sengodan. M / August 16, 2015
The JVP is slow to learn. But, hopefully, it will learn over time. There is no hope for the country without a strong progressive alliance where JVP will play the major role.
Sinnathamby Sivanandan / August 16, 2015
The engineer turned columnist has carefully constructed and structured his analysis, I fully endorse his views very sensible indeed. JVP under the present leadership has expressed their regrets and remorse re the past incidents and appears to be a viable alternative a formidable force for good governance.
Whether he is right is left to the voters
Professor what u profess is right at this juncture.
punchisingho / August 16, 2015
A strong JVP will be a curse
From the first day after the General Elections the JVP will embark on a path to capture state power at the next General Elections if it manages to get a few more seats in the Parliament.It has already said that it would abolish the Provincial councils if it got state power.Is this dangerous step alone not sufficient to create anarchy in this land Mr. professor?
ramona therese fernando / August 16, 2015
Oh,….so you are confident enough to risk a few UNP votes in favor of wrench UPFA’s votes for JVP, is it?
Won’t work! The real issue is the UNP’s intended LAND BRIDEGE TO INDIA. JVP won’t mind for they will have all the Indian capital to implement Communist Plans. Masses are horrified at the impending loss of Lankan Sovereignty and Heritage. Difficult to address that one, isn’t it!
ramona therese fernando / August 16, 2015
Uthungan / August 16, 2015
What Sri Lakan Sovereignity and Heritage are you talking about?
Think ,Understand, before coming out with stupid inanities about things you have no clue.
ramona therese fernando / August 16, 2015
I rest my case.
Rohan / August 16, 2015
Interesting! I am happy to see this JVP – without Kumar, Somawansa and Wimal – grow.
They should think like a strong third force, and should have stable policies and follow-up.
Three cheers to Comrades.
Dr Chaminda Weerawardhana / August 16, 2015
Great analysis indeed.
As for Dr David’s last paragraph, I definitely see the point he is raising. However, it is also important to let the JVP take one step at a time. The Party’s frontline personalities have repeatedly affirmed (during this month’s campaign) that their intention is to form a broad-based alliance (pulul peramunak) by 2020. But obviously, this is a necessary, challenging and mammoth task, as extensive negotiations are required when reaching consensus. The other risk, in my left-libertarian view, is that of the JVP in a coalition veering to the right, under international pressure, including WB/IMF. As such possibilities are certainly not unlikely in a developing country, it is important for the JVP to ensure that future coalition partners agree on basic social-democratic principles. In the months and years to come, it will be of great interest to observe how the JVP goes about coalition-building.
And of course, the JVP definitely deserves a high vote count.
Spring Koha / August 16, 2015
Professor David has invested time and effort on an exercise that, to be generous, is about as promising as saddling a Delft donkey to run in the Epsom Derby.
Pardon me Professor, but as much as I have some admiration for the capabilities for AKD, he leads but a despicable bunch that has difficulty agreeing on which side of the bed to get out of in the morning. Don’t raise their hopes. There are still many in the party who have not come clean on their despicable past. Decent people will rightly keep them at a distance; for their past as much as for their hopelessly wanting half-cooked present policies. The country, especially the young amongst us, is looking for sound policies that will give us a future built on reconciliation, opportunity and hope. Not on vacuous outdated dogma that will keep us chained to the past.
Native Vedda / August 16, 2015
How did you read my mind?
I am worried now.
I will have no privacy and cannot fantasise.
Free Thinker / August 16, 2015
You have ‘hit the nail on the head’and your analysis is spot-on.
1) Nirmala Kanagarthnam – You are completely mistaken. The JVP is the ONLY party which has categorically denounced Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism and has a clear plan of action to resolve the ‘national issue’. Perhaps you should carefully study their recent manifesto and May Day Resolution where their policies are very clearly articulated.
2) To have learnt from the past and categorically denounced violence is great step forward. I have known Anura Kumara since 2004 and I have the greatest respect for him not only as a very mature leader but also as a very honest and incorruptible politician.
3) I agree that the JVP should form alliances and build its way up to become the third (or perhaps even second) major party and hence I hope the JVP wins at least 20 seats tomorrow. This would be a great start.
4) As ‘unrealistic’ as it may seem at this point in time, I hope that someday in the future JVP allies with the likes of TNA and SLMC too, which would certainly be the best way to protect minority interests and create a country based on social equity and racial tolerance. I agree with Tilvin Silva – this is not the time for the TNA to lobby for federalism and this strategy would almost certainly assist MR in beating his ‘war drums’. An alliance with JVP would certainly bring the TNA ‘down to earth’ but still assist them to achieve realistic goals.
JVP – Please keep all those corrupt hooligans, murderers and thugs, on both sides of the political divide under check.
Lanka Citizens / August 16, 2015
Those who voted for ‘Good Governance’ never voted for Ranil. Ranil becoming prime minister never penetrated the public mind as something catastrophic. Furthermore there was no alternative but to give the prime minister post to UNP, since Maithripala’s campaign was entirely fueled by UNP. General public was used to seeing executive presidents running the show and prime minister being a more or less a figure head. Nobody thought RW would run the show and Maithripala would take a back seat. At least nobody thought Maithripala would take the farthest seat from driver to enjoy the scenic beauty and never worry where the vehicle was headed. To have complete faith on RW for a politician of Maithripala’s stature was just beyond reason for many Good Governance advocates. It just put the entire country in harm’s way.
Furthermore giving a majority in the parliament to UPFA means President Maithripala would also have a significant influence on the conduct of the government. In the case of UNP government Maithripala would be hugely sidelined, simply because no UNP minister would go beyond Ranil’s word. But if UPFA is in power, Maithripala could work with UPFA MP’s at a personal level. This is simply because he has been working with them for the past so many years. So UPFA winning means more purposeful involvement of Maithripala in the strategic decision making of the government. Associates of Mahinda Rajapakse could be moderated also by Maithripala. So setting aside the personal agitation President Maithripala has of Mahinda Rajapakse, UPFA coming to power in August17th general election and Mahinda Rajapakse becoming prime minister is a far better outcome than giving power to sinister Ranil and his gang of buddies, even from the point of view of president Maithripala
In order to ensure the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, it is a must that Ranil is not made the prime minister. In order to ensure the average Sri Lankan lives are enriched it is a must that Ranil is not made the prime minister. In order to make sure that our younger generations are passed on a united, undivided Sri Lanka it is a must that Ranil is not made the prime minister. The only way to make sure of that is by voting for UPFA and making sure that August17 doesn’t become day of resentment for generations to come. We should be vigilant to the fact that politicians of minority parties are hell bent on diving this country with the help of foreign powers. Foreign powers are supporting these politicians so as to exert their influence on the South Asian region through Sri Lanka. Ranil will do as told by these external forces and be completely ignorant of the native Sri Lankan peoples demands. This moment is a critical juncture of our history, mess it up and we would be opening up the doors to hell. Make the correct decision and we can protect our country so that we can work on improving living standards of each and every Sri Lankan. That correct decision is voting for UPFA and ensuring Ranil Wickramasinghe does not become the prime minister !!!!
Uthungan / August 16, 2015
I think you have had a slight glimpse of the ONLY way forward for our country, and let us help and strive to ensure that progression. Let us hope the election results on18th August will be the first step towards that light at the end of the tunnel for all of us.
Native Vedda / August 16, 2015
“Those who voted for ‘Good Governance’ never voted for Ranil.”
Those who voted for MR (the war criminal and crook in chief) did they vote for
Disanayaka Mudiyanselage Jayaratne
as prime ministers?
K.A Sumanasekera / August 16, 2015
Will any Sinhala Buddhist with a even a few grams of grey matter, vote for the JVP ?.
Anura Kumara’s new buddy Batalanada Ranil was a minister of the then UNP President, who was responsible for killing thousands of ,Mums , Dads , Brothers and Sisters in every part of the Island except the North, the East and the Colombo Post Codes.
And set them on fire and burned them on piles of used tyres.
And the same JVP is now barracking for Ranil and his UNP which is screwing up mums and dads the in the poor villages and even towns .
Sinhala Buddhists may have forgotten the good work that Rajapaksa did for the country, but they will never forget what the LTTE and the JVP did to them with the help of the UNP..
Leo / August 16, 2015
You are wrong. Sri Lankans are still clueless about what Mr Anura along with the likes of Chrishmal warnasuriya are doing. It aren’t a socialist revolution for sure. They don’t even know that Anura travels abroad each month.
Native Vedda / August 16, 2015
KASmaalam K.A Sumanasekera
“Will any Sinhala Buddhist with a even a few grams of grey matter, vote for the JVP ?.”
Can you actually weigh grey matter?
“Sinhala Buddhists may have forgotten the good work that Rajapaksa did for the country,”
Can you list all those good work you claim that MR did for the country?
Do you also consider killing journalists, committing war crimes, amassing wealth disproportionate to his income, operating white van fleet …….. ?
Have you apologised to those who born in Barber caste?
MOHAMED MARZOOK / August 16, 2015
Making the JVP as a strong opposition in the next Parliament will be a sensible decision of the people. Compared to other parties they JVP has more plus points than minuses in all aspects which confronts the country. The JVP has laid down a clear set of policies and has set down the process by which it will implement such policies. Although AKD leads JVPs campaign alll its leaders convey the same message to the people in unified voice. Their messages are not just platform talks of winning votes are of serious sense and thinking for the better future of the nation. In the Parlament the JVP MPs will not just be NMs, Colvins Pieter Keneman or any others of similar type although they did some good in their times. Yet their messages were mostly emotional and were not practical. The JVP MPs, we have already seen talk of practical solutions to issues. As the country is going through a process of political change the JVP as a strong oppositon will be a driving force to bring about useful changes.
Serenity / August 17, 2015
UNP will never get a majority;Ranil is not a popular politician either. Mahinda is the most popular politician in the country. See how much he has done to our North and the EAST.Based on that, look for a solution to behave well later, WHEN MAHINDA BECOMES THE NEXT PM . Its the people’s wish that must govern.