9 August, 2022


It Is Best For Democracy If SLFP Contests  

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Whatever the mistakes in the past or in recent times, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is an important component in the democratic equation in the country. It has been the middle path party, the general orientation of which the country needs in politics, economics, external relations and cultural/national issues, although the party itself had failed many times in these respects. Critics may remember the ‘Sinhala Only’ policy in 1956. Obviously, there is no straight line in the middle path. 

Sri Lanka has come to cross roads. A rejuvenation of a middle path is necessary. A polarization particularly between ‘neo-liberal-anarchy’ and ‘nationalist-authoritarianism’ has emerged, among other rifts. 

The (then) General Secretary of the SLFP and some other members played a pivotal role in 2015 change, breaking away from the previous regime, which was necessary for democratic evolution of the country. The party itself participated in a coalition with the UNP until 2018. After that significant change in 2015, there was an admission of mistakes by the previous leader of the party, Mahinda Rajapaksa, whether genuine or not. 

The SLFP or its present leader thereafter however failed to bring the new government into a reasonable middle course particularly in economic matters and external affairs. The reasons are multitude. The international pressures and ideological orientations of the main partner, the UNP were strong. That situation has led to the emergence the new party, the Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP), out of the frustrations and disarray of the SLFP.  

The SLPP however is not the SLFP. The SLPP does not appear to follow a middle path particularly in the political front and on cultural/national issues. While no one should hesitate to appreciate the role that the Rajapaksa family has played in Sri Lankan politics, it is too much for its leader to nominate his own brother as the presidential candidate, however capable he is. Everyone knows that the SLPP is a formation that was engineered by another brother. The formation undoubtedly was inevitable given the SLFP’s delay in leaving the sinking ship. 

However keeping a major political party within a single family grip is not good for the country or democracy. Even if the accusations of corruption or misappropriation of the Rajapaksa period were exaggerated, the democratic credentials of the family or that period were poor. The major achievements were on national security and moderate development. Why the leader nominated his own brother as the presidential candidate is a question? The SLFP or the SLPP is not a party without capable leaders. Unfortunately most of them have now succumbed to the family grip. What they have to realize even at this last stage is that if the SLFP is completely liquidated within the SLPP, there would be no return. 

It is true that the SLFP cannot win the presidential elections. Its performance at the last local government elections was hopelessly poor. That was mostly determined by the fact that they were with the UNP, unnecessarily for a long period. Delay in leaving the government angered their voter base and the people in general. People were also protesting for not holding local government elections for a long period. However those factors might not work in the same manner at the presidential election. 

Most of politics in Sri Lanka are determined by the greed for position, power and benefits. It is possible that many of the SLFP leaders who go behind the SLPP at present are hoping for such benefits. However, if the SLPP wins both elections easily, the presidential and parliamentary, the SLFP leaders would be marginalized. A Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime would be different even to the past Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. It would be efficient, but autocratic. For such a regime, the present orientation of SLFP leaders might be a liability. GR undoubtedly would go for new blood and new brains. Such a regime might be good for security or the economy in the short run, but not for democracy or freedoms. A middle path or a balanced approach should take all those into account. 

The SLFP is a party which had capabilities of balancing between various people and policies. That was the strength and also the weakness, depending on the situation. However, it had a clear orientation for a middle path from the beginning, based on both traditional values as well as universal principles. Let me outline briefly some historical landmarks. 

Although SWRD Bandaranaike is commonly branded as a Sinhala communalist, during the time he returned from Oxford, he was talking about ‘common humanity.’ I am not aware any other leader using such terminology other than SWRD. He was leaning towards the Sinhala masses for obvious practical reasons, and that was also the community through which he could build a political movement.  

As he declared at the launching of the SLFP in 1952, the first task would be to unite and mobilize the Sinhala masses. The second is to unite all communities under one national banner. While the two tasks obviously had some contradictions, the second task still remains unfulfilled by the party. On the other hand, the SLFP was the party which had a progressive agrarian policy for the benefit of the poor, in the South as well as in the North. It also envisaged mixed economic policies for the country that could be considered valid even today, with a major emphasis on market mechanisms. It was a party which was open to the views of the Left, on some socialist policies. Some were inward looking (a closed economy) and some were forward looking (protection of the poor). Equally important was the non-aligned policies in external affairs that could be interpreted today as the need to seek an East-West balance.  

Most importantly, it has been an important democratic component in the given context of Sri Lanka and the party system. As a democratic party it has a role to play even today at this crucial juncture. There is nothing wrong in the SLFP coming into some alliance with the SLPP, particularly for the parliamentary elections. However in the case of the presidential election, if it completely succumbs to the SLPP that could strengthen the authoritarian tendencies in the SLPP. Family rule is something that the country should avoid, possibly balance through other forces, or go beyond.  

It would be a disaster for the SLFP if it does not contest and consider the SLPP candidate as its own candidate. After a possible victory for the SLPP, the SLFP would be marginalized or completely neglected. The best policy for the SLFP is to offer the second preference to the SLPP candidate or allow the voters to decide. 

There is a great possibility that the UNP would officially nominate Karu Jayasuriya and not Sajith Premadasa. However, it is difficult for me to exactly predict from a distance. If that is the case, an alliance between the UNP-rebels and the SLFP also might be possible. Even otherwise, the frustration among the UNP followers might turn to the SLFP and not to the SLPP. What is important at the forthcoming presidential election is to prevent carte blanche to possible authoritarianism and family rule. This is not a prediction but a suggestion for the sake of democracy.     

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Latest comments

  • 8

    If you are so concerned about democracy, you should have asked Ranil to hold Provincial Council elections. President Rajapakse gave democracy to people in the North by conducting PC election but Ranil took away democratic right of people by not conducting elections.
    Anyway who want democracy? Only the Colombo Toiyas, Civil Society Organizations thriving on $$$$s and INGOs. What large majority of people in the country want is security, stability and jobs. Ordinary folks do not care damn about democracy.

    It is democracy planted in this country by British that ruined this country. With democratic system ‘Para Demalu’ managed to play hell in this country. Lee Kuan Yew or Mahathir Mohammed did not care damn about democracy. That is the main reason why those countries moved forward while this country was rotting. Hon. D.S.Senanayake should have put racist Chelvanayakam and Ponnambalam in a dungeon, lock it and throw away the key to the sea. If he had the guts to do that, this country could have moved forward faster than Singapore or Malaysia.

    • 0

      Eagle Eye,
      All I can say to ideas like this is: “Fools rush in where even angels fail to tread”. DSS certainly could have lock some away but If he did so, SL could be two countries by now!

  • 17

    Dear Dr.Laksiri Fernando: It is BEST for “Democracy” if, UNP; SLFP and SLPP don’t contest. The reason is : All these parties and the Parliamentarians including their Local Govt. representatives have BEHAVED and ACTED contrary to even the basic principles of Democracy. All the members and the Legislators of these parties have consistently , systematically and collectively RUINED the country and lives of the people during the last seven decades. Now ENOUGH and NO MORE.

    • 4

      i have fully lost my faith on this Dr Fernando.
      He is more or less like that self proclaimed BP Jayathilaka.
      Remember this man to have gone that far saying that october crisis created by Sirisena was fair ?
      I have no doubt, why these so called professors, having abused their titles to all ends, still make every effort to mislead the very same nation ?
      Glperis the most spineless figure in lanken current day politics, does it at his best. He is a disgrace to enitre academia.
      Dr Fernando is no better.
      Dr Jayathilaka is made silent these days, may be he is under presse, if he would abuse his orifices, he will have to surrender a recall soon.
      Dr Jayathilaka is one another lap dogs of Mafia Boss BP Mahinda Jarapakshe, would do anything and everything to be their toilet papers.
      These men though have academic titles all to fall that low levels should be connected with SINHALAYA genetics rather than anything else.
      I have no idea, if Dr Fernando is a shameful person.
      I loveed his articles before that October Crisis.
      But since I knew BP Fernando is the other side of the coin of Jayathilaka. I stopped praising him any more.

  • 12

    Hi friend, who is going to contest from SLFP – Sirisena. His chance is dead, and gone away for good. Owing to his swollen headedness, now no rope for him to hang. So he intents to inflict maximum demage for both SLPP and UNP. That’s the reason he wants to have provincial Council election wasting huge sums of poor tax payers’ money. He wouldn’t give any damn shit about other people’s money. Many countries have so many elections at the same time on the same day. Why couldn’t we do have the president and provincial Council elections on the same day.

  • 6

    You mean to write it is BEST FOR THE UNP if the SLFP contests, didn’t you?

  • 11

    are you joking. what kind of democracy we have had since 1948..

  • 5

    it doesn’t matter who contest ,,,,,,,its best for democracy..if any one can contest without intimidation, white van and violence arrack and packet of briyani

    • 2

      Intimidation & perks as weapons in elections was nothing new even tough it is true that MaRa regime (SLFP) took it to a new low. But, I think that, 2015 election might have put to end to that ugly era. That doesn’t mean it will go away completely simply b’cos, as in any competition where stakes are high, competition in elections will encourage some “creative” unethical behaviors!

      Speaking of the essay, I do agree with the conclusion that defeating GoRa is must for the survival SL democracy.

      My biggest quarrel against the essay is about couple premises on which the whole argument about what the identity of the SLFP must be like is built. It is wrong to say that under SLFP, the country was less chaotic than during the last four years of UNP Gvt. It was worse during SWRD tenure (total of 356 strikes). Political conflicts between the LSSP & SLFP in 1970 coalition Gvt was much worse than MY 3 & Ranil conflict.

      Speaking of policy differences, there was no major differences between the two until 1977 when JR opened the market while encouraging foreign investments at the same time. CBK also tried to continue the same system but she & her cabinet failed to adjust to the rapidly changing global market dominated by new technologies. MaRa made the ongoing mistakes even worse by investing borrowed money on much larger white elephants. His utterly failed foreign policy added more to the already brewing financial disaster. If this lack of clear economic policy should be named “middle path”, so be it, but I don”t know what to say about any attempt to glorify such a failed policy! If the country must keep its progressive path steady, SLFP must move towards UNP; not the other way around!

  • 3

    Best Idea.

    • 0

      For UNP?
      This time voters vote for a person, not to a party.
      Your doctorate not enough for you to understand that.
      What a shame for the institution you go the doctorate from.

  • 2

    So we have four potential candidates. Gotler the US citizen, Nagananda the former UK citizen, Sajith and AKD. The presidency is supposed to revert to a near figurehead status due the the 19th amendment. Three of the candidates (Accept AKD) do not recognize this and openly promise to violate the constitution of Sri Lanka. This is what Sobhitha Hamudurowo called thrice refined gold. We have three candidates who openly plan to take a dump on it. Now I do not support AKD but he is so far the only reasonable candidate. The top two candidates Gotler and Nagananda are running to be dictator of Sri Lanka not president. Sajith is already trying to be dictator by bullying his party into nominating his. If his family traits (Dhobi) are pursued then the rest of the UNP who does not support him and for good reason might as well resign from politics altogether. All candidates have uplifiting the common man programes. Most of it is hog wash aimed at conning the poor common man. The common man does not need uplifting. He needs decent healthcare minus the doctor mafia (The GMOA needs to be abolished), a decent education for his children and jobs jobs jobs. Dictators do not provide jobs since they drive away any self respecting investor that would other wise come to this country. Their was a poll conducted by the university of Peradiya. IN it another candidate not mentioned here i.e. Karu Jayasuriya came out on top and defeated Gotler resoundingly while Sajith would loose the Gotler. THis is a fact the three stooges backing Sajith namely Sujeewa the con man who plaid out a doctor and now lives in his house with his old wife, Ajith P the donkey who will lose his own seat and the butteryfly with a very potty mouth when he chooses to use it.

  • 2

    Your simple president Sirisena (and SLFP) who you promote to protect democracy during his tenure as President has visited over twenty countries and made over 25 foreign trips accompanying family and entourage of 50 to 90 of his supporters and stooges in each trip using tax payer’s money. What is wrong if people vote for and elect one or many of family members; That is democracy, not what you have understood and preach it to be.

  • 1

    Sri Lankans can only say that they have longest serving democracy in SE Asia. In fact, it is not democracy. It is hypocrisy and autocracy at its best coupled with religious bigotry, since independence. Human right violation, extra judicial killings, race riots and fear among the ordinary are norm in Sri Lanka. Hang your head in shame, Sri Lankans.

  • 1

    SLFP espousing democracy? No one is worried about democracy, but looting. People must change the system this time.

  • 0

    “It Is Best For Democracy If SLFP Contests”

    This is opinion worth Rs 2.50 at best!!!

  • 5

    When you have got 99% of the Racist Electorate behind you ( SLPP) it is not going to make much difference.RW has no chance of winnig but he is determined to stand and under the pact between him and Gotha to see Gotha win doesnt matter what happens to the Country. As I said before the only reason Gotha was elected to stand was in the mistaken belief that as a Presidenet he will have immunity from Prosecution in the US. Let us see what is in store for the Nation and if Gotha is elected the Country will be in the wilderness for the next 5 years but under pressure either Gotha will be booted out or die of Heart Attack. Will Sajith be the Saviour of the Nations fortunes.

  • 2

    Dear Dr.Laksiri Fernando:,

    Should we shed tears for the extinct political parties or celebrate!

    The LSSP, The CP and now the SLFP.Let them wither away, they had played their historic role and had become obsolete.

    A party without vision, without strategy, without polices, why should they exist? just for the sake of existence? or for the past?

    Death is a glorious and inevitable end and let us celebrate the deaths.

    No more tears!

  • 1

    For many logical reasons , it will be a crime to hold presidential elections at a cost of over 400 million rupees , the only option is to accept JVP’s 20th Amendment.and then proceed for general elections in 2020.
    The president can only take the office of cermonial President in 2020 jan and not retire or take a MP , deputy minister or minister’s post .
    Why beat around the bush ?, just submit it to parliment and get it done without putting people in unnecassary trauma .

    Every single parlimentarian knows deep down in his heart that the 20th amenment followed by General Elections is what is the right decision to be taken, why waste time ? why unwanted suspense .?
    why the three main parties are dragging their feet ?

  • 0

    Laksiri Fernando

    The SLFP was a family party until CBK had to hand over the reigns to MR but it was Sirisena who nailed the coffin lid of the SLFP. The SLFP is dead & good riddance too. I don’t know much about SWRD but from what I understand, he was the biggest hypocrite & I remember growing up in a country governed by the Bandaranayaka clan with everything rationed & the entire family having to queue for food from inedible bread to rice & even clothing at the local co-op. The country went backwards in every way during the widow Bandaranayaka’s reign & it was thanks to JR, despite all his faults, that lifted up the standard of living of common people with an open economy.

    As for democracy, we have regular elections (maybe delayed Provincial Council elections which usually have the village thugs elected & the PCs themselves serving no real purpose) but whatever the party, there was never a choice because all the candidates (who appealed to the masses) were corrupt & continue to be so. So whether the SLFP nominates a Presidential candidate or not, it makes no difference.

  • 0

    That would possibly be the dumbest thing they can do. Slfp contesting separately means the Sinhala vote gets divided. Ranil will gladly appreciate it. Ranil on the other hand will collect all the Muslim, Tamil votes by agreeing on their separatist demands. 13+, Muslim administrative division etc. Not to mention that He will get the Muslim extremists votes too. If he gets elected he is going to fulfill on those promises. I don’t think they want Ranil or the puppet he nominated to win.

  • 1

    Babalathappu: Thanks. I agree totally with you. In my opinion, all these “Academics” who served and still serving the “Political Criminal Gangs” of all shades are the WORST criminals. You talked of “GLP”. Yes, he is the worst “Sevelaya” of all other “Sevalayas”. He has been “Yes Sir, OBEDIENT SERVANT” of all the political crooks of every party. Do you remember, how he led a “Secret” delegation to meet the then Secretary General of UNO – Ban Ke Moon,, when the “Darushman” report was out. What happened during that meeting remains a “Secret” to now. That was and is what his “Professorial” capabilities are. In summary I would say around 90% of the “Academics” who handle public and private offices are the worst corrupted criminals in the country. In my assessment, they, the “Academics” have ruined the country more than the Politicians.

    • 0

      Bp Jayathilaka is for some reasons silent these days how come ?
      Srilanka will never see it right so long grass eating people are dominated that part of the world.

  • 1

    The write has proposed and undertaken in favor by so-called “democratic credential” of using that upheld SLFP must have their own Presidential candidature for 2020. What is an intention of by moving of political interest and expected of result by writer aim at ? Is very short to be understand ,which is that looking after UNP victory in next elections. No more than that.
    To be WIN the UNP candidature for incoming Presidential elections in 2020…by split voters between SLFP and SLPP in coming Elections is essential for UNP + USA ,time being .
    It give an opportunity to USA does indeed occupy Sri lanka that proposed projects
    by that US new Millennium Corporation acquired vast land area in Island..
    It is an OPEN New Corridor of USA that military base in Lanka ..proposed by SOFA agreement by Ranil Wickramasinghe of UNP.
    Having said that logic of writer aim at diverted to different area of that exercise of component of Democracy of Island. This is rather than exercise of that “democracy of modern nation ” thus that is hilarious which an inherited new form slave of sovereignty an Island of privileges ed position for USA in Sri lanka.
    By and large that
    Write wanted well founded resources give to replace of the theological foundation of that UNP neo-liberalism political-economy order of Indo-Pacfic region as center of BRI route in Lanka.
    Year 2015 Jan 8th that UNP an alliance came of MOU which Traditional leadership of of that SLFP of CBK has lost . Regain with UNP and SLFP alliane to reborn by year 2020.!!!@ $$$.

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