By Kumar David –
The presidential election drama gets Curiouser and curiouser: It’s possible Gota will cut and run
There is so much confusion and so many false leads that nobody knows what will happen next. Last week’s newspaper columns and editorials were about the dire state of the UNP and predicted a cake walk for Gota. Now the applecart has, or seems to have tumbled the other way. Files pertaining to Gota’s nationality have disappeared from the Immigration Department and Defence Ministry and this could impact voting and post-nomination battles. Chandragupta Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda (T&V) have moved court that dual nationality was never properly conferred on Gota in 2005 and that the process was soaked in hanky-panky, and they imply that the reasons the files went missing was to cover up improprieties. The CID has told the Colombo Chief Magistrate that it cannot locate the files in the government departments where they should be.
A Certificate of Dual Nationality has been produced by Gota’s lawyers but what if the Department of Immigration cannot find any trace of the processing. What are the courts likely to say? If the certificate is good, the courts are not going to take away a person’s nationality because of a cock-up (perennial) in a government office. For example, if the Registrar General loses records pertaining to your marriage it does not mean you have been living in sin and breeding bastards all these years. So long as there’s an authentic marriage certificates you are in the clear. Unless it is shown that the grant of dual nationality to Gota was improper he is in the clear and can proceed with his presidential bid.
What is the gist of T&V’s case? It’s simple, though reams of newsprint have been expended by an army of columnists. The point is: If Gota was not a dual citizen at the time he renounced US citizenship he does not revert to Sri Lankan nationality; he becomes stateless. T&V have moved court that Gota’s dual citizenship award in 2005 was either improper or fraudulent since the documentation is “lost” and/or because his brother Mahinda had no legal right to issue such a certificate at that time (late November 2005). The court may hold that Mahinda was exercising permissible executive power in conferring dual citizenship on his brother. I cannot hold this copy back till the court makes up its mind but you may know the answer by the time you read this.
Why does Gota want to hightail it to Singapore? The timing (9-13 October), two days after nomination is odd. One possibility is that Mahinda and the SLPP high command panicked as they feared something fishy posing a challenge to Gota’s nomination could surface, if not now at some point in the future. In that case Gota’s will have to be substituted, tomorrow, by someone else and the poor sod needs to get out of the Island rather than face the embarrassment. The problem with this theory is that Ranil and Sira have been bending over to cover every kink in every Paksa backside; they will again find ways to massage courts and commissions to let Gota and Mahinda get away with all and any misconduct.
Compounding this is another mystery; the Rajapaksa Museum case in which Gota is alleged to have misappropriated Rs 33 million. The case has dragged on and on; an unending stream of appeals, objections and petitions are filed by the defendant and the courts allow one extension upon another in what has become a prolonged cat and mouse game. Gota is reluctant to appear in court; his lawyers presumably are attempting to drag things out beyond election date hoping he will win and secure immunity. They are aided by “the law’s delays and insolence of office”.
Sajith, fortuitously is beneficiary of both Gota’s discomfiture and the timing of trends in the UNP. The sun is shining on him but it’s unwise to be sure that a snapshot at this moment will stay true till 16 November. Right now, one hears the UNP preening itself, saying with a little distortion:
“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of Prem
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried”
At this time of writing the advantage seems to have passed from Gota to Sajith. My UNP friends are all cock-a-hoop while Gota backers in my circle have gone quiet. Cautious sod that I am, I still think it wiser to stick to my line “Too early to tell: 40-45% to each on first preferences; the final outcome will depend on totting up second preferences”. I am calling for first preference to Anura Kumara and campaigning, for the purpose of keeping out Gota the potential militarist and authoritarian, for a second preference vote for Sajith. If Gota is debarred by the courts or not nominated by his party this latter option becomes irrelevant though an anti-Rajapaksa stand is still worth mulling over. I will return to this theme at the right time.
The muddle about Sajith is: (a) Is he willing to declare NOW in no uncertain terms that he will go all out to abolish the Executive Presidency? (b) Will he enact the fullest devolution of power (excluding the right to self-determination)? The answer to both questions is NO! He craves for a “scientific survey” about EP before he knows his own mind which currently must be pretty empty since EP has been a hot topic for decades. Science my foot; he wants to retain EP and keep executive powers. Seems no different from Sirisena except that he is making it clear up-front.
After building 1000 temples will he scientifically survey the Buddhist clergy about keeping EP for life, about devolution and about the troublesome Tamils and Muslims? Nevertheless, give him the second preference since potential dictator Gotabahaya must be kept out by something less-worse. We have experience of these trade-offs when we had no choice but to elect an Angoda-case to keep out a previous dictator. And if Gota does win it is not be the UNP and Sajith’s hangers-on but leftists, radicals and civil-society who will mobilise to fight his militarist-fascistic proclivities.
It will be a tough campaign to get Anura Kumara above 10%, but it needs to be done if Sri Lanka is to keep faith in the future. I am talking about creating a credible third force, a progressive-left-democratic alternative that can make a sizable impact in the coming years. The JVP is and is likely to remain the core of the alliance. Relationships inside the People’s Power (PP) movement – the current name of the alliance – are important and must be handled carefully. So far everybody has behaved with sensitivity and intelligence. There are two important aspects to the movement, the manifesto or program, and election campaigning. Since there are 29 organisations in PP the campaign logistics are going to be complicated and will need to evolve on the ground and in practice. Drafting a common programme that everyone can accept will also be a challenge and calls for a spirit of compromise. It will need to address constitutional, economic, nationality, law & order, social welfare, health, education and women’s issues among others. This initial programme will be the starting draft for the long-term progressive development that I envisage. Let’s see how it goes.
Although the monsoon is drifting away the deluge continues. It seems that by the time the window closes tomorrow about 20 candidates, I think all males, would have handed in nomination papers. Only three are significant – the two main contenders and Anura Kumara. None of the others except Nagananda Kodituwakku, army ex-chief Mahesh Senanayake and perhaps Rohan Palewatta will poll 5000+ votes and most not even cross the 1000 mark. This is pathetic. What sustained impact can or will they have? Will any of them even manage to creep into the next parliament except on a UNP, SLPP/SLFP or PP/JVP ticket? It is unfortunate that candidates don’t plan a few steps ahead.
I went to a good school and was taught not to make rude remarks or refer to jokers as jokers so I will restrain my tongue and only politely say that I cannot fathom what pluperfect mental aberration drove the NPP (founded by Sobitha thero) to nominate a military type for the presidency! I understand Mahesh Senanayake was a good commander during the Easter carnage but that does not make a head of state anymore than a single sparrow makes a summer. Gota is vying for power, Fonseka salivates in the wings and the unwelcome new army boss Silva is offering, unsolicited by his civilian superiors, to break strikes. The involvement of the brass in politics is already excessive.
To my knowledge four to six thimble size left sects (one can’t call them parties) are planning to put up candidates. Why on earth they want to make a generous contribution to Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s bankrupt coffers I don’t know. When I was canvassing hard for left unity in the last few years some sect leaders emitted encouraging burps with the side comment “Good, good, very good but not quite yet”. Perhaps they too first want a ‘scientific survey’ of the benefits of unity.