2 October, 2022

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JVP Proposal Points To Consensual Way Forward

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe has been nominated by the SLPP general secretary as the ruling party’s candidate for election to the presidency to take place in parliament on July 20. There is controversy over this nomination as the SLPP chairman and other party members have denied this. The controversy extends also to the larger society where the acting president has become a polarizing figure. To his supporters he is the best hope of a return to the status quo that existed before the economic collapse of the country. There is confidence in his experience and ability to negotiate with the international community. To his detractors, he is the person who is keeping the old order and its corruption – which gave rise to the economic collapse alive — so that they may return to power in the future. An objective assessment is required in terms of short term and long term outcomes.

The acting president was appointed as Prime Minister by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the ranks of the opposition after the Aragalaya (people’s uprising) took a violent turn on May 9. That was the day the torching of some 70 houses of government members took place in the aftermath of government-sponsored goon attacks on peaceful protestors which also saw the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The entry of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe into the ranks of the government immediately served to stabilize the Rajapaksa government that was tottering without a cabinet and without a prime minister. It infuriated those who wanted the government to step down immediately but gave a measure of hope to others that stability and rational governance would be restored to the country in place of the irrationality that had prevailed.

In one of his first acts as the acting president, Mr Wickremesinghe has declared that the houses of all government members that were destroyed will be rebuilt. The destruction of the houses of government members constitutes the main act of violence that mars the period of the Aragalaya. There was a need to empathise similarly with the thousands of families who have lost their homes over the years due to war and violence and continue to live in makeshift shelters. The death toll during the four months of mass public agitation has been remarkably low and in the single digits in comparison to the vast numbers participating in the protests. From a comparative perspective, and viewed in international terms, the upheavals in Sri Lanka have been peaceful which accounts for the strong international interest in developments in the country.

Aragalaya Engagement

However, the acting president has declared a state of countrywide emergency. There are expressions of support for a tough approach to restoring normalcy. The problem, however, is that the vast majority of people continue to suffer economically from the debacle the country is in, and their willingness to come out and protest will be difficult to suppress. This may explain the approach of the heads of the security forces who have urged the government to find a political solution without getting them to crack down on the protestors. The fact is that the cause of the protest movement is the same as that of the families of the soldiers who are facing the same economic deprivations as the rest of the country.

There is also a need to be cognizant of the extent of international media attention that has been focused on Sri Lanka in the recent weeks. There are regular news items and feature stories in international newspapers and television channels about what is happening in Sri Lanka. The story of how an unarmed and peaceful people’s movement caused a powerful president to flee abroad and brought down a government has been a fascinating one for the international media. They see Sri Lanka as a possible model that may be replicated elsewhere in the world. International attention is a double-edged sword. A deterioration in the situation accompanied by a spike in violence and government repression could once again bring back the old condemnation of the country on account of the allegations of serious human rights violations and war crimes.

As articulated by the Collective for Reforms, a grouping of leading civil society leaders and activists, “We acknowledge the positive contribution of the peaceful protest movement, praised nationally and internationally, and applaud their decision to peacefully vacate state property and de-escalate the heightening crisis. We call on the government not to resort to Emergency Law and curfew to suppress the rights of the people to democratic protest but uphold the values of the Aragalaya which hold promises for a truly democratic and egalitarian polity in a future Sri Lanka.” The challenge is not only to win the elections in parliament and be the president. The challenge will be to engage with the Aragayala without arrogance and with a consciousness of a null mandate, and ensure peace and justice.

Aragalaya Conditions

In political science, a revolution is a fundamental and relatively sudden change in political power and political organization which occurs when the population revolts against the government, typically due to perceived oppression (political, social, economic) or political incompetence. For a revolution that drove out a powerful president and an equally if not more powerful prime minister, both regarded by the majority of people as war heroes, and also to the resignation of the entire cabinet of ministers, the Aragalaya has been remarkably non-violent and free of killings. Both the protestors and security forces have been restrained in their actions. On more than one occasion individual members of the security forces have openly shown their sympathy for the protestors although there have been acts of brutality too.

The main reason for restraint on both sides would be the participation in the Aragalaya of a wide cross section of the population. So far the Aragalaya has spanned the generations and ethnic divides and has even included young children carried on the shoulders of their parents as entire families joined in the protests. It has the ability to melt into the homes of the people, giving the impression of a return to normalcy, and then re-emerge as a massive tide of people out on the streets when the occasion demands and a date is fixed. The public protests have united the country’s people in their one goal to see the end of a government that they believe stole their wealth and reduced their incomes by one half in a matter of three years.

The success of the Aragalaya is forcing political change that would not have been possible in ordinary circumstances. This is due to the fact that the electoral mandate received by the government three years ago has been effectively nullified by the public uprising. This applies in particular to the members of the ruling party and former government who have a null mandate having lost their moral legitimacy to govern the country which led to their resignations. This provides the context in which the leaders of the protest movement are laying down conditions to the government, such as the need for an interim all-party government, economic and tax reforms and constitutional change and elections within a year. There are other demands such as their rejection of the acting president and seeking his resignation.

In this context, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s latest proposal needs serious consideration. He has joined the call of civil society and religious leaders for a consensual decision on the presidency by parliament. He has said he is willing to withdraw from contesting for the presidency if all parties get together and agree to nominate two MPs for the presidency and premiership, who do not have aspirations of holding these positions in the long run. He further said they are also willing to accept responsibilities in an upcoming interim government, if this condition is met as well as agreement is reached on a short term action plan to stabilize the country and go for fresh elections as soon as possible.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    1

    Does it matter, whether Ranil is also the acting chairman of SLPP. The fact is, he is the presidential candidate representing both SLPP and UNP. Says a lot about the values, principles of both parties and crooks those represent both sides. Same with SLFP who were one time allies of Rajapaksas. Pissu Sira who is now talking big staged constipational coupe to bring Mara illegally back.( conspiring against Ranil ). Does all this indicate politics or prost i tution. Bottom line the dirty politicians at any cost will like to keep their position.

    • 5
      2

      There is no consensual way forward without accommodating Tamil demand for justice, which JVP has miserably failed to address.

      • 1
        4

        Sankaralingam,

        Minorities brought Raja bro’s to power. Tamils Mahinda and Muslims Gotha. If there is another suicide attack, even Namal can become the President. Politics is about loyalty, electing what one is familiar with. In Asia in general, loyalty seems to trump progressiveness. There are dynasties all over the place, whether Samsung or Toyota or the Lee family in Singapore.

      • 1
        3

        What is Tamil Demand? Terrorism with guns and bombs?Thanks to Gotabaya, Sarath Fonseka, and 3 forces who completely wiped out LTTE and the entire LTTE leadership. Now Tamils are living happily Sinhalese Nation

    • 4
      2

      Looks like after turning UNP into ZERO ,Ranil may achieve the same with SLPP. Reportedly SLPP may split in tomorrow’s voting. If that happens Rajapaksa’s lose their sole possession and ticket to glory again. Mara split many parties and now his own party is disarray.

  • 4
    1

    Do we have any MP in the current parliament who has no long term political aspirations?

    The answer is NO..If so they could have either resigned by now.

    They have to look outside from any professionals, diplomats, social workers or sports figures who is acceptable to all communities and fair minded with at most respect for law and order and corruption free.

    There are few outside the 225 and we have a mechanism to induct into parliament.

    Good luck

  • 5
    2

    When they get caught here ………. they always claim it was consensual !

    Are the things same on Mars?

  • 3
    1

    Whatever does AKD mean? Whose to know if a nominated president or pm won’t still enter in for the long term? ….unless it is written that they will be barred from contesting again. Is it a kind of strategy to kick Ranil out?

    But Ranil and the Rajapaksas will use every trick in the book to cling onto power. They feel that they are on the brink (have always been on the brink) of winning the Powerball. Countrymen have to wait patiently through their trials and tribulations. They and their cohorts and investors of country money, and investors of foreign money (gained by first investing Lankan money of the hardworking-suffering-masses), keep compulsively keep crossing fingers and ensuring their hang on.

  • 2
    1

    Thank you, very much for this article, Jehan. If other readers follow up on this, we could make some slight impression on what happens tomorrow, although I’m skeptical about how much can be achieved by writing in English.
    .
    These are the seven minutes referred to by Jehan.
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12ydaucrOKE
    .
    You hear both AKD and the Leader of the Araglaya team speaking. I have never heard AKD speak in any language other than Sinhala. I saw a clip of him speaking in Jaffna; sentence by sentence clumsily translated into Tamil, a language that I don’t know myself. However, Jeevan Hoole told me that what Anura said in Jaffna was good.
    .
    I had wanted to submit many comments here:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ranil-gota-twosome-one-gone-the-other-is-acting-up/
    .
    Two days ago, I paused after PART TWO there, and then heard those important seven minutes. I was waiting for other readers to respond there, now the response has come.
    .
    I have seen no speculation on the possible use of Preferential Voting to sway the outcome. For now, please see the comments below the Rajan Philips article.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) of Bandarawela

  • 4
    0

    JP, Work towards abolishing executive presidency and holding elections as soon as possible, if this nation is to get back peace. Extract the dollars from the robbers and there will be help from many nations.

    • 0
      1

      “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich,
      And He adds no sorrow to it”.
      May the nation seek a blessing and abide in the truth.
      But beware what the soothsayers say—-as the Roman Triumvirates found out…….tares and socery hardly help at time such as this.

    • 1
      1

      “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich,
      And He adds no sorrow to it”.
      May the nation seek a blessing and abide in the truth.
      But beware what the soothsayers say—-as the Roman Triumvirates found out…….tares and socery hardly help at times such as this.

  • 5
    0

    AKD is not corrupt politician and show only few personal aspirations and always ahs a balanced set of ideas supporting the well being of the nation and its citizens. That’s excellent and set an example to other politicians and activists who are corrupt to a greater or lesser degree. Presently anybody who tends to think differently, even the supporters of the ultra right, must agree with him, as his simple suggestion is for short term stability to build the confidence of ordinary citizens as well as as the international community including possible donors, including IMF and lay the foundation for recovery.
    Ranil-type are double-tongued. Say something and do the opposite. For instance RW declared the full support to the Aragalaya and next day imposed Emergency and and curfew. Beware. That’s his way. That’s their way. That may be why people rejected him outright during the last elections. But he has learnt tactics from his predicessors

  • 4
    0

    JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s latest proposals looks very attractive on paper, especially his proposals to have two members of parliament to be nominated as President and Prime Minister who do not have any political aspirations to contest elections after their present point.

    But what about their abilities to resolve the crisis with a road map?

    Further if the other members of the cabinet are from all the political parties they will naturally try to outbid their colleagues with populist polices in anticipation of the forthcoming Presidential and parliamentary elections.

    The this will nullify the entire exercise and we will be back in square one.

    On the contrary let us close politics for the interim and allow technocrats run the government (including President, Prime Minister and all members of the Cabinet)with the backing of all political parties, it may be possible to have a consensus people centered constitution with necessary checks and balances formulated and have a road map for quick recovery,then there is .a possiblity of a breakthrough!

  • 3
    1

    For once, Jehan Perera has penned something acceptable. (I owe this comment to him.)

  • 7
    0

    Author running short of ideas?
    *
    “…the Aragalaya (people’s uprising) took a violent turn on May 9.”
    We all know what took a violent turn.
    The Aragalaya has, despite trouble-making implants, has remained non-violent.

  • 6
    0

    “JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s latest proposal needs serious consideration. “

    Expected consensual decision is coming from Sajith Premadesa (SJB) instead of JVP Anura. Now Sajith withdrawn from the contest in support of Dulles, SLPP. In the current political battle this was expected because Sajith felt that he needs to divide the SLPP and he cannot win alone with SJB MPs. In fact, now the choice with SLPP members only whether they need to support(UNP) or SLPP Candidate. We also should note recent statement from Ranil regarding Easter Bombing investigation with UK intelligence service, that is the best. Even some muslim and Christian circles may be happy that they finally got a leader who is going to give justice. Has he decided to take revenge against Gota and Mahinda?
    Don’t you think that everything is a fun game played for power greedy?
    All the politicians wants to fool us again and again. Does this power game consensus?
    None of the political parties have a policy on devolution of power!
    None of the political parties tell us what legal action against the Mahinda who initiated violence or the crimes committed by Gota?
    Is it not illegal that Gota misused the power to run away from the country?
    None of the parties talk about war crimes!
    None of the parties talk about Tamil Political prisoners!
    None of the parties talk about executive presidency, special status to Buddhist Fundamentalism, rule of law or justice to all!

    • 0
      1

      No point bringing war crimes. In the UK Tony Blair number one victim of War Crime. So far nothing happened

  • 1
    0

    It is known to security forces the banck ruptsy happened due to corruption and upcoming of the protestors is due this and the if the crackdown on the forces be violent in front of the people you define yourself as supporters of corruption. Effective policing relies on the police having the confidence of the communities, because end of the day security need health service school transportation gas
    as all needs the understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing, The public protests have united the country’s people

  • 1
    0

    I see only NPP contestant AKD has announced a PROGRAM to work for the next six months. Among those are (1) An Interim Government with a specified TIME PERIOD and (2) Limiting the Cabinet to 10 maximum. (3) Only the “Salaries” would be paid and NO Other Allowances. These include Ministers, MPs, Heads of Public Corporation, and Ministry Secretaries. (4) Appoint an “Overseeing Committee” comprised of “Experts” (not the types of Viyathmaga), “Civil Society Representatives” and, “Representatives” from the “Aragalaya” to “OVERSEE” and “ASSESS” the progress of the work of the Cabinet and implementation of AGREED PROGRAM. (5) Prepare a PROGRAM to address the URGENT NEEDS of people such as Steering the Economy (Industry, Agriculture, Tourism, Fisheries, Transport, etc.) (6) Resume the Public Services and the Education (opening of schools and Universities)

    Do our “Peoples Representatives” concerned about any of these? To say the least, have the rest of the “Contestants” yet, spelled out such a “PROGRAM” mainly to gear up the Economy. Instead, we are disgustingly witnessing a “BALU PORAYA” (DOGS FIGHT) for a piece of “MEAT”. SHAME…..SHAME.. on all the “Peoples’ Representatives”. Make them “PACK UP AND GO……GO>>”

  • 1
    0

    Hopefully Dullas A will be the President and Sajith Premadasa be PM in few hours time today
    We should give them sometime to sort out the economy of the country
    I do hope the new GoSL will have ministers belonging to different political parties.

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