By W. Vishnu Gupta –
As usual, several new political parties have made their appearance in the 2020 Parliamentary elections. There are many independent candidates too; in Colombo district alone there are 16 political parties and 26 independent groups. Politics seem to have reached every nook and cranny of the people lives. As a result, despite the covid-19 health threat, a large turnout at the polling stations can be expected and on the night of 6th August, the obvious question will be who has won the Sri Lankan parliamentary elections. The outcome will not be very pleasing to all three major political factions; “Pohottuwa”, “UNP” and “SJB” lead by three traditional politicians.
Unfortunately in this election also, these three political factions have adopted the usual political mantra based on unrealistic and false promises hoping to bamboozle the rabble. The trio of Machiavellians has gone into frenzy of making promises, knowing fully well that none will be fulfilled. What a shameful act; at least they should be decent enough to make these outrages promises less gleefully.
Mantras of “Pohottuwa”
SLPP leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has been chanting “Two-thirds Majority” mantra at every political rally. How can the voters forget the goal of the 18th Amendment to the constitution and the alleged excesses of his regime from 2005 to 2014? He did all that with two-thirds majority. It is self-evident, that Mahinda and his “pohottuwa” have failed to fulfill the promises made on MCC, ECT and Mattala Airport during the presidential election campaign in 2019. They should understand that majority of the voters are not gullible to be swayed by political rhetoric about not-selling the national assets. So far his party has been vague on national issues just like the other two. Furthermore, people are exhausted about their fear mongering tactics about communalistic politics. The recent comment; “cat’s paw of communalistic political parties” is somewhat counterproductive especially when people are fully aware of the policies pursued by a few questionable characters such as Badiuddin Mahmud, Rishard Bathiudeen, Rauf Hakeem, Hizbullah and Azath Salley. “SLPP (SLFP)” needs to get into a navel gazing exercise before making any comments about communalist politics.
What an irony “pohottuwa” party has failed to capitalize on the massive goodwill earned by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019. They will pay dearly on the day of election for the blunders made in managing cost of basic foods, for not passing the benefits of highly reduced oil prices to the consumers, electricity and water bill debacle, scarcity of fertilizer and the attacks directed on former president Maithree.
Mantras of other two parties
There is a slight difference between political “Mantras” of UNP/SJB and the SLPP. The UNP/SJB’s promises such as Rs.20, 000 a month living allowance and financial loans at the interest rate of 4% are not only realistic and false they are hilarious. Moreover, the timing of election is the enemy of both UNP and the breakaway party SJB. These two parties have to deal with two simultaneous crucial tasks; building individual identity (image) and facing the parliamentary elections. It was a very costly and ugly divorce, both parties have hardly had any time to recover from the aftermath of the divorce, especially when SJB is in the denial state.
Ranil (UNP) and Sajith (SJB) are trying to beat each other with false promises. What a mockery; these two seem to be following the literal meaning of what Margaret Thatcher, a darling of conservatism once said “Everything a politician promises at election time has to be paid either by higher taxation or by borrowing”
One has to look at the promises made during the election campaign of 2015 briefly. The voters vividly remember Ranil’s election rhetoric about vouching to regain majority in the parliament and making it as the United National Party’s Government, at the same time he also promised to secure the future of younger generations and promised that his government will launch 1 million jobs for the youth as well as a highly advanced telecommunication network paving the way for digital economy. He failed to fulfill all promises and governance system was made worst to appease leaders of communalistic politics in Sri Lanka. The economy was ruined, nation’s image was sullied and our security was abandoned.
The record of Sajith is no better. As the deputy leader of the oldest political party, he seems to have worked day and night to defeat his own party leader. Dayasiri and Johnston, former UNP members may be able to enlighten and expand on the contentious behavior better. Sajith has nothing to show the voters as his main achievements therefore he always tends to talk about his late father Ransinghe Premadsa’s accomplishments. Surely “deeds not words” is true. He was first elected from the Hambantota District in 2000. After nearly 20 years in the parliament, apparently, he has failed to establish his credibility among the voters of Hambantota first; Sajith was able to obtain only 25.5% of the total votes (425,000) as Presidential candidate of 2019. May be Ruwan Wijewardene knew more than what we are led to believe, when he uttered the words; “Sajith Premadasa should not have rushed in. He should have waited patiently until the 2025 Presidential elections when he could have led the UNP and become the President”. Wishful thinking, yet Ruwan Wijewardene has failed to realize that neither Ranil nor Sajith have accomplished anything significant enough for the voters to be convinced.
Another subject troubling the voters are neither UNP nor SJB have stated their position clearly on MCC, ECT or Mattala Airport. Both parties are very critical on the stance taken by “pohottuwa”, yet hiding their own positions. The previous government dominated by the members of these two parties was very enthusiastic in concluding these agreements without any public discussions. Ranil, Mangala, Malik, Kabir Hashim were in the forefront of negotiating these international contracts with the relevant countries. Suddenly all have become silent guardians of the nation by blaming the SLPP for the ambiguity in these contracts. UNP/SJB must take the full responsibility for the alleged duplicity content or the contract clauses detrimental to our sovereignty in the above unsigned contracts.
Arrogance leads to failure
The chances of overwhelming success of all three major political parties at the next election have been dampened by the arrogance and hubris of the key individuals in the party establishments. Former MPs and the leaders through their rhetoric have displayed inflated sense of entitlement and superiority. Some have attacked religious leaders and others have attacked former presidents (dead and living) with unsavory words. Arrogant politicians possessing exaggerated sense of superiority do not have any feedback seeking behaviors also they discount diagnostic information in their work environments. It explains why our present and political leaders have lead failed governments. It explains why Mangala lead by Ranil co-sponsored UNHCR 30/1- Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. It explains why Mahinda appointed his friend Cabraal to be the CB Governor and why Ranil appointed his friend Arjuna as CB Governor .It explains why a Former Prime Minister alleged to have had breakfast with a drug kingpin. It explains why a Former President eliminated first-past-the-post electoral system and made the presidency an executive post with dictatorial powers. It explains why 18th and 19th amendments were adopted with the approval of all traditional political parties. It explains why semiliterate ruffians have assumed very important ministerial portfolios. Finally, it explains why Sri Lankan politicians think their children deserve better than other children.
Effect of Social Media
Just like traditional politicians, main stream media run by the state or by the private organizations sponsored by various political establishments has lost credibility among the young and educated voters accounting for over 30% of the total. Social media has become the most preferred tool among this young and vibrant group to learn about people, economy, finance, international affairs and politics. Furthermore, frustration among the traditional politicians due to their inability get the cavalier and deceitful promises effectively to the unsuspecting voters has been exacerbated by the threat of Covid-19 and related newly announced election campaign laws.
Given the above summary of three major traditional political factions, their arrogance, and the active role played by the social media it is inconceivable that anyone of them will be able to muster enough support to form a majority government. It will be a hung parliament and to the delight of voters, most likely all three leaders will be vying to be the Prime Minister through wheeling and dealing. As a result, there will be a “King Maker” to decide who will be the next prime minister.
The King Maker
The voters should not be surprised to accept “Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya” (AJBP) lead by former MP Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero as the most fitting King Maker on the evening of 6th August 2020. AJBP is a national political party somewhat akin to the Green Party of Germany. It was formed recently as an alternative to the traditional political factions and it has nominated candidates in 18 electoral districts including Jaffna. The voter base is unquestionably strong as it is backed by many Sinhalese and Tamils disenchanted with the conduct of traditional politics driven by Machiavellian principles and openly requested traditional political leaders to retire from politics without inflicting further pain to the democracy in Sri Lanka.
In a recent press conference a journalist questioned whether Thero is trying to scuttle the agenda of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The former MP’s reply was interesting, he said “it is time for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to retire from politics and let President Gotabaya Rajapaksa lead SLPP”. Ven. Rathana Thero has also called for the retirement of Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunge from Politics.
It is refreshing to observe a credible new political force untainted by corruption has emerged to field a slate of candidates possessing the virtues of integrity, honesty and perseverance in the 2020 elections. Ven. Rathana Thero is a formidable political force acknowledged by every politician in Sri Lanka. However the Muslim politicians may not agree with the policy changes advocated by Ven. Rathana Thero but it is understandable. In the aftermath of 2019 Easter Bombing / Carnage in the country, the Buddhists, Hindus and Christians have shown immense support to the policies advocated by Ven. Rathana Thero. The solidarity shown to his noble causes, enormous number of black flags raised in many cities during the first week of June 2019 and slogans of solidarity expressed by the rabble may have sent trimmers in the established political circles. Hence Ven. Rathana Thero’s challenge to the corrupt bunch of hedonists who occupied the last parliament of Sri Lanka should not be regarded as a trivial matter because it may change the political landscape of Sri Lanka forever.