22 October, 2019

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Litmus Test Of Leadership For A United Sri Lanka 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The postponement of the inauguration of the new political alliance to be led by the UNP was due to the division within the ruling party on who its presidential candidate should be and on ceding too much power to the alliance members. The two front runners are party leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and its deputy leader, Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa, with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya being a possible compromise candidate. When the draft constitution of the alliance was presented to the Working Committee several senior members including had disagreed with it stating that the draft constitution undermined the interests of the UNP.

The main feature of the Democratic National Front, would be a leadership council of the main political parties in the alliance. They would have the power to select candidates for elections. It is believed that the majority of these parties, which represent ethnic and religious minority interests, would feel comfortable with the leadership of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe due to his proven commitment to secular and non-racist values. The event set for August 5 was meant to be a show of strength that would catapult the alliance’s presidential candidate into the presidential election campaign. However, the intention of the alliance to transfer the selection of the alliance’s presidential candidate from the UNP to the leadership council of the alliance has not gone well with other senior members of the UNP.

The UNP, which is like its symbol, the elephant, is a behemoth in comparison to the midget size of some of the alliance parties. As a result of open dissent within the party on this issue, party leader Wickremesinghe has requested dissenting UNP members to send amendments to the constitution to the UNP Chairman Minister Kabir Hashim who is himself a leading dissenter. This is an indication of willingness to reach an accommodation. One of the key demands of the dissenters is that Sajith Premadasa, rather than a non-UNP politician, be made the secretary of the new alliance, as the secretary will have a key role to play in signing the nomination papers of candidates for election. This would also give due regard to the tide of grassroots support for his own candidacy for the presidential elections.

Strong Leader 

It is not only the ruling party that is having difficulty selecting its presidential candidate. The main opposition party, the SLPP, is also facing similar issues although the differences are not so openly manifested as in the case of the UNP. The front runner in the SLPP is Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former defense secretary, who has achieved iconic status amongst sections of the population on account of his role in the no-holds barred military defeat of the LTTE. However, the SLPP party leadership is not making categorical statements affirming his candidacy. The former defense secretary is also dogged by persistent claims that he has been unable to shed his US citizenship which precludes him from contesting elections in Sri Lanka

Especially in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings, and the governmental failure to prevent it, there is a widespread perception that the government is weak and has failed to govern effectively. This problem has been exacerbated by the conflict between the President and Prime Minister who are from two different parties and with the President in particular blocking initiatives and changing his mind with harmful consequences to the government’s effectiveness. The past four years of governance by the UNP led alliance has seen a welcome respite from a culture of fear and human rights violations, and space has opened for political and social activism. However, the sense that the government is unable to act cohesively in the interests of the country has created an impression that it is a failure.

In this context, there is a strong desire in society in general for a cohesive government that is led by a strong and decisive leadership. This is reflected in the search for the presidential candidates as well with Gotabaya Rajapaksa standing tall among the potential strong leaders. The search for the strong leader who will take over the presidency after the next presidential election is a reversal of the reform-oriented thinking of the past four decades which focused on the need to curb the powers of the presidency. The abolition of the executive presidency was the promise of several presidential candidates who contested the presidential elections and won the presidency, such as former presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

Emblematic Case 

So far the only success in delivering on the many promises made over the past decades to abolish the presidency has come during the tenure of President Maithripala Sirisena who gave leadership to the 19th constitutional amendment in the immediate aftermath of his presidential election victory in January 2015. This amendment significantly reduced the powers of the presidency and increased the independence of state institutions, such as the judiciary and police. It is the main constitutional reform to take place since the 13th Amendment which set up the provincial council system and devolved power to the provinces.

However, there is today a questioning of the value of the 19th Amendment due to the unprecedented fractures within Sri Lankan society. In the North and East of the country there is a strong sense of dissatisfaction that their problems have been neglected and continue to remain without a solution. The promise of a constitutional solution to the issue of greater devolution of power has been left unaddressed due to the protracted delay in the constitutional reform process. This problem is compounded by the religious conflict which has got exacerbated after the Easter Sunday attacks and has led to a breakdown of trust between people. The ethnic and religious polarization is so great, and confidence in the state is so diminished, that even the findings of the Criminal Investigation Department of the police (CID), which is the main investigative arm of the state, are being disregarded.

The emblematic case is that of Dr Shafi, a government doctor, who in the context of anti-Muslim sentiment following the Easter Sunday attacks, was accused of secretively sterilizing over 4000 Sinhalese women who had Caesarian operations during childbirth. He was put into remand prison on this charge for two months. After exhaustive investigations, the CID stated that there is no evidence against the doctor, and requested his release. But despite this, religious clergy, politicians and media alike are claiming he is guilty and the CID should be investigated. The litmus test of the political leader who should lead Sri Lanka will be to publicly speak up for the CID and appreciate their services to the Sri Lankan state, oppose the purveyors of ethnic and religious hate and prejudice and compensate Dr Shafi and his family for the sufferings they have had to undergo.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    0

    Simply brilliant Jehan.
    No more oldies

    • 7
      2

      Sri Lanka belongs to its Youth and the younger generations – time for youth to come to the streets and cal for a ban on politician over 60 years contesting. People want change and are fed up of the corrupt dead wood politicians – who want to contest from the Grave – like Sambanthan and Anandasangaree.

      It is time that USAID funded NGOs like Jehan Perera to put its money where its mouth is and support YOUTH younger generation to come to the fore.
      Sajtih will win on a landslide!

      • 6
        3

        JP and his US EU funded Colombo NGO friends are all distracted with US citizen Gota and elections and have forgotten about the Easter Attacks even though they mourn for years about war crimes and Victims and have massive EU funded “Memorialization” projects and reconcliation trips abroad on a regular basis.

        Recently the Human Rights Commissioners were on a jaunt to Germany while they pretend that they have not heard of Economic Rights and the US and NATO HR violations in Chagos Islands.

        Wonder if US and EU will fund memorials and overseas jaunts and a case against the US at the Criminal Court, for the East Carnage and victims of US govt terrorism? the US Special Operations forces (SOF) who staged the Easter carnage to sell SOFA are terrorists and US is the biggest Rogue state even if Jehan wants to pretend otherwise. Bloody Human Rights hypocrits!

        • 5
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          Rosy, Nimo, Dipika and some other HR commissions and USAID funded NGO Victimologists and Memorialists were off on a jaunt to Germany recently – pay off for distracting everyone with the issue of Muslim women’s rights and head gear, and MMD reform, rather than focus on the real perpetrators of the Easter carnage – US Special Operations Forces (SOF) – to prevent attacks on Muslims by Sinhala Buddhist extremists who should protest outside the US embassy and clal for Alina to be sent back to US for visiting Monks to sell SOFA.

          The Colombo USAID NGO babes and HR “activists” have been on non-stop foreign tours to Geneva, Rwanda, Washington etc. so that they forget the Easter attacks, like Jehan has! Long live Miracle of Modayas!

  • 1
    2

    Your is in wilderness because you are rational

  • 12
    3

    Sajith is young and inexperienced. He should wait for great automatic opportunities will come his way. The ideal person in the current context to satisfy the needs of country is Karu Jayasuriya who should taken over as President for a couple of years and retire after ensuring.the Presidential powers are completely transferred to the
    Parlia ment. RW should take over as P.M. and ensure all policies, working of the parliament, cabinet etc are operating smoothly and hand over the reins to Sajith after about 3-4 years by which time Sajith should have handled other important ministries & ,gained experience. In this manner Sajith & his team would be facing the 2025 elections very comfortably.

    • 3
      5

      DCN
      “Karu Jayasuriya who should taken over as President for a couple of years”

      you seem to be appointing the president,not the people.If you think 80 year okd karu can beat the war hero gota then you are living in cuckooland.Even sajit will find it tough but he is the best the UNP has.So the choice is yours gota or sajit,whom do you prefer.as for sajit’s experience you mention,by that time UNP would shrivel more.

    • 4
      3

      Dear DCN,

      Reject Sajith if you want to, but in what universe, with what beings do you live that you refer to a 52-year-old as “young”?
      .
      “Experience” – again rather vague. You’ve got to give a guy some responsibilities to see if he can handle them.
      .
      Karu Jayasuriya is very old by any standards – 78 years old, isn’t he? You may be able to justify selecting him by adducing various arguments, but please, let’s recognise that a 25-year-old is definitely an adult, and physically at his peak.
      .
      You want to add “experience” and sound judgement, then think of a 40-year-old. How old am I? I’m seventy – and I know that I shouldn’t pretend that I’m young and fit for all duties.
      .
      Questions have been raised about Sajith’s qualifications – that is valid.
      .
      Sajith hardly ever speaks in English in public. I know that some villagers imagine that his English must be poor (and Ranil’s good because he passed out as an advocate!) Absolute bunkum. Sajith’s English may be too British, but few Sri Lankans are more at home with the language than he is.
      .
      So, you still want RW? Hasn’t he proved over and over again that he’s incapable?

      • 1
        1

        If you are our regular Sinhala_Man, I’d want to have a say on your posting. Please confirm.

        • 4
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          Sinhala_Man,
          John F. Kennedy was President at 44. Sajith Premadasa at 52 is old enough!
          Morarji Desai was Prime Minister at 81. Karu Jayasuriya at 78 is young enough!
          .
          Sajith may or may not speak English, but he understands. Does Maithri understand? Do not set the bar higher when not inclined towards someone.
          .
          It is neither the age nor the ability to speak English that counts, but the political will to set the country on the right footing.

          • 1
            0

            what did morarji desai do for india other than start another brand of cool drinks called morarji cola in competition to coca cola which had to drop its prices.

  • 3
    7

    Ranil is accepted by almost all the minority parties. I wonder why his own community against him knowing that he well educated and recognized by most of the world leaders. Are they jealous of him?
    Without criticizing for things he had not done why not give him a chance?

    • 4
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      More questionable statements!
      .
      Gota and Gnanasara are out and out racists. Ranil may be relatively less blameworthy on that score.
      .
      Educated? I guess so. But “well educated”? What criterion have you adopted? Who are these World Leaders by whom he is “recognised”? Barack Obama? Eight years as President – and he’s now not in contention to be an active politician.
      .
      How many chances do you want Ranil given? Wasn’t he a Cabinet Minister by 30? Can we please have political discourse that is a little more realistic and intelligent?
      .
      P.S. I made a little mistake entering my e-mail address above – and I’ve been given a different gravatar.

  • 4
    3

    The UNP will finally settle with the western embassy bloc’s darling Karu Jayasuriya as their candidate. And, he has the blessings of NGO kukkas as well because of his cowardly character that will pave the way for them to control everything by staying behind the screen. Ranil Wickremesinghe too will be happy to cover behind him and come to the fore in the event of being elected.

  • 3
    0

    Jehan Perera: what will be Sri lanka next, a Hong Kong ? I heard some one had told not to worry about foreign exchange and to use the $ 480 million Grant money (Why it has to be repaid) offered and that itself is a carrot and stick kind of money. The way the photo shows, Ranil is happy as long as he is the party leader and the opposition leader. Karu Jayasuriya is thinking what is happening to me. It looks people are expecting a BOLSANARO way of appointing a President until the MCC/SOFA/ACSA commitments are fulfilled.

  • 5
    2

    Jegan,
    Political opportunism always play a significant role in Srilankan election no matter whether it is right or wrong whether it is CID or Military or Terrorist. A very good example is LTTE deputy leader Karuna Amman and LTTE International Armed Dealer KP both are enjoying the freedom of political opportunism. Former government and Buddhist Fundamentalist leaders accused LTTE nationaly and internationally as Drug dealers, illegal arm dealers, attack on Daladha Maaligawa, Killing of Sinhalese policeman etc. But there was not a single charge in Srilankan courts against those who were responsible for those accusations. Rishard Badiudeen and Rauf Hakeem was were enjoyed the ministerial posts and all the benefits with the same government is now accused them not becuase they have done wrong but they didn’t support them. In this election, if the Muslim leaders change their mind and support them all accusations will go away and they will be heros once again. I don’t think any of the potential Sinhala political leadership candidates you have mentioned has the guts to stand for truth and speak up for the truth.

  • 0
    2

    Jehan,
    Dr. Shafi case certainly is one of the challenges incumbency has to face but not the main litmus test. There are at least two other biggest litmus tests UNP led front has to pass before getting to Shafi. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that it is a good strategy for any member of Gvt side even to create the appearance of taking side on Shafi’s case except to highlight the creation of environment for the rule of law to operate independently. The better strategy is to let those who are trying to earn extra political mileage from the case become fools themselves for pursuing an unfair case against an innocent man. Despite the initial rise forced by wrong news & political opportunism the majority of the public is intelligent enough to understand the truth, in the long run, provided nothing else won’t come up again to renew the suspicions.

    In this sense, the first biggest challenge is to assure that the Gvt has the control of national security. The Gvt cannot afford to show any sign of conflict between the PM & The Prez on this issue hereafter. Once the Gvt can convince the public as having the upper hand the national security issue, Shafi’s case will become a marginal issue by itself.

    The second biggest challenge is to rally around the nominated presidential candidate with one voice. Unlike SLPP, UNP has a long list of excellent candidates. The most popular among them, no doubt, is Sajith. If there is any weakness in him is his (apparent) resentment towards macro-economics which is only the other side of micro-economics he favors. It is probably wrong for him not to make his economic agenda explained more clearly during last four years while he knew that he was one of the front runner.

  • 1
    1

    All Sri Lankans know there is no leader in any of potential nominee. What more, the confusion & struggle within each main party to nominate one among them shows that they clearly don’t have one who qualifies.

    Very pathetic situation when people are looking for a real leader, main political parties are busy finding someone who can defeat other candidates – Why? These parties never focused on creating future leaders

    Sri Lankan elections have always been one candidate focusing on defeating the other (that is why political mudslinging, racial tensions etc are increasing at the times of elections) – A true & accepted leader doesn’t need to stick to this strategy to win.

  • 1
    0

    How ever, JEhan PErera is also saying abolish the 19th amendment which is a menace to the country.

  • 4
    0

    With the infighting going on in Unpatriotic National Party over the PE Candidate, only two legged donkeys will vote for their candidate. In Colombo, there are creatures like that.

  • 2
    0

    1970 General election results created dispute between Dudley and J R J .
    There was dissent in the party in 1989 among Lalith , Gamini and
    Premadasa for presidency ! Sajith name comes up and goes down for
    party leadership for too long now . If not Sajith , Navin or Karu is a very
    well known Baila also known for long ! Nothing new , and nothing new
    will come out from the same old FRIENDLY FIRE ! I am sure , twice shy
    Ranil will choose third time shy to give up on presidency and go for the
    premiership , a safe bet once the presidency is grabbed ! S L P P is poised
    to restart its BEAUTIFICATION TENDERS and Sajith wants Housing
    tenders ! What’s the difference ?

  • 3
    0

    How many seats did the UNP Behemoth win at the last Parliamentary Election?…
    How many votes did the Behemoth l get at the last Municipal Council Elections?.

    Who are those Midget sized Minor Parties who want to join the Behemoth?.?.
    I know Sampathar’s Vellala Party and Anura Kumara’s Wijeweera Party have been sitting on the Behemoth for a long time seven before Nanthikadal.
    Even the Wahabi Parties have now climbed on the Behemoth after Easter..

    Can they clean up the mess , when they are the ones who created it ?..

    Have, Keselwatta Kid ,Rajitha & Son, Galleon Ravi, Champacha Ranawaka, Arjuna Ranatunga , Digital Harin ,Ajith Perera, and Ven Rathna got those Midget parties of their own as well?.

  • 3
    0

    “However, the sense that the government is unable to act cohesively in the interests of the country has created an impression that it is a failure”.

    It is not an impression fool…..the govt has FAILED…….full stop.

    Nobody including Jehan’s ilk can prop it up again.

  • 5
    0

    I remember as far back as 1983, world media tols that the Tamil militancy is baecause of Tamil Hindus are slaughtered by Sinhala buddhists. Now, it is the Same. Everybody talks as if Zaharan and his gang were Sinhala buddhists.

  • 3
    1

    There is no need for any other alliance . RW , Sajith and other Minority Parties such as TNA are not the future the Majority of Sinkalams are Crying out for. Their Choce is MR , Gotha and Basil the Old Guard. That is the the only allaince that the vast majority of Sinkalams will vote for because only they can reintroduce the dreaded White Van and Extra Judicial Killings and speed up colonisation . Let us wait and see. There is no apetite for anything else. Let us see how India plays its cards when MR & Gotha steer the Kada Kada Loda Loda Vandi

  • 0
    2

    Patali Champaka Ranawaka – Qualified engineer and not labelled as a corrupt politician. Has shown he can handle “difficult” ministries well.

    Why can’t he be considered as the best of the bad lot ?

    • 1
      1

      because he has zero support within unp base and also seen as extremeist withing buddist community. he has no minority support and if he is the nominee gota will find it a cakewalk as he will easily win 50% of tamil votes and 80 percent of muslim vote. he has the distinction of being on of the few candidates that less electable than ranil. karu jayasuria is safest bet and most likely to defeat gota or any slpp/slfp candidate. sajith is unpredictable and ranil has no genuine support outside Colombo district and maybe kandy city centre. muslim/tamils will vote whoever their regional parties tell them to vote so I guess he can count on those. but that wont be enough. Karu is also not tainted by bondscam or any other corruption scandal. hence he best choice.

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