21 May, 2024


May Day Music Miscellany: Contest Between The SJB & The NPP & The UNP-SLPP Dilemma

By Athulasiri Samarakoon

Dr. Athulasiri Kumara Samarakoon

The May Day rallies of 2024 in Sri Lanka emerged as a pivotal moment in the nation’s political landscape, spotlighting the main contest between the SJB and NPP while underscoring the dilemmas faced by the UNP-SLPP alliance. Against a backdrop of shifting alliances and evolving ideologies, these rallies provided a glimpse into the complex dynamics shaping the country’s future.

Rising prominently in the current political landscape is the SJB, highlighted by a significant rally in Colombo led by Sajith Premadasa. Its steady ascent to prominence coincides with the decline of the UNP, the Grand Old Party, and is propelled by the tireless efforts of its leadership, who engage in onsite meetings with people almost around the clock. With a focus on welfare and a developmental approach rooted in public-private partnerships, the SJB appears to position itself at a middle ground compared to the extreme neoliberal policies of the UNP.

However, further elucidation of its policies, beyond the leader’s references to social democratic ideals and theoretical frameworks, is necessary to clarify its stance. Despite encountering some internal discord and external challenges that test its unity and efficacy, the SJB has successfully strengthened its position as a leading contender for power. By leveraging its historical ties to the UNP while appealing to a broader voter base with its narrative of progress and inclusivity, the party continues to gain momentum.

Simultaneously, the alliance partners who recently crossed over to the SJB, such as Prof. G.L. Peiris (former Chairman of the SLPP), Dr. Nalaka Godahewa (Gampaha district), Wasantha Yapa (Kandy), Dilan Perera (Badulla), Chandima Weerakkody (Galle), and former cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga, have bolstered the strength of this camp. Their defections have dealt a blow to elements considering a switch to the UNP-SLPP alliance, adding further frustration to those contemplating a move.

In parallel, the NPP, led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who is also the leader of the JVP, has emerged as a significant contender, advocating for a distinctive vision focused on controlled autonomy and popular empowerment. Notably, the NPP organized not just one but four May Day rallies in major centers, representing the Western, Southern, Northern, and Central regions. These events showcased its ability to attract large, ‘‘disciplined crowds’’ aligned with Party ideology. Despite its ideological coherence, rooted in socialist ideals, and a well-structured framework, the NPP faces the formidable task of broadening its support base beyond its current demographic, which is perceived as relatively elitist, educated, middle-class, and radical.

However, recent data suggests a growing traction for the NPP’s message among youth and urban demographics, indicating a potential shift in the political landscape towards a more ideologically diverse electorate. Nevertheless, the NPP’s May Day speeches hardly referred to its traditional political line of Marxism, instead emphasizing the abilities of its team and the need to navigate the country through its current challenges. It appears that the NPP/JVP fears being confined to its original ideological stance but currently leans towards a recognition more focused on pragmatism and problem-solving.

As these two forces vie for ascendancy, the UNP and SLPP find themselves at a crossroads, navigating the complexities of an evolving political milieu. The UNP, once a dominant force, now grapples with relevance amidst persisted electoral setbacks under Ranil Wickremesinghe and leadership disputes which made it vulnerable to defections and alliances with the rivals. Similarly, the SLPP, while still formidable, must confront mounting discontent and the imperative of persuading voters of its vision for the future. Recent polling data suggests a decline in public approval for the SLPP-led alliance, with concerns over economic policies and governance contributing to voter skepticism.

As Sri Lanka braces for the impending presidential election, the import of the May Day rallies cannot be overstated. Beyond the spectacle and rhetoric, they encapsulate a profound narrative of choice and consequence, where today’s decisions will shape the trajectory of the nation’s future. In this narrative, the contest between the SJB and NPP underscores the plurality of voices and visions within the political spectrum, affording voters a substantive choice between continuity and innovation.

Moreover, the May Day rallies in Sri Lanka are not only platforms for political expression but also colorful spectacles of entertainment. This year, the Marxist JVP-led NPP alliance utilized music to captivate crowds, particularly through its party-oriented group of ‘Vanguard Artists of People’ (Jana Niyamu Kalakaruwo) performing revolutionary tunes. In contrast, the UNP, SLPP, and SJB rallies typically feature papare bands playing baila music, often amidst a backdrop of raucous revelry fueled by alcohol-fueled supporters.

The striking disparity in musical choices and the purported discipline maintained by the NPP/JVP alliance stand in stark contrast to the behavior witnessed at other party rallies. While the NPP/JVP adopts a more ‘‘disciplined’’ approach, regulating both the music selection and participant behavior, other parties either allow a wide range of musical performances without regulation or turn a blind eye to excessive drinking among supporters.

For instance, in a social media clip, Harin Fernando was seen jokingly encouraging his supporters to indulge in alcohol consumption after the rally—an act that reflects the lax attitude towards ‘‘discipline’’ exhibited by some party factions.

This disparity in approach not only underscores the ideological differences between parties but also speaks to broader societal norms and values. While some parties prioritize discipline and adherence to certain standards, others embrace a more laissez-faire attitude, allowing for greater spontaneity but potentially risking disorderliness.

In the context of the broader political narrative outlined here, this contrast in behavior and musical choice serves as a microcosm of the divergent paths pursued by political factions in Sri Lanka. As the nation navigates its political crossroads, the choices made by parties extend beyond policy platforms to encompass broader cultural and societal norms, shaping the perception and reception of their respective messages among the electorate.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    … the UNP-SLPP alliance.
    The little that I know is that no one could have envisaged such an alliance, say, a decade ago.
    What happened to our political landscape… ?
    Ranil will have to answer this for generations to come!
    … the main contest between the SJB and NPP.
    Who could have imagined NPP giving a fight, … to whoever.
    … who recently crossed over to the SJB, such as Prof. G.L. Peiris (former Chairman of the SLPP).
    If crossing over has a record holder, it is Prof. Peiris.
    Prof. G.L. Peiris is an insult to the title Prof.!
    I can’t imagine a Sajith Presidency.
    If you can, credit, yes, no other than Ranil.
    I am not interested in who wins. Let anybody win.
    It is not going to be a Rajapaksa.
    That is enough for me.
    We have a breather!

  • 15

    Dr.AKS, No matter what picture the May Day rallies project at the moment, there is a grave reality here where those who have robbed the nation will do everything possible to continue as political leaders. Otherwise their foreign accounts will be exposed and they may have to be jailed, neutralising all their efforts to be kings in this kingdom with no hard work to earn a living. Basil denied ownership of a 15 acre Malwana property with a luxury villa costing 240 million and was able to be free from a jail sentence. Arjuna Mahendran’s Central Bank scam has not been questioned by our present president. Now most of the nation has acquired robbing minds. We need to wait and see what happens to the Presidential elections.

    • 9

      Well said DTG, all of them are thieves.

      • 2

        Paul, I really don’t know where you are. But I feel like you lived abroad. Considering all this, I hope you will give us an effective response to this “so-called bank robbery”. But judges save Rajaakshe s soul in that controversal land property case in Gampaha. The best example is how “Kaputa” was acquitted in that controversial court inquiry on “Gampaha property”. That was under ” Gotabaaya Regime”: However today, under Ranil W as the president, Diana Gamage is defeated by her court case.

        I think AM, former CBSL governor, if he is being charged for the alleged bank fraud, why on earth is Singapore (ONE OF THE POWERFUL LAWFUL STATEs) keeping mum about it?
        Former idiot President Sorisena repeatedly said that he signed various documents “20 000” times. Is this all a joke?

  • 10

    Whatever the May day rallies or opinion polls say about the next president elections, the money power, religious power, and racism will have their influence on the results. Rajapaksas supported Ranil means they are very powerful in those powers. Yes the Aragalaya had an influence during their period in changing the attitude of the people temporarily but once Rajapaksas hand over the power to Ranil, people do not have the same level of attitude towards Aragalaya. Maha Sangha still on the side of Ranil Rajapaksa group. Of course Ranil may not be able to Continue for more than five years but he will hand over the power to Rajapaksas. So, NPP and SJB competing each other may be beneficial to Ranil Rajapaksa group. Anything can happen in Sri Lanka.

    • 0

      Ajith, You are aware that anything can happen in SL. Why don’t you encourage SJB and NPP and all others to loin as one instead of causing divisions which the current robbers benefit from

      • 2

        David the good,
        That’s what I meant by saying that competition between SJB and NPP may result in benefits for Ranil Rajapaksa robbers.If they really wanted to make at least some changes to the country.

  • 3

    Too much of exposure of the election but current head is rejected by people and Diana Gamage case also back door but how she crossed the lines also how dangerous for the country of pride people according to Priyadesha any foreigner can register a party…..even Diana was holding ministries
    Thada thadiyas polishing the holy book
    Jai wewa

  • 5


    She says, it’s insulting all women as a group ……… this time, she is pointing the finger directly at you ……… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1miw2blD4Y&t=11s

  • 0

    Apart from communist regimes or dictatorships, ‘Labour day’ is a holiday in other countries, a non political, low key affair. Uniquely, in SL, it is a much celebrated political day with even bus loads brought in from all corners to Colombo to indulge in a bit of booze & ‘buriyani & the possibility of a ‘knees up’.Promises & pledges are made, just like those ‘made in the heat of the night’ (apologies to Rod Stewart). The average voter is happy with a stage performance instead of a mature live debate, & at the end of the day, votes with the heart & not the head.

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