19 July, 2024

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NPP – A Reformed & Mature Political Movement – Part II

By Asoka S. Seneviratne –

Prof. Asoka.S. Seneviratne

An Analysis of JPV/NPP as a Reformed Political Movement along parliamentary democracy.

PART I of this article delved into the historical perspective of the JVP, tracing its path from violence in 1971 and 1988/1989 to its political evolution to the parliamentary democracy in 1994. Following the above and gradually increasing the number of seats in the parliament, JVP emerged as the main opposition party with 34 parliamentary seats. This was a significant turning point for the JVP, marking its transition towards the expectation of the masses. Part II further elucidates this transformation, presenting the JVP/NPP as a mature and refined political party backed by the masses and outperforming its rivals in the democratic arena. This narrative, of course, counters the notion that the JVP/NPP is a group of individuals unfit for national leadership, instilling confidence in its ability to lead effectively to generate the change people have wanted since 1948.

The JVP Lacks or has no Experience in Governance or does not have good governance practices.

The opposition claims that the JVP/NPP does not have governance experience. This is another tactic to divert attention from their governance shortcomings and disappointing past performance. It can be argued that the opposition parties, with all their experience and supposed good governance practices, have done everything that paved the way for the IMF bailout on 17 occasions. A senior Central Bank officer at the top recently stated that there is no other solution left except to go to the lender of last resort or IMF.  If so, as the adviser to the government, one must question what the Central Bank did until it declared the economy started bankrupting. In short, such a statement is not worth it for the Central Bank because it is the country’s most prestigious and independent institute. Under EFF program with IMF, Sri Lanka gets US$336 million every six months, while Sri Lanka received an average of US$500 million monthly in 2023 as remittances from RATA VIRUWO or migrant workers. This money is not returned while the US$2.9 IMF loan has to be repaid, for which interest payment alone will be US$2 billion—one step forward and two steps backward. Given the above simple economics, for the benefit of the country and to protect the democratic rights of the people, it is good for the Central Bank to work with its responsibilities instead of engaging in undue support to the regime. One day, the government will go, but not the Central Bank.

In short, no experience in governance is another cheap tactic or strategy used in the mud-slinging campaign of the four political parties to tarnish the image of the JVP/NPP. They argue that the NPP is new and lacks experience in governance, which is defined as “the process of controlling, guiding, or manipulating the apparatus of the government systematically and logically to improve the overall welfare and well-being of the masses” and skills in manoeuvring the various apparatus of a legitimate government. None will accept the opposition claim.   Mrs. Sirimao Bandaranaike, who became the first woman Prime Minister in the world in 1960, had no governance experience.  Bashar al-Assar in Syria never wanted to be a politician. But he assumed power in July 2000, a month after his father died. He was an Ophthalmologist. Jimmy Morales became President of Guatemala in 2016 and was a comedian. We can find many examples similar to those above, of which some new leaders emerged without any previous experience in Governance. However, Anura Kumara Dissanayake is a familiar leader because he was with the parliament for 20 years and has been a Cabinet Minister and the opposition’s leader. He is a mature politician with substantial and convincing experience in Governance, reassuring the audience of the JVP/NPP’s capable leadership.

Politicians, basically opposition party leaders and the party seniors since 1948, have experience in governance. But at the same time, I argue that the majority of the aforesaid political leaders and their seniors are governance practitioners or experts in (i) widespread or all-inclusive corruption, (ii) fraud, (iii) theft, (iv) mismanagement (v)  misuse of public resources -a good example is that along with 1400 million of population, India has 70  ministers and for 22 million people, Sri Lanka has 6o ministers (vi) exploitation, (vii) maladministration, (viii) impotence, (ix) inefficiency, (x) lawlessness, (xi) malversation, (xii) malfeasance, (xiii) messing up, (xiv) misguidance, (xv) no prioritization of limited resources (xvi) negligence (xvii) nepotism (xviii) hypocrisy  (xix) squander and (xx) mishandling,  a long list.  It is true and correct that the JVP /NNP does not possess the above or have anti-governance practices like the opposition. During the SAARC meeting on 13 June 2024, the President stated, “One does not say how people engage in corruption.” This is a lousy statement because he is the one who introduced Asia’s best corruption law in 2023. Among many, he knows about the Bond scandal in 2015 and the missing vehicles in the persistent office. Given the above, the president will never come close to Anura, who is corrupt-free. Indeed, having the right attitude and commitment to do the right thing is part and parcel of a leader.

In short, anti-governance practices are cancers that invade the whole body of good governance or governance apparatus from the top to the bottom.  However, the JVP/NPP possesses good governance or good governance practices compared to the four opposition parties. In other words, the JVP/NPP leader and seniors have not been caught up by the anti-governance practices. They all have clean hands, and the masses are convinced. The four opposition parties boast about having governance experience. Still, it is anti-governance experiences or practices for which the majority have openly been accused. At the same time, law courts have already caught some culprits. But none is from JVP/NPP.

One senior minister of the current government was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment by the Colombo High Court for threatening a business person in a Meethotamulla land dispute. Furthermore, this Minister has been imposed a fine of Rs. 25 million by the High Court. Another Senior Minister is in prison custody now for various anti-governance practices in the health sector. One State Minister assaulted an airport worker, and one MP in government assaulted a colleague MP. All went with impunity while duplicate Dutugemunu in the parliament escaped to Canada after a police drama. I can produce a long list of anti-governance practices in the current and past governments. The anti-governance practices have paved the way for bankruptcy of the economy, causing untold hardships for the current and future generations. This is the naked truth of the so-called governance of the opposition who attacks maliciously JVP/NPP not having governance experience.

Sri Lanka was only second to Japan in 1948 on most socio-economic indicators and ahead of South Korea on per capita income in 1960. Since then, it has slipped behind almost all Asian countries. Finally, it has been declared a bankrupt country along with two Ex-Presidents, an Ex-Finance Minister of Finance (all are connected to the Rajapaksa Family), two former governors of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, and Treasury Officials have been guilty of triggering the country’s worst financial crisis (The Supreme court found them guilty) by mishandling the economy or mismanagement. This mismanagement was at the center of the government budget, or in-depth, it is Public Finance.

The wonder is that a corrupt politician, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has come forward with helpers and stood and told the public he wants to face and take any challenge to develop the country or push the country in the right direction from the current mess the masses are burning or burning in an inferno. The corrupt opposition politicians think that the masses are still idiots so that they can continue with the 20 malpractices mentioned above in 2024 and beyond as well. Also, the current president wants his term extended for another two years. He is the country’s only leader for the next 18 rounds of the IMF bailout. He has been in the parliament for 50 years and only wants to do a miracle for the country.  If he wants to go for the presidential election, he will undoubtedly lose to learning the best lessons in his political life of 50 years. However, JVP/NPP has come forward with the masses with utmost determination and is well-equipped with sound governance principles that are opposite of the 20 practices mentioned above of corrupt politicians. Following the 2024 election, Anti-governance politicians will disappear like a leaf caught by a Tsunami. It is a matter of a few months before they can utter the old mantra of no governance experience with the JVP/NPP. JVP/NPP possesses good governance practices that the opposition does not have. The above is the stark difference between the governance practice of the four political parties and the JVP/NPP.

The Weak Leadership of JVP/NPP

This is another ploy by the opposition

This is the weakest point of the opposition parties’ malicious campaign against JVP/NPP. They even question the details of Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s family, demonstrating their bankruptcy.

The leader of JVP/NPP is accessible from the 20 malpractices mentioned above. Corrupt politicians cannot become political leaders in the real sense because corrupt practices swallow them or their survival rate is short. The voters reject them. The leader of JVP/NPP has been with the parliament for more than 20 years. Anura is a democratic leader who listens first and acts second. He has a vision and goals together with values and qualities. His utmost leadership qualities are vividly indicated in the domain of his apology, nationally and internationally, for what happened during the insurrection in 1971 and 1988/1989. When the insurrection in 1971 took place, Anura was three years old, as he had been born in 1968. Concerning the insurrection in 1988/1989, Anura was 20 years old. However, he dared to take responsibility. He is highly insightful and strategic in the right direction. Anura puts people first; he can rally people to achieve their goals. He is highly capable of focusing on building a solid emotional relationship and trust. He has created teams to manage conditions that drive the generation of positive outcomes in different and required fields. He has massive credentials as a top-class leader in the country. He is the best orator in the parliament and the country. 

Along with the unpleasant past regarding 1971 and 1988/1989, the leadership of Anura in 1994 paved the way to mark a new era of JVP/NPP. In other words, he captained the ship out of the turbulent waters to safe waters. So that we can assess his success based on (i) the challenges he faced, (ii) the strategies he used to overcome those challenges, and (iii) the results he achieved. Part I highlighted the above. Also, my previous article, “The Unrivalled Choice in Sri Lanka Politics,” supported the leadership of the JVP/NPP leader.  It should be noted that the eyes of the opposition parties widely opened along with the recent visit of the leader of the JVP/NPP to India on an invitation. This illustrates a high degree of recognition and acceptance of the leadership of Anura Kumar Dissanayake.

As a leader, Anura leads while his managers manage. After this year’s election, the leaders and managers will deliver what the people and the nation expect change from JVP/NPP, although it will undertake a bankrupt country left only the soil.

JVP/NPP Does not Have Economic Development Policies.

This is an utter myth of the opposition activists

The opposition party activists continuously argue that the JVP/NPP does not have an economic growth and development policy. Unfortunately, none of them explain what is (i) economic growth, (ii) what is economic development, and (iii) their nexus. The opposition party activists are like parrots. Indeed, most of them must attend the essential macro and microeconomics classes to acquire the basic knowledge of economics. I found that most of the opposition party leaders chew on neo-capitalism and neo-liberal open market economic policies or Matras.  The bottom line is that they do not have people-centered economic policies or policies based on the people’s basic needs for stable economic growth and sustainable development after 75 years since 1948. This is the truth. The profound reason or cause is that they have acquired or practiced the abovementioned 20 anti-governance tactics or strategies. As a result, 22 million people have been deprived of at least what they had next to Japan in 1948. Sri Lanka possesses almost all the resources to provide a better life for its people than developed countries. The above understanding is the foundation of the economic policies of the NPP, which was built together with the adoption of 20 anti-governance practices and following law and order.  We can give the details, but the substance of the economic policies of the NPP can be briefed below.   

Foremost is the government budget (income and expenditure); the Sri Lanka Treasury faces mounting problems in revenue collection apart from bribes based on tax by the previous governments. If an in-depth study and analysis is undertaken concerning (i) the Departments of Inland Revenue, (ii) the Excise Department, and  (iii) the Sri Lanka Customs, it will reveal that they are not working as expected to collect/generate revenue (these three sources contribute about 75%  of the government revenue) because they have been caught up with the 20 malpractices directly or indirectly. It was indicated recently that SLR 1000 billion has to be collected as tax arrears. In other words, while the general public pays unavoidable taxes, the malpractices (in the context of 20 referred above) of the three departments mentioned above cause problems in collecting taxes and timely diverting them to the Government Treasury.

An array of reports from the auditor general revealed that the SL rupee exceeded one trillion, resource mismanagement, loss, or theft. At the same time, the government is deaf to the above because its cronies are behind them. On the other hand, the IMF has no concerns about the above and wants to introduce a new tax in 2025, but not certainly a wealth tax. The above is the truth about the country’s availability of massive resources while the government and IMF are scratching back at each other. People are like sandwiches and suffer forever.

So,  it is vital for the organization and management of those taxes and resources to ensure that the Treasury has a steady flow of revenue. Indeed, expanding the tax base and minimizing tax evasion is essential for a healthy government budget or revenue sustainability along with the NPP’s economic policies, such as (i)  enhancing the export mix and destination, (ii) No import flood but import replacement (ISI) where it is possible and economical, and making the private engagement in a meaningful manner, (above two policies mean a production-oriented economy to save foreign exchange)  (iii) modernization of agriculture enhancing productivity (iv) tourism development both local and foreign  (v) technological innovation (vi) Infrastructure development (vii) Green Energy (viii) Restructuring SOEs  (ix) Inclusive policies, and (x) fiscal discipline that is related to sustainable debt to GDP close 60% and stable price level. All of the above are interrelated based on the concept of inclusive economic growth and sustainable development, (a) the pace of economic growth, (b) the pattern of economic growth, and (c) enlarging the size of the economy, which should be addressed under one umbrella, it is Inclusive Economic Growth (i.e. providing and ensuring equal opportunities to people willing to work and contribute to the economic growth/value addition or GDP).

Along with the government budget, generating foreign exchange and reserve management is vital to the budget and for a stable exchange rate between the US dollar and the SL rupee. Suppose an in-depth study and analysis is undertaken. In that case, it will reveal how foreign money has been stolen and where it has been hidden, depriving the country of the best benefit of foreign exchange earned by the government. One crucial factor for generating foreign exchange is that Foreign Direction Investment (FDI) has been utterly discouraged by those mentioned above 20 anti-governance practices. This is an open truth. As the JVP/NPP is determined and committed to following the path of anti-governance policies, it will help immensely to come up from the current bankruptcy of the economy along with ten areas of its economic policies.

Regarding all the above, JVP/NPP knows the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals. This is, as stated previously, at the heart of economic growth and development under the concept of inclusive growth (i.e., providing and ensuring equal opportunities to people willing to work and contribute to the economic growth/value addition or GDP) and sustainable development policy framework of the UN 2015. Along with macroeconomic fundamentals, JVP/NPP is well aware of the dual gap in the country to the extent that a budget gap affects the balance of payments (BOP). In short, the current predicament of the country is related to  (i) the budget gap, (ii) the BOP gap, and (iii) the massive debt burden  (i.e., TRIO) of the country. They are interrelated and cannot be isolated from each other. Fortunately, the JVP/NPP is well aware of the above, vitally essential in Public Finance (i.e., it is not the government budget alone), Trade policy, and long-term planning. Based on the above, JVP/NPP is insightful and strategic in dealing with the current debt problem. They are fully committed to practicing what they preach or walking the talk. This is its economic policy under the banner of 20 anti-governance policies, the TRIO mentioned above, and in-depth, it is Public Finance: (i) the provision of public goods, (ii) ensuring fair distribution of income, and (iii) stabilization of the economy via debt management or debt sustainability (i.e debt to GDP close to 65%). Regarding the above, details can be presented.   

Given the above, the JVP/NPP has a sound economic policy framework to govern the country. The NPP’s economic policy is cemented against the 20 anti-governance and basic macroeconomic fundamentals integrated into TRIO in the right direction

Lessons learned from the Debate between JVP/NPP and SJB

People faced various hardships and severe gas, fuel, and power supply shortages. Also, food scarcity, low supply of production inputs, and excessive price increases caused many difficulties. As a result, among many, the actual consumption declined sharply. However, working with the IMF/WB and adhering to the austerity measures, the economy has witnessed some degree of stabilization in prices, food availability, and other essentials. However, this stabilization is nothing compared to the period before Covid 19 in Sri Lanka. One reason is that the income of the people has not increased. People carry massive debts because of the struggle to live. In other words, stabilization is tagged with a high cost for future generations for many reasons. The massive downside of the temporary stabilization is that it is at the expense of foreign loan repayment in the future, which is about US$36 billion. This is the truth.

As part of the opposition parties’ mud-slinging program, SJB wanted to debate with NPP. This debate, among many, aimed to tell the public that if NPP comes to power, the marriage between the government and IMF/WB will be terminated, and the current stabilization will disappear soon. As a result, people will have to face the same or more hardships and difficulties they underwent some time ago. If SJB comes to power, they will renegotiate with the IMF/WB for better terms and conditions to provide more relief for the people.  NPP does have people capable of renegotiating. Indeed, SJB exerted fear and distress to divert mass support from NPP to SJB.

The truth is that the NPP has not whatsoever stated that it will ignore the IMF/WB. The NPP knows that it cannot do so. Debt (local or foreign) is a liability of the country or the government. Given the above, the NPP will work with IMF/WB based on (i) strictly following the democratic principles, (ii) adopting 20 anti-governance policies/measures mentioned above, (iii) making the current tax regime equitable (i.e. the IMF silent on this or the government has sought to raise tax revenue is exceedingly inequitable. The income tax threshold can increase to a higher level or make income tax progressive. Having a wealth tax is essential. Also, VAT on basic food items is not reasonable), (iv) maintaining utmost transparency, and (v) accountability that was absent in the current and previous governments.

The five approaches above of the NPP governance structure will help it work with IMF/WB for favorable terms and conditions to ensure the welfare and well-being of the people and not compromise the above at whatever cost.  The current regime does not want to negotiate with the IMF in the people’s interest because it embraces the IMF in the “Yes Sir” attitude. This devastating attitude will undoubtedly pave the way for the 18th IMF bailout program. However, the NPP will change it in the right direction with renegotiation.

It is true and correct that the sovereign bondholders know well that Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy because it did not adhere to good governance practices. The NPP’s utmost concern and care is the people. The NPP will not make any decisions that risk people’s lives or harm their democratic rights.

SJB proposed a date for debate, and NPP finally agreed upon it. However, in parallel to the debate between the two leaders, SJB wanted another debate between the two economic councils of SJB and NPP. Indeed, the followers of Sajith’s influenced Sajith to be out of the tract, which vindicated Sajith’s weak leadership. As a result, Sajith wanted to debate with anyone except the schoolchildren. He shouted and used the stages of schools to challenge and attack NPP by stating he was the only one on earth to fix the economy. A critic of Sajith wrote, “Apart from lacking inspiring, unifying and driving a collective vision forward, individual-centric approach by Sajith highlighted a critical shortfall in his ability to lead.” (Colombo Telegraph 4 June 2024). In other words, SJB proposed a debate, challenged NPP, and chewed it for nothing. Now, SJB is waiting for another topic to attack NPP. Given the above, Anura demonstrated honesty, transparency, and accountability—integrity builds trust and respect, the cornerstone of Anura’s leadership (Colombo Telegraph 4 June 2024). In short, the collective and collaborative approach of the team led by Anura was productive, while the disintegrated approach headed by the Sajith team was in vain. In short, the debate saga vividly displayed the bankrupt political status of SJB while NPP became more assertive on the way forward, which was unexpected by SJB.

Conclusion

The political landscape of Sri Lanka has been rapidly changing, given this year’s Elections. The National People’s Power (NPP) is gaining popularity. UNP, SLFP, SJB, and SLPP treat the JVP/NPP as the common enemy. Among many, the killings/violence in 1971 and 1988/1989 have been used as the primary weapon to attack JVP/NPP, which is sold dearly or very cheaply. However, the killings/violence of JVP in the past is not a concern at all for the majority of people because talking and focusing on them will not help them resolve their problems at this juncture. NPP resulted in a reformed or evolutional process of JVP in 1971 towards parliamentary democracy. The article is based on solid points and is written to defeat or criticize the cheap and malicious arguments of the four political parties combined. Today, the JVP/NPP is a mature and refined political party backed by the masses, outperforming its rivals in the democratic arena. This counters the notion that the JVP/NPP is a group of individuals unfit for national leadership, instilling confidence in its ability to lead effectively and generate the fundamental change people have wanted since 1948.

*The writer worked as the Special Advisor to the Office of the President of Namibia and was a Senior Consultant with UNDP for 16 years. He worked as a Senior Economist with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (1972-1993) before he migrated to New Zealand. The author can be contacted at asoka.seneviratne@gmail.com 

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Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    Anura may not have experience in ruling like the others who Jointly and severally brought the country to naught. All parties who ruled hitherto did not possess any variations about their manner of ruling. All they were interested was in making money and they did it.
    Let’s hope that Anura will adopt a different ‘method’ in his rule.

    • 2
      1

      It is not the method that is the madness!

  • 4
    0

    Prof. Seneviratne

    Your passion & the abundant faith in the JVP/NPP, I am sure, will not go unnoticed by the NPP hierarchy if they come to power & you deserve a Ministerial portfolio or, at least, a senior advisory role.

    You continue to stress that AKD & the NPP/JVP have apologised for their violent past but in the JVP website, nothing seems to have changed. In fact, many have commented that the old guard have publicly refuse to do so. So, that makes the apology hollow, & AKD, who is the current leader of the JVP, is only a front with no control, the old guard pulling the strings from behind. That it self refutes your claim that the JVP have matured & is progressive.

    We are all aware of the failure of past govts. & the rampant corruption, which, I would say, is part of our DNA now. It’s well & good if AKD & Co can reform the country & recover, at least, a part of the loot plundered from the country but can you shed some light as to how they intend to do so? As for the ‘sound economic policy framework to govern the country’, can you elaborate on that as well? I am sure AKD & his entourage have broadened their minds while in UK & would follow the process of UK political parties conveying their objectives, strategy & the sources of funding to the voting public.

    • 0
      0

      Dear Raj-UK,
      .
      You are essentially a decent guy
      , and I’m sure that you don’t intend to insult us.
      .
      Asoka and I are now in touch with each other (email and WhatsApp). Because he is recent, and because a rather dated photograph has been used, he was an enigma to start with. The guy who builds unrealistic castles (in the air, or in heaven), is Ranil W. I’m four months older than the pretentious knave who presides over us.
      .
      And Asoka is six months older than me; Ameer
      Ali
      is about eight years older than me (I haven’t asked to see his B.C.). Rajan Hoole is actually 40 days younger than me, having been born exactly 178 years after Beethoven to whose Eroica symphony I’m now listening. None of us is doing what we do in hope of reward. Yes, I was surprised to read the blurb at the end of Asoka’s first article, which I told him reads rather like a panegyric. He’s sent me a number of documents that establish the veracity of the details in the blurb.

      • 0
        1

        Your father was a teacher who became a principal; I was a teacher who never became anything else, although there was a move to make me the Principal of your alma mater, albeit after you had left.
        .
        Vijitha Herath knew me as a teacher when he was a kid in blue shorts. Now, he may become a Minister for a short time, but all of us others are too old!
        .
        I’ve told you that Ameer missed meeting AKD when the latter visited Perth. I attributed it to Ameer not knowing much Sinhala. I’ve met AKD; he may remember certain things that I told him, but not me, really.
        .
        Let’s snap out of these reveries, and face realities. By this time tomorrow (it’s after 8.00 p.m. in Bandarawela) we would have heard what Ranil would have had to say; either more fairy tales about economic miracles wrought by him, or at last setting dates for Presidential election nominations, and actual polls.
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) of 51B, Golf Links Road, Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

  • 0
    1

    Dear Prof. Asoka. S. Seneviratne,.
    .
    This bit of house-keeping is aimed at other readers, more than at you!
    .
    I know enough English to know that I ought to have written “Dear Prof. Seneviratne”, and saved myself two precious words (I’m thinking of the word limit – 200). I try always to get LibreOffice to count the words in my comments!
    .
    But in this case we have to take account of the author of this article:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/akds-npp-must-win-but-where-is-his-agenda-platform/
    .
    Both spell their names in identical fashion. I won’t be surprised to learn that the Editor of Colombo Telegraph had actually suggested to Asoka that the second initial be also added to prevent confusion. I will tell you later about two Nihal Abeysinghes!
    .
    If you go here:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/npp-a-reformed-mature-political-movement/comment-page-1/#comment-2494930
    .
    you will see that there is no PART THREE. Well, in this case I had done the chunking so logically, that you may not have thought that this pest, Panini, had actually got yet another PART ready. A minute after submitting PART TWO, I submitted PART THREE (189 words), but I was told that comments there had closed.

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