25 September, 2021

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Opposition Trends In The Election Season

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

If the Rajapaksa administration wanted to mislead and confuse the mainstream opposition and lead it to an electoral dead-end, it could hardly do better than the opposition has itself done, and done unto itself. The main Opposition candidate remains Ranil Wickremesinghe who has no rural resonance. As Mervyn de Silva wrote, “the road to Temple Trees runs through the paddy fields”.  Meanwhile there is the project of a common opposition candidate on the single issue platform of abolishing the executive presidency.  A common opposition candidate is a good idea, but the abolition of the executive presidency –as opposed to its structural reform through the reintroduction of the 17th amendment— as the single issue platform, is bound to collapse under the common candidate the moment the campaign moves to the rural areas where the majority of voters (who are Sinhala Buddhist) live. It is revealing that the only UNP front liner who has any resonance among such voters was not in the front row of the recent Opposition in-gathering at New Town Hall.

The best the Opposition can hope for is that the inevitable defeat in Uva and the imminence of a Presidential election will have the shock effect of unseating Ranil and replacing him with a KaruSajith or Sajith-Karu ticket. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

The next option is for a Karu candidacy backed by Sarath Fonseka and Chandrika Kumaratunga, but if that candidacy is based on the abolition of the presidency rather than its reform (and Karu J has been the most consistent liberal-reformist in Sri Lankan politics for decades), the platform will collapse his candidacy, while the race will be three-way– between the official UNP candidate Ranil, the dissident UNP-SLFP candidate Karu and the JVP. The incumbent will romp home.

Mahinda Rajapaksa is going to win the Presidential election—and that won’t be due to rigging. He still looks The Champ. He’s going to win the election for roughly the same reason that the TNA was sure to win the Northern parliamentary and provincial council elections. That factor will last as long as the context remains i.e. the main opponent re-kindles in voters, existential issues of collective identity and memories of the war.

Mahinda is going to win for a few other reasons besides. The economy is still growing, albeit exceedingly unevenly. Infrastructure development has provided opportunities for commerce which in turn creates a modest number of jobs and incomes. The Rajapaksas have been enhancing their social support base (check out the Arcade at Independence Avenue) while the UNP has been losing its own. The UNP is in what Gramsci called an organic crisis of long duration, in which a political party loses its traditionally supportive social strata, while the SLFP under CBK and now MR have been replenishing through re-branding –what with Gotabaya and Namal ably picking up where Mangala Samaraweera left off, with his urbanization and modernization of the SLFP. And then there’s Mahinda’s appeal, which is a close approximation of the Sinhala Buddhist self-image: patriotic, religious, yet friendly (especially child-friendly!) and hospitable. Karu J as UNP candidate with dissident SLFP support could conceivably give him a run for his money in that department, but not as an independent or a single issue anti-presidency candidate.

The real question is what happens after the presidential election and because of that election. If Mahinda wins overwhelmingly because of the Opposition’s sheer silliness, he could either go for a snap parliamentary election with nominations given to ruling family loyalists or could be pressured as JR Jayewardene was, into a referendum instead. The latter is a huge gamble because the divisions in the Opposition will not matter. All the Opposition needs to do is to unite on a call for a resounding NO vote. This was what led to the unseating of the far more oppressive and powerful Pinochet regime in Chile.

The present administration may be tempted to do what JRJ did when he opted for the referendum, which is to lock up the most able oppositional campaigners on trumped up charges. Since there are familial and financial stakes today which JR Jayewardene fortunately wasn’t burdened with, far nastier measures to take out the leading Oppositional challengers and leave the campaign in the able hands of Ranil Wickremesinghe, could be quite tempting to sections of the power elite. In today’s context the targets would be the JVP and the FSP –which is why they should reunite soon. One notices that there was an attempt to frame the JVP after Rathupaswala and that the initial reactions after Aluthgama were that it was a conspiracy of “defeated political forces”.

An Alternative Opposition Project

Two trends in the opposition, albeit tangentially overlapping and intersecting, held two important events over the past several days. One was the meeting at the New Town Hall (convened by Rev Sobitha) for the abolition of the presidency. The other was at the open air amphitheater at Vihara Maha Devi Park, organized by the JVP’s youth wing, the Socialist Youth Front in association with many civil society organizations, and was aimed against racism and religious chauvinism.

The first meeting was more mainstream; the second was left-led. The first gathering consisted primarily of those above retirement age; the second was overwhelmingly youth based. The first manifested political confusion, the second, clarity and coherence of analysis and ideas. The first meeting was redolent of the past while the second held out some modest measure of promise for the future. The first meeting was packed by the ghosts of presidencies and prime-ministerships past– a cast of has-beens– while the second featured potential and emergent leaders. The first meeting was a gathering of those in the Last Chance Saloon; the second, of a demographic geared for a Long March.

At the anti-racism meeting Anura Kumara Dissanayake articulated the most hard-hitting and credible critique I have so far heard of a form of rule which has deteriorated into a family oligarchy.

He also made a more important critique of the failure of the administration’s post war policies; it’s failure to fulfill the promise of peace. This failure he attributed to the administration’s nurturing of racism and religious chauvinism, its policies of militarism, and its marginalization of the Tamil people of the North chiefly in the realm of the occupation/seizure of lands. Interestingly he denounced the regime for being unable to move beyond the exhausted discourse of the war. The regime is unable to move an inch forward in its thinking, he said. It is unable to learn any new ideas. It is this conservatism and backwardness, including in the superstitious props of the pseudo-modern younger element of the regime that the JVP leader identified as ultimately responsible for the inability to move beyond the wartime mentality towards a fairer and brighter tomorrow based on a shared Sri Lankan nationhood.

Anura Dissanayake underscored that a shared Sri Lankan nationhood can only be based upon the recognition of equality of rights of all, irrespective of ethnicity, language, religion or region.

The rally was preceded by a well-attended march from Maligawatte, the part of town which BBS chief Gnanasara (the FUTA’s Chandragupta Thenuwara’s wittily alluded to a ‘Madyasaara’) alleged that Minister Hakeem was striving to turn into a Gaza. The twin events saw the birth (or re-birth) of something fairly new to Sri Lanka but quite normal in most parts of the world, namely an ad-hoc coalition of left-led trade unions, student organizations and non-party civic associations of academics, lawyers, progressive clergy of the religious majority, and ethnic and religious minorities.

Passionate and persuasive speeches were made by the JVP’s youth leader Bimal Ratnayake and young trade union organizer Wasantha Samarasinghe, Mohammed Hisham of ‘Rally for Unity’ Fr Rohan Ekanayake of the National Christian Brotherhood, and Priyantha Gamage of the BASL.  A former colleague and friend, ex-Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam marched and addressed the meeting, articulating a gauchiste line way to the left of my own left-liberal reformism. All these speeches were enthusiastically received with applause and whistles by the audience.

My wife Sanja and I attended the rally to show solidarity with all the courageous and principled young men and women of all classes, ideologies, ethnicities and religions who mobilized against racism, religious chauvinism and the prospect of another Black July ’83. Up close, my main and abiding impression of the evening is that Anura Kumara Dissanayake is definitely “a comer”, a confident contender, though right now he is much more a Manny Pacquiao than a young Muhammed Ali.  Since the UNP, the conventional Opposition, shows no signs of the requisite re-invention, Anura Dissanayake may emerge as the best default option for all of those who oppose a stifling status quo and hope for a more equitable, ethnically non-discriminatory future.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    3

    You are still living in old age.MR will go home this time. Economy is not growing rather people are suffering a lots now.
    price hikes
    you need at least 60 thousands for a family of four
    if both do not work at home your family is in trouble
    you go and ask people in villages
    you are in Colombo and you do not know nothing about suffering of people
    tell us how MR family made fortunes out of politics
    Matala Airport is now like ZOO
    Tell us about Seaport in HA.
    tell us about MR trips around the Globe to beg money
    Tell us about corruption in MR and co
    Tell us about SLFP seniors who do not like family ruling
    tell us how MR punish people
    tell us about law and order in the country
    you are paid by MR to speak for him
    you will be expecting a big reward from him
    you are bias in your writing

    • 5
      1

      NASS,

      Rajapakse will definitely win this time too.

      If the people are undergoing unbearable suffering they would be revolting against the government by now. No such thing is happening: People haven’t reached the threshold of pain yet.

      Rajapakses know by repeated practice the unpublicized tradition since independence as to how to win elections: Invoke the principle of the bogey of the ‘others’ and kindle the emotions of the masses. He has done some ground work the last 2 years with damaged Mosques and Churches.

      Don’t forget Aluthgama-Beruwella games they played with Muslims. It was an investment for the forthcoming election. They have many more secret trump cards waiting to be played.

      Whatever the opposition does cannot beat this well-honed, sure-fire technique of winning the elections unless they can beat Rajapakses using the same technique.

      The sad part is that racism will accelerate beyond imagination in the process.

      • 3
        0

        .
        Yes I agree…. MaRa will win.
        He has the support of uneducated, uncivilized masses and that’s in plenty in Srilanka.

        :-)

        • 0
          0

          I have no doubt your predictions are based on hired protesters acted for the rice packets recently in Sapugaskanda premises. Most of them are Raja supporters but they are all manipulated by Mahinda Rajapakshe underwork thug network.
          Actually, they should be quiet and help the opposition since opposition had guts to go there and shine a light for the poor of the poor. People of the kind that protested against the fact finding missions of the visiting UnpERS are the most uneducated fractions of the society. They are weighed in this population and thus your predictions could be right. Good luck to this island nation.

      • 0
        0

        Why DJ has to repeat his age old crap all the time? He’s not getting sick of his own garbage….What an “Educated” man!!!!

        I think Mahinda would have blackmailed him with a death threat….

        Middle East has the master stroke at the close of the election. All what they should do is SEND HOME 100,000 WORKERS FROM M/East to Sri Lanka sighting the Mahinda’s Aluthgama Mass Murder attempt.

        Or, they should impose a part embargo on OIL and Sri Lankan exports. Moda gangs of the Sinhala Only smutts will get the message and they would side step Mahinda (Only if they have brains).

        • 3
          0

          Jelly Fish

          “He’s not getting sick of his own garbage…”

          He writes garbage for his own happiness.

          He also derives immense pleasure reading his own pats his own back.

          Do you think he ought to be kicking himself on his bum, back and head, before after writing trash.

        • 1
          0

          Jelly Fish

          “He’s not getting sick of his own garbage…”

          He writes garbage for his own happiness.

          He also derives immense pleasure reading his own pats his own back.

          Do you think he ought to be kicking himself on his bum, back and head, before after writing trash.

    • 1
      0

      I’m no MR supporter, but even I can tell you that Mahinda isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future. You claim that DJ is in Colombo and knows nothing of the suffering of the people, while you sit in Colombo and overestimate the ill-feeling people have towards Mahinda: the extremists who have largely defined Sri Lankan history since independence will vote for him again. The rest will vote for him because “there’s no one else to vote for”. Law and order? Since when have the common people cared a rat’s arse about law and order? Where was this caring public you speak of in ’83? Or when Sinhalese in the South got shot and killed for water? Are you honestly naive enough to think that people who are STILL crowing victoriously over the Tamils and starting riots against other minorities like in ’83 have learned the value of justice in 30 years?

      Simply parroting “this time he’ll lose” isn’t enough.

    • 0
      0

      Every right thinking ones regardelss of race religion and anyhting else will support the opposition in defeating Rajpakshcracy eccept this chamelian nature – DJ.
      DJ will go on licking the asses of Rajapakshe for his selfish agendas, even if Rajapakshes have made it clear that the guy is a powerful NGO supporter. I and my ones have never supported UNP but this time, I have no doubt we will. All we want is send Rajapakshes out of our scenees.

    • 0
      0

      Dayan’s analysing and predictive skills could not foresee that he will be kicked out by Rajapakse.

      How come?

  • 0
    1

    Is this the JVP which sent probably 30,000 Sinhala Buddhist rural youth from poor families to Nirvana ?.

    And made them suffer unbelievable torture and pain on their way, while their Leaders took protection Visas to fight another day.

    Sinhala Rural families haven’t forgotten the damage the JVP did to them, their neighbours and even the Police in rural areas and their families.

    Wasn’t the departed JVP leader also a brilliant orator who knew everything better than anyone else ?.

    And fucked up the lives of a whole generation of poor Sinhal Rural youth while hiding and dining on roast chicken..

    It looks like the only support the JVP will get now is from the Intelligentsia, the frustrated Elite , the Anglicans and ex Diplomats,

    And of course the loser student leaders who wrecking the lives of the poor students who try to get a Degree and get out of the poverty cycle.

  • 1
    0

    Why is this fellow still allowed to publish articles? This a__ must have been paid by the regime for this. Mr Dayan Rajapakshapremadasatilaka; Can you tell Sajith that we the public know he is a puppet steered by the regime brothers. Dont try to fool the public u idiot. Come out and see for yourself about the cost of living, the economy may be good for u with your regime pay cheques. Just shut ur bull shit mouth and keep away.

    Colombo Telegraph : Why do you want to publish nonsense articles like this?

  • 2
    0

    Jus wish he would go away …..

  • 2
    0

    “Mahinda Rajapaksa is going to win the Presidential election—and that won’t be due to rigging.”

    What inference you can make about this statement. He agrees that all the elections that happened in Sri Lanka after 2005 was won due to rigging.

    It is also going to happen that Mahinda Rajapakse is going to sit on the electric chair soon or later.

  • 2
    0

    NASS I did not read this guy’s piece. Does he attack Ranil again?

  • 0
    0

    As long as there is no Election Commission with powers to ensure a free and fair election,the candidate with a majority of votes will lose.
    This has been happening in most elections till now.

  • 1
    0

    Aiyo poor Dayan .He is desperately trying to do some thing that will get him another ambassadorship.?But it won’t work uncle Dayan.Now please look for papa Mervy’s old arm chair and head for the nearest old age home.

    Sanja looks young enough to start a new life with some one who at least has some black head hair.

  • 1
    0

    For timeliness, the two District election in Uva, Sri Lanka can be likened to the five state election in North India that preceded the general election. It gave a clear indication of the BJP victory in the offing. It cannot however be said that in SL the results will herald the Presidential or the General to follow. At best it will show the way the wind is blowing.

    To the emerging coalition it is a fine opportunity to display its monolithic persona. The national manifesto with provincial characteristics can be presented. To the opposition that is getting solidified, it will be a do or die battleground. Eyes of the country will be on UVA.

  • 0
    0

    Dayans good friend Tamara.K is echoing substantially the same facts that the joint opposition has been presenting the public.The solution the ex ambassador advocates is the same that Rev Sobitha has brought to the public domain namely the abolition of the Ex Presedential system.According to Dayan there are only two individuals who can win the Pres elections-MR and Sagith.Come election day Dayan will be proved wrong and MR who appears to be a champ to Dayan will end up a Chimp.

  • 3
    0

    DJ is clearly anti- Ranil

    Go back to the Presidential election of 2006. If not for LTTE preventing the Tamils from voting by taking a massive havala bounty from Mahinda, the political situation would have been different now.

    There is so much discontent in the paddy fields of the south at present. Unless Mahinda’s havala funds play its part together with his computer jilmart to rig the vote, the next Presidential election will be a anti-Mahinda one.

    DJ go and speak to the people in the paddy fields and also their fathers and sons driving the three wheelers in Colombo and they will really tighten the screw of your brain to prevent you ranting to prop up Mahinda.

    The people in the paddy fields are hungry and they do not have the minds to understand the world agenda against Sri Lanka. Mahinda too is hiding the truth by controlling the media.

    Badagini velava comatha chanda thande? This is when people from the southern fields will teach our putha a lesson. I read somewhere the village people saying Mahindage Paara kahalatha api jeevitha venne?

    DJ stop being a propagandist. You paternal uncle Neville did this so blindly and you are following him to get a High Commissioner post in the UN or UK.

  • 0
    0

    I think this is his new application for the election commissioners job.
    He guarantees no rigging as he previously guaranteed no war crimes. So this war crime denier may get that job.

  • 0
    0

    When I went to Sri Lanka last year I went Solomon. Barber told me that life is so difficult today than ever before. The poor man tells me that now Sri Lanka money does not have any value( he mean inflation is very high ) when he goes to shop with 1000 rupees he could buy only a few goods. He says he used to get a five hundred rupees before and yet, it was good enough those days now even 2000 rupee is not enough.
    People now know the tricks of MR family
    Only stupidest people will vote for MR
    Only people in his pay roll would vote for him
    Only people with his close circle will vote for him
    Only BBS supporters will vote him otherwise, they would not be able dance to their tunes
    Only some people who got jobs and promotions with MR support would vote for him
    Only some crooks would vote for him
    Only some drug dealers vote for him
    These May be around few millions but not more than 3 millions
    Sinhalese people are not stupid today
    They are cleave enough to know the tricks of MR
    MR is waiting to see who comes to his opposition
    He already twisted constitution
    If he become president again it would be like Sadam or Qadafi
    He has already learned tricks of Gadafi

  • 0
    0

    The idea of a common candidate on a single issue is to defeat once and for all the trend towards growing despotism. There is obviously a growing public awareness towards this. Once this idea gets solidified, it will matter little as to who that common candidate is!

    Once the EP is abolished ( target period of six months), the role of the common candidate is over.

    Sengodan. M

  • 1
    0

    If you are writing an article to the media you can’t express only your ideas to promote your visions. Your writing clearly shows you are ANTI-RANIL. We don’t care about your ideas. I wonder why these media allows you to promote your ideas using their media network. You should have your own mode of campaign. You must be having some knowledge but you are disgusting.

  • 0
    0

    So we have an economy that is industry and service oriented but a politics that are oriented to the ideas of a dwindling agricultural sector. That is what this PhD is all about. So much for the University of Peradeniya. No wonder it has lost much of the credibility it once enjoyed.

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