22 September, 2020

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Options For The SLFP

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Mahinda Rajapaksa contested under the SLFP. He got 5.7 million votes. Maithripala Sirisena contested under the New Democratic Front, which brought together not only the UNP, the Jathika Hela Urumaya, and Sarath Fonseka‘s Democratic Party, but also a section of the SLFP itself. He got 6.2 million votes. That’s a difference of nearly 500,000 votes. What’s significant is that this is minimal for a candidate who had the backing of both the opposition and a section of the incumbent’s own party.

He won’t admit this, of course, and nor will any of his supporters. They are in a state of denial, which is natural given that Rajapaksa was their opponent. Still, considering that they have taken over the SLFP (and hence the UPFA) and have removed him, things will have to change. Soon. Delay isn’t an option. The problem however is that no one seems to be taking note of it. Sadly. And it’s not hard to see why.

I have written before that it’s difficult to imagine a comeback for Rajapaksa. That’s true. The likes of Dinesh Gunawardena and Vasudeva Nanayakkara will not be enough to counter the incumbent’s edge, particularly because he enjoys the support of both major parties. Which is not to say that his rival is as “on his own” as Sarath Muttetuwegama was during the 1980s. Still.

MaithripalaMaithripala Sirisena understands how much of an edge his former superior has when it comes to the SLFP, however. He also knows that inasmuch as those who support Rajapaksa are not in the majority, their claim that they were cheated the minute his opponent took over his party stands to reason. Admirably. On the other hand, if Rajapaksa wishes to strengthen the party without dividing it any further, he must join hands with its present leader.

Things don’t look easy, however. The SLFP today is antagonistic towards him and for all the wrong reasons. The likes of M. K. D. S. Gunawardena were probably talking about themselves when they hinted that they would keep political nobodies out, but it would be hilarious if we were to apply this to him. The truth is that he is basking in post-election glory unsurpassed by any of his predecessors. He is and always will remain people-friendly, even if those who prefer Westernised “intellectuals” in power take issue with that.

The opposition will not be saved by Rajitha Senaratne or S. B. Nawinna. It will not be saved by Chandrika Kumaratunga or even by those who pledged support to Rajapaksa during the election. As Malinda Seneviratne noted sometime back, not even the UPFA could come up with a candidate who had the sort of appeal Rajapaksa enjoyed. Sirisena is the exception, but there is a severe HR gap in the SLFP, which the UNP does not have. Which is where those leading it must worry. Big time.

In the first place, it’s not (only) a question of whether Rajapaksa will stay. It’s a question of whether his own party will accept him. If Sirisena wants to remain where he is and kowtow to the UNP (limiting the party he himself chairs to the opposition) that’s his problem. For now, however, SLFP’ers are being taken for a ride. Not too difficult to figure out how.

Take that no confidence motion, for instance. Anybody could figure out that it was a feeble show of strength by an equally feeble opposition. In the end, all it signified was an opposition that kowtowed to the ruling party without as much as a by-your-leave, a dramatic volte-face from Rajapaksa’s time. Again, if Sirisena wishes to continue duping SLFP’ers, that’s his problem. But he must realise that he can’t continue it forever.

Mahinda Rajapaksa is popular. He is probably more popular than the entire Executive Committee of his party put together. He is definitely more popular than some of his own supporters, including those who wish to see his comeback. Intra-party rivalries are common, true. But if Maithripala Sirisena excludes him from the political equation altogether, that will be the biggest mistake he can make at this stage.

A Mahinda-less SLFP is not necessarily clean, in any case. Duminda Silva and (“Dr”) Mervyn Silva are with Sirisena all but completely. Those having cases pending against them have vocally lent support to him. Not that a Duminda-less, Mervyn-less MR is clean either, but the point is that if neither faction is willing to accommodate the other, it will be the end as far as the SLFP and the UPFA are concerned. In the meantime, the UNP will have the last laugh. Period.

*Uditha Devapriya is a freelance writer who can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com. His articles can be accessed at fragmenteyes.blogspot.com.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    This is a very “archaic” analysis of “what political” situation is going to be and what it would be like.

    The present day SLFP is not without reasons to “distance” from MR and “hang around” MS and yet keep their “options” open by appointing the ex President in a position of “adviser” along with CBK. These manoeuvrings are not strange in the political arena. Over the past decades these behind the stage plans have been hatched and executed to the precision; but not ANY MORE.

    The political “CLIMATE” is fast changing. A “Bit” of it we saw on Jan 08 2015. The present President, his Prime Minister and the Cabinet have already started feeling that the iron is getting red. Don’t you feel the “Uneasiness” that is developing together with the “susceptibility” among those “Block” of “New Voter Bank”. The Prime Minister has “noticed” it already and started making statements leading to form a “National Government” sans UNP “titled” Government. Even the President, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena is no exception when it comes to “performance evaluation”. He too knows it and trying to set up “Investigative & Law Enforcement Processes” outside the normal Legal procedures, to “meet” that “demand” for NO NONSENSE CRY.

    So the FUTURE will be handed over to people who CAN CARRY ON THE WORK but NOT to those OUTDATED LEADERS who strive to thrive on MANIPULATIVE TACTICS. It is on this NEW CULTURE and CHANGE OF CLIMATE, we have to analyse and forecast the future.

  • 6
    1

    This writer has got his panties in a twist in trying to deny the obvious fact that a majority of the people in this country have clearly endorsed the common candidate Maitri’s manifesto that promised the complete dismantling of the edifice of Rajapaksa politics that had destroyed democracy, ruined the economy and corroded the moral fabric of the entire society. This half-baked political analyst confuses the backroom deal making of the underworld with the genuine political aspirations of the majority of the people. In offering political advise to criminals to recapture power through devious manoeuvres in total disregard of the peoples’ mandate, the writer is no better than Mervyn or Duminda.

  • 7
    1

    Man! stop writing! You are confused all the time. Your phrases lile “Thats’s his problem…” are plain stupid and no value. if you want to build an argument do not fill your writing with “That’s his problem”. The little I could discern from meandering blabber is that Rajapakse is too valauble to be ignored. We’ll here is news for you. The SLFP hierarchy will dump him and in one year’s time Rajapakse will be put to pasture. So dont cry for him. Nobody cares for a dictator who has lost power. The electorate will will not remember when they start to enjoy the dividends of good governance and rule of law.
    So you too hang your boots and go to sleep!

  • 1
    5

    I like to point out that President Mahinda Rajapaksa got 5.8million votes for “him” and not becase of the party or ministers.
    As for Sirisena he got that 6.2 million from TNA, UNP, and from many more parties put to together. These people who voted Sirisena diidt care if a donkey was placed as leader.
    I hope Sirisena will not look like Modi’s man servent when he vist India this week!!!!

  • 6
    1

    This writer Uditha Devapriya is another shill of MR and the SLFP like Linda Seneviratne and Dayan J.

    27 of the 48 appointed to high posts of the SLFP have serious allegations of rape, murder and money embezzlement. No wonder CBK did not seek a post as then she would have been the 28th in the list. What a political party in comparison to the UNP that also had similar characters in the past. The founder of the SLFP SWRD mortgaged ‘Tintagle’ at Rosemead Place in 1955 for Rs. 9 lakhs for election work from the Bank of Ceylon, was redeemed by Mrs. B in 1962 through the People’s Bank after it was opened by the SLFP govt. How it was done? your guess is good as mine.

    As the CID has revealed that the sales proceeds running in to billions from arms deals under Gota has been deposited in to 58 Bank Accounts of Dumind Silva has been identified. Gota this time around has been summoned to the 4th floor where he has asked for another date. The fifty guards provided to Gota is more to keep him under arrest than providing security for him.

    By the time general election comes I wonder whether the SLFP or the Rajapaksas can retain even a 20% of the 5.8 mil who voted for them as the majority of them fell hook line and sinker for the Bluff of the Rajapaksa’s.

  • 7
    0

    First of all Mahinda did not get 5.7 Million votes. That is the official result which includes mass scale rigging in his favor. Next to the rigging is the deception used on many fronts mainly the manipulation of the media to completely black out the opposition campaign while slinging mud at the opposition. Next are the bribes used to buy votes. Next is the thuggery used upon opposition voters. The list goes on and on. Therefore, 5.7million votes is definitely not a realistic number to begin with. Remove about a million of these votes and put it in the opposition column then we are down to real numbers. Given the monumental abuse this man Mahinda did why on earth does anyone want him back in politics. Stop writing stupid articles in support of a scoundrel who does not deserve any further involvement in politics accept for the benefit it gives the likes of Gonwansa and a bunch of other crooked idiots.

  • 5
    0

    PEOPLE LIKE VASU-DINESH-DEW-VITHARANA ALL OF THEM HAVE NO POLITICAL FUTUTRE UNDER CURRENT SITUTAION AND PEOPLE LIKE HEKELIYA-FOWZI-FOREIGN PEIRIS AND FOUL MOUTH SB ARE ON THE FENCE.HOW EVER DAY DREAMING NIAMAL SRIPALA WILL NOT LIKE TO BRING BACK FOMER KING BACK TO SLFP THINGIN WHAT HAPPEND AND HOW THEY WERE TREATED LIKE DOGS UNDER KING.IN POLITICS ANY THING CAN HAPPEN.AS OF NOW GREEN PARTY IN GAINING MOMENTUM AND DARK BULE IS TURNING IN TO LIGHT BULE.HAND AND BETELE HAVE AT LEAST AWAIT FOR ANOTHER FIVE TO TEN YEARS TO SHOW THEIR COLOURS.RANIL NOW PROVING THAT HE NO MORE FIT TO BE CALLED MR.BEAN.

  • 4
    0

    UD,

    I am afraid that some of what you say makes little sense. You note that the margin of Maitripala Sirisena’s victory over Mahinda Rajapakse of around 500,000 votes is “minimal for a candidate who had the backing of both the opposition and a section of the incumbent’s own party.”

    But aren’t you overlooking some very relevant facts? MS was in almost all respects the under-dog in the contest. He was pitted against a man with all the benefits of incumbency, a man who had access to all the apparatus of the state which he was not shy to exploit, a man still basking in the after-glow of the victory over the Tigers, a man well entrenched in power, with an army of supporters to back him and a servile state media to do his bidding. When you consider all this, the 500,000 margin of victory was not so much a minimal thing – it was actually remarkable.

    You have gone on to say that the UPFA could not come up with someone with the sort of appeal that MR enjoyed. True. But then you add that ‘Sirisena is the exception”. I wonder whether you will have considered Sirisena to have been the exception, before he won the election. One of the comments that even those who supported him had to make was that he lacked charisma and did not have the same presence that MR commanded.

    I agree that it may be difficult for MR to make a comeback. And I, for one, hope that he does not attempt one.

    It is my certain belief that once out of office, a former President, should distance himself or herself from the rough and tumble of politics and retire gracefully into private life and so help maintain the dignity that should attend the high office of President.

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