23 September, 2020

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Playing Gota’s Game

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

If Ranil Wickremesinghe and his cohorts in the UNP thought they could subjugate the Sajith Premadasa faction by reducing its power in the Working Committee, they couldn’t be more wrong. Once again Ranil’s allies seem to have confused party hierarchy for popular support outside the party. For a monolithic establishment like the UNP, with just weeks more to go for the general election, this obviously does not bode well. Debates over party logos, slogans, and choice of leaders for alliances and constituent outfits ought to have been resolved now. If the UNP’s number one enemy the SLFP didn’t perform well at the last election, by throwing its weight behind the SLPP and by appointing its leader as the SLPP-led alliance’s secretary it has reduced its chances of a humiliating defeat. The Sajith-led UNP or the Samagi Jana Balavegaya, on the other hand, is still in its early days. A tactical and strategic plan for the new party, given its internal tussles, would account for the possibility of defeat in any recent encounter and electoral recovery in the years to follow.

Even that will be pre-empted if the Sajith-Ranil tug-of-war continues. The most painful part about the sad mess of an outfit that is the UNP is that one can’t take sides in this conflict. As I’ve mentioned before, both the Sajith and the Ranil factions have their pros and cons, their desirable and undesirable sides, and to privilege one group over the other would be to blind oneself to the privileged group’s underbelly. The irony here is that the main allegation thrown by one faction to the other is that they’ve reached an agreement with Mahinda Rajapaksa and his band of brothers. Weird as it may seem or sound, evidence marshalled by one side against the other seems to bear this out. The Sajith faction insidiously claims that Ranil has thus far done everything to retain his seat in the opposition, even to the extent of cohabiting in all but name with the Rajapaksas; the Ranil faction on the other hand claims, more insidiously as its most vociferous op-ed columnists make it clear, that Sajith is playing Gotabaya’s game and is trying to play it better than Gotabaya can. The latter allegation merits scrutiny.

When Sajith took up the leadership of the opposition in December he did so vowing that he would not play the role of the traditional opposition and that he would, if necessary, “support the government to implement its policies.” That was obviously in marked contrast to how the UNP conducted itself after its crushing defeat in 2010 when it continued a policy of opposing the government on crucial policy issues, and depending on how you view it Sajith’s statement seems to be not just a graceful admission of defeat by the UNP but also a concession to the fact that the SLPP won with a particular manifesto at its helm and the role of the opposition is to ensure that the SLPP implements it. Sajith wasn’t alone in saying or implying this, and in fact even those opposed to the Sajith faction – senior stalwarts like Lakshman Kiriella – went on record arguing that while they would not hand a 5/6 majority to Gotabaya Rajapaksa they would help the government implement certain urgent policy reforms.

So is it playing into Gotabaya’s hands to help Gotabaya’s government achieve its goals? It’s certainly not unprecedented: after all, the official opposition appointed by the government in power from 2015 to 2018, the TNA, in all but name supported the UNP and the SLFP and indeed distinguished itself or did itself a disfavour by barely speaking up on issues other than those that affected their community. Surprisingly those against parties representing one ethnic community over all others uttered not a hum when a party which not only had an ethnic slant was appointed to the opposition, and an establishment which, far more than either the TNA or the JVP, pointed out the holes in the government’s policies had to fight its battle outside the parliament. Had the then regime not cold-shouldered the Joint Opposition, it would have been absorbed into the mainstream. People were tired of establishment politics to such an extent that they abandoned the JVP – which, as Nalin de Silva once said, has been relegated not to the dustbin of history, but to the history of dustbins – and went for a party on the periphery that was populist and also rational. That unofficial opposition served its purpose by revealing the flaws of, rather than cooperating with, the government.

The UNP is not and will not be in a position comparable to where the SLPP was from 2015 to 2019. The memories that Mahinda Rajapaksa and his band of brothers evoked in the minds of the people were not enough to reject them when they resurged barely months into the Ranil-Maithripala regime. Nugegoda didn’t rise on its own: it was a rally meticulously organised and planned in response to a spontaneous populist uprising. Sajith Premadasa, no matter how far he hopes to emulate Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resurgence by pitting himself against the elites of the UNP, does not enjoy Rajapaksa’s advantage. The Mahinda faction of the SLFP, which was a minority that made up with popular support what it lacked in parliamentary presence, could break people away from the mainstream Maithripala-ist SLFP because the latter had done the impossible and relegated itself to a party of upper class elites pandering to middle class professionals. That message was obviously going to hit the traditional SLFP supporter, whose objective wasn’t constitutional reforms but the next bowl of rice, and who withdrew their support for the mainstream eventually.

The situation Sajith Premadasa in is different, and I can’t emphasis this enough. The UNP is led by upper class elites pandering to middle class professionals and Sajith, by breaking ranks with the mainstream of that party, has signalled his desire to go beyond the Colombo-centred vision of the latter. Is it any wonder that most supporters of the party spewing intense vitriol against the man, while opposing the Rajapaksas, happen to subscribe to this Colombo-centred vision? Mahinda, by leaving the SLFP, cemented his position as the true leader of that party in much the same way that Sajith, by rejecting the mainstream of the UNP, has cemented his position as a renegade who may or may not lose the traditional base of his entire party. Is it hence any wonder that while he has gone canvassing for popular support in Sinhala Buddhist dominated areas where the victory margins for Gotabaya were at their unprecedented highest, he has stayed away from the areas where he won – Colombo and the ethnic minority areas in the north and east – and that when he gets an opportunity to speak up on issues like the US banning Shavindra Silva from travelling there, he echoes the government?

The UNP, after suffering a decade of defeat in silence, clinched victory in 1977 by playing to the gallery. It didn’t only speak to disgruntled sections of the petty bourgeoisie and the rural peasantry; it spoke to them in their language. Mahinda Rajapaksa didn’t face that problem because he and his strongmen were speaking to disgruntled pro-Mahinda supporters who had voted for Maithripala and Ranil, as well as his base. He didn’t need to wean this crowd away from the SLFP-MS or UNP because they were already his and they would return to him once it was clear that the government they’d voted for were letting them down. Sajith on the other hand faces an almost impossible task: reconfiguring the UNP and wooing the Mahinda crowd to his side, while alienating or doing away with the traditional base on which the UNP under Ranil Wickremesinghe has run since 1995. 

In playing this role Sajith finds himself in a trickier position than his father. In the 1970s the fight over the UNP’s leadership was decided ultimately in favour of J. R. Jayewardene over both Gamini Jayasuriya and Ranasinghe Premadasa, the latter two of whom, it must be said, were firm favourites of the ailing Dudley Senanayake. In 1988 when Premadasa launched his campaign and threatened to form his own political alliance unless he was nominated, the J. R. regime had helped prop up and empower a consumerist and chauvinist petty bourgeoisie who would prove instrumental in handing victory over to a populist over an elitist or socialist. The petty bourgeoisie or middle class had gone too far for them to look back, and while they detested the Sirimavo Bandaranaike regime they didn’t want to continue with Jayewardene either, though this may be and probably is a gross simplification. In other words, the political, economic, and social circumstances favoured a Premadasa at the top in 1988 in the same way that they could not favour him in the 1970s, no matter how hard he tried, like his son today, to pull off a putsch against the mainstream of the party.

Let me take the analogy further. If Gotabaya Rajapaksa found himself in 2018 in a position a little similar to Premadasa in 1988, Sajith finds himself today in a position not too dissimilar to Premadasa in 1970. In the one instance, the presidential hopeful could assure victory for himself by bringing together his traditional base, while in the other, the presidential hopeful tries to do so by defying the political configuration which favours his most immediate foe in the party itself. Whether or not Sajith will lose in the end remains to be seen, though I know and will say one thing: in terms of closeness to the people and in terms of popular support, he is the best bet the UNP can put a hat collection for. It’s as simple as that.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    2

    Bloody UNP! I cannot believe that once upon a time a took a character reference from a stalwart of the party in order to get on the bottom rung of the ladder.

    Eight decades later, I can only gnash my teeth in anguish when I see the blood-letting that is going on within the party.

    With much sadness, I can only say “bloody losers”.

    • 1
      0

      S.K
      ” Eight decades later…………….I cannot believe that once upon a time I took a character reference from a stalwart of the party”
      Neither can I believe that you are THAT old. Just a little younger than me in fact.

    • 5
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      Spring Koha

      Thanks
      All party stalewards worth the salt should sit down take a deep breath and subject themselves to self constructive criticism. They all seem to be still living in the 1950’s, modernisation of all stupid parties have been due for more than 50 years.

      These parties are still in competitive racism mode, doping themselves with all kind of innovative rebranded racist policies, and somehow passing on their enthusiasm to the voters, looting the treasury and people in the meantime, coming back when the next elections are due with rebranded policies (more of the same), ……

      Parties are doomed unless they take a conscious decision to innovate, adapt progressive policies, kick the old guards out of the party, …….. seriously attempt to cleanse each members and those hold sway when in powerful positions, stop bribing the least suitable candidate, …. . and using the saffron brigade to further their own hidden agenda, ……………………. parties are going to continue to split, which not only will destroy themselves but the country as well, with their extreme ideology/positions, …………… like Israel, ..Italy, …. small parties will assert extraordinary power, …. leads to chaos and a fascist state or a theocracy.
      You should do something about it.

      By the way why haven’t Weerawansa, Gamanpilla, Dinesh, Asgiriya Mahanayaka, …. gone to New Delhi to protest Trump’s visit, ….. ? They should have sent a serious message to USA by simply being there in New Delhi, protesting against its arbitrary ban on Shavendra’s wife visiting her friends, family and shopping malls.
      .

      • 6
        0

        Native,
        It is not the parties that are racist. It is the gullible Mahavamsa consumers who are racist. Look at the Rajapaksa. They have Hindu and Christian relatives. Wigneswaran’s in-laws are Sinhala. To clinch my case, what happened to the JVP after it transitioned from Sinhala chauvinism?
        It is a politician’s job to win votes, and racism does just that.

        • 3
          0

          Old codger

          “They have Hindu and Christian relatives.”

          Mahinda was initiated into Sinhala/Hindutva in Kasi a couple of weeks ago when he visited Modi with his begging bowl. His brother the National Hangman is a devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi.

          Gota believes this is a Sinhala/Buddhist country and says so in public.

          Which one is true?

          Is this a multi faith secular country or a Sinhala/Buddhist country.
          The people don’t want to see through his lies. What a stupid moronic masses are they?

  • 2
    1

    “Is it a Game” how shallow one can get?
    Another expert giving his expert opinion on political matters explain what happen 50 years ago.
    I could ask the silly question why the general population dismiss 90% of the opinion’s that been megaphone by so called political pundits. And more embarrassing question would be for the keyboard worries what have they achieved individually to help the humanity that they seems talk and write endlessly about. Remember we all going to die one day.
    I may humbly opine Rule 6 “Set your house in order before you criticize the world” From Jorden Peterson.

    • 1
      1

      Leonard: Instead of talking write to inform the public the importance of changing the parliament. What earlier happened was recycling of the same 225. They are used to jump from party to party. There are two major parties and everything else is organized around those. Otherwise everything is mixed. Since 2009, their major objective is earning wealth and hot to stay in power.

  • 4
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    In sheer numbers as in a presidential poll, Sajith adopting Gota’s strategy can work. However, a general election is where the people elect their favourite rascal to represent them in parliament. Sajith and Ranil the betrayer cannot afford to have a tug on a bone of contention while the flower-bud party laughs all the way to a majority in parliament this time..!

  • 1
    0

    if only the UNP were able to be united, give their elected presidential candidate enough money, time to prepare and contest the polls which were held on the 16th November 2019 the chosen will be today sitting on the royal throne day.?
    =
    the present holder has an unsavory past in many a murder along with money misappropriations over a long period of time since 2005.
    prior to that he through fear of meeting face to face the Tamil tigers for a cuppa he held onto his wife’s saree pota deserted the illegally banned weaponry using army running away to the USA to be gainfully employed as a petrol station attendant.
    =
    after returning in 2005 to help his thuggery borne brother mahindan rajapuka he held an important office to uncannily murder thousands and thousands of the innocents including the famous white flag carrying surrenderees.
    =
    now not even 4 months have gone by the island is in the throes of many a depression.
    cost of living has spiraled to the moon, no equivalent wage or pension increases.
    the Lankan rupee is going down the pallan as a worthless piece of paper, the cost of imports is increasing by the second.
    as there is a military junta in operation the crimes being committed by the troops along with their erstwhile colleagues in the police force are making hay whilst the sun is shining on their backsides.?
    =
    it’s since the 16th of November is mafia money-making time for the miscreants and the already deliberately bankrupted economy is not worth even wasting one’s breath on it.?
    =
    gobbles the American turkey of a president is only interested in feathering his own, his immediate families and his uncouth unsavory criminal goons nests.?
    =
    how sad, R. J.

  • 5
    0

    Gotha”s game is ” Fight for Survival” and UNP is playing a game of Death & Destruction. RW is past sell by date and Sajith is a Gotha and SHAVENDRA lover and it is free fall for Sinhala Lanka. Shankar said GOTHA the PUTHA is now a GOODA Answers ps

  • 1
    1

    The party with families it is easy to debate and come to a conclution the party by the people has to under to under go debatesand convince every one to approach to one stand to make a family government

  • 1
    0

    This is a prime example of current politicians. How I see is most of our Asian politicians are not genuine to start with. Some of them are able to curtail the negatives within them for the sake of country and there by make history. Example Lee Quan Yew. Then we have people like JR and Mahathir who started the same way as Lee but with age the power and greed got to them. Also their declining cognitive thinking and disinhibition , did not help in preventing the transformation. More they got older , they became more greedier and will be remembered as such in history. MS was able to control while he was in politics as a MP/minister but when he was propped up overnight to President he mutated into a “Corona Virus accidentally let out of Bio Research Lab “. Now Mahathir yet again has showed his greed by breaking the trust/pact and quitting with few others, there by Govt loosing its mandate. He dosent care about the possibility of old corrupted politicians returning (he may make a pact with them to get to power) or worse Islamic Fundamentals for the first time in history having a say in governing the country. Where as the current lot of politicians in Lanka are of the third kind. They are born, raised and functioned throughout, true to their upbringing. That is to screw the country for their own self gain and nothing else. This will only benefit the ruling family. SLFP and JVP are no more and now it is the turn of UNP. (like in India , a democratic govt without opposition)

  • 3
    0

    The fact is that it is a victory for Mahinda Rajapaksa Family and Ranil Family. They are safe from Bonds Scam, MIC deal, Srilanka airlines deals, and many others the deals made both Rajapakse family and Ranil family to become one of the richest in the world while ordinary Srilankans are begging on the streets. They are also save from the war crimes and human right violations because now they have good deals with USA and India. Mahinda family first broke Chandrika family from SLFP. Then they destroyed SLFP. Similarly they have broke UNP into pieces. TNA is now broken into pieces. Similarly Muslims are divided. So, almost every community including Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims have become slaves of Rajapakse family. Rajapakse family have sold all parts of Srilanka to USA, China, and India. The looters are Srilankans

    • 0
      0

      why can’t they do it? For this reasons Sinhala Modayas brought Mongolian tribe into power. Now I do understand mentally defective Sinhala Modayas nationalism.

      I can’t blame Indian PM’s Hindus nationalism. They real nationalists. They don’t import foreigners and give Hindus names and make them their leaders like Modayas do in Lanka nor they borrow leaders from colonialist smuggled Malays, Chinese, Mongolian and and/or Christian tribes or races.

      Now I understand why India kick the Buddhism it make people inferior and more likely produce “tractors”.

      Ancient Hindus in North India were wise and intelligent. If they did not kick the Buddhism out , today India is completely Islamic state or Christian state . This is fact. It is proven by Sinhala Modayas in Kandyan kingdom and repeated same things by installing Mongolian tribe with “Tamil” in it.

      I do not blame nor hate Rajapakses because they did not force their way into power, but it solely product Sinhala Buddhist Modayas Rajapakses’ racial, religious and Tamil background,

      “My dear Tamil Tigers,” now you don’t need to fight wars any more. Now you have your “Uncles,” Nephews,” “Brothers in Laws right in presidential power and secondly, these Malay\Chines\Mongolian tribes were gifted to Sri lanka’s Buddhists Modayas by your best friends-Protrudes, Dutch and British colonialists. Again dear Tamil Tigers, So stay tuned in and just follow Western spies’ guideline and your are on your way to your “victory” fully back by Sinhala Buddhists Modayas voters. Moreover, just arrange some more Tamil families to marry into Malay\Chinese tribe and get Sinhalese name “Rajapaksa.”.
      Dear Tamil Tigers, why the hell you went to war with Sri lanka? All you had to do is simply arrange about one thousand Tamils marry into Malay\Chinese tribe and you could have conquered Sri lanka “democratically.” with help of Malay\Chinese.

  • 0
    2

    Is the new UNP Opposition Leader from Keselwatta, the Real Deal?..

    Or is he the new Marketing Manger for the real UNP, the party of the Elite , Anglicans and the Vellalas in Lankawe and lead by their ever green Leader Dr Rani Wickeremasinghe.

    And backed by the leading UNP characters , Ravi Karunanayaka, Dr Ranjitha , Champaka Ranawaka Ranjan Ramanayaka , Sujee Senanasinghe, Hirunicka Premachandra., Field Marshall Ponseka , alongside Abraham Sumanathiran and , Sampathar of the TNA.-

    Their latest addition after last Easter ,the Muslim Political Spectrum seems to be in disarray for some reason.

    Rauf Hakeem the Leader of the Muslim Bourgeois in the South ,has joined our one time proletariat outfit the JVP, to contest the next Election before Easter.,

    While the leader of the Muslim proletariat in the East has joined the Kelwatta Kid Faction.
    And Bathusdeen has vowed to contest on Keselwatta Kid’s Mascot.

    Wonder whehter it is the Heart . or the Swan or the same old Elephant?..

  • 2
    0

    Ajith the Lankan retards deserve more, than what is now.

  • 4
    0

    I just heard a great news from our own Silly Lanka. We will be spending 7.5 BILLIONS” (that too loaned money )on a SHAM process called elections to get 2/3 majority to amend constitu(pa)tion, by electing criminals, murders and rapist and hand over the already failed dysfunctional nation to them , to run. “JEYAWEWA” . Stupid Lankans.

  • 2
    0

    I just heard a great news from our own Silly Lanka. We will be spending 7.5 BILLIONS” (that too loaned money )on a SHAM process called elections to get 2/3 majority to amend constitu(pa)tion, by electing criminals, murders and rapist and hand over the already failed dysfunctional nation to them , to run. “JEYAWEWA” . Stupid Lankans.

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