24 June, 2024

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Politics Of Paranoia

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The rise of NPP from the ashes of Aragalaya and led by a new generation of JVP leadership, which has distanced itself from that party’s insurrectionary past, and NPP’s tireless campaign to convince the voting public that Sri Lanka’s economic malaise is not an isolated phenomenon, but part of an overall systemic paralysis that had been sapping for decades the vitality of a once peaceful and prosperous nation, and that it cannot be rectified unless there is a radical transformation of its political culture, economic management and socio-cultural ethnonationalism has created an atmosphere of political paranoia amongst the old guards who are now driven to a state of panic looking for a way out to avoid confronting the NPP at the ballot box. It is that paranoia and panic which has provoked the General Secretary of UNP to call for the postponement of elections for two years.  Although that call has drawn criticisms from several corners it did not come out of a vacuum.

There is a general feeling among local opinion makers, foreign interests, policy makers and the rich and powerful upper middle class that the sitting president RW has done an excellent job by surrendering the economy to IMF, and as a result that there is some semblance of economic stability and recovery so that any political change at this stage would jeopardize that healthy trend. This feeling arising basically from self-interest of those respective quarters has isolated the economy and ignored the root cause that paralyzed not only the economy but more crucially the nation’s political, economic and socio-cultural superstructure as a whole. Unless this superstructure along with its ideological edifice is overturned there will be no sustainable growth and prosperity. It is this radical message from NPP that has paranoid its opponents, and hence the call for postponement of elections so that the radicals would be deprived of any opportunity to come to power at the moment. One should not casually dismiss the possibility of no elections soon, and this author hypothesized this option already in a previous contribution to this journal (see Colombo Telegraph May 17 2024). All that is needed is an atmosphere of lawlessness to declare a state of emergency, and there are enough rabble rousers amongst the sitting 225 politicians and their foot soldiers outside who would oblige the President if needed. This is not new to Sri Lankan politics.

However, the ultimate reason why the aforementioned groups want RW Presidency to continue in the absence of another winnable contestant is their fear that under NPP Presidency and government the economy would move backwards and may even collapse totally. In other words, these groups agree with RW that IMF, FDI, tourism, privatization of SOEs and high-tech export-oriented industries are the ingredients to achieve sustainable economic growth and long-term prosperity. But if one could follow the campaign trail of NPP leaders and listen to their speeches and media interviews there is no evidence to suggest that NPP rejects all those ingredients. The fundamental difference between NPP and other parties lies in the conditionalities NPP attaches to those ingredients in the interest of domestic economy plus its resolve to change the political culture of this country in the interest of clean governance, equitable economic welfare and social justice. For example, shouldn’t IMF assistance reach the country’s productive sector directly rather than via the financial sector? Shouldn’t FDI be guided by the specific needs of the economy as specified by expertly drawn out sectoral economic plans so that FDI could have strong backward and forward linkages with local sectors? And, shouldn’t the high-tech component of industries be employment oriented in a labour surplus economy? What is wrong with these conditionalities? Brevity prevents elaborating all the shortcomings of blind adherence to the export-oriented economy mantra.  Promotion of an open free market economy should not end in freedom for a mafia infested market. NPP has made mot clear that it would cleanse the market of state protected mafiosi. Such radical reforms would certainly go against the interests of monied classes and hence their repulsion of NPP.   

It is no secret that the RW-initiated economic recovery had cost different strata of society differently in the sense that the bulk of the burden of financing that recovery had been born by the low-income demographic deciles. As a result, poverty rate is still hovering around 30%. True, without fiscal balance economic recovery would be difficult, but balance at whose expense is the vital question. In respect of governance also, apart from appointing an endless number of committees and commissions to investigate various anomalies, incidents of misgovernance and financial malfeasance the rot continues and looters and the corrupt are still governing the country under the protection of the President. A supremacist ethnonational ideology sanctifies this rotten system and it needs a President like RW who could be a man for all seasons and all purposes.

What is more important in the current political scenario is that it is growing into an intergenerational battle for power. The spirit of aragalaya is driving the youth voters and the vast majority amongst them seem to back the NPP agenda. Even within the most conservative of the vote bank, Muslims, there is a youth wing with both genders participating and openly canvassing for NPP. This is quite a turnaround. According to a recent opinion poll, SJB and NPP are running neck and neck in the race for presidency. SJB is simply the old UNP wine in new bottle. There is nothing new in its economic policy or political governance other than a verbal commitment to renegotiate with IMF. Finally, if UNP, SLPP and SJB cannot agree on some form of coalition and agree on a common candidate to contest the presidency then postponement of election is the only possibility to keep NPP out of contention. Politics of paranoia dominates the country. 

*Dr. Ameer Ali, Business School, Murdoch University, W. Australia

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Latest comments

  • 11
    1

    Ranil is a dead man walking ……… couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

  • 5
    2

    “According to a recent opinion poll, SJB and NPP are running neck and neck in the race for presidency.”
    These are opinions polls. But they are not the real votes. The people are really confused to choose because of the past behaviour of the Politicians and present status of politics. People were told several things several times by politicians and they believed their words, promises, propagandas but finally they now feel that all the responsibility to pay all the billions of debt fall on their heads alone. Today, we are facing three or four candidates coming in front of you, one who was never given executive presidency to make you rich in 2048. He is only now 75. He tells you, that you have to give me executive President for another 25 years continuously. Another one who worked under him but now separated from him says, I am much younger than you and will do better than you and I will rebuild the country. Thirdly, a party which took part in armed struggle twice now says we have new young leader, we have reformed now and we will make necessary changes to rebuild the country with the participation of younger generation. So, none of these candidates qualify based on their past to rule this country.

    • 6
      2

      I’m not now as tired as I was when I made that comment yesterday, the one you see below!
      .
      I’m beginning to feel that AKD will comfortably win the Presidency on the first round.
      .
      At this stage, as you say, opinion polls give seeming chances to a number of candidates. When the actual election date comes, it has always proved a two horse race, with one person getting over 50%.
      .
      However, please keep an eye on the racists: Patali Champika Ramanayake, Wimal Weerawansa and the rest. They will not come anywhere near winning, but they could create problems. I see their posters in Bandarawela.
      .
      I’m now going to contradict myself! Those Tamils who are happy with AKD please vote for him. If you’re not so happy, please vote for a Tamil candidate, and then give a Preference for AKD. That way, when AKD has won, they could tell themselves that at least half-heartedly they approved of AKD, even though their votes have not been counted!

    • 2
      0

      Ajith: ” So, none of these candidates qualify based on their past to rule this country”

      So, what do you want us to do? Have you got a person to recommend to us? If not, do you want us to be with the present rouges? OR

      Do you want us to refrain from voting and sleep at home thinking that others would elect the right person for us?

      • 1
        0

        So, what do you want us to do?
        It is up to the Sinhalese people to decide who is best for the country, not for the religion or not for the race or not for an individual. I do not know what Sinhalese want from their leader? So far, I mean for the past seven or eight decades they voted for rogues, lies, racism and fundamentalism which took the country to corrupted, lawlessness, bankrupt, bloodshed country. Since two third of voters are Sinhalese they have the power to make changes. If you trust, you can change the people, do your way? This election is for selecting a Sinhalese leader to run the whole country.

        • 0
          0

          Ajith: Thanks. This time you want the “Sinhalese” to decide. Earlier, you wanted a “Tamil” to contest.

          Shouldn’t we now stop this “Sinhalese”; “Tamil” and “Religion” terminology from politics and the Governing of the country? Just because certain communal and religious groups campaign and talk of divisional politics, we must work hard to defeat those elements and bring this country and the people to live a good life.

          This time, I hope and trust we can make that CHANGE. I urge you to be a party to that change. Thank you.

  • 5
    0

    The reality is any one out of three or four candidates can win the election. But it looks no one is going to be elected by the first choice. Whoever wins they need the support of the parliament and there is less possibility to get two third majority by any political party. Two third majority may create good or bad results depending on the need. In the past, corruption is the outcome of such combination. For example, some Muslim MPs voted for 20th amendment which also used against Muslims. Even some Tamil MPs voted to Ranil when the party decided to vote for other candidate.

  • 5
    0

    Most srilanakan living out side city and urban areas really do not understand what is IMF OR ECONOMICAL RECOVERY.All what they believe is who ever from the likes of SJB OR NPP Says from the public platform.most people from down south do not know really how RAJAPAKSE GROUP mishandle economy and manipulated the same in a way to rob the county,s wealth to fill their pocket and as such RANIL WILL NOT BE ABLE TO WIN THE ELECTION Only on the basis that he is responsible for the economical recovery.he needs at least partly support from DEAF AND BLIND SLPP RAJAPAKSAS DIE HARD SUPPORTERS.

  • 7
    1

    “A supremacist ethnonational ideology sanctifies this rotten system and it needs a President like RW who could be a man for all seasons and all purposes.“ That’s is a fact. Those who wrecked the economy and those who benefited by the present SYSTEM wants to continue to be the parasites of the STATE. This despicable system has to come to an END soon. We need to TRUST that NPP will be able to sort things out for the country to progress financially as well as with Social Cohesion. JUSTICE needs to prevail to protect the vulnerable people belonging to any caste religion or ethnic group. God save our isle from the evils.

  • 2
    0

    There is uncertainty in the air.
    Will NPP(JVP) win? What would result if they win?
    A higher uncertainty is, would there be an election?!
    .
    … All that is needed is an atmosphere of lawlessness … .
    This deliberate creation of an ‘invented’ lawlessness is the hallmark of Ceylon, – Sri Lanka, we all call it.
    .
    Past artificial lawlessness generally were engineered to inflict pain on Tamils. The story has spread now. To inflict pain on the masses.
    .
    Unless and until the masses forge unity among themselves shelving the ethnic divide
    among them, the situation cannot be remedied.

  • 1
    2

    I’m at last beginning to understand what you’ve been telling us for years
    .
    Let me see what want:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUbDTgNDlyM&t=104s
    .
    My neighbour, who will remain faithful to his theories, also says that this is interesting. What we say here has a a direct collection on what really we really want it to know.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) of 51B, Golf Links Road, Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

    • 1
      2

      Dear Readers,
      .
      I was desperately tired
      when I made the above comment. The result is that I don’t understand what I have put in the above comment.
      .
      I know that I attempted to read Dr Ameer Ali’s article. I must read it again, and then comment. The link I Have given is to some other subject that I was interested in,
      .
      Sorry.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) of 51B, Golf Links Road, Bandarawela, Sri Lanka @03:56 .

  • 2
    0

    “NPP’s tireless campaign to convince the voting public that Sri Lanka’s economic malaise is not an isolated phenomenon, but part of an overall systemic paralysis that had been sapping for decades the vitality of a once peaceful and prosperous nation, and that it cannot be rectified unless there is a radical transformation of its political culture, economic management and socio-cultural ethnonationalism “
    All I can say is that the NPP has a strange way of combating “socio-cultural ethnonationalism ” by putting Buddhist monks in the front row of its meetings, and openly taking the credit, along with the JHU, for keeping Tamils “in their place”.

  • 0
    0

    “ t the NPP has a strange way of combating “socio-cultural ethnonationalism ” by putting Buddhist monks in the front row of its meetings, and openly taking the credit, along with the JHU, for keeping Tamils “in their place”.
    Winning the Election by garnering enough votes IS NOT a straight forward thing. It’s a question of how to influence the voters‘MIND SET’ so that they are successful in winning the Election. SLPP successfully fooled the Sinhala Buddhist voters in November 2019, by the Easter Bombings.
    I fear that they are capable to do it again as same people are controlling the STATE Machinery-including the military intelligence services.
    The EVIL forces are still existing to threaten the “Aragalaya “ dreamers!
    Our hope is that NPP will win the election and act to put our country in the RIGHT path. God’s willing

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