By Kumar David –
Rather foolish people make bombastic predictions that Gotabaya Rajapaksa will surely win while unintelligent UNP types proclaim with certainty that Sajith will prevail. One of them will win but with so many known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns still before us it is silly to indulge in idle babble. What can be intelligently recounted are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats relating to the candidates. The biggest unknown-unknown are the legal complications relating to Gota’s candidacy which have been raised in many forms. It seems his renunciation of US citizenship is ok but don’t be surprised if challenges are mounted after nomination. He has been acquitted in the corruption cases so this is a known-known.
The two actions against Gota in US courts are civil petitions but pertain to murder and responsibility for torture and human rights violations. US courts have refused to stay action till after the elections. The impact that evidence led in these cases may have on SL voting is small since the Sinhala-Buddhist block rallying to Gota does not care two bits for Lasantha’s assassination by the Paksa regime and even less if every Tamil were thrown under a steam-roller. Since morals won’t count a crap in these elections we can write it off even if he loses the court battles. It’s a known-known of little importance to voters but chronic if he is elected and then ordered to pay damages. A Lankan president enjoys no immunity under US law.
The Colombo Telegraph scoop that files pertaining to Gota’s nationality have disappeared from Immigration Department and Defence Ministry could well impact both voting patterns and post-nomination and post-election legal challenges. Here is the Colombo Telegraph account (abridged): “A case filed by Chndraguptha Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda alleging dual citizenship was never conferred on Gota and he is not a citizen. The CID told the Colombo Chief Magistrate that files containing Gota’s dual citizenship papers and could not be located at any govt. department or ministry dealing with citizenship”. What the devil is going on? What if the Director of Immigration testified that he cannot confirm whether Gota is a citizen? All hell will break loose! I am not offering prizes for guessing who is behind the vanishing trick, but more important is the reason for this hanky-panky, an unknown-unknown! It’s looney stuff worthy of our cranky head of state.
Sajith Premadasa’s imbroglio is more nuanced. I don’t care tuppence whether the UNP keeps or fires Ranil as leader. I am not a UNPer and my short alliance with it to kick out despot and power-grabber Mahinda is over. The job is finished and we can now gracefully go our separate ways starting with the coming round of elections. (Jayampathy should remain in office till parliament completes its term to carry out possible duties on constitutional matters; but that’s temporary). The muddles about Sajith are: (a) Is he willing to declare in no uncertain terms that he will go all out to abolish the Executive Presidency? (b) Will he enact the fullest devolution of power (excluding the right to self-determination)?
The answer to both questions with a high degree of probability is NO! He wants a “scientific survey” about EP before he knows his own mind – which currently must be pretty empty! EP has been a hot political topic for decades; where was this man all this time – vacationing on Mars? Science my foot; he is looking for excuses to back out of abolishing EP and greedily seeking to retain maximum powers. Seems no different from Sirisena except that he is making it clear up-front. After building 1000 temples will he scientifically survey the Buddhist clergy whether he can retain EP for life? Will he also consult the clergy at that stage about devolution and the troublesome Tamils and Muslims? Nevertheless I am campaigning to give the bugger the second preference vote because it is crucial to keep potential dictator Gotabaya out. And if Gota does win it is not the UNP and Sajith’s hangers-on but leftists, radicals, democrats and civil-society who will take up mobilisation to fight Gota’s militarist and fascistic proclivities.
I will discuss the JVP and the National Question in a full-length essay once Anura’s programme is released. In the meantime, in the context of the above paragraphs, my take is that Anura can benefit from a goodly share of minority support since Gota and Sajith will be busy battling it out to maximise their share of the Sinhala-Buddhist vote.