By P.Bertie Ranaweerage –
The incumbent President is so much determined to be the winner at the next election that he has embarked on a serious pre-election campaign even though the Presidential Election has not officially been announced. Thousands of government employees and party supporters are being fed with food and propaganda at Temple Trees almost daily and this will definitely be continued until every government employee is fed with foods drinks, souvenirs and propaganda materials. Temple Trees will spend lavishly on other influential sections such as lawyers, artists, journalists, NGOs, religious groups, leading members of the political parties of the UPFA etc too until the election day as it did during the last Presidential election period. Around one hundred thousand motor bicycles were given to government employees either for one fourth of the value of each bike or completely free of charge. I hear the government has informed the police officers at supervisory level that each of them will be given a car for a sum of Rs. five hundred thousand (Rs. 500000.00). Having received instructions from the Basils’ Ministry of Economic Development, Sanasa Development Bank has launched a new scheme to give loans up to Rs. one million at a very low interest rate to retired government employees who expect to engage in self employments. Mahinda’s budget promised concessions, reliefs ,salary hikes etc to many sections though some economists say there is no money to keep the budget promises. Every day we can see full page advertisements in the news papers that commends Mahinda’s governance.
It is clear that the President, his family, his friends and his cabal are hell bent in achieving the victory at the forthcoming Presidential election as they cannot think of a life without power, privileges and the perks. Hence, his family, Ministers , Members of Provincial Councils , MCs ,UCs, Pradesheeya Sabhas new businessmen, contractors and others who have fattened their bank accounts thanks to the present regime will use all the government and non-governmental resources to defeat the common candidate.
A vicious vituperative campaign against the Opposition common candidate has already been launched by racist Wimal Weerawansa and others of his ilk. The BBS and its siblings will join forces with Weerwansa and Company before long.
The first victory has been achieved by the anti-Mahinda forces as the Movement for a Just Society led by Venarable Sobhitha Thera has been able to arrive at an agreement with the UNP and a wide section of the society to field a common candidate. Its campaign for a just society has probably forced the JHU to demand immediate constitutional amendments in order to dilute the powers of the executive presidency. As the President is not ready to give in to the demands of the JHU it is likely that it will campaign against Mahinda at the next Presidential Election.
This campaign against the Executive Presidential system should have been spearheaded by the left forces in this country not by the Temple. Due to the opportunistic policies of the LSSP , the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, the Temple has taken the fight into its hand. (It is heartening to see that the honest members of the central committees of both the political parties have decided to support the common candidate) . Opportunistic and wavering stances of the Old Left including politically stranded Vasudewa the battle for a just society is led by the Temple against Temple Tree.
Yet the public is still unaware who the common candidate is going to be as the Opposition , civil organizations and trade unions have not seemingly been able to arrive at an agreement on who should be the common candidate. Nevertheless it seems either Chandrika or Ranil or Karu or Venerable Sobhitha Thera or some other prominent personality will be their choice. In case they field either Sunetra Bandaranaike or MaithreeWicramasinghe as the common candidate as per the news story published in the Colombo Telegraph it will be a mere cakewalk for Mahinda back to the throne as neither of them are appealing to the voters. When the Presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake was killed in an LTTE suicide attack in 1994 during the Presidential election campaign,the UNP fielded his wife Shrima Dissanayake only to end up with a 36% of votes while Chandrika received a recorded 63%. Her performance was so poor because she was an unknown woman to the majority of voters. Sunetra and Maithree are not much different from Shrima.
With past lessons on my mind I would like to present a new proposal with regard to the common candidate. There is no need to beat about the bush. I ask the Opposition, Venarable Sobhitha Thera, Civil organizations and trade unions which have come to a single platform in order to defeat Mahinda, to present three candidates as common candidates to the voters instead of one without any delay. The sooner the better.
You may wonder why I am making such an unprecedented strange proposal. It may look like a crazy proposal to many if I do not elaborate on it. Some may sling mud at me saying that I am an agent of Mahinda. Please wait until I say what I want to as I too want to defeat Mahinda not because he is a bad man as a human being but because he is a bad ruler, perhaps the worst Executive President so far we have had.
My proposal is to present Chandrika as common candidate Number One, Ranil/Karu as Number Two common candidate and Venerable Sobhitha Thera as Number Three common candidate. The Opposition should give equal publicity to all the three candidates from day one as it s a part of the strategy I propose.
While the best candidate is fielded as the common candidate of the Opposition the other two candidates wait in the wings in case an unexpected thing happens to the common candidate dampening the hopes of overthrowing the incumbent rule.
I believe that Chandrika is the best candidate who can defeat Mahinda and that is why I gave number 1 slot to Chandrika. The Opposition should field her as the common candidate as she can win some of the SLFP heavy weights over to her side ensuring many SLFP votes to her. But once she tendered her nomination papers to the Election Commissioner some henchmen of Mahinda may go to the Supreme Court to get her disqualified and as CJ and other justices have been appointed by the incumbent. In case she is disqualified on some pretext then voters will not be worried about the verdict of the court as they are already aware that Number Two is there to grab the baton and run the race. Even if some unexpected thing happens to the second candidate voters will not be discouraged as there is another good horse ready to run.
If the Opposition succeeds in informing the public why they present two extra candidates while fielding one candidate as the common candidate for the fight, the government and Mahinda will not be able to sow discord against the common candidate among the voters. Besides, Mahinda will have to face not one opponent but three,which will probably be too much for him and his propaganda organ.
There will be another advantage for the Opposition camp if it follows this novel strategy. All the three common candidates , their organizations and supporters will campaign as one, to defeat Mahinda which will result in a powerful political campaign against the ruling candidate. They will work in unison provided all the three candidates are given publicity on an equal footing by the Opposition camp. Everybody loves publicity.
If the Opposition follows the usual unsuccessful strategy again at the forthcoming crucial election too we will see the repetition of the fate of Shrima Dissanayake who was suddenly pushed to the political platform after the sudden demise of her husband. Even with the sympathy votes she got only 36% because she was a complete stranger to the voters until the day of the election.
I repeat .The winning strategy is to present three candidates to the country and nominate the best as the Presidential candidate of the Opposition, civil organizations and trade unions led by the Movement for a Just Society. That is only one part of the winning strategy. Good governance is a good slogan but that alone cannot garner 50% and 1 vote to defeat the incumbent. The common candidates of the Opposition must tell the people how they will make a difference in their lives from day one the Opposition occupies Temple Trees.
*P.Bertie Ranaweerage – Former president of Ceylon Teachers’ Union