16 May, 2022

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Rajapaksas Vs The Rest: JVP, SJB, 43 Brigade, And Non-Sinhala Parties

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

The first out of the blocks was the JVP. It declared its readiness to lead and presented a basic program as its “Rapid Response to Overcome Current Challenges.” It pulled no punches in its opening salvo: “We do not need a sophisticated grasp of statistics or politics to understand the socioeconomic catastrophe that has befallen our country due to the misguided economic and social policies pursued by various governments since independence.” This is a sweeping denunciation of any and all governments that almost sounds like Donald Trump’s inaugural rant on the “American carnage.” But the point here is about the current “socio economic catastrophe,” which is the handiwork of the present government and no one else. On that there is no doubt or disagreement. There is nothing either, for anyone to understand. The people are hurting and feeling it in their bellies and in their bones.

The JVP’s splash put the onus on the government and the main SJB opposition to take notice and respond. The government’s response has been mixed. The first response was to throw rotten eggs targeting the JVP leader in his car. After rotten eggs came street thugs, all low-level and quite remote from even O-level or A-level, who invaded university hostels to earn their degrees in bully violence. The President’s Independence Day speech came and went, but left nothing to write home about. There was no mention of foreign exchange, debt, IMF, or food shortages. Only preachy, presidential, hectoring.

In elections they excel

Five days later, on February 9, in Anuradhapura, the family, the Party and the government gathered their wits and delivered their Plan: the government will have an election. Come for an election fight if you want! The Prime Minister challenged the Opposition. The President harangued about internal and external threats who are apparently trying to undermine his government and sabotage his Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour. Again, not a word about any of the current crises and what the people can expect the government to do immediately.

Election campaigns and manipulations are the only thing that Rajapaksas feel they are good at. None more so than Basil Rajapaksa. With elections he can hit two birds with one stone. First, an election campaign will give him the opportunity to do something he likes, and something he believes he is good at. And he can turn the Finance Ministry into an SLPP election office. Second, elections would be a godsend excuse to stop pretending that he is serious about his responsibilities as Minister of Finance. He has no clue about the ministry or the economy and the only reason he would have wanted the job is to make deals with American companies. He is not at all the example of a dedicated Minister of Finance who would be pre-occupied and worried about rescuing the economy from its current morass.

Basil Rajapaksa has already made it clear that the upcoming election would be a local government election and not a parliamentary or presidential election. Both are more than three years away while the local elections now overdue. No one cares about provincial council elections, and no one cares to write to New Delhi about them. But the point about having local elections is that they are not going to make any difference to what could or should be done to deal with the country’s current predicaments. In normal times, local elections serve as a barometer for the national political mood in addition to replenishing local bodies to attend to local matters. Sri Lanka is not in normal times. Whoever wins or loses the local elections is not going to help Sri Lanka find more foreign exchange, pay back its debt, grow more food without fertiliser, and bring in imports to turn into exports. Local elections will not help any of them.

They will only serve as a diversionary route for the government. And if Basil Rajapaksa could pull half as much as his magic in February 2018, the President (who safely chose to abscond from the 2018 election by visiting his step-country) will be emboldened to brag twice as much as the SLPP did in 2018. And the hole the country is in will go twice as deep. I am not suggesting that local elections or any other election should not be held. Only that they will not make any difference to the catastrophic situation that the country is in. One safe aspect of Rajapaksas focusing on elections, any election, is that they are diverted from looking at a military option as quite a few observers fear.

In Anuradhapura, the family and the SLPP put on a bold front. But that did not cover the cracks behind. None of the minor constituent partners – the SLFP and an assortment of old school leftists and new school nationalists – were in attendance in Anuradhapura. The frontline ministers who took to backbench tactics were also conspicuous by their absence. Whether it is bluff and bluster or calculated confidence, the signs from Anuradhapura are that the SLPP is prepared to fight back, not by providing a better and improved governance, but by contesting and winning elections. There have also been suggestions that the SLPP is looking ahead to 2024 and a different presidential candidate instead of the incumbent. There is a reason why the family and the SLPP could feel confident about their electoral chances and political salvation. The reason is the disunity, if not disarray, in the opposition.

Unlikely Allies

Whether smart or not, the SJB’s talkative MP Mujibur Rahuman has already accepted the election challenge dangled by the Prime Minister in Anuradhapura. But to his credit, Mr. Rahuman has pointed out the government’s flipflop in suddenly insisting on local elections after gazetting them out from their due date in March 2022. In any event, opposition parties have no say in the timing of any election (except to prevent premature dissolution of parliament, one of the legacies of the short-lived 19th Amendment). And they have no political option of boycotting an election after the government calls one. The question is what effect there will be on the political dynamic if the government were to act on its Anuradhapura challenge and call the local government elections.

The JVP and the SJB have both been calling for a parliamentary election, hoping for a change at least in the parliamentary branch of government while the executive branch stays with the incumbent. The JVP would have been hoping to use a parliamentary election campaign to take its “Rapid Response” message far and wide into every electorate. A local government election will not give the same platform and amplitude as a parliamentary election for a national policy campaign. However, the JVP could and invariably will turn the local election into a referendum on the government. It has the political ammunition for it. Its focus on and exposures of government corruption and abuse of power will be powerful ammunitions in any election.

But does the JVP have the delivery weapons to use its well-stocked ammos successfully, on a sufficiently large scale, and in every part of the country? How successful will it be in a local government election overall, in terms of – total vote proportion, number of local bodies won, number of seats won, and the number of provinces with above average performance? If the results are not a dramatic improvement from the past, the JVP will suffer dramatic deflation from which it will be impossible to recover for the parliamentary and presidential elections that will follow.

Sajith Premadasa and the SJB have the opposite problem. The SJB has a broader electoral base and network, but it doesn’t have a compelling message or penetrating ammunitions. Mr. Premadasa is yet to have his breakout moment showing his readiness to lead and the direction he will take. There are enough people doing Mr. Premadasa’s bidding and filling up his vacuum of silence. There are others in the SJB, or one other, who has been itching to upstage Sajith Premadasa in providing an alternative to both the government and the JVP. And one of them has – that is Champika Ranawaka who has upstaged Mr. Premadasa from the right.

Upstaging with aplomb may seem to come naturally to Mr. Ranawaka, an ambitious lone ranger with some ability, but without a big stage of his own to strut from. To be fair, Mr. Ranawaka does have a stage of sorts, the 43 Brigade, a clever concept to politically embrace all the (so far only Sinhala) beneficiaries of Sri Lanka’s Free Education system introduced in 1943. And he has used that stage to launch a Manifesto, entitled “Rescue and Thrive,” which seems intended to counter the JVP’s “Rapid Response.” But they both share a common premise even though it is articulated differently.

While the JVP has chosen to blame all governments since independence for the current catastrophe, the message of the 43 Brigade is crisp: “After independence, for the first time in history, Sri Lanka is under a very real threat of going into bankruptcy.” And it is not every government that bears the blame, only the present one. And rightly so. The fundamental difference between the JVP and the 43 Brigade is on evaluating the effects of the open economy. The JVP sees the open economy as the fount of all evils that have befallen Sri Lanka since 1977. To the whiz kids of 43 Brigade, Sri Lanka’s modern economic history began with the open economy and there is no future ahead without the open economy. The historical answer and the future lie somewhere in between. The open economy is neither a flawless success nor an unmitigated disaster.

In any event, the JVP and the 43 Brigade have at least started a debate that others can join. There is no one in the family, the SLPP, or the government who can credibly join this debate, or any thoughtful debate. The SJB has professional economists in its ranks who obviously support the open economy but will likely be rankled by Champika Ranawaka’s upstaging self-promotions. As well, serious debates over political economy are not among the most effective ways to conduct successful election campaigns. Especially, local elections. The JVP will have to find a way to capture the moods of the people and connect them to the themes of its message. SJB and Champika Ranawaka will have to find a way to co-exist for mutual benefits without over-upstaging one another.

There are others too – the parties representing the Tamils and the Muslims, who attest to certain irrefutable facts: that there is and there can be more than One Country within a single Sri Lankan State, that there is and there will be more than One Law, and that there is and there will be more than One People within the small Sri Lankan Island. For the government and the SJB, the JVP presents a political platform that challenges them (SLPP & SJB) to respond with alternatives. On the other hand, the Tamil and Muslim parties present a challenge to the JVP to demonstrate that it will be, and to what extent it will be, different from the broken records of its southern contenders for national power.

The bigger question for the JVP is whether it can go alone without alliances involving others. The NPP is not an alliance but a convenience. For any significant leap from its 3% launching pad, the JVP will have to execute a historically impossible poll-vaulting. And historically, as well, no single party has won a parliamentary majority under the parliamentary system from 1947 to 1978, except in 1952 and 1977. Electoral success in all the other elections depended on either broad alliances or formal coalitions. After 1978, every election has been all about alliances with ever weakening commitments to political principles or programs, and ever strengthening attachments to personal interests and mutual IOUs. IOUs became the organizing principle of Rajapaksa politics. The family and the SLPP are ready to cash in one more, or last, time.

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Latest comments

  • 33
    2

    “……rotten eggs came street thugs, all low-level and quite remote from even O-level or A-level……”

    Rajan, What difference do they make with our so called educated crowd, including flunky professors, who worship an utterly toxic regime scoffing the systems and governance on a daily basis for personal benefits?

    • 2
      18

      Jit,
      “…who worship an utterly toxic regime scoffing the systems and governance on a daily basis for personal benefits?”

      View of the guys suffering from ‘Defeat-Syndrome’.

      • 9
        1

        Eagle BP,
        .
        who was defeated ?
        .
        is that NOT 6.9 millions of voters ? Can they see in a mirror today, after two years of election ? Can they move forward shamelessly ?
        I know you can, because you mental diseases would allow it. But are they- the other slaves all stupid people ?

        • 0
          0

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiyG0ACk9VQ&t=641s

          The 6.9 are born losers. The fear is that if there is an election these losers will re-elect the crooks again.

          Good example GLP. Even Oxford education could not get rid of his inferiority mind set. Bloody disgrace kneeling and kissing the slippers of thieves and murders.

        • 0
          0

          LM, you are spot on! Who ACTUALLY are suffering from this defeat syndrome? At least 90% of the 6.9m crowd (I would estimate about 10% as non-affected which represent the regime family, their kith n’ kin, deal makers and other boot licking stooges like Potta Eye). That rest of the 90% are undergoing the most hellish time of SL in recent memory starting from Covid absolutely losing control, kid’s education in shambles, ever skyrocketing CoL, scarcity of food, never ending queues, vanishing fuel stocks, to gas bombs planted in their kitchens, …..what a sham!! Add to that a bottomless bankrupted treasury, printing machine unit a.k.a CB, defaulted loans, rock bottom S&P rating….. What an ironical defeat for the crowd that swarmed the voting booths en masse barely three years ago to give power to a ‘world class administrator’ to establish the ‘Oracle dream’ in this ‘illan-ka’ island!!

    • 9
      1

      Jit,
      .
      Look how oxford educated GLP – the manner he behaves as if he is blind and deaf.
      :
      He set an example, that any kind of education would not matter so long PINGUTHTHARAYAs led ” sinhala buddhism doctrine” would be kept above in any systems.
      :
      I now feel, we dont need to have ELECTIONs. Democractic governance is a joke in srlanka where high criminals after getting elected totally ignore the pledges made on its people.
      :
      As of today, GOTABAYA aka Mandasena (NOT Nandasena) should resign being unable to settle even thrivial issues. Few days ago, I heard little school going children discussing about the ” pledges being made by politicians on the election campaigns”. They were questions, why cant the keep the word after getting elected. There my sister had answered them ” this is SRILANKA where no law boundness is given its place”:

      • 0
        0

        LM, for a long time I have held that view, more damage to the country was done by the educated master schemers than the stupid voters Gunapalas and Heen Manikes.You are absolutely right about back-boneless GLP – I wish Oxford withdrew the doctorate they gave to that wretched piece of … So pathetic!! Not only him but there had been heaps of others too, mostly with doctorates, since 70s right up to today and if I start writing their names, then I will be doing it until the cows come home…. ;)

  • 13
    3

    Dear Rajan Philips,
    .
    You write so carefully, with nary a typo, but yet, you keep referring to the JVP. Shouldn’t you be talking about the NPP (National People’s Power, or Jathika Jana Balavegaya)? Twenty-eight groups comprise the NPP. They have three in Parliament; Dr Harini Amarasuriya isn’t a member of the JVP. I’ve been told that she’s a Member of some Intellectual Group.
    .
    We must do all that we can to popularise the FSP (Front-line Socialist Party – “Peratugami”) and have them joining the NPP, for the sake of our progeny.
    .
    This three hour Rajapaksa Youtube from Anuradhapura on the 9th is something that we can jettison from our discussion:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymtQTcZW9is&t=6056s
    .
    I have heard snippets.
    .
    Contrast with these rivetting 58 minutes of Kumar Gunaratnam:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAz40AaEYI8&t=520s
    .
    Some of our middle-class people believe his undergrad followers are responsible for the ragging in Universities. Listen to him, and see how credible that is.
    .
    The Peratugami guys must be persuaded to join the NPP.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe

    • 1
      1

      Sinhala_Man: You are absolutely correct. Why are the writers not awaken to the existence of a “Political” outfit called “National Peoples Power” (NPP) that has “THREE” (03) MPs in Parliament? Even AKD and Vijitha Herath contested as the “Nominees” of NPP. Not that they don’t know but the “Hidden Agenda” is to “Brush” the paint on NPP as an equal of JVP. But AKD in one of his addresses (either in Kurunegala or Gampaha) said: “JVP has its own IDENTITY while being an AFFILIATE of NPP. Probably the JVP would have noted the “Hidden Agenda” of critiques both in Government and Opposition.

      As for “Peratugami”. I watched that interview of Kumar with Asia Mirror. The only problem I see is that they have serious concerns about “Losing” their “Identity” and suffer from “Egocentricity”. I wish they learn from JVP. Even JVP had these problems but has managed to overcome them.

  • 10
    2

    Author does not mince his words, when he delivers almost a ball-by-ball commentary on what is going on. Why start the show of display from Anuradhapura? Oldest Capital? Isn’t that the city if “Gnanakka” or the more honorific “Gnana-Mani”? The fundamental flaw in the implied philosophy of the author is to find a group most suited to be the trustees of the people, trusting the model of “representative democracy”. The entrenched article 3 of our constitution stipulates that the sovereignty is vested in the people which is inalienable. Article 4, now treated as entrenched, describes the institutions that exercise various sovereignly powers of the people, thus outlining the separation of powers in terms of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The decency and the accountability of politicians, particularly in Sri Lanka, have gone to place an implicit trust on the model of “representative democracy”, so much so, that kleptocracy. has crept into entire government. Incidentally, the UK Supreme Court declared that anything is illegal if it is done to avoid accountability. Therefore, the sovereign people in Sri Lanka must be effectively enabled to supervise and direct the trustees of the people without the need to resort to strikes and demonstrations.

  • 21
    1

    Dear Mr Philips,
    .
    thank you.
    .
    Sensitive readers,
    No other option, but to get together and stand against MEDAMULANA crimnials. We warned prior to Nov 2019.

    • 11
      0

      Nation’s miserable ,man who paved the way former high criminals be the leaders, …. is today in South Korea…… this mission was made by current mlechcha leadership in order to silence SIRISENA from his acts being set against the current leadership….
      .
      The bugger is cheap as no any medamulana rascals, prodcuced by DA Rajapakshe in medamulana CAVE.
      .
      My salute is AGAIN those youth, that say, if DA Rajapkashes was aware of using ” condoms” properly, srilankens would not have been caught by RAJAPAKSHE crime politics.
      :

  • 10
    0

    Dear Rajan
    As always hiting the nail on the forehead.. No punches barred

    BUT politicians without exception want power at all cost.
    I personally think they were bluffing on the 9th February at Anurathapura

    The electrorate is very gullible and short sighted, in that they will invariably vote on ethnic lines.
    The politicians know this weakness and thirve on this to their advantage. There is nothing new in Srilankan polity.
    May be a AKD lead coalition government be a
    solution. But will the media and capitalist press support this initiative is a loaded question.
    The civil society has a serious role to play. They should help to mobilise the electrorate to turn the tide of fanatics to a equitable society

  • 11
    0

    In January 2015 all those parties (UNP, JVP, part of SLFP, Champika’s JHU and racist parties) came together. But by July 2015 they had fallen out!

    Then Rajapaksas staged a comeback.

    • 6
      0

      Very True Gatam.
      Same old sorry state of affairs and the circus carries on with more or less the
      same audience
      You can’t teach new tricks to an old dog or straighten it’s tail , however much one tries!

      • 0
        0

        RN
        Agree.
        But you have to give it to the ones who persevere, despite repeated failure.

  • 2
    22

    I wonder why these politicians who make hue and cry about sufferings of ordinary folks organize a protest against the Government Servants who get their salaries and pensions (Pin Padi) paid by tax payers in this country resorting to strikes and creating enormous hardships to people. On top of the salary these guys get all sorts of perks e.g. Duty free cars. Tax payers should press the Government to kick out Government Servants who refuse to work. There was a dumb monk who encouraged nurses to strike while people are suffering from a pandemic. Some political parties in the opposition also promote strikes. Such things are totally unacceptable. But no one protest. I heard one guy saying they have the right to strike. If so, tax payers who pay their salaries should say they have a right not to pay their salaries if they do not work. The Government should tell these dumbos to leave if they are not happy or kick them out if they strike. But unfortunately the Governments keep on pampering them. It was only JRJ who had the guts to take the right decision.

    • 5
      0

      (Part I)
      EE,
      Good Morning.
      Your reference,
      “There was a, DUMB MONK WHO ENCOURAGED NURSES TO STRIKE WHILE PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING FROM A PANDEMIC. Some POLITICAL PARTIES IN THE OPPOSITION also promote strikes.”
      We are very grateful and thank you for stating this point very clearly (crystal clear in fact)
      The referred monk Murutetuwe Ananda Thero of Abhayaramya Temple, Thimbirigasyaya
      The following is a case in point of the abuse of this priest holding the post of Union Boss!!
      Quote
      “Colombo DC restrained (15/07/2017) incumbent monk of Abhayaramya Temple of Thimbirigasyaya Venerable Murutetuwe Ananda Thero from using the temple for political and trade union affairs until the adjudication of a civil suit filed by a monk (Venerable Pathberiye Wimalananda Thero) claiming incumbent ship.
      Defendant monk however had unlawfully taken over the incumbent ship of the temple and used the temple for political affairs and trade union matters.
      Petitioner pleaded the Court to restrain the monk from using the temple for what he termed were dishonourable acts.”

      Unquote
      So you can see the reverend has been resorting to ‘dishonourable acts’ even before October 2019! Nevertheless, it is never too late to bring these matters to light!

    • 2
      0

      (Part II)
      The salient and moot point, I would like to present is,
      1. The ‘opposition’ parties referred to are those today or those in July 2017?
      2. If those referred to are the former and not the latter, Why not?
      3. As it is apparent from the foregoing that this monk has resorted to “DISHONOURABLE ACTS” since reported in July 2017?
      4. If it is the latter parties, who constitute the majority of the Pohottuwa, what action do you suggest?
      5. Are you satisfied to be complaining about the monk, but complacent who made use of that “so called – Unscrupulous” Monk, because of the succour to then opposition (2018/19)?
      6. What is your take on, Venerable Murutetuwe Ananda Thero being appointed as Chancellor of the Colombo University, last year?? Good, Could Be Better, or Bad??
      Your valued insight and thinking is considered very valuable, and helpful to discern the wider world in a better perspective, as you have shown all of us, the learned and erudite path sought and followed by you before us!! Earnestly looking forward to your missive!!!

    • 2
      0

      Fully agree with you on JRJ, though many had misgivings about JRJ and also ‘Many’ misgivings to account, in the few mesmerising events such as referred by you!

  • 1
    0

    Well written article. UNP, SLFP, SLPP … all are bunch of corrupt crooks but Medamulana crooks and their henchmen are the worst. Time is ripe for a change and give it a try with JVP (NPP). Medamulana crooks should be chased away for good. SL is at her lowest point but hope it is not gone beyond the point of no return yet. With honest leadership, country could be brought back from current misery. Never a supporter of JVP but I/we have no other choice left. Hope people will vote to chase all the bloody crooks.

    Jayawewa NPP!

  • 0
    2

    Who cares about what elections they spring up. They will soon prove their worthlessness when the loans they have borrowed for current food sustainance +all the other debts especially the Chinese ones, have to be paid back. And they won’t be able to borrow anything anymore. There won’t be a coup either because main figures in the opposition are also connected to money laundering industry through shell companies and Kingdom Halls.

    Only way Motherland can survive is if West loses Ukrainian war, and the whole world has to start from scratch again……..yes, that might work as Sri Lanka might have just perfected the laundering technique. Big Rajapaksa plot for glory of Motherland.

  • 0
    0

    If GR is still playing that old record of ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’, are the average citizens of SL so dumb to believe him or is GR trying to make SL another North Korea by brainwashing the poor sods to believe in a ‘dear leader’? SL doesn’t have the clout to make it a rogue state like North Korea but certainly a pariah state with starving citizens, a far cry from prosperity & splendour.

    Can anyone put the brakes on from SL becoming a starving nation of peasants like North Korea? Although AKD appears to be a front runner, the socialist ideology of JVP/NPP doesn’t seem like a suitable alternative, nor Ranawaka & his racist bunch at a time when all citizens need to be united in an effort build the country. The old SLFP under slimy Sirisena is lost in political wilderness & the UNP is dead as a dodo under RW, which gives the SJB a clear opportunity but so far, Premadasa jnr. has not shown leadership with a clear strategy if he is to be in power. He seems to have lost steam after breaking up the UNP & not able to differentiate himself as a sincere & capable leader.

    Keir Starmer, the leader of the UK Labour party recently stated, that, to lead the country is a honour & not a legacy, & in my humble opinion, not for opportunists to plunder either.

  • 0
    0

    “Rajapaksas Vs The Rest: JVP, SJB, 43 Brigade, And Non-Sinhala Parties”
    This is a misleading heading, as each component of the “Rest” is deeply deivided. Not one has shown potential to come up with a a credible programme of action, as the author too seems to agree.
    *
    “The SJB has professional economists in its ranks who obviously support the open economy….”
    To what avail? Do we need more of the open economic policy that only spelt economic disaster for its duration since 1978?
    *
    (Especially, local elections.) The JVP will have to find a way to capture the moods of the people and connect them to the themes of its message.
    The moment a political party, especially one that wants serious political change, massages its political programme to serve electoral politics, it digs its political grave.
    The JVP started digging since 1984, paid a huge price in the first decade of the century, and I wonder if it will help to dig deeper.
    *
    Is it not time for those who care for political answers outside the game of parliamentary musical chairs to think about serious mass politics.
    If that is ignored, something more deadly is in the waiting.

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