15 October, 2019

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Sajith May Electorally Benefit From Ranil’s Antics

By Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

The antics of virtual UNP leader for life and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe although appearing to deal a body blow to the presidential electoral prospects of UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa, could be a blessing in disguise for Sajith if wisely handled by him and his backers. The reasons for this possibility include:

1) Dyed in the wool UNPers would realize that the best hope for a UNP Executive President is Sajith Premadasa who is the only candidate at present who could pose a real threat to the frontrunner – former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Gotabaya is fielded by the recently constituted Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) due to the constitutional inability of his charismatic elder brother former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to be a candidate.   

2) Gotabaya by a long shot lacks the charisma, oratorical skills and stage presence of MR. Although Sajith too is not too great in these attributes, it could be said that he has a clear advantage over GR in these aspects. 

3) There is the real possibility that the greatly reduced UNP electoral base and those who have abandoned the party due to the lackluster ‘leadership’ of Ranil will get ‘fired up’ by a Sajith presidential candidature and those abandoning the party returning to the fold.

4) The more UNP leader Ranil behaves in a manner inimical to rational thinking to sidetrack Sajith by the brute force of the powers vested in him  in the UNP constitution in his capacity as ‘leader’, more the likelihood that Sajith will get traction in the country on a ‘sympathetic’ wave even ‘outside’ the UNP fraternity.  

5) There is the real possibility that a Sajith candidature may hasten the electoral ‘fatigue’ of the Rajapaksa ‘brand’ among the majority Sinhala Buddhists due to factors which include (i) MR not being the candidate (ii) GR in relation to MR being a ‘dull’ candidate (iii) some apprehension due to the perceived ‘violent’ disposition and arrogance of GR (iv) the extravagance displayed at Namal’s recent wedding receptions (v) Sajith’s far superior ‘pro poor’ image.

6) Ranil’s deplorable antics are giving Sajith ample ‘free’ media coverage which may to some extent endear him to the voters who may have Rajapaksa ‘fatigue’. 

7) Even if Sajith does not address minority concerns, the chances are that those who will vote from this category will support him instead of Gotabaya. The catholic vote base in the context of the Easter Sunday carnage is up for grabs. The ground reality is that of the 30% non-Sinhala Buddhist category, 7% are Christian of which 6% are Roman Catholics.

8) Even if Ranil through the brute force of the powers vested in him as leader by the UNP constitution makes an attempt to prevent Sajith from being nominated as the UNP presidential candidate, the likelihood is that either the powerful ‘working committee’ with his dwindling supporters will ‘ditch him’ or Sajith will contest from an ‘alternate’ entity while retaining the core of the UNP party hierarchy and voter base.

Gotabaya’s Strengths 

The most potent strength of Gotabaya Rajapaksa among the majority 70% Sinhala Buddhists is his signal contribution as Defense Secretary to defeat (albeit controversially) the armed conflict with the LTTE. Tamil grievances still remain largely unaddressed.

He is also perceived as a no-nonsense disciplinarian who gets things done such as the perception of the beautification of the city of Colombo. The jury is out on whether it is superficial or not.

He being the brother of the popular and charismatic former President Mahinda Rajapaksa gives him an electoral advantage. On the flip side there is belief in some circles that perceived Rajapaksa ‘family politics’ with MR’s son Namal waiting in the wings with high political ambition could be a ‘spoiler’ for GR. 

Conclusion

Here too the jury is out on whether the much vaunted ‘model village’ housing schemes promoted by Sajith Premadasa are sustainable and whether they create a ‘dependency’ culture?  Although the ‘sins of the fathers’ should not be ‘visited upon the sons’, controversies which include extra judicial killings such as that of Richard de Zoysa under the Ranasinghe Premadasa presidency should remind his son Sajith if elected of the immense power and responsibilities of the Executive President even in the Post-19th Amendment scenario.

Sajith Premadasa is the perfect foil to Gotabaya Rajapaksa. If Sajith is able to overcome the impediments of not being the UNP nominee by building on and communicating his strengths which include (i) perception that he is not the preferred choice of the much derided Ranil Wickremesinghe and his coterie of supporters (ii) perception that he has a far greater pro-poor image (iii) perception that on the yardstick of the country’s widespread political corruption and abuse of power he stands relatively tall (iv) perception that he does not personally have a violence prone background (v) his people friendly image devoid of arrogance in spite of being the son of a President (vi) electoral ‘fatigue’ of the Rajapaksa ‘brand’ particularly since MR is ineligible to contest.   

There is unsavory speculation as to why UNP leader / PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Parliament’s Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who do not have a ‘snowball’s chance in hell’ (particularly Ranil) in defeating Gotabaya Rajapaksa are toying with the idea of being the UNP’s Presidential candidate. 

The bottom line for the country is that irrespective of who becomes Executive President, unless there is a highly unlikely miracle, the prognosis for the country is dire both socially and economically. None of the candidates – Gotabaya, Sajith or other known aspirants have presented a credible plan of action which even if presented would be implemented. For example, although it is obvious to everyone that a sine qua non for any progress is (i) all citizens being treated equally (ii) the rule of law having no exceptions, none of the aspirants will ‘bite the bullet’ even on these basic parameters. Do we have a selective application of the ‘rule of law’? To what extent is the ‘rule of law’ being applied even to Presidential candidates? I sadly rest my case on the prognosis for the country.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    0

    Amit good analysis
    It is clear that Bondscam Ranil was given instructions by his American handlers the Biggest Rogue state in the world, the Superpower terrorist, to get rid of the Executive Presidency, which has blocked the US SOFA and the MCC projects- to turn Lanka into a military base, for which Saudi and US Special Operations Forces (SOF) staged the Easter attacks using local Muslims.
    On October 21, there should be protests outside the US and Saudi Embassy against US economic terrorism and maritime warfare on Sri Lanka.
    “Politics in Sri Lanka and all the Presidential Candidiates are in different ways being played and gamed by foreign parties. Civil society has chosen to forget that on Easter Sunday the US with their Saudi Partners unleashed economic terrorism and maritime hybrid war fare on Sri Lanka and against Chinese investment in the country.
    The attacks on Saudi oil fields should be cheered by Sri Lanka. Saudi and US own and operate IS and have been attacking Sri Lanka as many other Asian Countries, like Iran, Yemen, China etc with local puppets like bondscam Ranil.
    Hats off to Iran for supporting the Yemenis to send a message to US and Saudi to lay off. They have done what none of the cowardly Sri Lankan politicians have done – told the biggest Rogue state in the world to go to HELL.

  • 5
    1

    Amrit,
    History of the two leading candidates (Sajith & GoRa -if eligible to run) suggest that you can hope Sajith to fulfill your two last requirements. I don’t expect GoRa would become as bad as MaRa in interfering with the rule of law & the justice system, but it is still likely that he would resort to extra judiciary tactics if he feel threatened.

    However, the most intriguing aspect of this presidential election is not the usual electoral politics or the relative strength of the two candidates; rather the “politics” of politics itself. It seems like that the unbelievable rumor circulating a couple of weeks ago as to a possible deal between GoRa camp & Ranil camp no longer can be discarded as usual rubbish. I certainly wasn’t sure what to make of the rumor but, after listening to taped telephone conversation between Dilrukshi Diaz & Nissanaka Senadhipathi, now it appears that the Ranil camp truly had a working plan to make GoRa SLPP candidate and even to help him win!

    We know that, at the beginning, Dilrukshi was very hawkish in going after MaRa corruptions. MY 3 even had a very famous row with her exactly for this behavior. Her change of mind does indicate that she may be following the path of UNP elites which includes TNL as well. Even if Dilrukshi’s behavior has nothing to do with UNP politics, still it is not a secret that UNP elites tried everything possible in their power to stop Sajith and perhaps even to sway the presidential election in GoRa’s way.

    How this “politics” of politics will play out in the electoral politics will be very interesting to watch! If such a secret “deal” ever existed, then, why did Senadhipathi release the tape? May be he didn’t think beyond his lawsuit.

  • 0
    4

    So to summarise, anybody could win. Thanks.

    • 6
      0

      Bawa,
      Haven’t you noticed the way SLPP campaign mange GoRa’s public appearances? He is completely shielded from queries by the media. Their are three major reasons: 1. He doesn’t have a knowledge good enough to offer consistent answers to complex questions on any major issues relating to important politics, society, economics & legal matters.
      2. His history of criminality & corruptions.
      3. His natural tendency get angry.

      I don’t think that the first two issues by themselves would have much impact on SL voters as they are used these kids of politicians. However, the third factor is very critical b’cos it defines who GoRa really is. On the contrary, Sajith already has shown how accessible he is. The cumulative effect of this difference of character can have a huge impact on undecided voters.

  • 1
    1

    The writer is entitled to his opinion and his point of view. To me, both GR and SRP can be a start of another white van culture. Even fora like CT is under the threat of closure if any of them get elected. The law! Hang with it!. “The law! I am the law!” the current equivalent of “L’etat! L’etat ce moi!”. Both of them cannot tolerate another point of view to varying degrees. So any attempt to compete GR with an “equal” cannot be within the norms of civility.

  • 0
    4

    As of now, Gota seems to have decided how to rule if elected. With all Sajith’s public rallies, one thing is clear; as of now, he has no idea what to do next if elected.
    .
    Both these stances have their own reflections; one is fearful, and other is hopeless. So go for the better between fearful & hopeless.

  • 5
    0

    Good analysis.What chances do you give AKD

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