30 September, 2022


Same-Ingredient Ice-Creams, But Two Different Toppings: Sajith & Ranil Are Clones Of The Same Stable

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Outside the Tamil areas there are just three alternatives to choose from – the government (SLPP), the JVP led NPP alliance and the UNP-twins which are the same in content but come in two toppings; traditional or youthful. The purpose of this relatively short piece today is not to canvass for the NPP (I am on the National List) nor to elaborate in any detail why the SLPP is dangerous – I have done that a few times on previous occasions – but to emphasise something that has gone under the radar. That is that intrinsically and essentially there is no substantial difference between the Ranil-UNP and the Sajith-UNP now mustering under the acronym SJB. The two ice creams are made of the same ingredients, just flavoured with different toppings, Maharaja Melt or Elephant Ecstasy.

For decades Ranil and Sajith were comrades in arms and fellow travellers in the UNP, even now they argue about who the real UNP is. For decades upon decades they shared the same ideology and the same political programmes, they endorsed the same economic policies, they loved the IMF and the global right with equal fervour. I cannot drive it in hard enough that they are programmatic and policy clones; the same breed sharing the same genes. In ideology, history and political ethos they are siblings. What has surfaced in the UNP in recent months is a dispute about who can pull more votes; that’s all, essentially that’s the bottom line.  Zeitgeist is a German word that denotes the spirit of the times, trends of thought and feeling, the characteristics of an ethos. The Ranil-UNP and the Sajith-UNP mustering as SJB are manifestations of a shared Zeitgeist.

There is NO difference in ideology, economic outlook, political philosophy, tradition, evolution or historical role between these two wings of the UNP. Of course, as in any power struggle the abstract parallelism is marinated by personal ambitions – the ambitions of the young-pretender, the reluctance of the old-fart to bow out, and more spicy, the thanha of courtier Navin to foil the return of the young-pretender, and on the other side sly-prince Champika who knows full well that his IQ is way higher than Sajith’s and is sharpening a gritty blade in readiness for 2025.   

To return to the big picture, the only, the sole, only and unique dispute between the two branches of the UNP before the divorce was who will be the better vote puller. Of all I have asked “Why are you for Sajith or why are you for Ranil” – I know dozens of UNPers – the conversation universally and without exception settles down to who will bring in more votes. I have never ever in these conversations heard any reference to policy, ideology, foreign affairs, debt, budget or programme except trivia like undergarments or cons about increasing allowances and wages by undoable amounts – election gundus! Usually even then, both sides fake up exactly the same gundus with a different number of zeroes at the end.   

The hottest topic of disputation between UNP faction relates to issues such as: Ranil is old, tired, jaded and unfriendly, Sajith is young, energetic and bouncy. Or on the other side; Ranil is shrewd and knows to play the game, Sajith is an inexperienced bull in a China shop, or the Rajapsksas will use Sajith if needed and put him out in the cold and out of business. The sole dispute among UNPers is who can win more votes. “Policy! What’s that? Don’t muddy our waters with terms we care little about”, that’s the mentality that animates UNPers of both hues today.

What conclusively proves the shared nature of the genes of the twins is the question “Where are all the natural-Ranilists, the old Royalists and Thomians? Ranil’s natural and habitual retinue, Manik, Harsha, Eran, Fowzie and such like acolytes of neo-liberals, where are they today? All lined up in flank upon flank behind Sajith. Can you believe it, all the forces of right-wing social and economic reaction, all Lanka’s neoliberal baggage, has deserted the grandson of DRW and embraced the son of Pema-machang who the baggage much despised! They walked out of the habitual stables and lined up on the side of the “Lad born to be king” who hopefully will win them the steeplechase. Their Bonny Prince Charlie refrain “Oh boatman row like a bird on the wing” towards polling date.

I have used up more than half my permitted words driving home the ‘No real difference between the two outfits’ message because few people sit back and think about it. If the UNP is hopeless at this point in time, then both the Ranil version and the Sajith version are useless. If you do insist on voting UNP I don’t think it matters much which bunch you choose. My meaning is this; if you are voting against the government most likely it is because you believe that the authoritarian and militaristic trend of the Gotabaya Presidency is dangerous. Presumably you see a period ahead which will be hazardous for the democratic freedoms that we have become accustomed to. I am not going to argue this point because I have done so often in this column and if you don’t agree you are unlikely to change your mind at this last moment. 

I am targeting those of you who do agree with me on this point but imagine that voting Ranil or voting Sajith could be a way of resisting the drift to an autocratic executive. My case is that this is an illusion because neither twin will take a firm stand and oppose these dangerous trends when, or if as surely will be more likely, the peril materialises in concrete form. Liberalism at home and abroad is facing its worst crisis in decades therefore it is necessary to mobilise a more determined leadership and inspire more forces than our UNP liberals of either flavour are capable of to meet of the threat.

If you abhor dictatorship your first priority is to defeat government attempts to grab 2/3rds on 5 August. The outcome anyway will probably be no-2/3. However, not only cynics but everyone I meet says the government will buy MPs to make up the shortfall. If it’s a small number a simple cash transaction is envisaged but if 20 or more are needed Sajith’s or Ranil’s cross-over proclivities will be deemed worthy of pursuit. If the shortfall is less than 10 the purchase can be transacted on the ever-popular MP free-trade market. With a larger shortfall a bulk purchase wholesale deal has to be struck and it will have to be an auction for either the Sajith/SJB or the Ranil/UNP livestock herds. There is not much difference between sellers on the supply side; it only depends on price and sinecure.

When it comes to crunch time there is little that will stand in in the way of Ranil or Sajith in fashioning a deal with Gota to repeal 19A and/or to enact an altogether new constitution? The Wickremesinghes and the Rajapksas have had a good working relationship, not prosecuting each other’s households and giving way to each other on vital issues. As for Sajith, his manifesto is as silent as the tomb on constitutional issues; it is fair game to surmise that his door is open to a Gota seduction bid. The Constitution is the hottest topic in the election arena so Sajith’s silence is deafening and is it more reasonable to conclude that he is open to a love-in with Gota than to give him benefit of any doubt. There is nothing in his life story, his temperament or his campaign utterances to make one think otherwise; being an invertebrate will go with the Sinhala-Buddhist populist flow.

Actually, today’s column is not intended to be an anti-Ranil or anti-Sajith diatribe but a genuine expression of anxiety. If you are a UNPer who longs to pension off jaded Ranil and date Sajith, that’s up to you and good luck if you have faith that he will stand tall against Gota. If on the other hand you imagine Ranil will mobilise to push back against authoritarianism good luck to your daydreams. Still, I would like to suggest that you should not stop half way, you should move all the way to link up with those who can be trusted to stand firm.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Enough is enough.?
    Both Ranil and Sajith, even though they have unceremoniously chosen to separate from the party UNP which for years given them pomp and glory.?
    With the jarawama Rajapuka’s now having the audacity – cheek to demand a 2/3rd majority to play many a bandu of a pandu especially with getting rid of the much laudable 19th amendment which has booted out the likes of the world’s greatest bull shitter artiste Mahindan Rajapuka now approaching nearly 80 wasted years of being a big timer polluter in every aspect onto this peaceful loverly wonderful planet where I and you are allowed to live in.
    Let the registered voters in the motherland from which I have had to part should forget the past live in the present and plan for the future by casting their one and only voting paper with due diligence by voting out of contention, I meant giving a boot a kick in the arse to the much despicable disgusting loathed Rajapuka’s SLPP alliance.
    Let’s do it and do it again at every election to get rid of these uncouth unsavoury power-hungry hora mas boruma jumping everywhere frogs.
    Cheers, R. J.

  • 1

    A model answer paper is published ahead of framing the question paper. The answers are now available after a comprehensive study by Pradeepa Chanaka. My salutations to his effort. The benefit of the study is that it enables intellectualisation of alternatives no sooner seat numbers are settled.

    The primary question is, if the outcome brought out by the analysis becomes correct, what next? What is the picture on 31st July 2020, the date of publication?
    Podujana Peramuna 133 seats
    Samagi Jana Balawegaya 58 seats
    If SJB moves forward with 58 seats to support or coalesce with the ruling party, the 2 parties with an un precedented majority of 85%, will rule the roost for quite a while. The 7 other parties on the redundant fringe, can exert no influence and will be treated as such. For good or for evil, the steam roller will move on. The Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi will have the vicarious pleasure of being in the opposition for no less than 70 years after independence.

  • 2

    Kumar David

    “All arrangements have been made to sell the East Container Terminal of the Colombo South Harbour to India, the JVP alleges.”

    Any comment, suggestion, admonishment, ……………………….?

  • 1

    This is the question for Buddhist Sinhala again?
    Why cannot Buddhist Sinhala cannot come out of rich family kingdom in politics?
    Senanayakes? Bandaranaiyakes? Rajapaksas, Premadasas Jeyawardanas (Ranil from the same family)?
    95% of the Buddhist Sinhala are from poor Sinhala families? There are thousands of Buddhist Sinhala are educated and skillful, talented are there from these 95%. Why cannot you find someone from this 95% population? Heartfully, you all know the 5% cheat you again and again?

    • 0

      Hello Ajith,
      Wonder if it is a question only for the Sinhala Buddhists.
      A majority of Sinhala Buddhists took arms on two occasions and they were brutally suppressed.
      Once when SLFP was in power (remember ‘take no prisoners mantra’) and the second time when UNP was in power (remember ‘Bogeyman’, ‘black cats’ and ‘yellow cats’).
      These comments are not intended to support insurrections but to draw attention to the brutality of the suppression.
      Is it not correct to say that the majority of Tamil voters were also fooled by Tamil politicians who chose NOT to support the leftists (LSSP and the CP)?
      My comments are valid notwithstanding the leanings from modern history, where ‘distributed decision making’ has been proven to be superior to ‘command and control decision making’ as evidenced by the triumph of capitalism over communism.
      As Kumar has brilliantly articulated, both SLPP and UNP (both versions) have no solutions. The government does not need a 2/3 majority to rule.
      The big question is ‘will the digital generation vote for the JVP led alliance irrespective of their ethnicity’.
      We will have an answer after the elections.

  • 1

    Prof Kumar David,

    We are not in 2015 when a lot could have been done, but not done. We are in 2020 and our options are limited.

    We have to wait for the verdict.

    It is our fate? Do you believe in fate Prof Kumar David?

  • 0

    Folks, enjoy the last few days of “DEMOCRAZY” in Lanka.

  • 0

    Ice Cream with two different toppings?

    I know Sri Lanka is a hot country and every one relish an ice cream now and then.

    I dont think decent minded Sri Lanknas have an aprtite for either of these two toppings!

    what is on offer is dry fish curry.

    which dry fish Ranil or Sajith?

  • 0

    Neither any ultra-Leninist or any Bolshevist theories of Communism hold anymore, nor does such fundamental modes of government exist in any country, not even in Russia or China for that matter.
    Thus, I see no valid reason why anybody living in this time and age, with some political understanding need to be concerned/ worry/ comment on Trotskyists. Whilst I respect Professor Kumar David for his academic affluence, I still feel and share the thought that he sometimes ventures out of his area of expertise in his writings, and by doing so makes a mockery or himself.

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