15 December, 2017

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Short On Strategy, Long On Sectarianism: Come On Opposition; Wake Up!

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

At the time of writing, latish in October, political soothsayers predict presidential elections are on course for January. I have no idea how Pope Francis’ visit is to be slotted-in, but am certain Sarath Silva’s constitutional challenge will be seen off, irrespective of its legal rectitude. The regime did not invest effort and squander decency, impeaching, popping up henchmen, and despoiling the higher judiciary for nothing. On the Rajapakse side strategy is well integrated, unlike the opposition. The tests the regime confronts are circumstances beyond its control. Post-Uva and post UNHRC it is more than possible, but less than certain, that Mahinda Rajapakse can be defeated, but much depends on how the opposition gets its act together. The signs of preparation on the opposition side are not encouraging. The regime is in better readiness though it has the dilemma of whether to move now and risk being clipped by a year or two, or to hang on for a while in worsening circumstances. Its tactical readiness is thanks to the cohesion of its constituent elements; asses bray in chorus or you may say they reckon it’s better to hang on together than to hang separately.

The disarray in the opposition can be sourced explicitly to fragmentation and implicitly to a deficit of grey matter among political leaders. They are unable to get their act together since some leaders lack strategic wisdom about blending ultimate goals (each obviously different), with current actions, which equally obviously, need to be coordinated and synchronised. Let me return to this after a few words about numbers. At worst this number game is intellectually numbing and wide off the mark; at best it is but a rough guideline to a momentary state of play. But this essay cannot progress without at least a rough numbers game in rounded of figures, so here goes.

ranill-anura- colombotelegraphIt appears that post-Uva the UNP can count on a base vote of say 30% in the south – note I say south excluding north and east; I do not say Sinhalese or Sinhala-Buddhist. Again in rough and rounded numbers let us say the JVP can haul 6% and Sarath Fonseka 4%. The hard question is how much can the ‘Abolish Executive Presidency’ campaign, sometimes called the ‘Sobitha Movement’ draw, excluding what has already been counted  – one must be careful to avoid double counting. If you ask me to guess about this as yet untested quantity, I will opt for 5%. If you deem 30%, 6%, 4% and 5% to be on the low side, let me point out that I mean percentages on a national base. That is, for example, I am saying the UNP core vote, which is located almost entirely outside the north and east, is about 30% of the gross national vote. These four numbers add to 45%. Next the Ceylon Tamils and Muslims not already counted in the UNP’s southern 30% (most Muslims and all Ceylon Tamils in Colombo are already in the 30%). These additional elements are Tamils in the NP and EP, and EP Muslims; safely another 10% together. The sum of this potential but not watertight anti-Rajapakse vote is 55%, but don’t get excited. Violence, fraud, and switching ballots (in this life-and-death struggle of a regime that dare not go out of office) can reduce this by 5%, 10%; I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine. Shall we settle for a potential anti-Rajapakse vote of 45 to 55%?

These numbers make sense if you start at the other end too. The Sinhala-Buddhist electorate is about 70% (I have put the bulk of Sinhala Catholics in the UNP camp) and a neither too optimistic nor too pessimistic estimate is that Rajapakse will poll 60% of this. That is 42% of the national vote; in addition he will (unless Thonda splits) collect most of the 5% Upcountry Tamil and a minority of the southern Muslim vote. This puts Rajapakse in the 45% to 50% bracket; more if some voters in any of the groups counted in the previous paragraph throw him a lifeline.

OK, that’s enough for the numbers game; my purpose, most emphatically, is not to attempt electoral predictions, it is insanely too early for that. Rather, the case I am making is this: Things are quite finely balanced and can swing either way. A real fight is on; so my objective is to insist that the opposition leaders, one and all, deserve be certified as jointly and severally insane if they do not get their act together NOW.

Sectarian obstacles

Senior UNP MP Joseph Michael Perera made sensible conciliatory remarks according to a newspaper report last week: “We have not yet decided who our presidential candidate will be. We cannot do so since the election date has not been announced. A common candidate will be picked by a joint opposition front”.  This is tactically wise, though as the largest group by far its pick of candidate will have to be endorsed by everybody who is serious about jettisoning Rajapakse. So far so good, but uncertainty starts with Perera’s next point: “The executive presidency is the cause of mounting problems in the post war era. It has to be scrapped if democracy and the rule of law are to be re-established; national security can be maintained under any system”.

This is the formula on which a common candidate can be ratified by the whole opposition; but the public at large, and this correspondent, cannot banish lingering doubts. Does the UNP mean it? Yes Ranil has said it a few times and Karu several times; I believe an internal committee has endorsed it as policy. But still it has not been proclaimed from the rooftops; no statement issued as a formal policy charter, nor road map of the procedure enunciated. The UNP has still not woken up to grasp the most important step needed to stabilise a common opposition front against the incumbent.

The JVP is in something of a pickle because its cadres are unable to disentangle fundamentals from tactics; Anura Kumara and some leaders are probably clear about what to do eventually, but not in a position to get round the party as a whole, at least so it seems. Their concern is simple, the JVP cannot support Ranil, the class enemy, but it also sees that if defeating Rajapakse is the number one priority, then there is no option but to back the UNP nominee. The dilemma is easy to resolve if you prioritise your concerns. The JVP needs to declare that it will support anybody, even a broomstick, even Ranil, if it is for the sole purpose of abolishing the executive presidency. The UNP in its turn can lubricate this outcome by issuing a clear unambiguous and solemn pledge and road-map to abolish EP. It is all so obvious; you will appreciate why I say these guys need to have their heads examined.

Post election pitfalls

Though the election will be violent, fraudulent and rigged, the worst may come afterwards; certainly if Rajapakse rides again; even otherwise unless the winning opposition is mature and tolerant. If Rajapakse wins by a large majority the UPFA terror machine will rampage again, drug dealers will have carte blanche, and what is there to stop kleptomania? The family will run amok romping through social and business circuits. If Rajapakse only scrapes through, regime and state will be as stable as a pack of cards in a typhoon. Who will recognise the legitimacy of a Rajapakse who gets, say only 51% of the vote, in rigged elections? Such a regime cannot survive the ensuing civil unrest and open defiance.

More important is if Rajapakse is defeated. When power-centralising rotten regimes, accused of gross rights violations, are thrown out, a temporary vacuum follows. A winning but diversified opposition must then act wisely and responsibly. The current regime has undermined ethnic, social and political cohesion, but it is not a worst case scenario like Libya after Gaddafi (a good friend of the Pakse family) or Iraq after the Americans destroyed the state and put nothing acceptable in its place. Even in monolithic China, rigid Stalinism has stoked rebellion in Xingjian, instability in Tibet and endemic protest in Hong Kong. The moral is: After a dictator, national cohesion has to be carefully reconstructed by a victorious democratic alliance.

The UNP, TNA, JVP and Fonseka do not play the same social and economic policy tunes, that’s how it should be and it’s fine by me. However, it is crucial for them to appreciate in the event of victory that we are passing through a very fragile period in world history. From the Middle East to the Far East, from Sub-Saharan Africa to the eastern borders of Russia, cracks can become chasms and swallow society in brutal conflict if not properly managed. Indian democracy is an example to learn from, but more important, the winning alliance must not lapse into anarchic internecine conflict as has happened in Libya and Iraq. Responsible democratic opposition is what the TNA and JVP must pledge (Fonseka may take a portfolio – why not Defence?). That will be my place, in the democratic opposition, if the UNP forms the next government. There is a lot of essential democracy rebuilding to do if we have the good fortune to be rid of this regime.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Jayatilake ( Dumb) This gentleman is a qualified Prof. Learn from to analyse the problem you pip sqeeak.

    • 4
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      Of course he is!

      All his predictions (of Maduluwawe Sobhita, common candidate and other fantasies) have gone down the toilet like morning turds.

      Now he is complining others for lack of unity!

      A fool is a fool is a fool, no matter how many degrees he has or how long you spend in a university.

    • 1
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      Dr. Kumar,

      RE: Short On Strategy, Long On Sectarianism: Come On Opposition; Wake Up!

      Can you write up the Common sense pamphlet, like what Thomas Paine did for the American in 1776?

      Then throw it in the face of the “common Opposition” and the people.

  • 1
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    Thanks, Kumar David.
    YOUR analysis should awaken the unthinking Opposition.

  • 1
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    The learned Professori may be a good analyst in setting out the scenarios for each of the possibilities of outcome in the envisaged Prez elections. He fervently hopes that any winning opposition would be civilized. I beg to disagree. An election victory, either side, is an opportunity for the goons, either in pretense or reality of the winning party, to loot, if not arson and homicide.

    Dear Davidy, Kleptocracy in this country is not a monopoly in this country. It is rampant and the winning side of whatever political orientation will definitely resort ot his.

    Davidy further alleges that the preparation by the opposition for an election victory is Marginal. Again I disagree. Though the preparation and earnestness is there among them it is not adequately result oriented.

  • 0
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    Why cannot the UNP commence a Weekly Issue in vernacular, opposing the UFPA front that will concentrate on SB Voters only using their kept-media?. There is enough material but needs the dire commitment to save S.L. with this one & only chance that MR is compelled to grant based merely on his Astrological beliefs?.

    The chances of that Press being engulfed in a fire is assured!!!!

  • 3
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    There is a saying in Sinhalese that ‘Loola nathi walata, Kanaya Pandithaya’. There are many Kanayas speculating at the moment of the upcoming Presidential Election. Some are of the belief that a common candidate should be nominated to defeat MR. There are others who believe the CC should be anyone else other than RW. Some even suggest CBK. Some blame RW for not agitating on the short comings of MR and even suggest that RW is supporting MR on the sly. Well RW has not being idling but have disciplined the UNP and have brought in fresh blood, the likes of Eran Wickremaratne, Ajith Perera, Harsha De Silva, Harin Fernando and a host of others who are educated and people of standing in society. They are certainly not the odd pods, who are rogues and murderers, like those under MR who are the Riff Raff that have brought disgrace to the Regime and the country because MR is a disgrace being dishonest and criminally violent. This fact is an open secret and there is no gain RW repeating so all the time, because all are aware including his own supporters of the current Lawlessness and waste of public funds.

    The number of elections that MR has advertised where he had defeated RW has been done using people at various levels and positions to distort and cheat in the past. MR has exhausted all those reserves, avenues and the man power used in the past. If one is to go by his present strength, the meeting of the SLFP electoral organizers held at the Temple Trees the other day is a good bench mark to judge, where MR has berated all who had attended and had boasted that he will win the coming PE on his own, even without their help. One need not be a Rocket Scientist to know that MR cannot win without the support of the SLFP electoral organizers. Further so, sans the SLFP stalwarts in the party whom MR have sidelined for a while. Now it is too late for MR to re-approach them as he is running out of time, as the clock is ticking for him.

    The critics of Ranil can see who Ranil Wickremasinghe is, once the date for the PE is confirmed and the race starts. MR’s final gamble to bring the Pope too will blown in his face, when Pope puts off his visit. MR is a goner whether he holds the PE in January or not. A delay will result him being ousted violently. Therefore it is advisable for the public to use the option of a PE. Many believe that MR will not yield power if he loses. The truth is, MR will have no choice. As for those who believe Gota will stage a Coup in such an event, Ranil is no fool not to have recourse for such measures, where Gota dares do display his bravado. Be assured of the surprises that will unfold from the date of receiving nominations. Saving this country is not the responsibility of Ranil Wickremasinghe and the UNP alone, but it rests on everyone of us. So without blaming others being mere arm chair critics, please do your bit. Good Luck!

  • 3
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    The whole article wreaks of nothing but sectarianism – on how to use the UNP vote to benefit the TNA, by depriving the Sinhala (and the rest) of power as it is today. We have an inclusive stable government which is obviously not everyone’s cup of tea, least of all the TNA’s. 29,000 Sri Lankan soldiers died on the battle field to give us the freedom we have today to walk the roads, and go about our business without fear. Let us NOT give it away by our own stupidity. Remember how often the Sinhala have been referred to as modayas in the CT columns by those who still believe they are our superiors.

    Blowback has reached Canada, the major safehaven of the TNA parent, the terrorist LTTE. Let us hope that Canada now has a change of heart.

    • 2
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      Ram

      “29,000 Sri Lankan soldiers died on the battle field to give us the freedom we have today to walk the roads, and go about our business without fear.”

      Did they really die on the battle fields for you to enjoy freedom?
      Why did they enlisted themselves in the armed forces?
      How many innocent people did they kill?
      How many did they maim
      How many women did they rape or sexually abuse?

      You should be really raising the above points with the Hindians.

    • 3
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      Ram the Buddhist

      29,000 Barbarians died to quench the racial thirst whereas 250,000 innocent Tamils died for simply being Tamils. Have you asked my fighting partner Kruna your sleeping partner why these 29,000 Barbarians died. He killed half of them.

  • 3
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    This professor is a day dreamer. I can still remember his predictions about the LTTE and their capabilities during the war.

    How JVP can stand along with UNP and TNA. They did the same mistake in the past also when Somawansa leading the party. Result was grassroot
    JVPers abandon the party.

  • 3
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    Prof:

    While you are on the numbers game let me add some spice. It is Game Set & Match to Mahintha. Mahinthas core vote is 51% ( from the 20 million Racists) and that gives him the controlling share. It is a limited company run by the family with limited liability and he can run it as he thinks fit for personal benefit.
    The opposition is a PLC floated on the Sinhala Electorate subject to Speculation. The vote share may go up or down.

    Post election pitfalls

    Though the election will be violent, fraudulent and rigged, the worst may come afterwards; certainly if Rajapakse rides again; even otherwise unless the winning opposition is mature and tolerant. If Rajapakse wins by a large majority the UPFA terror machine will rampage again, drug dealers will have carte blanche, and what is there to stop kleptomania.

    *** You are right worst will come afterwards not from within but from outside. Dark clouds are gathering with the unbanning of LTTE.

  • 2
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    praba from the grave is a ghostly man , most of the 250,000 ( one tenth of that in reality) died from LTTE bullets.”Innocent” is a stretch, dont you think ? Praba even in death is a liar

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