By Kumar David –
In reality the SJB and Sajith are the UNP – or part thereof, or maybe the real UNP.
a) All the key leaders – Sajith, Madduma Bandara, Tissa Attanayake. Imthiaz Bakeer Marker, Harin Fernando, Eran Wickremaratne, Malik Samarawickrama – all, yes all are hardcore, staunch, traditional, born-and-bred UNPers
b) If there had been no leadership split all would have been together in one UNP – we would never have heard of an SJB. In any case the fight was about which leader can pull more votes; nothing to do with policies.
c) Where are policies and programmes basically distinct from the UNP outlook proposed by the SJB? There was and is no difference in history, ideology, policy or social outlook.
d) Those who see a people-oriented, non-liberal-bourgeois cohort in these SJB leaders, distinct from the UNP, are sociologically duped, or worse, fabricating theories out of thin air for love of rhetoric of their own voices.
e) Finally and most conclusively, the SJB’s 5 August voters are the traditional UNP vote-bank in every town and village; UNPers who marked Telephone instead of Elephant. They most certainly were/are not a compendium of new classes gelling together anew in an alternative class and sociological alliance.
Viyathmaga and Yuthukama
It is Viyathmaga (Path of the Learned) and Yuthukama (Rightful or Just) that are distinct new political/class entities that entered Parliament. They were not spawned out of the SLPP; they are Gota-loyalist cults designed to support him personally and whose electoral candidates were inserted into the SLPP ticket at Gota’s direction. Viyathmaga’s Sarath Weerasekera and Nalaka Godahewa polled the highest preferential votes in Colombo and Gampaha Districts, respectively, while Channa Jayasumana, Gunapala Ratnasekera, Nalaka Kottegoda, Tilak Rajapaksha, Upul Galappatti and Udayana Kirindigoda also entered Parliament – making a Gota-loyalist ginger group of eight. Yuthukama’s Anupa Pasqual was elected in Kalutara while its leader Gevindu Cumaratunga was awarded a National List slot. All together ten the Gota-loyalist Fifth Column is ten persons strong. There has never been a previous instance of a President fielding personal cronies as a Trojan Horse cluster of his very own.
In class terms both represent pushy upper and middle order petty-bourgeois, innately hostile to a plural, liberal, multi-ethic and multi-religious ethos, and committed to Gotabhaya in ways reminiscent of the honorific title Il Duce conferred on Mussolini by his adoring followers. This nationalist, culturally insular petty-bourgeoisie is the spring board from which a Great-Leader cult will spread out. Eventually the cult may surpass Sinhala-Buddhism as the hegemonic creed of the people and ideology of the State. Think Mussolini, Peron, Marcos and Kim.
This excrescence in the SLPP Parliamentary Group may become a headache for the SLPP and for Mahinda since its loyalty is to Gota and it will toe his line when differences emerge. That Weerasekara is called a racist by Tamils and that Godawewa’s reputation at the Stock Exchange is dubious will not have any effect since the standing of many SLPP Members of Parliament on racism and financial probity is badly soiled in any case. The former beat Weerawansa and Gamanayake into second and third places, respectively, in Colombo District. Phew that must have taken some doing in anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim rhetoric and effort.
The elected Viyath-Yuthu cluster numbers nine, while the elected SLPP number is about 128. That makes its proportion 7% and if the Cabinet is constitutionally limited to 29 (will Gota wiggle a way round it?) it is entitled to only two Cabinet positions. But Gota will push for more for the cluster. He is likely to get his way in anything he wants because the election victory is his more than anyone else’s.
The seamless blending of Gotabhaya mystique into popular Sinhala consciousness, the symbiosis of the personal with the politico-cultural, this is the choreography of the ongoing drama. The aura that the Rajapaksas exude is what Sri Lanka breathes. The State and Media motto going forward will be Gotabhaya adoration outshining even Sinhala-Buddhism. I am pushing forward hard the thesis that ‘Gotabayaism’, not Sinhala-Buddhism will be the next shining Lankan storyline. Rising autocracy needs a Great-Leader cult and a narrative to propel it forward (Mussolini, Peron, Nasser, Marcos and more). Gotaism will in time overshadow SB-ism since the former is indispensable to the consolidation of autocracy. A personality cult is a vital adjunct of authoritarianism and a gullible public will be pliantly inducted into it as Martin Niemöller feared.