20 September, 2020

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Takeaways From Sri Lanka General Election

By R Hariharan

 Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

After the din of recently concluded general election in Sri Lanka is over, the United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as Sri Lanka’s prime minister. He is poised to work with a national unity government. There are eight takeaways from the election and its aftermath that can help in visualising the future course of events in the island nation.

1. Positive trends: A number of positive trends have emerged both in the conduct and in the aftermath of elections. People have shown that whipping up of Sinhala nationalist rhetoric or holding up the bogey of revival of Tamil separatism is not enough to win elections. They would rather prefer clean governance than ostentatious of display of power by the rulers. The peaceful conduct of elections holds a lesson for other South Asian nations: if the national leadership is determined it can ensure the government, administration and election commission come together, without working at cross purposes, to conduct peaceful elections. The abhorrent trend of local politicians waving pistols and intimidating the public that had invaded the body politics in recent times. The election has shown they will have to change their act.

2. Rajapaksa’s fault lines: The electoral defeat of the former president for a second time within six months showed that he had not understood the dynamics of change that had become embedded in public discourse to win elections. Comparatively, Sirisena despite his low profile and soft rhetoric had done better. Of course, Rajapaksa will continue to be respected as a national hero for eliminating the Tamil Tigers. Yes; Southern Sinhala Buddhist constituency will probably continue to vote for him. No; that will not be sufficient to win an election without an inclusive agenda. And the bogey of revival of terrorism of the LTTE kind probably carries only limited credibility. The failure of Rajapaksa come to power showed the limitations of banking upon personality cult. But that is not enough to recoup credibility in public life; integrity in action is equally important. His reputation appears to have been badly bruised by allegations of corruption, misuse of office, family politics and cronyism. So Rajapaksa has to clean up his act rather than depending upon his cronies’ advice if he does not want to fade away from political limelight. And keep the family at arm’s length; they have already done enough damage to him.

Ranil3. Sirisena’s strengths: President Sirisena has demonstrated that he was unfazed by political obstacles in the run up to the election. Probably other Rajapaksa and other SLFP leaders had underestimated his courage of conviction to pursue his end goals with doggedness and push aside political obstacles. Though he was not strong within the party to prevent Rajapaksa hijacking the SLFP and the UPFA alliance, Sirisna showed enough mettle to express his determination to prevent Rajapaksa coming back to power. Probably this created enough confusion among the leaders who jumped to the Rajapaksa camp to carry out damage control. Sirisena dissolved the Central Committee which was working against his interests as party leader at the first opportunity without the usual political palaver. If he can build upon his credibility, chances for the durability of the national unity government are bright. And that is necessary to fulfill the promises he made to get the January 8th mandate from the people.

4. Ranil’s tough task table: The smooth-talking prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has a tough task ahead. From his interview to The Hindu, he appears to be aware of it. Completion of the structural change process to improve integrity of national institutions; improve accountability of the government and administration to the people; complete corruption investigations and bring the culprits to book; refine the election process; resume the political process with Tamil leadership to bring it to a logical conclusion; and last, but not least, build national consensus to produce a constitution to embed the changes made. This a tall order for any political leader to fulfill. Ranil had failed to take the peace process 2002 to a satisfactory conclusion; and President Kumaratunga and Prabhakaran were there to share the blame. But he has none now. Can he succeed? He appears to be clear that the UNP and SLFP have to come together to fulfill his tasks. Though President Sirisena is with him, will SLFP stop sharpening their axes and rise up to the occasion to help the prime minister? Even the famous court astrologers would not dare to answer this question; so it’s wait-and-watch time now.

5. Muslim polity: The election has shown that the Muslim voter is no more the meek follower of their leaders. They cannot take the peoples support for granted any more. That means in future the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) will think twice before going along with Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa’s failure to attend to the concerns of Muslim community during anti-Muslim violence by fringe elements has cost him dearly in both the elections he faced. It could haunt him for some time despite all his skill at political maneuvering.

6. Tamils want positive action: The Tamil voter wants action-oriented approach than an emotional approach to improve his lot now. He is getting tired of empty rhetoric glorifying Tamils, notwithstanding the indelible and grime memories of the LTTE armed struggle for separate Eelam. The moderates within the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leadership had excluded former LTTE cadres in their electoral discourse. But they cannot ignore their genuine grievances highlighted by their independent group, in any political dialogue with the Wickremesinghe government. To sum up, TNA should work on an action plan to immediately improve the quality of life of the war-affected population still living on the fringe as well as take up development work without any delay. For this they need to adopt a nuanced approach than solely depending upon resumption of political dialogue process. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has indicated that his willingness to rework the federal format within the ambit of 13th constitutional amendment. Though this may not meet Tamil aspirations fully, Tamils should use this opportunity to work with him rather than against him lest they miss the opportunity when the constitution is recast. In a nut shell, Tamil leaders will have to be pragmatic rather than dogmatic in their approach.

7. No corruption: Rajapaksa’s failure showed people are probably not going to forget the allegations of massive corruption against him soon. This would come as a surprise for many because corruption is an endemic problem in Sri Lanka, just as it is in India or any other South Asian country. So political leaders of all hues will have to clean up their style of backroom politics. Such an environment would enable President Sirisena to introduce checks to root out not only corruption in public life and government but also break up the politico-bureaucrat-business nexus that had been the bane of Sri Lanka.

8. Time for positive action from Tamil Nadu: The defeat of Rajapaksa has deprived Tamil Nadu politicians and TV anchors of their favourite whipping horse. The soft profile of Sirisena, and lack of fireworks in Sri Lanka politics now and conciliatory noises at the UNHRC have pushed Sri Lanka from mainstream political discourse in Tamil Nadu. The success of Sirisena-Wickremesinghe combine in the parliamentary election has further downscaled Sri Lanka from visual media’s TRP quest. Time has come for the ruling AIADMK to get away from political rhetoric and to produce a broader positive action agenda to benefit Sri Lankan Tamils. They could expand upon the positive vibes created in the wake of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Jaffna to benefit Tamils trying to pick up their normal life. As a first step AIADMK should interact not only with Sri Lankan Tamil leaders but also the people to understand their pressing needs. Tamil Nadu has the resources to undertake this; what is needed is the will. Some of the areas that come to mind are increasing job opportunities for widows and youth by investing in new enterprises and opening up educational institutions in Tamil Nadu. Such positive action could reinforce the AIADMK’s political strength particularly at a time when opposition parties are in total disarray and state elections are in the horizon.

*Col R Hariharan, a retired MI specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (1987-90). He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-mail for feedback: haridirect@gmail.com Blog: http://col.hariharan.info

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    Not a word about the rule of law and democracy.

    • 3
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      The take away is “saambar”

  • 2
    3

    If ex-Colonel HAriharan is correct, So Karunanidhi saluting Ranil must be what the central govt wanted.

  • 1
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    How many times we are telling this Bahen chood, bodhnaasia Retired Col. Ramani Hariharan not to criticise SRI LANKA , lot more areas to focus in India where he belongs to.

    Col.Hariharan was IPKF commanding officer possibly he had revenge what he was ill treated or lessons what he had at then. Possibly col.Hari seen few deaths of his closest fellow soldiers died in combat war. So Col. Hariharan may criticise on the grounds of revenge or vengeance.

    This is no more LTTE, Mahinda Rajapakse war state, please COLOMBO TELEGRAPH must stop allow his critics in here.

    He’s biased, partial, his prime agenda tease China or make bitter grievances between SRI LANKA Vs CHINA .

    Read this article find out if it’s pin points any friendly coherences of SL -China ?

    Be vigil , this is Indian intellligence RAW wants keep remain SRI LANKA under tense or economic decline, or dependent on INDIA ……As Srilankan academics, bureaucrats do we need that state of demure any longer.

    STOP WRITING INDIAN RAW ABOUT SRI LANKA. OR LABEL THIS COLOMBO TELEGRAPH DELHI TELEGRAPH.

    INDIA WANTS SRI LANKA FOREVER MISERY.

    • 1
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      Dharmass

      “How many times we are telling this Bahen chood, bodhnaasia Retired Col. Ramani Hariharan not to criticise SRI LANKA , lot more areas to focus in India where he belongs to.”

      1. He is an expert on Sri Lankan affairs and knows inside out of this island. There are of course other experts who are focusing on other areas of India.

      2. As far as Hindians are concerned Sri Lanka is the Sinhala state of Hindia. Therefore Hariharan is duty bound to keep an eye on Hindia’s another state.

      What seems to be your problem?

  • 6
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    And YES: India has TO STOP ever encouraging terrorism in Sri Lanka: That was the cause of all the chain events that followed including the election twice of a man who defeated the Indian trained, Indian armed, Hindian financed Tamil Tigers. As a result of beating the once Indian supported Tamil Tigers(India stopped Sri Lankan armed forces under the amazing Denzil Kobbekaduwa from beating them at much less cost in terms of casualties in 1987), he was able to become a Robert Mugabe or Marcos like arrogant corrupt dictator. Thank you Hariharan for helping screw up our nation. Thank you Hariharan for not have the honor or dignity or character(oh well why am I bothering after all you are all Yindians) to at least NOW after 28 years issue a mea culpa and have the honor to ADMIT in these columns what your poverty filled, caste ridden riddle of a nation with extremes of wealth and extremes of poverty did.

    Now that RAjapakse is gone, ADMIT HERE and ASK US FOR FORGIVENESS for INDIA’s FILTHY DIRTY GEO POLITICAL GAMES.

  • 2
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    ” Yes; Southern Sinhala Buddhist constituency will probably continue to vote for him. “

    What you refer to above consists of 71% of the population. Yet whether MR received the votes of half of that population is questionable. TNA which follows the LTTE agenda and claims to represent 11% of the population similarly received less than half of that vote, (less than 5% of the total, but a disproportionate 16 seats enabling it to make a far louder noise than it should be able to).

    Your expectations from Tamil Nadu are less than likely to materialize. It’s leaders will not change their spots.

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      Why expect Tamil Nadu to help Sri Lankan Tamils since Sri Lanka has a higher per capita income than Tamil Nadu and India as a whole? TN politicians are only using the situation in Sri Lanka for political reasons and not for the welfare of our Sri Lankan Tamils. Of course, TN will lend material support to terrorists to destabilise Sri Lanka as did the Indian state apparatus. What is required of India along with TN is a one of payment as compensation for the promotion of terrorism to assist Sri Lankan Tamil community with. Let the Sri Lankan Tamil community decide how to use these funds to assist their welfare. Compensation is a must!

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        lal loo

        “TN will lend material support to terrorists to destabilise Sri Lanka as did the Indian state apparatus.”

        Hindian establishment used Tamil Nadu (proximity) to destabilize this island. If Tamil Nadu was populated by Bengali, Odhissa, … speaking people still Hindians would have used the land irrespective who lived in Tamil Nadu.

        Sri Lankan Tamils rights were not the sole motive of Hindians.

        As usual you have got your sense of history and actual history twisted in your Amude.

  • 10
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    Colonel

    Takeaways From Sri Lanka General Election:

    *** Takeaways are fine if they are cooked properly and edible just like the Kentucky Fried Chicken. They can be trained at Amma Unavagam.

    But I am worried about the left overs ( Palam Choru) and there is a pile rotting and smelling and the stench is awful.
    I am not sure if MS & RW have the Modern Machinery to clear them. It is a bit like my visit to Mathurai Meenatchi Amman Temple where the rubbish is cleared by men and women sweeping all day along whereas if it is done by Modern Machinery the job will only take few hours.

    Can you have a word with them and ask them to speed up the process and your help will be much appreciated. If not can you get IPKF to flex the muscles.

  • 1
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    With President Maithree and Prime Minister Ranil W, in control of the government, fairplay and justice would be given the due place and minorities can be rest assured of fair solutions for their problems. However, they have to act very carefully and convince the majority in a gradual manner to ensure lasting solutions. The minorities have to trust them and show patience. We can be rest assured there would not be any sponsored violence as has happened before.

    It is important the Tamilnadu politicians have to keep away from SrilankanTamil issues as this is a local issue and could be handled internally. We know these bankrupt politicians do these as a survival for themselves and give a wrong dimensionto to the Srilankan Tamil issue. If they keep away that itself would give confidence to the majority, Sinhalese, and would be more conciliatory.

  • 2
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    Ranil is a softy softy jackal who brought a split in the TNA and who will not do anything substantial to the Tamils. Who will comprise in the team whom he is going to appoint for an internal inquiry. What happens to the report of the UN. That will be shelved for good. Will the internal inquiry bring to light the use of chemical weapons used during the war by the armed forces against the Tamil civilians for which India, Pakistan and the US are responsible too. Tamil Nadu is the only salvage to the Tamils of Sri Lanka, not even the supposed Tamil leaders in the North of Sri Lanka.

  • 3
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    Poverty India is going to be by stander in the future of Sri Lanka affaires ..neither Sinhalese nor Tamils will support poverty Indians this is certain.

    If current government will bend mush to USA ..this will anger Greater Chine who has already engulfed this dirty ..poverty India this is what SL Tamils are looking for

    The truth is SL has become a playground for super powers ….

    India should suffer for her unnecessary involvement in SL affairs and Murderpakse has said many times that he fought the war for poverty India .

    You and your government and many Indian politicians and officers have got the blood of SL Tamils in the hands don’t forget this ..and it is the cardinal duty of SL Tamils to repay the gratitude.

    Go and tell the jokers at your South block that SL Tamils are 1000 times better than Indian Tamils in education and economy .

    You are from a country where your stupid central government is unable to solve the water dispute among South Indian states since independence and you jokers poking your nose into others affaires .

    Not a single country in S.E Asia respect this poverty India today..

    Cheers

  • 3
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    Kali”…Mathurai Meenatchi Amman Temple where the rubbish is cleared by men and women sweeping all day along whereas if it is done by Modern Machinery the job will only take few hours…”

    Kali – Inida has enough labour force to do this sort of work menial work. Its cheaper and more efficient and proivde employment and livelihood.

    Modern machines need maitenance and they pollute the atmosphere as well as making noise and breaking the peace and tranqulity of the temple suroundings.

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      Rajash

      Stuck in the past are you. This is a Modern era and you can do “Archanai” on line.

      • 0
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        Kali “This is a Modern era and you can do “Archanai” on line. “

        Well you are the one stuck in the past.
        I do Archanai directly with the god using “whatsup” and “sanpchat” cut of the middleman

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      Rajash

      Can you enlighten me on what I can take away with Sambar.

      • 0
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        Kali “Can you enlighten me on what I can take away with Sambar”. I thought MR was serving Thosai masaal vadai with sambol as well

  • 0
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    “So political leaders of all hues will have to clean up their style of backroom politics. Such an environment would enable President Sirisena to introduce checks to root out not only corruption in public life and government but also break up the politico-bureaucrat-business nexus that had been the bane of Sri Lanka.”

    Corruption at its peak during MRs Regime as summarized hereunder:

    1. Case No. 474/2015 at Fort M.C. dealing with Hedging Fund and involving A.N.Cabraal, PB Jayasuendra, A de Mel, L.Karunaratne (Rs.200-700 Million ) 2. Case No. 24327/2015 at Chief M.C.(3) In the matter of Lanka Hospital shares and connected to G. Rajapakse, Roshini ,Cabraal, N.Godahewa, D.Jayaweera, M. Medihewa, W.Amunugamuwa, D.P.Y. Wijesinghe. (Rs. 600 million) 3. B26907/3/15 at Colombo M.C re Housing deals connected with W.Weerasena,B.K.J.K.Perera. 4. B/40/2015 at Kaduwella M.C. re Land purchases, involving Mrs. W.Weerasena, C.S.Ranasinhe. 5. B323/15 in Tangalle M.C. about Carlton Pre-school construction involving State Eng. Corporation Staff (Rs. 35 million) 6. 8674/15 in Pugoda M.C. re Development works, involving B.Rajapakse, N. Thirukumar 7. B22467/1/15 at Colombo Chief M.C. re Money Laundering by M. Aluthgamage (Rs. 3 – 27 million) 8. B22468/1/15 in Colombo Chief M.C. on Wealth acquired of Dr.P.B. Wickrema. 9. B25389/1/15 at Colombo C.M.Court re Money Laundering by G.Senarath. 10. B25166/3/15 at Colombo Ch M.C. Teleshan TV Network with A.Pilapita S.Wickremasinghe, and Sil Reddi with L.Weeratunga and Ven.V.Somananda Thero. 11. B9825/15 at Kaduwela M.C. re CSN Channel involving ITN Directorate & Staff. 12. B35/15 at Kaduwela M.C. re ownership of Marriot Hotel in Dubai with N.Lokuwitharne and M.Rajapakse ( Rs. 48 to 190 million) 13. B27453/1/15 at Hultsdorf M.C. about Lanka Logistics Arms importing connected to G.Rajapakse, P.B.Jayasundera, Mohan Peiris, J.Wickremasinghe. 14. B/663/15 at Fort M.C. on Bank of Ceylon, Seychelles by M. Rajapakse & family 15. Greek Bonds purchase with names of Cabraal & Rajapakse in Petition Colombo M.C of 15.8.15 involving Rs. 1257 million 16. Sajin Vass Gunewardena in abuse of Public property, at Fort Magistrate Court, remanded since May, 2015. Also at Bribery Com. for questionable Assets. 17. Petition accepted in Supreme Court on 6.8.15 re Vehicle Permits abuse 18. Case No. 50/10 at High Courts, Kandy: Captain Wickremasinghe`s activity in Giritale Army Camp re Torture Chambers – under G. Rajapakse`s directions?

  • 0
    0

    Retiree R.Hariharan, while I can not speak for all SL Tamils I do in fact strongly believe the vast majority of us do not care for u and ur likes.. With that, I again request that u please please go away. I doubt the Sinhalese, too, care for you all that much either. SL Tamils now know, more than ever in the history of time, that you and ur likes are vultures and hyenas.. You and ur community will NEVER have a friend amongst the SL Tamils.

    I suggest u see to the protection of ur minority community within TN which is set to loose to the dravidian idiots in the next 100 years.. than worry about SLs.

    U have already failed at ur only jobs as intelligence for the IPKF. Why are u still analysing SL?

    Its funny how u try to analyze SL Tamils when ur Tamil and English is third rate horse crap.. Ur time as a retiree would be better spent learning Tamil and English than analyzing the SL issue.. I say this after having watched ur Thanthi interview. It always amuses me when TN Tamils resort to injecting English words and sentences into their conversation to distinguish themselves from the masses.. What is funny is that both ur Tamil and English diction will not pass anywhere outside of India

    Dear Sinhalese people.. this guy does not care for SL Tamils nor the Sinhalese, and he is purely for the interest of India above all else. please join me in shooing away this nuisance..

    I can tell by the interview u gave on Thanthi that u r not too bright.. although u think u r.. I suggest u watch how SL Tamils speak and analyze and then watch ur interview, which u can find on youtube. You will probably agree with me that we (SL Tamils) do NOT, in fact, need ur third rate analysis.. which has just basically been summing up general knowledge that everyone ,Sinhalese and SL Tamils, already know.

    I think ur time would be better spent teaching ur country men not to spit, piss, and shit on the streets in ur great India.

    The only reason India will be perpetually stronger than SL is because of ur 1+ billion population count and NOT because any one of u are all that bright..

    Unite SLs!!!!!
    Unite SLs!!!!!
    Unite SLs!!!!!
    No landbridge from India to SL!!!!!
    No landbridge from India to SL!!!!!
    No landbridge from India to SL!!!!!
    Balanced Policy with every country!!!!!
    Balanced Policy with every country!!!!!
    Balanced Policy with every country!!!!!

    • 1
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      Vetri Vel (for now)

      “I think ur time would be better spent teaching ur country men not to spit, piss, and shit on the streets in ur great India.”

      PLease make sure you do not keep your mouth open when his men spit, piss, and shit on the streets in their great India, while your wife and daughters shop at Pothys, T Nagar, Madras.

  • 4
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    The Rajapakse fault line is apltly described by the following story:

    “THE BOILING FROG SYNDROME..!!

    Put a frog in a vessel of water and start heating the water…

    As the temperature of the water rises, the frog is able to adjust its body temperature accordingly…

    The frog keeps on adjusting with increase in temperature…

    Just when the water is about to reach boiling point, the frog is not able to adjust anymore…

    At that point the frog decides to jump out…

    The frog tries to jump but is unable to do so, because it lost all its strength in adjusting with the water temperature…

    Very soon the frog dies. What killed the frog?

    Many of us would say the boiling water…

    But the truth is what killed the frog was its own inability to decide when it had to jump out…

    We all need to adjust with people and situations, but we need to be sure when we need to adjust and when we need to confront / face…

    There are times when we need to face the situation and take the appropriate action…

    If we allow people to exploit us physically, mentally, emotionally or financially, they will continue to do so…

    We have to decide when to jump…

    Let us jump while we still have the strength !!

    Think on It !! “

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 3
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      RN
      “Very soon the frog dies. What killed the frog?
      Many of us would say the boiling water…
      But the truth is what killed the frog was its own inability to decide when it had to jump out…”

      Thanks for that now I can enjoy my lobster without feeling guilty.

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