24 February, 2024


The Battle For The Minds Of People Can Be Won 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The Joint Opposition was successful in political and psychological terms when it succeeded in ensuring large scale participation of its supporters at its May Day event. Galle Face Green, which covers 18 acres of land, is perhaps the largest open air venue for public events in the country. In the past this has been the venue allocated to the Pope to conduct religious services as was last done in 2015. Members of the Joint Opposition claimed that the crowd at the May Day rally of the Joint Opposition was even larger than those who came to attend the Pope’s event. But there was also a difference. The vast majority of those who came to see the Pope did so at their own expense. They were neither bused nor provided with meals and drinks by the Church.

At the last presidential elections held in 2015, nearly 5.8 million people voted for former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is likely that most of them continue to repose their trust and confidence in the former president. The crowds that thronged Galle Face Green would account for a small fraction of that political base. Joint Opposition members claimed that public participation at their event was more than those of all other May Day rallies combined. What was needed was organizational skill and determination to bring them down to one location, and of course, the financial resources to pay for their travel. It appears that the Joint Opposition considered more to be at stake for their futures, and so outdid the others in money and effort to gain the psychological edge.

From the time of its unexpected victory at the presidential elections of January 2015, the government has been steadily losing the political and psychological advantage that it had. This is mainly on account of its inability to show the general public that it is a dynamic and can-do government that has a plan and is implementing its plan. This is only partly on account of the government being a coalition of two equal parties, each of which has taken turns in governing the country in the past. This time around for the first time they are working together with a lot of give and take and giving a lot of space to each other and to the polity in general. The problem is that they are not communicating a coherent message about their vision and plans to the people.

Opposition Alliances

The most positive feature of the present government is the space it has given to everyone in the polity to discuss and debate on public issues. But this freedom is being used mainly by those in the opposition who criticise whatever the government does and use the political space to mobilize protests against the government. The government fails to use the space for discussion and debate to take its own message to the people. Instead the government is limiting its discussion and debate to within itself, and to small groups within it, whether it is on economic policy or constitutional reform or transitional justice. The government needs to find ways to take leadership of the debate and discussion and take it to the masses of the people.

By way of contrast, the Joint Opposition strategy is one of going to key groups, such as religious clergy and professionals, and making their case in a nationalistic manner. They conjure up fears of external interventions and erosion of national security and are forging alliances with important trade unions such as the GMOA to oppose the government. In some instances they are opposing the very processes that they launched during their tenure in government. They are now criticizing the very things they set up. This is not based on policy but on partisan politics. These include the strike by doctors of the GMOA over the issue of the private medical school (SAITM) and against the Hambantota port development project both of which were set up and set on course during the period of the previous government.

In this context the government needs to go back to the vision of good governance and inter-ethnic justice that it presented to the people at the 2015 elections and which won for it the majority of votes of the electorate. The government also made commitments to the international community especially regarding the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the GSP Plus of the EU which need to be delivered on. The government needs to spell out is vision to the people and explain why it made those commitments and why they are in the best interests of the country, and not a betrayal as asserted by the Joint Opposition.

Responsive People 

Last week at educational workshops were organized by the National Peace Council for students of Kelaniya and Peradeniya universities on the issues of the UNHRC resolution. The main issues discussed was what is required to be done in terms of ascertaining the truth about the past, ensuring accountability for human rights violations and compensation for victims, and changing the constitution to facilitate a political solution. The students were given the opportunity to express their own opinions in small groups of 8-12 students. Three of the four groups said that their priorities were truth first, and accountability and compensation second. One of the four groups reported that their priorities were compensation first and accountability second.

It was significant that the students did not reject the notion of transitional justice in the manner of nationalists who say that war heroes are being persecuted. This was after they had been educated about what accountability in international law really means, without the false propaganda of the opposition. Political education was done on a mass scale during the war by former president Chandrika Kumaratunga with support from Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. They led the Sudu Nelum movement to explain to the people the need for a political solution based on the devolution and sharing of power between the ethnic communities. The rest of the government leaders at that time also went to the people with the message that the President was taking with determination.

The government was able to secure a victory in the EU parliament a fortnight ago when an attempt was made to deny Sri Lanka the benefits of the GSP Plus tariff concession. However, obtaining the tariff concession remains contingent upon the government’s delivery of a number of commitments in terms of international human rights and labour covenants for which the government has to reform some of the laws of the land. It also needs to implement the provisions of the UNHRC resolution for which it has obtained a further two years. The problem, however, is that the government is not taking up the implementation of its commitments wholeheartedly, although it agreed to them on the basis that they were for the good of the country. Instead of being deterred by the size of the Joint Opposition event at Galle Face Green the government needs to take the fight to the people why its way is better.

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Latest comments

  • 8

    Why yahapalanaya is better? ?? You are delusional.. it’s Not Better!!

    • 0

      Jehan Perera:
      Ranil-Sira Jarapalanaya has lost the people’s vote because of massive corruption, failure to convict a single member of the Mahinda Jarapassa extended family who looted the people of Sri Lanka, and because of the massive escalation of political corruption.
      Take the example of Sri lankan Airlines and the massive loss caused after Mahinda Jarapaasa’s brother in law became CEP. That crook Nishantha Wickramasinghe is still at large, while people have to pay more taxes to bail out corrupt politicians and their families!

      The people are fed up of UNP-SLFP CORRUPTION.

      Next Elections will see the JVP win with a land slide – they are the only clean and relatively honest SInhala political party NOW.

    • 0

      Mr. Perera, Human Rights is a game for the US and EU which ignore Social and Economic Rights and justice. This is why there are more wars and refugees today than ever before in human history, while 8 individuals own over half the world’s wealth according to OXFAM’s report at DAVOS.
      Even civil and political rights is a game. US gives green cards to corrupt politicians and third world military dictators, (Gota, Basil, Sarath Fonseka all have green cards), Many who launder their monies via Shell Companies in the US! Gota and Basil have stolen from the people of Sri Lanka and laundered massive amounts of money to the USA in addition to implication in war cirmes! Where are the CORRUPTION INVESTIGATIONS into FINANCIAL CRIMES against the People of Lanka? Today there is a massive failure of Western block international organizations – UN, IMF, World Bank which prat about Human Rights in Geneva, but there are not economic and social rights for people of global south.

    • 0

      Thanks for your valuable article.

      The problem, however, is that the government is not taking up the implementation of its commitments wholeheartedly, although it agreed to them on the basis that they were for the good of the country -unquote.

      Assume, the govt would stand mercilessly against the high criminals, by proving the charges being levels at former president and his men-
      do you think that those blind men would come to street by protest marches ?

      Why cant the govt make it clear to the nation as to why if high criminals will have to face the charges as is the case for any citizen ?

      People are fed with blatant lies by JO men, on and on. That should be stopped by any new mechanism.

      Media men should be warned about their biased info flows in favours of Rajapakshe.
      This the goverment should focus without any further delay.

      People are no stupid as is the case in far poor cou ntries they have to realize it tomorrow.

      MBBS or others become doctors or degree holders by the funds being sacrificed by tax payers should be made clear to the nation. Most think that STATE must pay their education.
      There are devleoping countries that they dont offer free education, free health and free all various other things as is the case in srilanka. Why the press cant reveal all these.

      Why Govt FAILS to address these issues giving the priority ?

      People should open their eyes, if injustice is given a place, they can stay rotten for the decades ahead of us. Is that what we the over 90% literate nation in South asian region want ?

    • 0

      Whoever whatever being said and done:


      But it will not be easy them too, since people focus on nothing about improvement of human rights, but if the grass or rice packets would have been distributed to them.

      Latter is clear to MAHINDA RAJAPAKSHE and he just therefore, entertain the less time before him.

      However, Mr President and PM Ranil have no idea that they have to prioratize with their agendas by reaching grass root level folks – by sending the message across the nation.

      This can only be done, if they the rulers would corner JOINT OPPOSITION IDIOTS one behind the others. They have no been doing all what they can to sabotage any good being done by current men.

  • 5

    “This was after they had been educated about what accountability in international law really means, without the false propaganda of the opposition.”

    Any attempt to forcibly enforce accountability mechanisms without educating either side of the conflict will lead to more conflict.

    The Yahapalanaya is not about personalities. It is more about the political system. Otherwise, what Yahapalanaya can we expect from old crooks such as SB, Rajitha, Ranil, to name a few?

  • 5

    Minister Rajitha Senaratne said during the Cabinet media briefing that a special unit would be formed under the command of Field Martial Sarath Fonseka, to deal with issues such as trade union agitations. This gave rise to tension among trade unions and JVP and Jarapaksa cronies.

    the moment fonsekas name was mentioned the JO started shivering!

  • 8

    One time Mr Clean, Dr Batalanda Ranil is wearing soiled pants of Galleon, Dr Mahendran, Malik Samraweeran and now even Deputy Governor Sumanasiri.

    The mob have driven down our Economy to the lowest growth in 15 years .

    After the UNP Ministers and MPs sold their free Car permits for LKR 34 Million each, the FX in the Bank Vault will pay for only 3 months of imports.

    With that scenario , Yahapalana Racketeers will have their work cut out to win over even the Elite and Anglicans in Colombo.

    Vellalas in contrast have got a new lease of life with Batalanda Ranil’s steering committee sneaking in dodgy clauses to facilitate the North East Merger.

    And castrating the Governors to give Chief ministers total control of Government Land and Police Powers.

    Also the the Chief Ministers will have total Powers to decide who comes in to their respective provinces to start commercial enterprises.and businesses.

    I am thrilled that the GMOA has taken up the fight to save the Dalits from total deprivation of their Free Education, Free Health Care and protect their Jobs from Indians.

    It was also pleasing to see the Red Baby Elephant has finally said some thing along the same lines.

    And promised to mobilize the Union members who are under their control..

    I was in Mullative for two nights , And spoke to a few locals.

    But none of them have seen even a few hundred bodies being ferried ,let alone 40,000 coffins.

    They in fact told me that the Mullative Town Center was intact, and all the fighting was from Nathikadal Lagoon to Pudduthikuruppu., which is only a 10 k stretch.

    It would have been a real battle to kill and dispose of so may Tigers, in a small area where only gas available is Laughs.

    I am totally surprised that our Perdeniya Undergrads were so receptive to Dr Jehan’s brain washing sessions.

  • 1

    The Head of Nil Balakaya (Blue Brigade) thought that the youth,who got voting right between 2010-2014, would be behind MR. It was not so because they were more informed than their parents through Social Media.

    A close examination of the crowds, showed that the Youth were not with JO Rally. By 2020, the voters in the age group of 18-35, will play a lead role in the next General and Presidential Elections. With whom they would be depends on YP addressing the issues of unemployment, education, health, corruption, nepotism, and creating opportunity for the youth to enter mainstream of politics.

  • 0

    I guess I found the bug in SL politics – All elected are pure Sri Lankans :)

    By the way, I saw about 30 bus full of people were heading towards Colombo from down south. One of the buses stopped just in front of a wine store, grabbed ‘holy water’ bottles.

  • 1

    When ex-president Obama won the first election, a question was asked by intelligentsia. “Are Americans ready to accept a Black president or is this a demonstration to get rid of failed Bush policies. Mitt Romney did not win the 2012 election though he substantially differed from President Bush. This confirmed Americans are ready to take a Black President.

    Out of all the Lankawe leaders, Dudley and Chandrika are least popular in the history (Not infamous). They two failed to create waves like Don Stephen, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias, Sirimavo, Junius Richard, P. Richard and Percy. The main reason is that they two were favored by Tamils, or it was widely perceived that their policies were not anti-Tamil enough for Sinhala mass.

    There was time the UNP tyranny had been at a level beyond the Modaya Mass were able to take. Suppression of JVP was an extreme monstrous action. That time, Chandrika placed forward some policies based on her life with Vijaya Kumaratunga. The 1994 election was won. But she did not implement even 1/100 of what she promised to Tamils.

    Obama did most of the matters he promised in the first election campaign. Whites voted for him in his second election. This is not what happened in Chandrika’s election. She advanced the election one year earlier to be before she loses her popularity. She reversed from “Sudu Nelum”. Instead of Sudu Nelum, Chandrika had put forward “War for Peace” as her second election slogan. Next election also she won. But her 2nd election winning confirmed she was elected in the first only get rid of UNP’s 17 years Tranny. So instead of it confirming like Obama situation, it confirmed the opposite side.

  • 1

    The 2005 election was the final nail on this fake Sudu Nelum propaganda. Ranil had signed the peace accord with LTTE. Without Ranil knowing and ignoring the peace treaty, Ambassador Blake, by using American satellites to locate LTTE ships, was supporting Chandrika to carry forward the war. Old King had made a secret deal with LTTE, but not ready to release it to public as they looked forward at him to take ahead the war from Chandrika, instead of honoring Ranil’s peace accord. Ranil was defeated by Sinhalese for making peace deal and Old King was allowed to take the help from American and continue the war.

    Chandrika’s Sudu Nelum did not bring her election victory, but in contrast, Sirimavo’s, JR’s and Old King’s destruction to Tamils’ education, employments and to their lands of Living showed how much Sinhalese appreciate if the Tamils are crushed to zero. Neither Dudley nor Chandrika was able to imitate this even though Chandrika got involved in war crimes.

    DS and SWRD had very artistically identified the easily feed-able racist thirst existing in Sinhalese. They exploited it and passed that secret to the coming generations. That is why, after SLFP & UNP was united to form a national unity government, where neither party would not try to take advantage of either party solving Tamils problem which is perceived as anti-Sinhala initiation, the Joint Comedy Club was able to demonstrate that they are stronger in crowd gathering the two parties combined. If Jehan PhD’s new invention at the two Southern universities were true, then there would not have been need to form a joint government to solve Tamils problem.

  • 1

    Further, the fear of both major parties to take their message to Sinhala mass is real, not unsubstantiated as Jehan PhD showing here.
    Sinhala readers in their comments have repeatedly shown their how much enthusiasm in there with in the educated Sinhala crowd to change their anti-Tamil stands.
    Jehan PhD is continuously playing the same old tricks. Last two years he concentrated on threatening, coercing, blackmailing and converting the North – East to force them to accept his preaching. This time, to maintain the opinion, he visited to Southern Universities. His reported results are far away from a controlled experiment to assess the cause effect of educating Sinhala mass. Nobody knows what Jehan presented to the students when there is no evaluation available of what happened in Mullivaaikkaal. Nobody knows if the students were tested of if they had understood the grave destruction took place in Mullivaaikkaal. Nobody knows if the students understand what it means of taking responsibility in that kind of grave destruction. If the students were introduced a political lesson of responsibility, compensation and political solution, say something like JVP was seeking, that has no relevancy here. If no Tamil lecturer was present, then the students would have had extremely difficult time to connect it with Tamils’ racially charged practical situation rather than to a theoretical political question. Then their answers are not about the Sinhala racism and Tamils self-rule solution.
    The crowd at Galle Face Green was created by all three parties, who are UNP, SLFP and SLPP, to issues threat to West before Ranil go to China. Ranil’s this visit to China may in future well be treated by Sinhalese as the next most important event after their freedom from West in February, 1948,

    This is just another dope of Koolukkum Paadi Kanchikkum Paadi Jehan PhD.

  • 0

    Jehan yet again says that the Lankan imbroglio is our own creation. Easy to get of this simply by changing our midset.

    What is wrong?

    • 0

      Until this article, Jehan PhD has been advertising that the government had done a lot and now it is Tamils’ part to come down on their demands. Now, Jehan PhD, just to claim that he is only one teaching the people about reconciliation, he wrote this essay narrow mindedly.

      Goverment is not talking about reconciliation to the people. There is no question on that. Democratic politics has embedded opposition in that. What happened to Wataraka Thero? How did Sobhitha Thero died? They wanted to teach Sinhala Chauvinist equality of races, rule by law. Lankawe opposition always powerful than ruling party on race relations. If the government is programming people on that, opposition always have deprogramming that. In’t that is why country still at this condition?

      Teaching a university students is not same of teaching common mass.

  • 0

    The writer is completely ignoring the reality of the Military Regime keeping people of two provinces in a state of suppression of their human rights with regard to ownership of homes, lands, livelihoods, worship, employment – in addition to many being IDPs in camps even eight years after the war ended.
    He was shy in mentioning this at his ‘educational workshops’.
    Why is he ignoring this problem which does not exist in any other country, long after hostilities ended?

    The people under the Military Regime voted for Maithripala Sirisena and made him president in the hope he will end their travails, but this did not happen.
    The MS regime aims for political survival at any cost.

  • 0

    Buggers have got rattled in style………..

  • 0

    Few may not know Yahapalanaya’s corruptions and tricks. But practically everyone knows why Jehan PhD writes his essays. Simple- To keep the donations flowing into his account.

    Here is problem from 1918 plaguing the country. Sir.Pon. Ramanathan who protected Lankawe Racial Harmony in 1915 expressed his disappointment in 1918 with majority leaders in legislative council deals.

    What is rationale behind the claim this small experiment has answer to 100 years old social problem. Is this something like Alexander Fleming’s penicillin?

    Jehan PhD went UNHCR’s 34th sitting on behalf of Government. Earlier Old Royals have been sending there Cinema actress and Hakeem. Now Jehan PhD is replacing them. When he came back he celebrated the success of having deferred the resolution 30/1 by two years, for nothing. This guy, who behaves like government agent, one time, wrote Brother Prince was helping the NGOs when he had placed stringent orders to bring them under his control.
    Is this a pretext to when tow years passes at UNHRC Appe Aanduwa can put a claims that we failed to teach Sinhala mass, so we need another two years. It is UNHRC –UN, not the University Students has to implement; not Jehan PhDs recommendations he invented with students; but the their resolution 30/1;

    This is how the Sinhala Intellectuals are destroying the country, not Just Tamils.

    First they came for Indian Coolies,
    I did not speak out, because I am not a coolie.
    Then they came for North-east Kallaththonies,
    I did not speak out, Because I am not a Kallaththony.
    Then they came for the Kaaththankudy Kalu thambiya,
    I did not speak out, Because I am not a Kalu Thambiya.
    Then they came for me—
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

    -a poem by a Sinhala Buddhist double crossed by Sinhala intellectuals.

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