By Dayan Jayatilleka –
I have been mentioned in an article entitled Sajith Sabotages SJB MPs’ Revelations On Easter Attacks Probe – Colombo Telegraph.
I cannot see any logical reason to mention me in an article with such a title and topic because my stance and line of critical, analytical query on the Easter massacre has been clear and on the record, in my regular column in the Daily FT as well as on the Colombo Telegraph, as far back as March 2021. 10 Points To Ponder On The Easter Sunday Terrorist Massacre & The Commission Report – Colombo Telegraph
I have certainly pulled no punches on the Gotabaya presidency, and have been one of the earliest and most consistent critics of the ultranationalist-militaristic regime model as is evidenced by my analyses on television and regular newspaper column. See most recently:
As for the rest, it is certainly true that I have argued and shall continue to emphatically assert the following:
1. The absurdity of urging or suggesting that the SJB and Sajith Premadasa follow a policy adhered to by a party they no longer belong to. That party was wiped out electorally and it would be lunacy to assume that the electoral elimination had nothing to do with its policies and practices. Why would any new party which by its very birth, had enabled some to escape the electoral elimination experienced by the parent party, embrace the policies that were so totally rejected by the electorate?
2. When the Federal Party emerged from the Tamil Congress, the SLFP from the UNP, the JVP from the Communist Party (Maoist), the SLMP from the SLFP, the DUNF from the UNP, and the SLPP from the SLFP, no one expected the newly emergent entity to adopt the policies of the old, nor was such a question ever raised accusatorily. It is ridiculous that the question arises now, especially after the total wipeout of the UNP, and the partial wipeout of the SLFP, which were the constituents of the Yahapalanaya government.
3. Even when a party had a leadership change which far more modest than a breakaway, no one thought to ask the new leadership about its loyalty to the policies of the old. JR Jayewardene’s policies had far more discontinuity than continuity with the policies and profile of the Dudley Senanayake UNP. The same was true of the SLFP when the leadership changed from Madam Bandaranaike to Chandrika Kumaratunga and from Chandrika to Mahinda Rajapaksa successively. Why should the same be untrue of the new party the SJB and the new leadership, that of Sajith Premadasa?
4. The eccentricity of insisting on the abolition as distinct from the reform of the executive presidency. The great powers in global competition today, the USA and China, have perhaps only one thing in common: the presidential system. Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, four have presidential systems. The argument that the executive presidency as such makes for despotism is an exclusively Sri Lankan neoliberal argument because dozens of countries with Presidencies that have experienced dictatorships, ranging from Chile to South Korea, Argentina to Indonesia and Uruguay to the Philippines, have thrown out the dictators and rebalanced their political systems by strengthening the separation of powers, but none have been nihilistic enough to even consider, still less implement an abolition of the presidential system.
5. At the last election it was clear that the mass mood was against the ‘225’ i.e., the parliament and parliamentarians. Today it has certainly shifted against the incumbent president and hopefully the excessive concentration of power in the presidency through the 20th amendment, but in no way in the direction of transferring all power to the parliamentarians/parliament and abolishing the presidency. When the presidential election in 3 ½ years is the first chance of defeating this regime and the mainstream Opposition finally has someone who is a youthful, electable centrist—who has been described by Ronnie de Mel as the “only hope for the country”—I regard it as criminal folly or active sabotage to raise yet again the tattered banner of the abolition of the executive presidency.
I am for the broadest united front against dictatorship, but not for one which confuses dictatorship with the presidency and includes the abolition of the latter as a plank of a platform. I am not saying that any united front platform should affirm support for the presidency, but that the absurd slogan, which plays into the hands of the Sinhala ultranationalists and alienates the rank-and file of the military by renewing fears among the Sinhala majority of a centrifugal weakening of the state, should be set aside.
The SJB should, in my view, not enter a united front which the abolition—as distinct from the democratizing reform of the executive presidency which brings it into line with the USA and France—is a feature.
The main opposition party’s biggest comparative advantage this time around is its leader who has the reputation of a socially caring personality; the inheritor of a model and continuator of a tradition which is far more capable of rapid yet equitable economic recovery than the autocratic-nepotistic SLPP and the neoliberal UNP of the last quarter century.