1 December, 2020

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The SLFP In The 21st Century?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“An hereditary governor is as inconsistent as an hereditary author.” – Tome Paine (Rights of Man)

Does the ascension of Maithripala Sirisena to the leadership of the SLFP mark the definitive end of hereditary rule in Lankan politics? Will Maithripala Sirisena and Nimal Siripala de Silva succeed in doing what Mahinda Rajapaksa should have done – transform the SLFP from a semi-feudal entity into a modern democratic party?

For more than half a century, the SLFP was headed by three members of one single family – the Bandaranaikes. When Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the party leadership from Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, he had a unique opportunity to do for the SLFP what JR Jayewardene did for the UNP: end the monopoly rule of the founding-family and break the mould of hereditary leadership.

Mahinda Rajapaksa ended the monopoly rule of the SLFP’s founding-family but he did not break the mould of hereditary leadership. He de-Bandaranaikised the SLFP and turned it into a Rajapaksa party.

Maithri SWRDThe first clear signs of this transformation, like that of hailing Mahinda Rajapaksa as ‘High King’ (Maha Rajaneni), appeared soon after the victorious end of the war. At the November 2009 SLFP Convention, two main themes predominated: Mahinda Rajapaksa is the Leader-Hero-Saviour of the nation; the SLFP is a Bandaranaike-Rajapaksa party. According to this revised history DA Rajapaksa was the political-sibling of SWRD Bandaranaike and his natural successor. The Rajapaksa right to SLFP leadership was established by drawing a line of descent from DA the father to Mahinda the son.

By 2014, the transformation of the SLFP into a Rajapaksa party seemed almost complete. Basil Rajapaksa was the National Organiser. It was an open secret that he, and not General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena, was in control of the party machinery including the nomination process. Namal Rajapaksa controlled the youth wing. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was planning to enter electoral politics. Rajapaksa-loyalists were favoured when picking candidates for regional/national elections. Recent defectors from the UNP were given important positions; since they lacked a base within the SLFP, the Rajapaksas correctly considered then ‘safer’ than long standing party stalwarts.

Narrative changes paralleled organisational changes. In the new official party history, DA Rajapaksa was first depicted as being second only to SWRD Bandaranaike; then he was made coeval with Mr. Bandaranaike. By late 2014, he had almost replaced Mr. Bandaranaike as the paramount founder-leader. A symbol of this change was the gradual substitution of the Bandaranaike Commemoration with the Rajapaksa Commemoration as the SLFP’s chief memorial event[i]. When a museum dedicated to DA Rajapaksa and his wife were opened in Medamulana just a fortnight before the Maithripala-rebellion, the list of main attendees (President Rajapaksa, Speaker Rajapaksa, Minister Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa, Chief Minister Rajapaksa and Parliamentarian Rajapaksa) demonstrated how fast and far the new dynasty has grown[ii].

Though the Rajapaksas managed to dominate the SLFP, they could not hegemonise it, as subsequent events demonstrated.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the reins of the SLFP from an obviously unwilling Chandrika Bandaranaike, he was backed by most senior SLFPers. This support stemmed not from a desire to replace the old dynasty with a new one but from the belief that finally, the top leadership of the SLFP would cease to be a family affair. When that hope shattered with the creation of the Rajapaksa dynasty, it caused much hidden discontent within the upper echelons of the party.

The new dynasty was even more enveloping and abrasive than the old one. Party seniors were sidelined; veterans were compelled to kowtow to newcomers; grizzled men had to bow before beardless youths. Some seniors were reduced to the humiliating position of having to take their grievances to the obviously unsympathetic/uncomprehending Namal Rajapaksa. For instance, soon after the Maithripala-rebellion, Minister Janaka Bandara Tennekoon told a public gathering, “Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa came to our house. I told him, ‘Son, SLFPers have a problem. Attend to it. But he said nothing will happen’”[iii]. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa revealed his family’s contemptuous dismissal of ranking SLFPers when he told a Sinhala publication, “I can do much better than many of these politicians currently holding office[iv].

In response to the Sirisena-rebellion, Rajapaksa relatives became less visible in the media while the images of SWRD and Sirima Bandaranaike were returned to their former prominence. Despite these outward changes, the Rajapaksa grip on the SLFP remained unleavened. It would end only with election defeat.

A More Liberal Future?

In his first post-defeat interview, Namal Rajapaksa, instead of looking critically at his family’s disastrous attempt to create a new dynasty, actually defended it by claiming that the war was won because of familial rule: “The war was ended because of this bond within the family…. the leader needs someone they can trust.” When the interviewer asked ‘whether this was a feudal argument in a modern democracy’ Namal Rajapaksa gave a reply which revealed both his feudalist mindset and his paucity of understanding, “We always trusted each other….”[v]

In his hour of defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa revealed the nature of his true interests and loyalties. Nominations for himself and son Namal, immunity for his brothers and sons, an official residence for Brother Gotabaya, getting son Yoshitha out of the Navy – these, and not the fate of his political or military acolytes, were his concerns.

American sociologist Daniel Lev seems to have been right when he said that “there is no such thing as charismatic power…only charismatic situations”[vi]. The charismatic situation caused by victorious end of the Eelam war decided the 2010 election. But by 2015, it has been eroded by a number of factors, especially the obvious Rajapaksa inability to deliver the peace dividend.

So the Rajapaksas’ long moment in history is gone. The Family may dream of a triumphant return; but piggybacking on the SLFP is no longer possible as Rajapaksa-control over the SLFP is over. Most remaining Rajapaksa loyalists are recent defectors from other parties, like Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila. Most of the millions who voted for the Betel Leaf are party voters and not Rajapaksa-voters.

The only real danger is that the Rajapaksa use of the racist card may gain some traction if the new government fails to deliver on its economic promises fast.

The triumph of Maithripala Sirisena is also the triumph of Chandrika Bandaranaike. But this does not mean the SLFP will return to its Bandaranaike past. Chandrika Bandaranaike must be credited with not trying to bring her offspring into the SLFP – so far; her children are professionally successful and seem uninterested in active politics.

And the new SLFP leaders act as if they want to go forward and not back.

The SLFP has a real chance to make an epistemological break with its familial-past and step into the 21st Century. Its new leaders, such as Maithripala Sirisena, Nimal Siripala de Silva and Anura Yapa, are self-made men; they gain their political relevance from their own efforts and not from family-ties. Some of them may have ambitious offspring. Hopefully the Rajapaksa failure to create a new dynasty will suffice to teach other fathers and other sons/daughters that hereditary leadership is a holdover from a dead past sans life or relevance in the 21st Century.

[i] http://www.itnnews.lk/?p=29994

[ii] See

http://www.news.lk/news/politics/item/4147-president-declares-open-museum-in-memory-of-da-rajapaksa-and-mrs-rajapaksa and

http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=HE_President_declares_opens_DA_Rajapaksa_Museum_20141107_02

[iii] Lankadeepa – 1.12.2014 – the translation – a literal one – is mine.

[iv] Daily Mirror – 2.7.2014

[vi] Quoted in ‘The Demigods – Charismatic Leadership in the Third World’ by Jean Lacouture

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Latest comments

  • 23
    4

    Amid all the doom and gloom it’s truly heartening to know that the light that is democracy is still burning in Sri Lanka thanks to a few vigilante public officials who protected it from being snuffed out in the middle of the night !

    • 4
      13

      Titsaranee quites Thomas Paine, the author of the Commonsense pamphlet that is buried deep in Amarasiri (Javi and thousand other pseudonyms) lang-sia’s canal?

      She really has got balls to quote T. paine (more appropritely Pain)!

      Amarasiri will be so turned on, he will come looking for you now.

    • 13
      5

      You can thank god its just the flowers to be enjoyed by `big hearted people` and not the face of father representing, attacking the opposition and minorities.

      The people would be free the day they destroy the statutes of all these `fathers of freedom` who hid in India came back and….JVP followed suit and ..LTTE too.

      Sunday Sil ..Monday kill… kill the Veddha…. Rob the Buddha…Blame the Sudda.

      • 1
        3

        Javi….

        ”Sunday Sil ..Monday kill… kill the Veddha…. Rob the Buddha…Blame the Sudda.”

        Yes…!! A song of the revolutionist of our past…a song of the Rajapakses….a song of our capitalists…especially ..the song of our Tamil diaspora..still being murmured in the west.

        Rajapakse killed Velupillai Prabaharan and inherited all his anti democratic arrogant habits.Both of them wanted their own people to open up their mouth for their meals alone. They forgot their own people to claim themselves as KINGS to see themselves vanished in the air with disgrace.

        We recall only a few names in history of mankind as leaders for their leadership qualities.

        Certainly Rajapakse and VP can not be included in such a small list of leaders !!? For , their contribution to mankind is nothing but disaster.

        • 3
          0

          Rev.Devil

          Can you include my Comrade Karuna and as for any Sinhalese who contributed to the good of Sri Lankan mankind the list is blank.

          • 0
            1

            Dear Praba, I put a like to your question (comment ) before starting to answer to you. You seem very calm and cool. You seem to have changed a lot !!? I saw your rise as a grade nine student …and then I saw your fall as well, when my Son was at grade nine at his College.

            In the 70s…people in my village were found themselves as a family, there were no theft no murder, no rapes…even the neighboring Sinhalese villagers were like our brethren…we never cared about you all…I mean you dirty Politicians…..

            Then we saw your entry into our villages …teaching tooth for tooth…and eye for eye…We thought ..that it’s against the so called enemy…but you started it at home…killing has always been your hobby…negativity has always been your policy….and you were the one and only saint amongst us !!? …and you know the number of lives you sent to graves for disputing it.. !!?

            I don’t want to get back to your animal world praba… but…all what I would like to ask you is…that… if the whole world is bad…..and …you want to add yourself as one of them….and then…how could you claim yourself as a great person….!!? I still recall an incident somewhere in 2003…..your LTTE cardres in civic…pretending as civilians….stoned a thief ( as per your claim) to death at Jaffna Hindu College ground ::!!? Do you mean that we are from Saudi Arabia !!?…Thank God that your in Graveyard….

            Dear Praba …according to your Hindu Religious Believe…you could come again….but please think about doing something for the betterment of mankind. Jaffna man always look into other peoples pocket…Please contemplate about your past crimes….even advise your white flag heroes…who used women and children as mud sacks…and then wanted to safe guard their life alone…..

            Also I have a question with you Praba…why didn’t you allow at least women and children free !!? Even after the SLA reached Iranaipaalai…..you didn’t do that…..and you want us to address as a leader !!? mmmmmm. I have thousands of questions…let’s continue…on another occasion !!!

            • 0
              0

              Rev.Devil

              You have proved you are human after all and can easily be misled by false propaganda. Can you give me proof of what you have alleged and I will look into it. Don’t rely on here say evidence and the GOSL propaganda Machine was working over time propagating false information.

  • 4
    4

    Talking about peace in SL , divine forces had made war hero MR to call for elections 2 years early and also made MR to invite Pope Francis to bless SL.

    President Maithiripala Srisena won the elections and welcomed the Pope.
    For further blessings MS should invite Budhist Leader to come and bless SL as soon as possible.

  • 4
    15

    Did the Elite and the Anglicans loyal to Ms T say Gotabaya even owned Apollo Hospital , CSX and the new Kinsbury Hotel?.

    Why would brother Percy beg Mythree for an official Residence for such a rich dude with so much Real Estate?.

    Anyway the SLFP gave My three the Presidency to save their members from the UNP thugs, who are on the rampage , assaulting and even killing a few of the SLFP supporters.after the Election.

    This is what a senior SLFP member Mr Yapa Abeyagunawardena told Sunday Times.

    He further said that a few of his supporters were also bashed. And he assured the reporter that they will never allow the UNP to take over the country.

    My three Palanaya and Good Governance have really kicked in .. Hasn’t it ?…

    • 8
      3

      “Why would brother Percy beg Mythree for an official Residence for such a rich dude with so much Real Estate?.”

      That is exactly why the matara galle say `kattaya ta mottaya`.

      ¬assaulting and even killing a few of the SLFP supporters.after the Election.¬

      It’s the left wing of sri lanka virus to kill and kill from the very first time it won an election. Get drunk when you get paid and beat up your wife and children.

      Well Mr Yapa Abeyagunawardena was forced to sign a 3 year contract for oil which he did – how much was the commission and where was it banked?? Not tax free UAE because the rates aren’t good anymore.

  • 4
    1

    The Budhist Leader I was referring to is Dalai Lama.

    • 2
      0

      Ambedkhar Reborn

      Is Dalailama superior to our own Sinhala Buddhist Priest suffering from Rheumatic Knees brought on a white linen and dumped into a chair at the BMICH.

      Levi

  • 2
    9

    It has already been reported that M3S plans to take a back seat and hand over the leadership of the SLFP to CBK. Plans are afoot to change the SLFP constitution to bring about this change, as a matter of urgency. Sri Lanka has voted for a president who cannot and does not wish to lead. Puppetry at it’s best.

    • 0
      3

      Well well with the Clinton back up via Harry why not??

      She would also get the blessings of Sonia by shedding tears like the mum.Why not its good time to rub shoulder with Graft Hindia ?

      It was a case of Lanka like the mad woman on the street changing the side of the tainted underware and wearing it over again- once the borrowed ambude always the borrowed is it not??

    • 0
      1

      Ambedkhar Reborn

      Is Dalailama superior to our own Sinhala Buddhist Priest suffering from Rheumatic Knees brought on a white linen and dumped into a chair at the BMICH.

      Levi

    • 2
      0

      Dear Ram

      You don’t seem to know the difference between leading and ruling. MY3 has said he does not want to be a Ruler. He never said that he does not want to be leader.

      A good leader is one who has the interest of his team over his personnel glory. The personnel Glory Comes Naturally.

      It is not your fault. We have been made to belive that to lead you have to be rutless dictator who does not belive in any of the rules of the Game.

      In democracy the leader is expected to lead from the Front. My3 team is not SLFP or UNP. The moment he got elected to lead all Sri Lankans. So He cannot be the leader of a party any longer. Well if he wants to lead only SLFP. The Done thing is to give up leading Sri Lanka.

      levi

  • 4
    2

    Soon after the defection of Sirisena, CBK gave an interview in the FT paper.

    As the mastermind of the defection, she was much in demand.

    In that interview she did talk of the possibility of her son entering politics …..the island (sunday) edition talks of her taking over the SLFP..so this is certainly possible.

    • 2
      2

      “”so this is certainly possible”
      The lust for power like putin the socialist is in her. Sacrificed Vijay now by arrangement as Fatima Fuckushima said My3 all 3.
      An associate of hers is;
      Maneka Sanjay Gandhi is the Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development in the Government of PM Narendra Modi.

      Get ready for the woman who behaves like a buddha (eyes closed) but doodles like a sister because she has her video at hand- big brother is watching.

    • 1
      6

      Is this the son who publicly stated that he was ashamed to be a Sri Lankan after watching Ch 4 fakery.

      • 1
        2

        Where have all the flowers gone??
        ….. When will lankians ever learn??

    • 0
      0

      So what if VIMUKTHI comes into politics. He is the only son, grandsan, whose father, mother and grandparents were in politics and may be politics is in his blood. He has had a twice elected President and two Prime Ministers in his family to boast about, which no one have else can talk about. Hereafter politics in Sri Lanka will be transparent and clean so let anyone wanting to become a politician, come the proper way. Have a good education and be clean, get nominations and get elected by the people.

  • 5
    3

    Just went past Carlton House Tangalle, Hambantota and MRIC (Mahinda Rajapakse International Convention Centre)

    Their powers are gone. Everywhere it is Sajith Premadasa cut outs and Maithree, Ranil now. I thinks it’s wrong too

    . But I am surprised how quickly it has changed it the heartland of Medamulana Percy Mahendra Rajapakse.

    • 1
      1

      This is the golden opportunity for srilankens.

      All forces have come to a common stage- nothing cant go wrong if they do their best during the y 100-day programmes. We the expatriates have great hopes to return to the country with various investments that will lead to job oppotunities for future srilankens. Where abuses + corruption is mininum there the EU and other investors can put their feet. I have already heard from good men that have kept the faith on srilanka than India focusing srilanken standards going through much higher social indicators.

  • 3
    3

    Time to show your face Tisaranee..We would like to see it

    • 1
      3

      take a book and read lefty `women who worked in the shadows during WW2 and never disclosed.

  • 2
    2

    IMHO CBK may get the SLFP leadership and will give Ranil a run for his money in April. She will then be PM or Opposition leader.

    • 3
      3

      Worse scenario she would imitate Sonia who was not allowed to become PM because she lied that she was a Cambridge English Graduate while she had actually passed her high school.

  • 2
    2

    Ambedkhar Reborn

    Well it will be nice to see whether the Sinhala Buddhist Priest will atleast get up from the lepers chair/Aids infected chair protected by white linen to prevent future infection of civilian who will occupy the same chair.

    sinhala Buddhist priests do not belive in respecting any body be it Pope, Head of State why even Lord Buddha himself, because they fear loosing the chair.

    Poor Priest Was so scared to loose the chair to the Pope.

    Long Live the Civilized Sinhala Buddhism Of Sri Lanka. and the Followers in the 21st Centuary!

    Levi

  • 0
    0

    The writer is general and particular that main principle of Capitalist political party of SLFP nature and base on concrete reflection in specific conditions of Sri Lankan that has totally ignore- SLFP policies by delinked from, the people of an Island.

    The writer analysis are key to the linked to sectarianism, stereotype and dogmatism politics by petty bourgeoisie outlook which influence anarchist roots by Trotskyism of ex-LSSP.

    SLFP was founded by SWRD as national forces, that agent of national bourgeoisie political class in post-independent Ceylon in 1951.
    There are two basic features in the time of Ceylon bourgeoisie-democratic reform in changing era.

    1 Nation alliance with Saga, Weda, Guru, Govi and Kamkaru led by national bourgeoisie leadership was established SLFP.

    2 Parliamentary form of struggle is that principle mode of change of power by SLFP.

    Ours special features past-colonial and semi-feudal are founded in history of colonial rule Sri lanka. The national forces mainly by Sinhalese BUDDHIST play very important role of SLFP leadership.
    20th century SLFP was anti-imperialist in that common fight against reactionary policies of UNP, as well as West allies depend POLICIES was certain extent resist by leadership of the party.

    The 20th century SLFP and its class nature of national bourgeoisie so that had side with people, that against, US back imperialism, certain extent and for the period of time. It (SLFP)was in dealing with seek expanding production and want to stabilized own market during 20th century and also in winning over and remolding petty- bourgeoisie intellectuals party leadership.

    The SLFP led Sri Lankan reform of bourgeoisie national task incomplete and unfinished, in 20th century.

    The SLFP leadership was in hand of Banadarake clan and leaders were more or less not interest to fight US imperialism and remnants of Feudalism at all. In fact UNP, that anti-people policies and anti- Tamil war tone policies has totally undermine ours sovereignty of policies by UNP moves that resist by SLFP leadership under 20th and 21st century by CBK was negative and passive.

    Under the CBK regime 1994 to 2004 resist movement against separatism of Eealm was policy that era of surrender by SLFP leadership over 11 years. National capitalism development neglected and abandoned, while national wealth has sold out to MNC and Foreign companies by CBK’s SLFP leadership….

    SLFP lost his political, economical and social roots and its identity of mass base and that surrender principle interest of National bourgeoisie class and its growth on Capital market by CBK political leadership. when 21st century come into being, SLFP has challenge by fail STATE of 11 years misrule, mismanagement and misdigonaist policy of CBK vision of SLFP was totally outdated.

    Our Country, nation and people comes to the edge of collapse of result of 30 years long war; nation was divided between ethnic grounds, GDP growth in negative level, production and services not in operation; state discipline has zero tolerance, war become lucrative business of few arm deals in Party cronies and business dealers.

    Our nation sky was dark clouds, corruption was play key role in politics of day and SLFP political culture was dominated by unseen peace and destability of Island of Sri lanka. SLFP did nothing under the CBK 11 years rule.

    The a city centers of Colombo appear to be symbolic of Gotha’s Island. This is reality of 21st century SLFP as a Ruling Party until Mahainda Rajapakese comes in to leadership Party 2005.

    MR has radically change entire landscape of Island political culture and economics development ,that shifted into New path and Model of sustainability of Capitalism over 9 years of short period history. That was miracle of Sri Lankan history. Due credit and respect should be given to MR by modern political history.

    Building developing country like Sri lanka, is NOT at easy task; while its nation and change life of people is not a WAR CRIME!
    That is belongs to Good Governances and bring back to rule of land is mean, that peace, stability and security for all nationalities of Sri Lankan including Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and other, who are living our Island after 2009 May.

    MR upside down system of collapse Sri Lanka, that into path of economic and political stability and development under SLFP 21st century leadership of MR and his alliances.

    That is beginning of central task undertaken by National bourgeois class of SLFP 1956 led by SWRD. Which is that Carry forward by MR led SLFP 2005 to 2014.

    • 1
      1

      D.Nimal

      In a nutshell the country, the party, the leadership, the people and their future are doomed.

      Thanks for your clarification, I couldn’t have put it much better.

  • 0
    0

    Karuna alias Muralitharan was an MP and was Vice President of SLFP.
    Where is he now?

  • 4
    0

    The country will go backward. When the people realize it will be too late. MR the leader saved the country. This is not about racism it is about terrorism. Because of MR people lived without fear. No one ever heard of people sying from hunger.

    The government faced the economic crisis. Did not fall. Fools rushed in for change. Still there were people who supported MR.

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