17 September, 2019

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The Undressing Of Yahapālanaya

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

What did the Joint Opposition achieve by marching from Kandy to Colombo? What does it say about the strength of the Joint Opposition? Does it say anything about the strength or otherwise of what is being called, tongue-in-cheek, the ‘Official SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party)’? Has to solidified the alliance between the OSLFP and the United National Party (UNP)? Was it an exercise poorly timed because the OSLF and the UNP government has been in power only for a year and a half and as such there’s little chance of this kind of agitation transforming into a mass upheaval resulting in regime-overthrow?

Jehan Perera in an article titled ‘Opposition protest march consolidates Government Alliance’ published in the Colombo Telegraph offers some observations on power. He was referring to the recently concluded march from Kandy to Colombo organized by the Joint Opposition.

“Usually such a bid to generate spontaneous public protest would come towards the end of a government’s term of office when it has over-extended its stay in power and the people are dying for a change. But a mere year and a half of a government which has four more years to go is too soon to evoke a people’s movement to overthrow, or even to destabilize, the government.”

The first sentence is correct. The second is lends itself to a symptomatic reading. Whether a march, even one that drew the kinds of crowds it did, can overthrow or destabilize a government is a valid question. To say that it has ‘consolidated the government alliance’ is misleading, however.

Let’s consider the facts. Yes, it was organized a mere year and a half after Maithripala Sirisena became President and less than a year after the UNP won the General Election. There are two ways of looking at it. Jehan says ‘too early’. True. There’s another way. If such numbers could be drawn to Colombo a mere year and a half after Maithripala Sirisena became President and less than a year after the UNP won the General Election it does indicate discontent of a significant nature. Putting it down to the ex President’s charisma or the stupidity of his followers will not rob it of this significance. Loyalties of protestors, ‘true objectives’ of the organizers, the reasons that drew the crowds are relevant of course, but in a political sense it is the show of strength that counts. We are not talking any more, after all, about the merits and demerits of one regime over another here.

The march attracted massive numbers. Contrast it, for example, with the ‘marches’ that other Oppositions under different regimes organized at the tail-ends of terms. This was put all those to shame. Contrast it, also, with the rally that the United National Party (UNP) organized at Hyde Park a few months ago. On that occasion the organizers had to shift the venue to Lipton Circus fearing that Hyde Park might not be filled. This time Hyde Park was literally dug up by the Government, forcing the demonstrators to Lipton Circus. The five roads leading to Lipton Circus were ‘peopled’ to a considerable distance. If numbers matter, these do.

That numbers matter is in fact confirmed by the response of the Government to the march. The United National Party started off with a bold statement, vowing to affirm the democratic right to protest. Good. It went downhill thereafter. The Government sought support of the courts on the flimsiest of pretexts, threw obstacles in the way of the march, issued dire threats of ‘disciplinary action’, threatened to expedite investigations (obviously against the big names of the Joint Opposition), found a sudden ‘need’ to dig up Hyde Park, indulged in endless rubbishing of the protest, abused state media especially Rupavahini; in short embarrassed itself at every turn. Hardly the behavior one might expect of a confident and secure regime!

The UNP, at least in secret, might say ‘not us, but them,’ with ‘them’ meaning sections of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) loyal to the President, but that excuse is no longer valid; after all the two parties, their leaders and the key supporters of the leaders, have reiterated marital vows and claimed conjugal bliss ad nauseum. In fact, the response, in its entirety was reminiscent of the ‘dirty tactics’ used by the previous regime and indeed all regimes that came before. ‘Change’ (‘venasa’) was not evident.

Interestingly, the bleeding-heart advocates of yahapaalanaya who shed buckets of tears over the abuse of state media by the Rajapaksas, the ‘dirty tricks’ in dealing with dissent/protests etc., are silent. Instead we have Jehan (who belongs to the aforementioned group) claiming that the Government is ‘stronger’.

Fine. Now why should a ‘strong alliance’ fall over itself to rubbish a ‘weak’ protest which, according to Jehan, posed absolutely no threat? Was it a case of old habits dying hard? Had they not been tutored enough in yahapalana-practice? Had they junked whatever notes were thrust into their hands when they got into the yahapalana bandwagon? Did someone whisper, ‘scared out of their wits’ (for no reason at all a la Jehan’s claim)?

It seems that things are not as rosy as Jehan would want people to believe. And it’s not the Mahinda loyalists who are saying it. When someone like Dr Razeen Sally, a respected economist and academic who now heads the Institute of Policy Studies calls it ‘an unwieldy unity government’ and mentions bad appointments, messy decision-making, lack of coordination and above all faults the government for not having a credible economic plan, talking about political consolidation is downright silly.

Let’s forget all that. If anyone thinks the march somehow consolidated the ‘alliance’, then one must talk of the constituents of that alliance and their relative strengths, never mind that the ‘point of consolidation’ is at best wishy-washy given the character certificate issued by Dr Sally. The UNP is intact but has embarrassed itself by the attacks on the media, foot-dragging on key election pledges and the about-turn and worse on Port City. Intact, nevertheless.

And the OSLFP? Well, they have a party office that is shunned by the membership. There’s an ex-leader who invites incessant booing by the mere mention of her name. There are ministers who’ve been rejected at the polls issuing statements about political power, democracy and what not. And there’s a leader who broke party lines, divided the party, was elected by default with the full support of his party’s arch rival, the UNP, and who whines about Mahinda Rajapaksa ‘diving the party’. Is the section of the SLFP that he has some control over, the OSLFP, a solid political force? If this is the case, then the march forcing it to strengthen ties with the UNP would amount to ‘consolidation’. But the march clearly showed where the rank and file of the SLFP stands. The louder they OSLFP diehards (and the likes of Jehan) shout about conjugal bliss and solidity of marriage, the less convincing it all sounds.

All this is good news, probably, for the Mahinda camp. It has to be bad news for those who truly believed the January 8 result would usher in a different way of doing things. The generous thing is to put down the silence of such people to a sense of shame or helplessness. The unpalatable truth, however, could be that they were never serious about ‘change’; they just wanted friends in power, never mind what they do and how they do it. The verbal contortions that people like Jehan have been forced to indulge in demonstrate this.

There’s one positive though. The marchers did not get to undress the yahapaalanists. The yahapaalanists stripped of their own accord.

*Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com. Twitter: malindasene. Blog: malindawords.blogspot.com.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    16

    Yahapalanists are in Neva Gilunath Band Choon mood. So they are busy counting the number of Bras thrown at the Pada Yatra and how many boos were made at SLFP office and should they ban the word Aappaya from the lexicon. But what the people of the Pada Yathra showed was that the people are rising and rising in great numbers. Our Opposition Leader is having a nap in his Vellala Garden apartment when the largest anti government march in the history of the country takes place. Hooray.

    • 14
      4

      Patriot people know now that they were used and cheated by MR. Even those paid to attend are having second thoughts. It’s a desperate attempt to try to hold onto a rapidly shrinking following. While people like you are trying to spin it out of proportion. They will start to demand 5000 rupees per person to attend next time now that they know the level of desperation.

  • 6
    4

    “Supreme Idiocy”is indeed the word that éclairs yahapalanaya best!

  • 13
    3

    Malinda Seneviratne, since you ask…

    What did the Joint Opposition achieve by marching from Kandy to Colombo?

    A: The proles ended up with some very sore feet, the fat honchos (who rode most of the way in their 4by4’s) got bloated ego’s and bloated waistlines (after all the resthouse feeds) AND the people who were inconvenienced by the blocks and diversions ended up totally fed-up and cursing those who dreamt up this wheeze.

    The Cuckoos would have got more attention if they all lined up on Galle Face Green and lifted their sarongs in unison, shouting “UP YAHAPALANAYA”.

    • 2
      0

      :) Just like you to see the dignity of Pada Yatra in the BBBBBBBB light!

  • 9
    5

    I read on many alternative media the dwindling crowd numbers on each day (never exceeded 4000) except on the last day. My own employees in one of the towns en route were incentivized with free meals to attend on a particular day. So was everyone else. The march refused to go to campbell park on the last day (despite a servile policeman serving the notice to mahinda himself) because they simply could not find the crowd to fit in the place, hence the puss show at lipton circus.

    I cannot believe that so-called ‘educated’ folks like Malinda and Dayan still put stock in crowds at political rallies, when most participants are bussed in for the day from outstation. We had Dayan braying about the 100,000 in Nugegoda (turned out to be 5,000) and how a comeback for Mahinda was imminent- just before he failed to even win Kurunegala at the election.

    Better they focus on the waste of 18 million rupees on day one of the march alone!

  • 7
    0

    “”There’s one positive though. The marchers did not get to undress the yahapaalanists. The yahapaalanists stripped of their own accord.””

    Ha ha Free Monty??
    No not yet but after 21st January- Salli no.

    But this is all the inevitable result of a big government capable of enriching those who run it – those who seek office will look to use that power. And we’ll keep electing the most corrupt people to high office in the mistaken impression that it takes a corrupt person to dismantle a corrupt system.

  • 7
    2

    Good article. When we analyze whole episode ………. the root cause of everything is the role president played and playing…. I also believed that there may have been injustice caused to him by the MR regime …. but again his current behavior makes me doubt it now.

  • 8
    4

    It looks like the free lap top this joker got from Mahinda Rajapakse MP is still in working order.

    • 4
      0

      Park you mean to say “He is singing for his supper” If that be the case he is sure singing out loud but no one seems to be listening.

  • 0
    1

    “Multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious” (Mangala Samaweera) bonds vs. Sinhala-Buddhist toil and labour.

  • 4
    1

    It is becoming increasingly difficult for the yahapaalanists to defend the actions of their Yahapalanaya. The general public feel the heat of the VAT and there is no democratic discussion about the upcoming VAT bill. The only person who has shown some concerns about it is former Prez Rajapaksa (Please see his article on CT). Democracy lovers do not agree with the indefinite postponement of local elections.
    Average Sri Lanakans are now of the opinion that Prez Sirisena has no clue of what the UNP is planning to do as far as constitutional reforms, ETCA and Hybrid Courts are concerned. The entire concept of ‘Good Governance’ has become a joke because of the way yahapalanists have been trying to defend it. They tried like kids to stop the Kandy-Colombo protest march but failed like no other.TV viewers were enjoying the footage of Hyde park’s ‘urgent renovations’ and the ‘political speeches’ given by IGP (Pujitha Jayasundara) against the marchers.
    This march did not topple the government, but it definitely shook its foundation to its core. Prez Sirisena and PM Wickremasinghe were attacking former Prez Rajapaksa with ‘allegations of corruption’ for the past year and a half but could not prove anything substantial. Former prez Rajapaksa defended himself and has now started not to defend but to attack. The only difference between the two is that former Prez Rajapaksa attacks not with unsubstantiated allegations but with people’s power.

  • 3
    0

    Malinda we have seen enough of your own undressing through these columns as many of your past is being brought to light.Those comments on CT brought to light facts we were not aware of. So now just take a bow before some more dirty linen is washed to the public through this electronic media

  • 0
    0

    Scumbag is still singing for his Jarapaksa supper although his allowances are no longer coming in.

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