By Dayan Jayatilleka –
It is Sri Lanka’s good fortune, one supposes, that it is blessed with an alternative government – an Opposition—that is as blind to national realities as the regime is to international (and inter-mestic) ones. Or to amend it slightly, we have a regime that is myopic in relation to the international dimension of reality and an Opposition that is blind to its national dimension.
Consider the essay by the UNP’s communications chief, Mangala Samaraweera, compelling entitled ‘Yes Ranil Can: Why I Support him’ Mr Samaraweera for one cannot be accused of not practising what he preaches. The Sunday Times chose to highlight his call that “It is also imperative that the UNP be reorganised as a non-violent ‘resistance movement’…”TV viewers nationwide saw exactly what he meant when he spearheaded just such a non-violent resistance movement in the South last weekend. If anything is likely to repel voters from the UNP and render less ridiculous the incessant claim of the regime’s security managers that the Opposition is being geared for regime change through destabilisation and street fighting, that display was it!
The essay would have been curious even had it been published a week before the violence. It had not a single reference to the most important feature that has shaped voter consciousness and frames our political reality, however negatively one might perceive that to be, namely the military victory over the LTTE. In fact the Tigers and/or Prabhakaran make no appearance whatsoever in the article. A Martian reading the piece might not know that there was a suicide bombing militia, described by the Foreign editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan as perhaps the most ruthless and successful in the post World War II era, terrorising Sri Lanka for decades, nor would it know that this movement was defeated in a war waged on Mahinda Rajapaksa’s watch. Analytically this is as intelligent as trying to understand De Gaulle’s or Maggie Thatcher’s political grip with no reference to Hitler and the French resistance or the Falklands war.
Also curious, and shall we say less than factual, is Mr Samaraweera’s claim that “…in 2013, he [Ranil] still remains, in my view the only formidable liberal democratic alternative…” Ok, let’s forget the adjective ‘formidable’ for the moment, because if Ranil is a formidable alternative I’d hate to see what a weak one looks like. More pertinent is the fact that Mr Wickremesinghe does not and cannot constitute a ‘liberal democratic alternative’ because he is expressly not a liberal democrat, having deviated from a half-century long policy of non-affiliation with international ideological blocs and made the UNP a member of precisely a Conservative and Rightwing international constellation, the International Democratic Union (IDU) co-chaired by the US Republicans and the UK Conservatives! The closest one comes to a liberal democratic alternative in the UNP and Sri Lankan politics today is Karu Jayasuriya.
Thus it is that we come to Mr Samaraweera’s real revelation; a peek into the strategy of the UNP, electoral and otherwise. It boils down to two interconnected factors: external and ethnic. He says that Ranil is “a leader who can rally the international community”, and goes on to say that:
“…The next Presidential candidate must also be able to win the trust and confidence of the Tamil and Muslim communities …The minority vote base will be a key deciding factor at the national level …We must reposition the UNP…I believe that Ranil Wickremesinghe will be much more acceptable to the minority communities than many of the other Presidential aspirants both within and outside the party.”
So there we have it. A strategy that is identical to the failed one that kept the UNP out of office for 19 years barring the mercifully short interregnum of Mr Wickremesinghe’s Prime Ministership. What is politically dishonest is that this external/ethnic minoritarian profile of Mr Wickremsinghe is precisely the one that Mr Samaraweera targeted as the SLFP’s propaganda chief. He should know just how disastrously vulnerable such a profile is.
It is bitterly ironic and most unfortunate that this ‘external/ethnic minoritarian’ template is precisely what gave the UNP of Sir John Kotelawela an ‘anti-national/comprador/ rootless cosmopolitan’ (‘thuppahi’) target profile that made it so utterly vulnerable to the self -proclaimed ‘Silent Revolutions of ’56 and ’70’ of which President Rajapaksa’s and Mangala Samaraweera’s fathers DA Rajapaksa and Mahanama Samaraweera were the Southern stalwarts. That ‘anti-national’ factor was always the UNP’s Achilles Heel and the SLFP’s advantage. It took JR Jayewardene and most especially Ranasinghe Premadasa to radically re-position the UNP, liberating it from that ball–and-chain which Mangala Samaraweera now celebrates and recommends as a splendid adornment.
Saman De Silva / October 9, 2013
How many articles has this man written in the past three days? His Best Friend Forever the president who invited him to temple trees to watch wigneswaran’s oaths ceremony even though he calls him a NGO stooge needs to give him a new job – and fast.
sriya / October 9, 2013
Well its a good thing the Dayan is saying that Ranil has to go, because the rest of so-called civil society has been and is so strangely silent on the dictatorship in the opposition!
If civil society had taken a principled stand and stood up years ago and said that Ranil has to resign, groom a successor and hand over, since he had lost so many elections – a is done in all political parties the world over – the UNP would not be hitting the lower depths today.
But Colombo civil society NGOs which cosy up to Ranil and his wife, have been very silent about this aberration that Ranil represents in democratic practice the world over!
Kalupahana / October 9, 2013
You worried about the dictatorship in the opposition and dont give a damn about the dictator ruling the country.
RW isnt a dictator. RW is the only leader who can make this country prosper and not any else from the present lot. That is as simple as that and majority pinheads wouldnt understand this.
the banana republic or silly Lanka is full of idiots.
Dun / October 11, 2013
You are dead right. Saman.
As if he is known all – DJ keeps writing supportive articles – intending to get posted soon. If MR has replaced his CONDOM PRINCIPLES to new strategies, we will see it the way moving forward soon.
crazyoldmansl / October 9, 2013
‘anti-national/comprador/ rootless cosmopolitan’? What is this now? Who is antagonistic towards this country or Nation or attempt at building a nation that has so far failed? I do not know anyone who is antagonistic towards this but I do see that the bloody and bludgeoning way in which this is being set about by the government is attracting a great deal of concern from all round the world.It is this bloody bludgeoning manner replete with rape torture and murder that DOCTOR DAYAN seeks to defend and perpetuate.
He is busily marketing this bloody bludgeoning manner which seems to be the primary product of the island right now and as such is a comprador himself
Being someone”so sophisticated as to be at home in all parts of the world or conversant with many spheres of interest” or who is “Familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures” yes being cosmopolitan does not come easy to racists who think that their community is superior to every other and I think that there is a whole generation of Sri Lankans of all ethnic backgrounds who are very much cosmopolitans themselves and their influence and impatience is growing.
This Doctor Dayan is simply trying to intimidate all those who want a modern nation that functions like any other developed country does by calling them names that he does not seem to understand himself. They are not “anti national” they are not “comprador” like him and they know that COSMOPOLITAN is not a dirty word and that it is a lot better than being a racist.
crazyoldmansl / October 9, 2013
“It is this bloody bludgeoning manner replete with rape torture and murder that DOCTOR DAYAN seeks to defend and perpetuate.”
His comprador marketing spiel is based on notions such as ethnic majoritarianism and political realism and of course his foot stomping war-dance-making authoritarianism that bellowed out about killing and threatened that all the Tamils will be killed and a guerilla resistance force composed of the armed forces established in the southern plains and south central hills supported no doubt by our south eastern neighbor in the event of anyone exercising their right to pee on him. He recently very kindly performed the duty of delivering a threat to the Tamil inhabitants of Colombo of what the consequences would be of their supporting the TNA.
kitty / October 9, 2013
I think it is really funny that Ranil’s boys are attacking people like Dayan in such vituperative language when they should wonder why their hero is getting so few votes. This is like shooting the messenger.It is clear to anyone who is impartial that Ranil is history. By him continuing to be associated with the UNP he is only preventing them from going forward.
Some argue that in 2005 he lost to MR only by a few votes and that too only because Prabakaran stopped the tamils from voting. This is a very hypothetical argument. But the fact is that since 2005 the dynamics have changed very much.MR has delivered in a way that Ranil never could.In 2005 many belived the LTTE was unbeatable.Today ranil cannot get any votes even in Jaffna. I do not think in the south even in a list he will come first. ranil can come to the parliament only as an appointed MP.
It is time the UNP and Ranil’s verbally abusive boys look at the true picture and change their thinking. Those boys who write to the FT supporting Ranilshould consider joining the diaspora ( which they attack so much) themselves because their relevance in sri lanka is over.
By the way what do you think of a scumbag who attacked a peaceful procession in Matara and has the audacity to talk of high principles? Is this the UNP you guys want in power ?
K.A Sumanasekera / October 10, 2013
Mangala has , at least put his money where his mouth is.
Ranil has been promising to bring the masses on to the streets since Nanthikadal.
He only managed managed gigs by Uni Dons, Hultsdof Sharks, and Moderate Vigilantes. ( sounds good names in appreciation, for an “TPL” if the Vellala CM decides to have their own in the SR territory,).
But they all turned out to be a “fizzer.”
Why one may ask?.
And my elders say it is all about about” Elitism and Economics son.”
And the thrilla in Matara including knee capping their own comrades ( comrades can’t be right word for conservatives, can it ) proves that my elders are dead right.
punchinilame / October 10, 2013
“Today Ranil cannot get any votes even in Jaffna. I do not think in the south even in a list he will …….” Kitty
This is an erroneous comparison, as voting in NPC elections was in
another known direction. On a National basis Ranils chance is greater
than MR in the N/E where MR is no “hero” in any sense is the present
Don Quixote / October 10, 2013
How dare you write on the UNP’s strategic perspective. It is well known who you back and how much you hate the UNP leader !
Call it your perspective of what the UNP is doing but to speak for the UNP ?!!
Surely there is a limit to blind arrogance !
lynx / October 10, 2013
Whatever may be the policies of the various parties, UNP members behaved in an anti-national manner during the war. They put political gain before national security. They tried hard to undermine the military in the hope of unseating the UPFA Government. That is unforgiveable. The Colombo based tools of the west must be purged from the party for it to be safe to let them govern the country.
Dr Ransimala Vidurupola / October 10, 2013
Rajapakse has succeeded in dissolving all checks and balances to his authoritarian rule. The last institution to be attacked was the Judiciary. MR made that great institution kneel before him by a most unconstitutional act of impeaching the 43rd Chief Justice and putting in her place illegally what is now popularly called a De-facto Chief Justice. Mohan Peiris has no shame and embarrassment and so he sits there like a plum pudding.
The last bastion is the Opposition UNP, which even in the worst of times is able to garner about 30 per cent-35 per cent of electoral support. For the last four years MR has been scheming to get rid of Ranil Wickreamasinghe knowing that with his removal the party will fall like Humpty Dumpty. Imagine with Sajith/ Karu (proposed by ‘political scientist’ Dayan) in RW’s place!
The evidence is clear that the recent Matara episode was an MR creation. Video shots are out with Presidential advisor Herman Gunaratne caught shooting the crowd at will.
While the government employs thuggery like that it also needs journalists to write against Ranil. Dayan is one such man. This is why Dayan has been repeatedly writing one after the other against Ranil.
Dun / October 10, 2013
why cant this [Edited out] mind his own business ?
Dun / October 11, 2013
why cant this BURUWA mind his own business ?