22 April, 2019

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Too Clever By Half: From Minority Government To Minority Opposition

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

My unambiguous opinion is that Mr. Sampanthan is a gentleman of the old school and one of the finest parliamentarians we haveand ranks high among the few such left such as Dinesh Gunawardena. As an individual he is streets ahead of the person named by the pro-MR camp as its choice of Leader of the Opposition (Dinesh or Dullas, Vasu or Vidura would have been far better). Therefore my opinion that it was a blunder to name Mr. Sampanthan as the Leader of the Opposition does not derive from any personal criticism or any doubts whatsoever about his abilities. If I may be clearer still, my critique is not sourced in his ethnicity either — were he Neelan Tiruchelvam or Dharmalingam Siddharthan I might even be cheering.

I have two objections or one objection and one doubt, about his appointment. The first stems from the first principles of democratic politics: popular sovereignty; the will of the people. When Mr. Amirthalingam, was made Opposition Leader it was because the TULF had won more seats than the SLFP. That is manifestly not the case today.

On Aug 17, the people voted for a weak UNFGG Government and a strong UPFA opposition. The fact that this was subsequently manipulated and distorted by the formation of a national government is neither here nor there. The UPFA has 95 seats. Even if one subtracts those SLFP MPs who turned their backs on their popular mandate and voted in favor of a national government, the remainder is numerically the larger part of the SLFP/UPFA group. Most pertinently, they are numerically several times larger than the 16 member TNA. The fact that Prof. Warnapala, as (un-ratified) UPFA General Secretary conveyed to the speaker a decision (not taken by any collective deliberation of the UPFA) to step aside from the post of Opposition Leader, cannot obscure the realities, both arithmetical and sociopolitical. It is but a mere technicality.

Maithripala SampanthanEarlier this year, we had a minority Government. Today we have a minority government (the people elected 106 UNF MPs) turned artificially into one with a near two thirds majority by an infusion from the SLFP which ran on the ticket of opposing a national government. We also have a minority Opposition; one which has fewer seats than those of the UPFA who voted against or abstained from voting for a national government and thereby signaled their dissent. The Opposition is a minority opposition in another more obvious sense: the popular vote was for a strong opposition representing large numbers of the majority Sinhala Buddhists. They have now been disenfranchised—their political option and their individual voter preferences have both been ignored in the formation of a national government, the sneaking in of those defeated in the popular vote and in the decapitation by fiat of a strong national opposition. In its stead we have an Opposition drawn from a regional party and representing a majority of a minority. Thus has popular sovereignty been ignored and flouted several times over.

Mr. Sampanthan’s problem is the same as that of Mr. Amirthalingam: politico-programmatic and ideological schizophrenia. Their great individual political ability and integrity were hamstrung by the parochial passions of their constituency. Though Prabhakaran and his war are no more, these were, as Mr. Sampanthan would be the first to claim, as much symptom as cause. Where he would disagree is with my assertion that Prabhakaran and the war were as much, or far more, a symptom of obdurate Tamil political exceptionalism than of obstructionist Sinhala exceptionalism.

The crux of the problem is that on the one hand the only viable solution is a middle path or golden mean, and is based on the 13th amendment, while on the other hand Mr. Sampanthan’s ideology and mandate are based on self-determination, the re-merger of the North and East without a referendum, the rejection of the unitary state formation and the 13th amendment in favor of Chandrika’s federalizing “union of regions package”(which the new Leader of the Opposition made an elliptical reference to) and a lacerating war crimes inquiry with international involvement (which the Sinn Fein/IRA never raised in the Good Friday agreement or since).

Mr. Sampanthan’s political discourse is more strident than that of the Catholic minority of Northern Ireland as expressed in the stances and demands of Sinn Fein, which makes him more radical than Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness—neither of whom leads the Opposition in Westminster!

The TNA-CBK-Mangala agenda may be possible within parliament, with the new math of a contrived bipartisan consensus, but is drastically at variance with actual public opinion on the ground, as reflected in the popular vote.

As even the world’s sole superpower realized, it is one thing to cobble a “Coalition of the willing”, but quite another to achieve a stable and sustainable political outcome, if it is not reflective of the actual national consensus and devoid of broad popular consent.

Our new rulers are making the mistake which the British colloquialism describes so well as being “too clever by half”.

As my late father Mervyn de Silva (whose 86th birth anniversary fell on Sept 5th) prophetically cautioned the arrogant JR Jayewardene regime before the country was engulfed in conflict and destruction leaving that regime to run for cover, it is “self-destabilizing” to confuse “legality” with “legitimacy”. What the UNF-led national government has done may well be legal but it is not legitimate. Illegitimacy masked by mere legality is bad enough, but when illegitimacy is combined with an overriding of political reality—the actual balance and ratio of public opinion was for a weak government and a strong opposition—then, crisis, conflict and catastrophe prove inevitable. The tragedy is that these were needless and avoidable, and were provoked by political greed and imprudence.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    3

    Dayan is still recovering from his My3-MR reconciliation disaster…
    like his God MR… he refuses to quit and hence we seek a sequence of attempts to prove hes back, when its just pathetic attempts for a comeback…
    like MR … hes a spent force…
    all his morals and and credibility gone…like the rest( vasu,wimal,udaya, dilan) who got on the Rajapakshe bandwagon.

    • 3
      2

      This man is literally a headache to all of us that seek a MR free world if the country and nation should turn to a civilized state.

      I personally thank all anti MR folks have sent DJ home forever.
      The manner this man criticised RW,MS and CBK will never help them to make their mind for good and appoint him as one of the good senior diplomat.
      But chances for Tamara will be there, because she did not go to criticise RW or MS but MR thugs.
      Rajeva Wijesighe will also have to stay biting his nails and the nails thrown away from elephants in Pinnawala – in the days to come.
      None of the duo (Rajeeva and Dayan) will get appointed by current regime irrespective of the knowledge that one could feel need to be useful in external affairs.

  • 7
    2

    I thought Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke son of Mervyn De Silva, would have been in the Vatican’s speech writing team busy giving his input, what Pope should speak in Havana and UN.
    Instead he is depleting his intellect by continue to stir up things with the aim of bringing MaRa back again.

  • 5
    2

    Too Clever By Full: doctor Dayan must be still confused unable to understand how the trio MS, RW & CBK checkmated MR. MR’s last option of becoming an opposition leader (by asking Kumara Welgama to resign) was also defeated. UPFA is fully under the control of MS, they have to abide by the decisions taken by its central committee.

    The two racist jokers in parliament, Wimal Weeluwansa and Gommanpulle have to shut up and sit behind in parliament.

    The trio seems to be too clever.

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

  • 2
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    From Minority Government to National Unity Government made up of Sinkalams.
    But from oposition to Leader of Federal State which is a Natural Progression.

  • 5
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    Dayan what happened to you. Once a well respected journalist and diplomat and then you go haywire supporting the communalism cries of the previous regime. Some said “you were singing for your supper” but I do not have a take on that or is it?
    I repeat on the death anniversary of your great father the icon of Journalism the late and great Mervyn de Silva “What a father and what a son”.
    We are awaiting for the return of the prodigal son” Will it happen only time will tell

  • 0
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    this fellow should shut up. SLFP cannot be In the government and opposition. Simple democracy. this fellow is out of his mind

    • 0
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      Dayan claims to be a professor, professor of what I wonder. He does not seem to grasp the basics that good governance require an effective opposition. What a waste of parliament it would be to have an opposition comprised of the same governing party. I hope somebody shuts this idiot up for wasting our time.

  • 1
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    For once DJ has written some sense.

    The recent machinations has handed Sampanthan a poisoned chalice, and it cannot be possible that he has taken it with his eyes open. Everywhere, there are dark forces at work, and it will only be a matter of time before tears start to flow.

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

  • 4
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    Dear DJ, nice to see you back in the arena. [Edited out]Tell me one reason why should we take your analysis serious after all your doom day prophecies during the last twelve months failed without exception. MS is still there, RW is running the country CBK is pulling the strings and MR is in the political abyss and the country is still not plunged into any ethnical, political or economical chaos. You are a die hard racist!

  • 5
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    DJ, enough is enough, for god’s sake stop your BullShit Articles.

    Country is going in the right direction.

    You will never be able to bring the Monster Rajapaksa back.

    So you can now forget about any future Appointments to suck public funds.

    Just R.I.P

  • 5
    2

    He is unemployed person. Being cornered to his 4 walls, he has to write and write no matter the impact would be bulshit. To this date, he has proved dozens of times that he is the most laughing figure of the day. Give me please any analyses brought by this virulent creature to be called as right. He is in a world where only nationalists support their moves being stood on the way of any tangible solution for the ethnic problem of the nation. No matter even his wife would have gone against him, he would go his way- this kind of Katussas are a greater shame to our nation.

  • 3
    2

    Oh dear Dayan,

    Where were you when Mahinda Rajapaksa was “self-destabilizing” to confuse “legality” with “legitimacy”?

    During this past decade of darkness, you Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka chose to glorify all MaRa’s crimes just like Dr. Anton Balasingham glorified Prabhakaran’s crimes…

    Did you see your esteemed father turning in his grave….

  • 0
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    Will Dr Dayan Jayatileke (DJ) please try to enlighten us on his “Road to Damascus Experience” if there ever was one akin to the New testament Saul of Tarsus had before becoming the vibrant missionary and prosylitiser renamed as St Paul of the Christian faith? He has in earlier times before he lost his UNO representative position for SriLanka been a well balanced objective and middle of the road true to his father’s calibre and intellect; the highly esteemed journalist Mervin De Silva.

    In DJ’s case one suspects that it may have been a gradual process where recessive genes, memes and epigenetics changes kicked-in belated somewhat like the physical changes some teenagers undergo at puberty akin to Jidu Krishnamurthy’s but in DJ, he seems to have undergone mental, emotional, sociological and life style taste changes living in the developed first world that SriLankan enabled him to imbibe and experience. One would appreciate DJ responding to this in any manner good, bad or ugly in the interests of truth and not in fairness or justice for anything or anyone.

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