9 August, 2020

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Two Key Issues In Pre-Election Lankan Politics 

By Dayan Jayatilleka 

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Sri Lankan politics today is characterized by an absence and a presence; on the one hand by a mystery which no one raises a question about, and on the other, by something so obvious that I cannot understand why anyone is surprised. 

The ‘absence’ is the lack of an obvious question: why are those who supported 19A then, opposed to it now, and why has the JO/SLPP’s foundational strategy been completely inverted?

The ‘presence’ which is no less inexplicable is why is there a sense of surprise and/or shock at what is happening to the UNP?  

19A

The entire pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa Joint Opposition represented in parliament engaged in the protracted negotiations over and voted for 19A, with the concurrence of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa (barring the solitary exception of Rear-Admiral Sarath Weerasekara). 

I publicly supported the 19th amendment at the time and still do. If anyone’s stand on 19A has changed, it certainly isn’t mine.

I was perhaps the first to articulate the slogan “GR 2020” not only in print in 2016, but at high-level opposition discussions chaired by MR, at which the architect of what would become the SLPP once interrupted rudely to say (in Sinhala) “Dayan, don’t give dead-ropes!”. 

My advocacy was based precisely on the strategic formula which had led the JO to vote for 19A, and became the publicly stated platform of the ‘Bring Back Mahinda’ campaign, namely that with the passage of the 19th amendment, power had shifted to the Prime Ministership and though MR couldn’t run for another Presidential term, they would fight to make him the powerful PM under 19A. 

In that context, I thought that GR would be a managerial proxy President as Raúl Castro was when Fidel was no longer President but still effectively leading Cuba. Others far closer to MR saw him as playing Putin to Gotabaya’s Medvedev.

I fully supported the appointment of MR as PM by President Sirisena in late 2018 as a partial fruition of our struggle (many in his camp did not do so)—and was criticized in Parliament by the JVP for doing so.

The situation now is entirely different with the slogan abandoned if not up-ended by the SLPP. 

If 19A is abolished, then if as is likely MR is elected PM, the most experienced politician in Asia will have “the powers of a peon” (as Presidential candidate Ranasinghe Premadasa said in bitter retrospect), while a leader with zero experience in politics will have (at least) the presidential power wielded by JR Jayewardene.

This is completely contrary to what was envisioned when the formula of an MR/GR equation was put forward within the JO, including by me. It is not I who have changed on 19A, the powers MR would wield as PM, and the desirable balance within the MR/GR equation. 

Those –the SLPP leaders–who have changed completely have not explained the logic of that change. Nor has anyone asked them to explain themselves. Why not? That is the tale of the absent question, or in Sherlock Holmesian terms, ‘the dog that didn’t bark’.  

The UNP’s Fate

Now for the dismay and tut-tutting about a split in the UNP, a division in the opposition and the fate of the UNP leader, which is but should not be present at all, because the denouement was quite obvious for quite a while.

Mangala Samaraweera has opined in a recent interview that Ranil Wickremesinghe will always be remembered as the best President Sri Lanka never had. In the first place that’s an inappropriate use of the phrase. It is used when someone has been cut down in his/her prime—as in “Bobby Kennedy was the best President the USA never had”. Or, as I strongly feel, Vijaya Kumaratunga was the most progressive President Sri Lanka never had. 

However, when someone has been the leader of a mainstream party for a quarter-century which has witnessed five presidential elections, two of which he has run unsuccessfully in, the others which he opted out of running in, and failed to become the president even once while also failing to have his party re-elected to successive parliamentary terms, then he’s not “the best President Sri Lanka never had”. He’s the worst presidential candidate any Sri Lankan political party ever had, and should have given up his day job a long time ago.   

The UNP was ailing and what it was ailing from was diagnosable and diagnosed at least a decade ago. Going beyond diagnosis, a clear prognosis was presented, with no less clear a prescription. It would have worked, but it was at first ignored and later, blocked. What we are witnessing now is the result. 

In 2013, I laid bare the reality of the UNP which was evident to me at the time: 

“…The UNP is dying of multiple causes. It is losing votes; its own as well as those new votes it should have attracted as an Opposition party. It is losing parliamentarians, the latest and most visible being Dayasiri Jayasekara. It is losing activists and representatives through absurd disciplinary inquiries…It is losing numbers in parliament and at every level of the political system, through loss of votes and elected representatives. 

…No one seems ready to accept the reality that there are two parties struggling under the tattered and perforated green tent…” (Dayan Jayatilleka, ‘The UNP’s implosive collapse and a dying democracy’, The Island, Oct 7th 2013) 

I concluded by prescribing a course of action which has come to pass at least partially, seven years later: 

“…Therefore, the UNP can be saved only by two procedures. Firstly, the party must be rebuilt under the leadership of a personality who can re-unite the party’s factions, provide a healing touch. I can only think of the benign father figure within the UNP, Karu Jayasuriya. Secondly the UNP must recharge its batteries, renovate, re-brand and re-launch with a candidate who can energize an electoral ‘ground game’. I can only think of Sajith Premadasa.”

Even a few years before that, indeed an entire decade ago, I had prescribed in The Sunday Leader the change that has now, finally, taken place. I had entitled it ‘The Sajith Solution’:  

“…Does the UNP have a personality who can fit the bill? Someone who is educated enough to lead the country into an Asia that is led by an educated elite; has sufficient experience of the West to understand it and mend fences but trusted by Sri Lankans never to sell out the nation? Is there someone who is solidly Sinhala Buddhist but not narrowly chauvinist or communal minded and can therefore win the minorities without repelling the majority as Ranil does? Is there someone who is so knowledgeable in economics that he can plan and pilot our sustainable take-off, while simultaneously alleviating poverty and thereby pre-empting a social backlash? The answer is obvious and it is yes, there is. Sajith Premadasa, educated at a British public school and the LSE (specializing in economics), is certainly far better educated than Ranil Wickremesinghe or any of his supporters. He is almost certainly far more popular, both among the party members and voters and in the country.  

…His father, Ranasinghe Premadasa was the epitome of the Nietzschean ‘will to power’, more accurately translated from the German as ‘the will to overcome’ — though it was never fully deployed and thereby failed in relation to the Tigers. Does Sajith have the requisite ‘will to overcome’? For the sake of Sri Lanka let us hope that he has, or will generate it rapidly enough.”

It took a decade from the time that was published, for matters to reach the point of rupture. Sajith’s SJB is reminiscent of the populist Citizens’ Front that Ranasinghe Premadasa built and led in 1972-1973. 

The SJB resembles but is a far larger, more established, mainstreamed version of the Citizens’ Front, which was the SJB in conceptual, political and ideological embryo. The SJB is more a democratic-populist political movement than a political party. 

This was a long time coming. It should be welcomed.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    3

    I usually disagree with most of the Dr. Dayan Jeyatilake’s praising of Rajapakse Family’s fake patriotism and cheating and racism and white van abductions and murders of the journalists and politicians. However, I agree with him on his stand on 19th amendment. Already Gotabaya started his capagin against Mahinda Rajapakse and his Family. First thing he did was to remove all the cut outs campagin which was used by Mahinda Rajapakse during 2005 to 2015.Even though he appointed Mahinda as PM, he took control of all the powers of Mahinda Rajapakse. His direct involvement with Central Bank is a clear message to Mahinda Rajapakse to keep shut. Recently, he removed the race and religion from Birth Certificates without consulting him. He didn’t include Namal Rajapakse in his cabinet. What Gota is doing is keep all hardcore Buddhist extremist politicians like Wimal Weerawanse, Gammanvilla, and Fundamentalist Monks like Gnanarasa, Eppawela and military. At last, Mahinda Rajapakse has lost all his credintial, popularity from the public by his brother’s military coup. I don’t know how many of SLPP and SLFP supporters will remain with the 50 years political champion is the question now. Mahinda’s little greediness made him to loose everything to his younger Duttagemunu.

    • 4
      0

      Dear Mr DJ,
      .
      We are glad you have returned to your sense.
      :
      Today, who would agree with RAJAPKSHES and their mlechcha politics.
      :
      Please watch will you the following video clips

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bppaUkOMlSY

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOVvkB_-V2U

      To me…. if PINGONAS are appropriate to MASKADE, why not Mahinda Rajaakshe.
      He has lost his credibility as of today. So why not push him to the MASKADE `?

      I have read about mlechcha POLITICIANS, but all togehter make the CHARACTOR of Mahind Rajaakshe, he break all records sofar. THe kind of men deserve all the maximum punishment…
      :
      Does anyone disagree with this ?

  • 5
    10

    This bastard is the same as Wickrabahu Karunarathna. JVP bastard during the 1970s. Both have the same idea. May be born as a Sinhalese with Tamil blood. One of the Donkeys living in Heladiva.

    • 6
      1

      Dayan J,
      /
      Unlike your old enemy, the phone tapping, double ‘hora’ Ivy degree claiming cad who writes under a million bogus names (like the above) to CT, I wish to express some serious views on your assertions in this article.
      /
      The reason why 224/225 parliamentarians supported the S19A is not hard to understand. That was because Ranil cunningly offered the parasitic thieves a ‘guarantee’ of 4 1/2 yr term. Mahinda couldn’t have countered the wave among his supporters for this reason.
      /
      Your ‘apparent ‘hidden agenda’ of making MR occupy the ‘powerful’ PM position was surely based on a misreading of MR’s wishes and intentions. His idea then and now was/is to ensure the succession of his son, and Gota is just ‘seat warming’ towards the same end. 19A still has the specific anti-Rajapakse family clauses which they will get rid of. Hope you can now understand why those who supported it are now objecting.
      /
      As to the fate of the UNP, Mangala S’s views are irrelevant becauase he has never been an astute reader of political trends in the country, but a stupid person motivated primarily by vested interests and personal agendas. So his judgement on Ranil should be read in the same light, as ‘samanalayas’ supporting each other.

    • 4
      2

      N. Perera, Can’t you see the real donkey. Go, stand in front of a mirror!

    • 5
      0

      In fairness, anyone who call another a bastard should first verify his/her paternity with his/her mother.

      • 3
        0

        Dear SJ,
        .
        Entire society is ruined as of today. Just imagine, how incumbent premier behaves on the public stage. I dont think I ever hear many behaving so in 80ties, if they were not fishmongers.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOVvkB_-V2U

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzuC1-QGIgw

        To tell, if a minister or any powerful politician would have made such remarks publicly in Europe, he should resign on the spot…… so such civilized nations would never welcome Rajapakshes as our representives, …. the srilankens are led by the kind of stupid leadres – that should go and start their kindergarten lession without delay.
        To me, just getting to see Mahinda Rajaakshe is still living is a thing to get me allergies.
        :
        He adds utterly disgusting remarks on childless parents. As if he is no better to a tribal leader in an african state. He is shameless. How can his sons face the nation if the kind of prominent father makes such statements publicly ?

        • 0
          0

          LM
          The world has seen many worse leaders.
          That however is no consolation.
          The point is to look at what options we have and, if there is nothing worth a second look, create an option outside the framework that denies us an option.

      • 0
        0

        You ask your mother before you call me cheater.

        Thank you bloody sincere hypocrite for your preaching, though you are poor in science to teach it.

    • 0
      0

      N. Perera

      “May be born as a Sinhalese with Tamil blood.”

      Congratulations you got at least one thing right in this forum, as nearly 89.99% of the population share South Indian gene.

      “One of the Donkeys living in Heladiva”

      To be precise 89.99% of the donkeys.

    • 2
      0

      NPERRERA@
      .
      if your voccabulary is only focused on Bastards,
      .
      Rajapakshes are the king bastards of all – if we look back. This country is ruined by them sofar. Alone the last 9 months, what have they achieved for the benefit of the masses ?
      Nohting but for the benefit of their family. That much getting all the high crime investigations exonerated sofar. How come ? Why srilanken judiciary behaves so ?
      All divine forces, over to you, get this buggers away from lanken POLITICS sooner than later for a better srilanka.

  • 1
    0

    Aha!
    DJ is travelling,at the same time,in two opposite directions!
    Sajith VS Gota.

    • 4
      0

      He was Old King in UN & France. He was with Ranil in Russia, Now he is buttering Old so Communist Denish will give him another appointment. These guys are eating Lankawe alive with their master artistry.

    • 2
      0

      Plato

      “DJ is travelling,at the same time,in two opposite directions!
      Sajith VS Gota.”

      Please note two out of 64 positions, all at the same time.

      • 0
        0

        Native.

        I just referred The Perfumed Garden[ My cherished copy] but there are only 25 positions no?
        Do you mean to say that DJ has discovered the balance 39 positions?

  • 3
    0

    As usual, Thero’s entire essay is a fraud. It is just not Vaalaiththodam Jr. didn’t complete his studies in London, but Chandrika, Anura, Thero De Silva, Old King, King, Son Prince, Lemon Puff Weeraya…. none of the political figures completed their studies. Ranil is one person who finished his law. In 2015 Thero was fully supporting Ranil, here in CT. Thero, right after election, went to Old King. From that day onward, he is a prominent opponent of 19A. He has been ardent advocate of EP power, opposed 20A. Even in 2018 he fully supported New King dismissing Ranil, breaking 19A position. Old King didn’t have needed qualification to be appointed as PM, under 19A. 19A clearly says anybody left party had not returned in one month lost the membership. Karu Thief ignored all 19A position when he made Old King as opposition party leader. This is how, against 19A, government itself was functioning as the opposition in 2018 & 2018. 2018 Coup was in real opposite to 19A, a PM cannot be fired by EP. It seems, by new foreign label, which Thero filled up to his nose, he is befuddled. Further he has sneaky plan in opposing, changing 19A.

  • 3
    0

    The racist seems to fearing that by touching 19A that at this time, Old King may be forced to give some more to Tamils , rather than police, Land & North East merger, which are already in 13A. It is noticeable Thero is silent of 13A. Dayasiri is like frog leaps to puddles. It leaps every now and then but not seeing any advantage for that jump. After Thero wrote that note, he had switched his party three times. If he is a politician, why one should worry losing him? Ranil lost almost everything thing only because he wanted to save old King (the whole Royal family). He went to TTH on the same night Judas won the election and put Old King in comfortable position. He duped America, Western Countries, India, and China & UNHRC to save Old King. If Ranil’s dodging were not there, US State Secretary John Kerry might have put Old and other Royals on the UN Electric Chair. It was Ranil who destroyed all evidences of Royals corruptions and murders files inside the government departments. Remember, New King said he was having a file on Old King? Thero has no faith so he is tearing down Ranil now.

  • 2
    1

    “Mangala Samaraweera has opined…that Ranil Wickremesinghe will always be remembered as the best President Sri Lanka never had. In the first place that’s an inappropriate use of the phrase. It is used when someone has been cut down in his/her prime…”
    I do not think that phrase is restricted to a specific category of persons. I Google searched and found that Belva Lockwood (1830-1917) who do not fulfil DJ’s criterion has been called ‘the best president the US never had’. There are others I am sure.
    *
    I do not think that RW is the best anything that we never had, but that is besides the point.
    Mangala S had the right to say what he said.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Dayan
    Thank you. I share the following link to a well summarised Artificial Intelligence narrative by Steven Fry.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuPjH0XmJYA
    Could you kindly write something on the Ghetto politics of the Minority… Help the Tamils and Muslims to mainstream politics bypassing the TNA and the Muslim parties so all can join the 21st century realities for a better future please. It is good to know the folks down south have the choices and others do not have currently the same openings to express their wisdom without being terrorised/patronised to comply within their communities.
    I have read your CT article on the SL historical summary regards to the debacles/failures of the GOSL decisions that failed the Nation to date….which I do not agree with your argument. I think we have been kept in a bubble in each Ghettoes has led to the blunders and debacles and is time a fundamentally different constitution redefines the future of our Nation. To me it is irrelevant who gets elected as long as they are able to do is to have the ability/mandate democratically to devise a path based on law and order, one nation concept with all other goodies goes with it for a sustainable economical regeneration to save guard our peoples future as a Soverign Nation.

  • 1
    0

    If UNP supports Rajapaksas get their 2/3 after the election that will be the end of the UNP. With the Central Bank bond fraud report, Rajapaksas will grill the UNP to support them or end up in jail. A vote for the UNP is a vote for Rajapaksas.

  • 2
    0

    “Balawegaya” is not a suitable name for a matured, settled political party.

    Soma

    • 0
      0

      Soma
      Is peramuna much better?
      But we had quite a few which made a strong impact.

  • 1
    0

    The story of 2/3 is getting bloated by day. Everybody has their opinion why this government wants 2/3. Slap Party blow in into pieces Yahapalanaya in LG election, saying there was no need for constitutional change. But Sumanthiran argued 99. 9% had voted for constitutional change.
    So nobody, (EC, voters, candidates, election monitors, medical community, IC) expecting a normal election. Opposition party members are denying government claim of passing out of the wood in corona infection. CAFEE (A monitoring group) predicts Jaffna (North?) will be the hotbed for violence this time. PAFFREL says about 1,500 complaints have been received on violence. In Colombo many rowdies have been released. In North East, the Bull Dogs called rapist Army is unleased. In 2013 election Rapist Army printed an illegal duplicate of Udayan daily. This time Satchi claiming Sumanthiran P.C. posted ads in his temple. This is being used in North to wedge between Hindus and Christians. From the time Satchi started his ISIS (Siva Senai), all suspects that he is working for RAW and/or local Rapist CID. In the North three candidates died (, need not be by violence, but covid-19 cannot be ruled out). Opposition candidate Palitha was badly beaten and sent to hospital. The Economy is at lowest in the history of Ceylon. Chinese aggression is at very high.

  • 0
    0

    There are many adversary condition are present for “just and fair” election. As the result of the present situation, Oppositions and other NGOs are demanding to cancel the election. Government, rather than addressing some of the problems and elevating them before election to create a conducive environment for election, it is using the chaos situation to seek 2/3. This is hi-jack technique; worse than the time when Sirima o offered the poor Modaya crowd rice from moon. The story of Sirima O tells the government has good chance of getting 2/3. A substantial amount of Lankawe people votes for opposition party. Lack of ability to analyze the political situation makes people believe that their problems are because of the party that was in power. They just seek relief, but have no idea where to look for or how to bring relief. From 1931 this was well understood by Sinha and Tamil leaders. But instead of educating people and bring them to world standard, unscrupulous Sinhala Politicians are continuing to take advantage of it. In Chitanta government, all defense services, & after 2015, Yahapalanaya government, all politicians are enjoying impunity. This impunity allows political rowdies to appear like hero for majority community. Thus another Chunk of Majority community is anti-minority voters. Slap Party has the advantage on these two, this time.

  • 0
    0

    I fully supported the appointment of MR as PM by President Sirisena in late 2018 as partial fruition of our struggle (many in his camp did not do so)—and was criticized in Parliament by the JVP for doing so.

    Dayan Jayatilleka

    It is a shame that you supported the appointment of MR as Prime Minister. It shows your arrogance, rank opportunism and utter contempt for democracy.

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