21 October, 2017

UNP Should Close Ranks, And The SLFP? Oppose Rajapaksas!

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Sri Lanka is definitely at cross roads after Aluthgama. It is not merely a question of the magnitude of the events, but the way the events were unleashed and the purported investigations were/are conducted by the police and the security establishment. It is very clear that the government or, more correctly, some sections of the government are behind the carnage. If there is any threat of ‘fascism’ in the country, then that definitely comes from those sections. The BBS or other similar organizations are obvious tools of that threat or the organized movement to overthrow democracy.

A Bizarre Government

By the way, what is the government in Sri Lanka today? It is completely a bizarre situation. It was just few days back that the ‘Prime Minister’ walked out of Parliament complaining he was not allowed to speak at an important debate. ‘Minister of Justice’ complains that the police has meddled with the post-mortem investigations to cover up the shootings at the Aluthgama events. There is verbally a vociferous ‘Minister for National Integration,’ but he couldn’t be seen anywhere near the Aluthgama events, at least to see what had happened. The rightwing and the extremist Ministers (JHU, NFF etc.) hold the roost in all debates. They set the agenda. The so-called leftwing ones make some noises, but don’t do anything to arrest the deteriorating situation.

The President is not a bystander. He is the benefactor. The game plan seems to be to create some chaos and ethnic hysteria (of all sides) even at the risk of economic setbacks before the presidential and parliamentary elections. For what purpose? To install a more authoritarian and a ruthless regime. That is their ideology and the interests of the Rajapaksa family, and their close associates. That group has now become a ‘politically new rich’ social stratum.

‘Politically New Rich’  

The socio-economic roots of this ‘politically new rich’ stratum are within various political and state institutions and their activities combined with privileges, commissions and contracts to them or their families with corruption. I am here not referring to the state bureaucracy or the public servants. Along with are certain private sector new businesses and inside trading in the stock market. These are not the traditional socio-economic bases of the SLFP or the UNP. Although the present government is, at least nominally, led by the SLFP, many of the traditional sections are out of this circle.

Ranil

Ranil

What is at stake is not only democracy, justice or human rights. But also the civilized business sector, entrepreneurs and the industrialists. ‘Robber Barons’ have and are replacing them. Along with it or separately is the onslaught on the traditional trade union movement and workers’ rights.

Rajapaksa instincts are political. But for the political survival, they require the backing and now the expansion/consolidation of this ‘new class.’ On what basis, I am saying this? I have partially seen this development or manipulation as a Director of the Colombo Stock Exchange during 2010 and early 2011 before I resigned. There are considerable other information regarding this development even with foreign connections, sidelining or replacing the traditional business or industrial sections. The attempt is also not to allow the new businesses emerging from other ethnic communities i.e. Muslims in the South.

UNP and the SLFP

The UNP and the SLFP are the two major parties which have governed this country since independence for better or for worse. Whatever the deviations from democracy after 1972 or more particularly 1978, those recede to the background given the present deviations and imminent challenges. These two parties have major responsibilities in rescuing the present situation. The SLFP seems to be largely hijacked by the Rajapaksa clan. However, it should be and can be rescued.

One predicament of political parties in Sri Lanka is that the parties go along with the leaders, and not the other way round. This should be changed. The UNP under Dudley Senanayake and JR Jayewardene were completely different. Look at the difference of the SLFP under Chandrika Kumaratunga (CBK) and Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR). Similarly, the present SLFP could be rescued if the leadership is changed. It may appear hard at the moment but it could be done, and that is the right thing to do. But in the case of both the SLFP and the UNP they have good democratic traditions and legacy. These should be resurrected. Weaknesses of the economic policies should be corrected.

No one can say that the economic policies under CBK (SLFP) or Ranil Wickremesinghe (UNP) were vibrant. Perhaps that was a predicament of the time. The Asian resurgence had not properly taken off by that time. However, there is something to learn from MR but without turning the economy into a clannish dominance. Even Wimal Weerawansa says that the Rajapaksa policies have failed at the micro level, creating large economic/class disparities. The situation should be utilized by the opposition.

The deterioration of democracy is partly a result of the ethno-nationalist war (1983-2009). But not fully. Now the war has been over for five years. Nevertheless, the move away from democracy has increased and not decreased. Why? Simply said, the Rajapaksas don’t believe in democracy. It is something alien to them except conducting elections.

Some Issues

The gap between the requirements of a proper democracy and the existing awareness of the voters seem to be considerable. Political parties have been exploiting the ‘backwardness’ of the voters without educating them. This is where the party leaders should have been more enlightened or visionary. This is an area where the civil society organizations and the NGOs also have failed. It is not ‘gossip’ that the opposition should utilize to counter the government, but information, facts and education with publicity effectiveness.

The opposition also should be careful in handling security issues. Security is a concern for all sections. The attempt to change an undemocratic government is not an attempt to change the whole state structures. Only reform may be necessary after a change. There is also no point in antagonizing the military unnecessarily. What the opposition should ask from the military or the bureaucracy is to be neutral on political battles and competition between the legitimate political parties.

It is true that the country cannot wait to defend democracy until the whole masses are educated. There are certain natural instincts of the people that can be utilized. People by nature fear a dictatorship. There are considerable experiences even going back to the colonial period. There is a considerable awareness that the presidential system is dictatorial and it should be changed. But it cannot be the ‘Single Issue.’ People don’t like broken promises. They don’t like massive corruption or misuse of public funds. After all they have to pay. Increasing crime and the drug menace are of major concerns. Mothers and women are particularly sensitive to these issues. Not the Cinnamon Garden dames, but the ordinary village women. The opposition should move beyond Colombo. The list may be long, and I’m only giving a gist of it.

Family Dominance

People don’t like exclusive family dominance in political parties let alone governments. Soft connections might be tolerated or understandable. Even the ‘Uncle Nephew Party’ slogan discredited the UNP in 1950s. Sympathy is generated if only husband is assassinated and the wife is contesting. People didn’t like the daughter being the President and mother being the Prime Minister. Added to that was an uncle running the defense. The SLFP has been more prone to family bandyism than the UNP. However, that was tolerated under the circumstances of the war. Yet, CBK couldn’t or didn’t nominate Anura Bandaranaike as the presidential candidate when Mahinda Rajapaksa was there. That was the right thing to do.

The SLFP will soon be facing the succession problem. That is an opportunity to change the leadership beyond the Rajapaksa family circle. As I have written in an earlier article, the President has no mandate or moral right to contest again. The SLFP should oppose the family dominance in the party without delay.

The above however would not mean that ousting Rajapaksas should be the single issue like changing the presidential system. There are many more issues. Economic, social and educational issues might be the most potent in an opposition campaign. Most fundamental before that might be some organizational matters.

Closing Ranks          

There are factions, leadership struggles or internal frustrations in all democratic parties all over the world. These become acute particularly when a party is out of power for a very long period. The temptations are also high when pecuniary and other offers are made by a corrupt regime to the opposition members. The UPFA government has been using the ‘pork barrel’ to the maximum since 2005 to attract opposition members.

I may disagree with the particular economic policies of the UNP or its leadership, but I value it as a major party within the democratic system which can make a difference. Its role is decisive in saving democracy, decency and good governance in the country today. It was a good thing for the party to create a ‘Leadership Council’ when the leadership was disputed and there are obviously other legitimate contenders for the leadership.

Collective leadership for political parties might be little ideal for Sri Lanka. However, the leaders and the aspiring leaders should be able to work amicably setting aside their differences when the country is facing decisive challenges for its democratic existence. In the long run what might be best for all democratic parties is the membership based mass organizations.

The need of the hour for the UNP is to close ranks. For the SLFP, to oppose the Rajapaksa grip within the party.

Other Parties

The above doesn’t mean that the responsibilities only rest with the UNP or the ‘genuine SLFP’ to save democracy in the country. I am here talking only in respect of political parties. The role of the minority parties are equally important. The TNA, as the major party representing the Tamils in the North and the East should be able to look beyond their community interests. The fate of the minorities would largely depend on the question of saving democracy in the country.

The same applies to the SLMC or the CWC or other minority parties. A pertinent question might be to ask ‘what the hell’ the SLMC is doing within the government when violent attacks are unleashed against their community with the connivance of certain sections of the government.

The role of the JVP has so far been most praiseworthy while the old left parties being completely miserable. However, the JVP has to commit itself firmly to the democratic path given their past violent and insurrectionary activities. The same applies to many others who should completely desist from violence or extralegal activities. Struggle for democracy is not a struggle for mere power but for justice.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    1

    Dayan J:
    These words are for you from Laksiri !

    “The President is not a bystander. He is the benefactor.”

    Stop defending the president in the slim hope of a diplomatic crumb !

    • 3
      10

      DJ has every right to express his view and disagree with Laksiri Fernando (LF). LF, until recently seemed reasonably rational but, of late has become obsessively anti-Rajapakses. The events in Aluthgama are a disgrace to the nation, but LF goes too far in “suggesting” that those events were planned and excecuted with the knowlege and tacit approval of the Rajapakses, and they alone should shoulder rersponsibility for all that had happened. That, in someways a few misguided Muslims may have made a contribution to cause tensions is not even considered by LF as a possibilty. There seems to be a shift in LF’s stance of late and, soon LF may even suggest that only the Rajapakses and the military should be investigated by the UNHRC, as do Brian Seneviratne, Rudikumaran and other diaspora humbugs. Rats do jump ship but, not all make a safe landing!

      • 7
        3

        Lal,

        “LF, until recently seemed reasonably rational but, of late has become obsessively anti-Rajapakses.”

        So, if one is “anti-Rajapakses”, one is unreasonable and irrational; what logic do you espouse?

        Please grow up lal; writing utter rubbish on public forums with such drivels is embarrassing to say the least!

        • 1
          1

          Only pro racist Tamil Terrorists can write drivels in public forums in your view? Go bury your head in the sand loser.

          • 0
            0

            The whole world know who is behind the recent anti muslim attacks in SL, lal cant hide this. Let us live peacefully in
            this beatiful land, do what u can to arrest the situation rather then blindly suporting for actor or the benefactor

      • 0
        0

        Lal
        You are not discussing the issue, but criticizing the author.
        Please read GB Senanayake’s Kaviyage Birinda in Duppathunge Lokaya.
        Let us use this space for educated intelligent discussions, please

      • 2
        0

        Lal,

        Please don’t con in this forum where CT readers are more mature and intelligent than Villege “gamaralas” farmers who give their vote for a packet of Rice or a Half bottle Arack.

        Every Tom,Dick and Harry knows that Aluthgama, Beruwala Genocide against Muslims were planned and executed by RAJAPAKSE BROTHERS, Defense Intelligence units, and BBS thugs.

        Read the papers to see how the Tamil Kalutara DIG who overlooked Aluthgama and Beruwala was Transferred overnght because he refused to release 13 BBS thugs who were caught after vandalised, torched, looted and rioted in Aluthgama.

        Didn’t you read that both Police and the STF and the Army were acting like mere Goats when the BBS thugs torched Muslim owned shops and houses and damaged UNP MP Palitha Thevanamperuma’s van and hurt him.

        Wait for couple of days when Mangala Samaraweera comes up with all the evidence and proofs to show how Gota, Intelligence units, BBS thugs and Gota’s Rakna Lanka terror squads who are behind this Massacre and Genocide and also those who burned down Panadura NoLimit store with video footages.

        Lal,
        Please don’t try to fool us CT readers. We have much better brains than Hambanthota Villege “Gan Kabarayas” crocodyles.

  • 6
    2

    happy that there are still some sensible scholars like you and CT to write and publish this kind of rational articles. you are doing great service to the sri lankan public who are this kind of reading material-including your previous ones.
    by the way are you still in SL?

  • 3
    6

    All the problems of Sri Lankan Buddhists are created and fed by the Christians,to rule us by cunningly.even Muslim countries internal wars are orchestrated by Christian west either by occupation or creating terror outfits to save their hegemony, for the last 500 years or so they are killing and looting the non-Christian world.but Islam has gone to it’s backyard and they start to taste it.(the terrorism they have created).we Buddhist should be more vigilant.

  • 2
    5

    Dr Fdo says,
    “If there is any threat of ‘fascism’ in the country, then that definitely comes from those sections. The BBS or other similar organizations are obvious tools of that threat or the organized movement to overthrow democracy”.
    Is there a threat of ‘fascism’? Dr Fdo seems unsure that there is
    ‘fascism’ but seems to know where it comes from.
    What is clear is that DJ has his marbles intact but LF does not, that is “If” he has some in the first place.

  • 5
    1

    The Sri Lankan crisis, dilemma and a possible way out has been presented with much clarity and insight. Thanks Prof. Laksiri. The so- called ordinary people are aware of what is happening and are aghast, distraught, angry and ashamed. Their votes are not however translating into the expected result. WHY? This is the big question.

    Is it the lack of alternatives engineered by the government through both propaganda and money power. Ranil Wickremasinghe, who won the premiership during the Chandrika presidency and was unfairly dismissed – the ugliest move by Chandrika Kumaratunge- has been painted a repeated loser through an organised effort that has gained a momentum of its own. A myth has become a fact. This imagery has become a liability for Ranil Wickremasainghe, who is in the same breath recognised by many as an able administrator. The seniors in the UNP have lost sight of their party’s main objective and have been destroying the party from within. The defections engineered by MR have further eroded the party. Ranil has been unable or incapable under the circumstances to bring in new blood.

    The old SLFP has also been corrupted to the core. MR has collected their dirty linen in his laundry room. They cannot move against him. It is too much to expec the old SLFP to be the harbinger of any hope. The old left is dead in spirit though the body is yet breathing feebly. The CWC and ACMC have provided MR enough dirty linen to store in his laundry room. He will wash them in public when provoked enough. Rishad Badiudeen had a fore taste of this recently. The JVP is trying to metamorphose from an ugly larva to a beautiful butter fly. Unfortunately it is yet in the process of doing so.

    It is only the Chandrika- Ranil duo, supported unequivocally by those opposing the MR cabal that can bring about the desired result. The JVP can be an immense help, if it can subordinate its own agenda and set aside its power ambitions at least for five years. The TNA should stay away, lest it be portrayed by MR and his coterie as pursuing its hidden agenda through the new political formation. MR will definitely play this card and portray himself as the only saviour of the unity of this country and the a Sinhala-Buddhists.

    The mission ahead will be difficult in the face of what the MR government is capable of, but is possible because the people are hungry for a change. The forces identified by Prof. Laksiri are formidable, but can be neutered by mobilising the people power. However, the change promised must set on fire the imagination of the people and must be perceived as genuine and not the usual election ploy. There is enough ammunition to fire at MR and the UPFA, but there are no multi-barrel guns in the opposition to fire them. MR and the UPFA can only win because of an opposition default.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 3
      1

      Re-read “Politics of Aluthgama” by Kalana

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-politics-of-aluthgama/

      Are the people really silent now?

      Were they not silent in 1983?

      Were they not silent in 1991 when Muslims were chased out by the LTTE?

      Were they no silent in 1977

      Were they not silent in 2009 when Tamils were held hostage in the LTTE?

      Were they not silent in 1962?

      Were they not silent in 1981?

      Were they not silent in 1958?

  • 0
    0

    Cannot the SLFP old-codgers challenge MR on the basis that unless MR
    stands down in keeping with the 2 term limit, they would back the UNP
    on principle, that MR does not become a President again, in view of his track-record to-date. SLFPers and SLs last democratic chance to make a change. MR can be bestowed with whatever Title he wants for his part
    in the civil-war if that is all what he has been concerned in the last
    5 years – SLs Nobel prize! Reminds me – 700 Million Rs. given to Uva PC
    in the name of Development Aid – for electioneering no doubt,by a President as the Minister of Finance!!

    Already UNP is for abolishment of exc.Presidency. The new SLFP candidate
    too must contest on that basis, for a change within a fixed time-period
    and the Programme of changes in the Manifesto.

  • 1
    0

    Ex Lankan Lucksiri is an anti Buddhist who is driving his own agenda to topple this people’s Government and put the UNP Christian faction in charge,

    John Keels pockets USD 100 Million profit out of a turnover of 700 Million.

    56 % of the share register are Super Funds and Pension funds from the West.

    John Keels dig with 800 rooms along Beire lake makes Packer’s look like a peanut shop.

    Are these the Robber Barons whom Lucksiri is on about?.

    One of the largest stock brokers in Colombo gives thumbs up for the current investment environment and says Foreign funds are buying big in to the top ten companies.

    This is smart money not the Diaspora dollars, which are promised but never delivers , even to the poor ex captives.

    Tourist in flow to reach 2,5 Million in the next two years.

    What did the UNP christian faction Leader and his dear Cousin .do to this poor country and its great majority of the poor inhabitant population.

    The Christian faction can’t even reconcile with the Buddhist Faction lead by the Keselwatta Kid.

    The Cousin of course will join as soon as the call comes.

    They even can take Kudu Jayaratna to join Mangala Samaraweera who have become the new darlings of the Christian Faction supporters.

    Will it be a winning coalition?.

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