2 June, 2023


Uva Unlimited

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Perhaps the most interesting single thing to watch about the upcoming Uva election is whether or not the UNP will get significantly more than half of the vote that the Government succeeds in obtaining. Will the Govt’s percentage of the vote increase, decrease or remain roughly static? If it is a decrease, will that be lesser or greater than the increase in the UNP vote, if increase there is? Will the UNP show tangible signs of recovery, of bottoming out of its long downswing?

The next most interesting things are the percentages that the JVP and General Fonseka’s Democratic Party succeed in polling.

If the UNP fails to get appreciably more than half the vote that the UPFA obtains, the reason will be very simple. While on the surface of it, it is almost impossible for a coalition that has been in office for two decades to retain its percentage of the vote, the UPFA contests under the leadership—the sign, the brand as it were—of Mahinda Rajapaksa who has been in office for under ten years while the UNP is running, or hobbling, under the leadership and the brand of Ranil Wickremesinghe who has been around as opposition leader for twenty years. By this reckoning the factors of attrition and anti-incumbency go twice as much against the UNP as against the UPFA. Therefore, paradoxically, the Opposition UNP tends to get roughly half the vote of the ruling UPFA.

There are considerations even more important than the UPFA and UNP’s relative performances in Uva. Those are what the Government and Opposition will do on the morning after.

The President has two options. Does he press home the advantage of a win in Uva, maintain the momentum, and go for a snap presidential election, probably in the weeks and months after November 19th? Or does he space out the elections so as to retain the option of leveraging the UNP leader’s unpopularity in contrast to his own popularity, thereby imposing an electoral defeat on the Opposition even when mass economic discontent builds up significantly?

If on the morning after a disappointing showing in Uva, the UNP leader fails to step down or the UNP fails to remove him, so that the party may climb back into the ring for the big one, the Presidential election, the only conclusion is that the UNP is like the proverbial dog in the manger, with a leader who is unable to defeat the UPFA and unwilling to step down and a party that is unable or unwilling to replace him with one who may have half a chance of doing so.

If anything is a safer assumption than anything else, it is that the present UNP leader and the Head of Government must already be sharing information about the respective dissidents in each other’s camps, just as the same UNP leader did with President Kumaratunga, and one of his predecessor’s as Opposition Leader, the SLFP’s Anura Bandaranaike did with President Jayewardene in the run-up to the Referendum of 1982 (resulting in the infamous Naxalite Plot and the incarceration of Vijaya Kumaratunga).

Dual Paradigm Shift

It may come as a surprise to the readers to know that Uva has anything to do with London, Paris, Boston or St Petersburg, but it does. The assumption in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries was that the processes of revolutionary modernization in England, America and France were the templates of social and political change. The rising upper middle and middle classes, preceded by the thinkers and professionals, would rally the peasants around them, and take on the monarchies and feudals, either displacing them and wrenching reforms ( England), throwing off their yoke (US) or overthrowing them (France). These were the three variants of democratization and modernization and all took place under the leadership of the rising bourgeoisie and middle class.

The expectation in Russia too was that the liberal bourgeois opposition would spearhead the political struggle against Tsarism, but it soon began to be clear that no such thing would happen, because the liberal bourgeoisie was either too weak-kneed or too economically complicit with the Tsarist state to lead the struggle for democracy and modernity. That realization led to the next one, namely that the historic tasks of democratization and modernization could no longer be fulfilled by the liberal bourgeoisie as happened in England, the US and most conspicuously France, but would instead have to be shouldered by a coalition of social forces, urban and rural, led by the Left.

This amounted to a paradigm shift to the left, but had to be followed within a few decades by yet another paradigm shift, this time rightwards or rather towards the center. Just as it was understood that the liberal bourgeoisie could not be counted on to democratize and modernize the nation and society, and that this task therefore devolved on the Left, the Left itself was to realize in the face of the rise of Fascism in Europe, that it had to shift rightwards, i.e. to the center, forming the broadest possible social and ideological coalition which embraced everyone while isolating and targeting the most violently militaristic, monopolistic and racist element. In pursuance of this broad coalition, the Left had to drop its more radical programs and commit itself to a platform of democracy, patriotism and reform. This strategy, famously known as the Popular Front, tragically came too late to prevent fascism from taking power, but was successful especially in its global and local applications, in finally defeating fascism.

The Popular Front concept took root beyond Russia, especially in the East. Mao Zedong called it New Democracy, which featured a bloc of four social classes including the nationalistic/patriotic section of the capitalist class. The two most creative political thinkers associated with the new paradigm of alliance and flexibility were Mao in the East, and Antonio Gramsci (and his friend and successor Palomiro Togliatti) in the West.

The sweeping contemporary successes of the Left in Latin America have been the result of the creative application by those parties and leaders, of Antonio Gramsci’s own creative version of the Popular Front strategy.

It is Uva and its immediate aftermath which will demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt whether such a shift in perspective is necessary in Sri Lanka; whether the traditional party of bourgeois modernization, the UNP is unable to perform its task of dislodging or even constituting an effective alternative to the entrenched status quo.

The Real Agenda

What are the corresponding tasks of democratic modernization facing Sri Lanka today, which would have to be undertaken by the Right, Left or Center?

  1. A permanent and just peace and national unification: the fulfillment of the promise of peace and the prevention of renewed ethnic secessionism by learning the lessons of the Thirty Years War and building a unifying Sri Lankan identity through the eradication of ethnic and ethno-religious discrimination, prejudice and injustice.
  2. Fulfillment of the country’s potential through the institution of the principle of merit in every sphere, which requires as a pre-requisite, the dismantling of a closed, extended family/clan based monopolization of political and economic power and decision making.
  3. Rollback of the overextension of the security agencies and military into spheres of social, political, cultural and economic life.
  4. Safeguarding national independence, sovereignty, the Sri Lankan armed forces, and the verdict of history on the quintessentially just character of the final war, from hegemonic external interventionism and the falsification of history, by returning to Sri Lanka’s traditional, balanced foreign policy and rebuilding a broad coalition of global support.

When the most crucial historic task facing the country was its reunification by defeating the fascist-secessionist enemy, the UNP failed in fulfilling it, as did the Chandrika led SLFP (though to a much lesser degree). It was therefore left to a coalition of the Rajapaksas and the Sinhala ultranationalists to succeed.

As often happens in history, the bloc that won the war has been unable to win the peace, and therefore requires either (i) a re-composition which retains Mahinda Rajapaksa as engine while de-coupling the wagons of family monopoly of power, or (ii) a democratic replacement. The historic gains of Mahinda Rajapaksa may require either de-linking him from a quasi-monarchic political monopoly and interfamilial succession or if that is not possible, his eventual democratic replacement.

Double Political Pivot

Though the entrenchment of the gains of the war under President Rajapaksa may require a post-Rajapaksa future, such a future cannot be arrived at through the agency of a pre-Rajapaksa political elite. Sri Lanka needs to move beyond the war, but that cannot be achieved by a failed pre-war elite of which Ranil Wickremesinghe is the exemplar (and CBK too, though less so). The postwar tasks which the Rajapaksas, the dominant faction of the wartime power elite, have failed to undertake still less complete, have to be completed either by dissenting elements of the patriotic wartime elite—the JVP, Gen Fonseka, Karu J—or younger patriotic popular figures (Sajith). It took Clement Attlee a progressive member of the wartime national coalition, to supplant Churchill. The appeaser Neville Chamberlain surely could not have.

Uva and the morning after will show whether or not the UNP is declining faster than the Government; whether it is a tribe facing extinction because it is unable or unwilling to replace its leader. If so, then a dual paradigm shift will be urgently imperative, with all those of reformist, progressive, moderate, centrist, liberal and dissenting views having to shift to the Left (i.e. to Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s JVP), while that Left will have to greatly broaden its appeal to moderate opinion by a corresponding shift to the center.

To put it at its simplest, the JVP has to attract UNP voters belonging to three sub-categories i.e. those who once voted UNP, still vote UNP and might well have voted UNP had it been under a new leadership. The JVP also has to attract SLFP voters disaffected by the unprecedented monopoly of power and resource allocation by the ruling family. These UNP and SLFP voters are moderate centrists, and will not be radicalized beyond a point; will not shift too far left in their thinking even if there is an economic crunch. Thus the JVP will have to be flexible enough to embrace the center.

This is a matter of life and death for the JVP, because it is the size of their vote and representation in parliament that will safeguard them from repression on trumped up charges as they experienced at the hands of JR Jayewardene in 1983. With familial succession at stake today, in a manner that it wasn’t under JRJ, the likelihood of suppression during a third term is even greater than in the 1980s. Even the organizational strength of the JVP as a party will depend upon the size of its mass support base, and that size will in turn depend on the breadth of their sociopolitical appeal.

Only a Right-Left pincer move which shifts the middle classes of town and country to the Left, and the Left towards those middle classes; only such a historic convergence, can constitute a new progressive project of Hope as an alternative to the four negative phenomena of (a) political monopolization and hereditary succession, (b) rampant racism and religious polarization, (c) latent Northern secessionism and (d) hegemonic external interventionism.

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Latest comments

  • 15

    It is almost impossible for a coalition that has been in office for two decades to retain its percentage of the vote’

    – Thanks for accepting the truth. Very defensive, aren’t you Dayan?
    I wish a humiliating defeat.

    ‘The President has two options’

    -Yes indeed he has. I wish he packs his bag and abscond (To Seashells, where his black money has been kept) or hang himself. Sri Lanka will be better off with either options.

    Please leave this ‘anything to do with London, Paris, Boston or St Petersburg and leave Anura Bandaranaike’ a side. Tell us WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE DESPOT IS DEFEATED IN UVA? You conveniently skipped that part from explaining. How nice of you.

    You Dayan are still talking about the popularity of Pin-piya Mara and the weakness of RW. After all this is about Uva Province yet you didn’t mention about the Uva contestants. There is a young man called Harin Fernando, who was an MP until yesterday and for your into he is highly popular. Keep your fingers crossed.

    BTW – Write an article about ISI’ second head quarters in Colombo and the link between ISI & Gota. India is more vigilant now.

    Looks like ‘coming colours no good’ eh Doc?

    • 5

      Dayan Jayatilleka –

      “Perhaps the most interesting single thing to watch about the upcoming Uva election is whether or not the UNP will get significantly more than half of the vote that the Government succeeds in obtaining”

      Good question.

      JVP Will most likely increase its numbers and percentages.

      • 3

        I agree. This is JVP home base. I won’t be surprised, if they come out on top.

    • 2

      This Nariya (fox) is waking up though in slumber mode. But would never see it right. This kind of so called lanken senior political analysts are where dictators govern. Best example is zimbabwian Mugabe. These men like DJ are a born failures. I really hate to read the man with clearly years long experience in lanken politics seems to see things only biased to a man that almost destroyed the nation depicting that we the sinhalese are murderous. Rajapakshe name is hated by almost every rich nation in this world today. Having watched a program on BBC last night, I felt, as cambogian former leader that took the lives of a quarter of the country population – our Rajapakshes if not today in the future will have to face it the reality- to get convicted for the crimes ( intentionally) made telling only the palatable to the stupid folks. Taking the credit of the war by force to the very same manner abusing all law or law amendments for his political survival- these Rajapakshe are becomeing bitter to this nation too.

  • 11

    Oh god, not again, the same old same old….yes, we get it, Ranil is a loser …

    The fact that Sajith hasn’t got the bal** to challenge a weak Ranil tells me a lot…

  • 7

    To be expected from the political analyst! I don’t think even Mara feels so desperate to see Ranil and UNP defeated as much as this analyst does. Dayan you better seek refuge in Australia going in a boat before this government is brought down. Uva is the first gunshot. Harin is an extraordinary hero. If you have any dollars left hide them

  • 8

    As usual you are helping MR and co . Protecting his vote bank and I’ hope people will teach MR a lesson in this election

    • 2

      He s unemployed, so there should be something for him to do. That is the reason why his frequency of this kind of articles are getting more these days. I hate to read the contents.. this man would never be able to disspear if this murdersous regime would be defeated to the very same manner own folks went against Gadaphi s regime in the recent past. Once pant down, this time, not even pieces will have to be found to the very same manner Premadasa left us. DJ is on the top list of most hatred words to those really love to this nation. His nature of backing uneducated rascals like Premadasa and Rajapakshes are dangersous as EBOLA virus is to the entire world today.

  • 6

    Dayan must be daydreaming all day fearing Ranil. MR tried his utmost tricks to have Ranil removed as leader of the UNP because, unlike Dayan, MR knows who his real enemy is and what his potential strength is.
    But all efforts failed. Ranil managed to keep the part intact amidst these very trying times. Dissidents have now returned to his fold and the first gunshot will be from Uva. I am from Uva and I know the feelings of the masses there

  • 9

    It is sad to read this article written by a “spent force diplomat”. Dayan is trying extremely hard to get on to the lab of the President Rajapakse. Even after getting kicked out by the President unceremoniously (after his repeated self claim of amazing victory at UN), after being ignored by the President (unless there is a back stage deal with the President) this educated person writes such stupid articles. What has he got against UNP and particularly against Ranil? Dayan is a witness to all the atrocities that is happening in Sri Lanka, in fact from time to time in his articles (may be when he is sober)and in platforms he brings out the atrocities of the regime. But when ever he writes to CT he switches his cap!

    Being a former diplomat and an educated person what Dayan should have written is – “even if the President’s coalition wins (Dayan has forgotten to mention that UPFA is made of several parties and UNP is a single party)it is important for the public to see how FAIRLY the election was fought”. This is how he should have written this article. Further, the most important thing is not how many seats were won by UNP, the utmost thing is how many seats did UPFA loose.

    Dayan has once again has proven that he is a “spent force diplomat” who is trying extremely hard to get on to the lap of the President. He brings shame on the entire diplomatic community, his late father and above all to educated people of Sri Lanka.

  • 6

    Yes, learned Doctor was correct. Actually Election Commissioner should have taken more seats from Badulla and added to Monaragala to make sure a comfortable win.

    Under Dr. DJ’s able leader Mihin Lanka loss 3.2 Billion while CPC and F/C 9.7 Billion.

    Doctor, It is not the Ranil or opposition losing, we the General Public are the Losers under your most educated, qualified and able leader, Mahinda Rajapaksha.

  • 7

    If a completely unflawed, free and fair election is held, UNP will win.
    But this is very doubtful – there has never been a completely free and fair election since independence.

  • 3

    So if we were to believe a small percentage of DJ’s latest thesis, UVA is ready for a revolution? I think NOT!

    The people in Uva are like the rest of us. Bothered by Cost of living, a lack of basic rights, an inability to think beyond today because of a multitude of issues. But, when it comes to voting, saddled with indifference, apathy and a feeling of helplessness after decades of
    promises of a better tomorrow. Status Quo! That is what the ruling elite on all sides are hoping for.

    It is for the people to want more, AND TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Just hoping for change does not make it happen. The least they can do is go out on election day and vote their feelings.

  • 1

    Simply i am confident Badulla Going to UNP 6 Seats, JVP 2 Dnf 1 Muslimparties 1 rest Gov parties 4. Monraagala. Gov. Coaliation 6 JVP 3, UNP 3.

  • 6

    As a vast majority of the Uva voters are not privy to this and other deep political/historical analysis, they will do what they always do and vote for who their heart tells them to. Not their brains. They always have and as long as they are in the ‘ahinsaka janathawa’ category, they always will. That is to say ‘simple village folk’. They will vote for who the best singer of songs on the political stage, they will vote for the person who has the best debating skills on TV talk shows, any politician who remembers their name and pats them on the shoulder, or who attested their childs wedding etc etc

    • 1

      Good point.

      • 3

        buffaloes are also innocent I guess !

        No Dayan, nothing surprising at all. Just another character assassination attempt on Ranil.

        Have you got residency in any other Country ? Or are you relying on the fact that Ranil is not a vindictive B— like you present master!

  • 3

    DJ as ususal is obsessed with Ranil and is unable to see the emerging political reality.I suggest he reads the article by Visgwamithra published today under the caption What is Venerable Sobithas Missission, Is Ousting The Rajapaksas Realistic and Doable and the article published by Gomin Dayasiri (who supported M.R.at previous elections)under the heading`Who`s afraid of the common cadidate-posted on August 5th and appears on the web.In both these articles it is clearly established by facts and figures that the odds are against the incumbent.D.J.s logic makes no sense when he claims that if the % of UNP votes is less than in previous elections then M.R is a clear winner.He does not take into consideration that there is a new political player in SF whose party has been getting around 7% at the recent elections and these are votes for the opposition.The western Provincial elections indicates the the swing is towards the opposition,with the Govt obtaing less than 53% in Gampaha and Kalutara and 45% in Colombo.The joint opposition candidacy has better chance than M.R unless the voters in the North and East are disenfranchised.

  • 2

    Whta is also interesting is that somehow Harin Fernando has been cast as a anti-monragala figure. Knowingly or unknowingly Harin too started speaking only on behalf of the Badulla district. He is falling into a trap.

  • 1

    Dayan got a point here.

    Which is how to protect and preserve the post Nanthikadal Peace, , and propel the Nation to prosperity on the foundation which Rajapaksa has put in

    Can the UNP as the Opposition do it ?

    Obviously not. They themselves have admitted that they are not up to it by forming the latest Rainbow Riders Club.

    On its own UNP would have looked better as these Rainbow partners are all undesirables such as selfish revenge seekers, rejected politicians and a political party which helped sustain the pre Nanthikadal misery all along.

    The great majority of the inhabitant population , in fact 70 % of them are poor Sinhala mainly Buddhist people.,

    Without addressing them and their needs directly, no one can win power now whether they are from the Right, Left in between or even above.

    That is the message lost here.

    Look at the UNP agenda on its own and in combination with the Rainbow Coalition.

    Is there any thing to offer for the great majority and their future generations for their welfare, standard of living, employment and envioronment?.

    Keselwatta Kid, although carries some baggage of the Senior still, looks better,

    He hasn’t been tainted by Ms Pillai,Cameron, Harper Diaspora Agenda, and their support cast the BASL, NGOs and last but not least the LTTE proxies who want to bring peace to the inhabitant population.

  • 0

    I think Uva is the litmus test – can feel the mood changing!!! will the worm turn at last. hope so

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