26 January, 2021

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What Is Venerable Sobhitha’s Mission? Is Ousting The Rajapaksas Realistic And Doable?

By Vishwamithra1984 –

“Close elections tend to break toward the challenger because undecided voters – having held out for so long against the incumbent – are by nature looking for change.” ~Ron Fournier

Once again the country or at least the Colombo social circuits are eagerly whispering about the ‘Common Candidate’ syndrome. I may be pardoned for calling this a syndrome as it is quite obvious that those who are intricately involved in the process and those who are waiting in the wings to wear the badge of the ‘Common Candidate’ are truly obsessed with the concept.

But what the reader must be made aware of is that a system that was introduced by the then leader of the United National Party (UNP), J R Jayewardene, as a constitutional mechanism to perpetuate itself in power for all time is now spelling its own decline, resulting in a decline in its voter banks and in its asset bases in manpower, cash and other ingredients which are essential for running a reasonably well-coordinated election campaign. As a result of this swift dwindling of assets, the UNP has reversed itself to play the role of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of twenty plus years ago. This fundamental shift in status of the UNP has caused it to resort to the same tactics that the SLFP had to adopt then in the eighties and nineties- to assemble other political parties as a single opposing unit to challenge the incumbent and be its leader.

However, the composition and the policy content of the UNP are such that mustering the rest of the Opposition around itself is much more difficult for the UNP than it was for the SLFP. The UNP is a capitalist party; its economic policies are based on free market capitalism and liberal democratic values.  And its representatives invariably came from that class of people against whom the vernacular-educated classes could be easily rounded up and motivated to oppose its policies, its representatives and its general approach to politics and power play. The leadership struggle that has got the UNP bogged down in the last few years is more a direct consequence of these external factors than any other internal dynamics. It is true that Ranil Wickremesinghe, the current leader of the UNP, is extremely unpopular among the majority of voters in Sri Lanka, especially among the Sinhalese Buddhists. But those in the Opposition who oppose the UNP leadership would still oppose it even if Ranil is not the leader. The opposition to acceptance of the UNP leadership mainly emanates from the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and it’s quite understandable in the context of the UNP economic policies as well as its ruthless suppression of the terror campaign that was engineered by the JVP in the late eighties. But in the context of ‘regime change’ mere opposition to the Rajapaksa rule is not adequate.

Although the current President enjoys tremendous acceptance and popularity among the Sinhalese Buddhist majority in the country, he too must be mindful about the incumbent-fatigue factor that has set in among the voters. That alone, despite the ever-so vibrant personality that he portrays to the outer world, must be giving him many a sleepless night. However much the governing coalition tries to discard this incumbent-fatigue, it is proven all over the democratic world that it could spell disaster unless the incumbent is well-fortified against any and all opposition.

But first, let us look at some statistics:

Let us assume that there are only one hundred voters (100) and hundred valid votes would be cast at the next Presidential Elections. If the demographics hold valid, of the 100 votes, 74% would be Sinhalese Buddhists and the 26% would be the Tamil/Muslim minorities. Taking into account the extreme unpopularity of the Incumbent among this sector, the votes are likely to be distributed in the following manner:

Incumbent (MR) – 10%

Anti-Incumbent – 90%

I am basing this assumption on the manner in which voters behaved at the last Presidential and Provincial Council Elections. In 2010, at the Presidential Elections, General Fonseka obtained no less than 75% of the Tamil votes in the North and that was much before the last Provincial Council elections in the North. Since the last Presidential Elections, much has changed both in the field of racial relations as well as on the religious front.  The emergence of the ultra-racist Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS) organization and its frontline speaker Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero, have driven the minority parties further away from the incumbent party. Aside from the Tamils who seem to have been sidelined as second-class citizens in the country, the open campaign of the mayhem that was brought upon the Muslim community that was run on a well-coordinated manner, has antagonized the Muslim community to such an extent that even a measly 10% vote might be interpreted as too much for the ruling powers.

Now, coming back to our calculations, 10% of 26 votes gives the Incumbent 3 votes while the balance 23 goes to the opponent.

Now let us look at the 74% of the Sinhalese Buddhist component. For the Incumbent to retain the Presidency, he has to obtain another 47 votes from the 74% of the total valid vote base. That amounts to 64% (sixty four percent) of the 74 votes. That, under any circumstances, is a very tall order. If the Incumbent, for example,  gets only 63% or less, then he loses by getting only  3+46=49 or less, while the opponent will get 23+27=50 or more.

Vishva 1If anything, this simple mathematical calculation proves one premise. Defeating the incumbent is within the realm of possibility. Now let’s see what the incumbent has to do to obtain 50% + majority of votes:

  1. He has to see that he gets more than 10% of the non-Sinhalese Buddhist segment.
  2. He has to get more than 63% of the Sinhalese Buddhist vote.
  3. He has to improve on his overall 58% which he obtained in 2010 against General Fonseka. (However, this 58% is from the total of 100% while we have been dealing with another set of figures of 74% of the Sinhalese Buddhist vote. In other words, the incumbent has to obtain a much higher % in order to obtain 50%+ in the total poll))

Look at the 2010 results and how the incumbent fared:

VishvaGiven the current dissatisfaction of the voter and the disillusionment that follows and if thus all the pieces fall into right slots, the Opposition has a fighting chance of displacing the Incumbent. There is no chance that the Incumbent would maintain the percentages that he obtained in the districts of Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Ampara and Colombo. But it is easier for the Opposition to lose than for the Incumbent to win or it is more difficult for the contender to win than for the incumbent to lose. In such a confused context, the essentials that the Opposition needs to do are much more difficult and only a shrewd leadership, patient bargaining and skillful negotiating could achieve that purpose. For the Opposition to have this fighting chance, both the JVP and the Democratic Party of General Fonseka must be on the same side of the fence. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge’s inclusion in the same coalition would only add further strength and above all, the UNP cannot be found in disarray as to who the Common Candidate is. Unleashing of Buddhist monks into the remote villages of the land on an unprecedented  scale as was done during the 1956 Bandaranaike campaign needs to be done.

The Tamil National Alliance and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress must also contribute their best and look after their own districts and pockets quite closely. The half-hearted contributions from the UNP bigwigs as was evidenced at the last Presidential Election campaign cannot be tolerated. Then Venerable Sobhitha Thero’s mission may be accomplished. If not, we will inevitably be saddled with another plight of another term with the present Incumbent.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    Isn’t it a big joke that after 66 years of miss-governance by various rulers we are back to square one?

    How to get rid of the Satan and his cronies from power?

    What does it show about the society that produced this crazy scenario?

    OK, you get rid of the present Satan, what is the guarantee or who will ensure the next one will not turn out to be a Satan too?

    Most likely it will be one looking a the mentality of the majority, the bloated blood-thirsty armed forces, and above all the vicious Buddhist Bhikku Sena Terror Force (BBS and others), who are the real motive force behind this hell since independence.

    So the island will muddle through with pain and agony for the masses.

    • 4
      0

      Vishwamithra1984 –

      “How to get rid of the Satan and his cronies from power?”

      What about the percentage of Frauds? How do you know there will be NO frauds here?

      Expect fraud.

      • 2
        0

        He has set the stage pretty well for – expect fraud.
        Surely by fraud he will capture it or he and cohorts have much to loose- all hell will break loose.

        • 3
          0

          Javi,

          Th ere is a proverb in Tamil:

          முதல்க் கோணல் முற்றிலும் கோணல்,

          my translation of which is;
          what crooked (not straight) at the beginning will be crooked till the end.

          How the first ruler D S Senanayake started (crooked action) with the disenfranchising of hard working upcountry Tamils to the protest of Dr N M Perera has now snow balled with the big Satan in power.

          It is dishonest to start the analysis with LTTE, Kathankudy or even the Satan.

          It is the crooked deeds (karma) of the Sinhala rulers brought the island to misery, bloodshed and poverty.

          Modern day doctors in the CT look at isolated symptoms and prescribe Panadol to cure the decease. Can cancer be cured with Panadol?

          Either people are dishonest or incapable of thinking seriously to find the root cause of the misery.

          • 1
            1

            CBK and Karu to get rid of Jarapassa and rescue the SLFP, UNP and the country would be the dream ticket to unseat Mahinda Jarapassa!

          • 0
            0

            Thiru,

            Nothing is straight it is only seeming- Non-uniform rational basis spline.

            They will all be freed soon.

            Reminds me of a small potion of satire (from son to father) in Latin my dad taught me as a kid regarding this disenfranchising.

            If my character is flawed by a few minor faults, but is otherwise decent and moral, if you can point out only a few scattered blemishes on an otherwise immaculate surface, if no one can accuse me of greed, or of prurience, or of profligacy, if I live a virtuous life, free of defilement (pardon, for a moment, my self-praise), and if I am to my friends a good friend, my father deserves all the credit… As it is now, he deserves from me unstinting gratitude and praise. I could never be ashamed of such a father, nor do I feel any need, as many people do, to apologize for being a freedman’s son.

            • 0
              0

              The most disquieting aspect of SARC nations(deyo saki) is that they are a `democracy` and continue to rape- while governments ignore.

              In 1931 (the estate labour included) everyone in the island received the right from the British Raj to cast their vote.

              EQUALITY & THE RISE OF CHINESE WOMEN

              After taking control in 1949, the Communists gave women the right to legally divorce their husbands. Arranged marriages, child marriages, concubines, and foot binding were also officially banned.
              [ Wikipedia “Chinese marriage” “New Marriage Law”]

              After 1949, the percentage of girls attending school jumped from about 20% to over 96%.
              [ Wikipedia “Globalization and women in China” ]

              In the 1950s, women in China contributed just 20% of household income.

              By the 1990’s, that number rose to about 40% in the 1990s, before reaching 50% in 2009, according to Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group.
              [ Newsweek “Chinese Women Go Shopping” Aug. 27, 2010 ]

              Today, Chinese women account for 44% of China’s work force.
              [ Wikipedia “Globalization and women in China” ]

              Three quarters of Chinese women say that they’re the ones who control the family purse strings, according to a 2010 MasterCard report.

              According to Master-Card vice president Georgette Tan, the country’s 650 million women are an “emerging powerhouse within the powerhouse” of China.
              [ Newsweek “Chinese Women Go Shopping” Aug. 27, 2010 ]

    • 1
      0

      “OK, you get rid of the present Satan, what is the guarantee or who will ensure the next one will not turn out to be a Satan too?”

      Thiru- Che Guevara said something like this too:-

      “Cruel Leaders are replaced, only to have New Leaders turn Cruel”

  • 3
    0

    There has never been a scenario, and there never will be a scenario, where there is no Satan! Why? Because, Satan is in ALL OF US!

    The only way, THE ONLY WAY..any nation can hope to achieve a semblance of decent governance is for its people’s to be a AWARE of their rights and obligations and to exercise them accordingly.

    For those foundational moments to happen, there have to be a few exceptional, far-sighted leaders who plant the pillars that will grow the institutions of good governance. The US Constitution is a very good example.

    Free education was not meant to be free forever. It was meant to give the ignored masses a chance at a better life. Free Medical services was also that. Instead, both services have become employment mills with teachers barely teaching and doctors running from one channel clinic to another. No one has the guts to say…no Channel practice during working hours, when you are already being paid. No one will say for the 1000 you get, you must spend at least 15 minutes with your patient. Do you seriously think these people will migrate because they cannot steal anymore from their patients? They won’t and they can’t. They CANNOT enjoy the lifestyle they have in Sri Lanka any where else in the world. But, who is going to tell them that, and call the GMOA’s bluff. Not the present Health Minister. He is busy managing his own rackets.

    Generally the Judiciary is the last bastion between a desperate people and its government. For us, that is not an option.

    So at the next elections, people have to think and vote judiciously. Your vote is not a simple thing. This is the only device you have left to make things right in this country. It is upto the Political elite to provide the education about what they are about and how they plan to do differently from the present lot. We are rightly a very pessimistic people. Still the correct message at the right time will reverberate loudly.

    Are we ready to receive it loud and clear?

  • 3
    0

    Unlike Dr Dayan’s philosophical and polemic argument this is very simple and very rational analysis of our next presidential election. Yet the writer forgrot mention some important facts
    Most importantly, most of senior members of SLFP are not happy with MR family ruling : I think they might cross over and support opposion candidate whoever it comes and yet’ they would wait and see until last minutes to see who will be common candidate ?
    But for sure this time entire Tamils and Muslims vote at least 90% will go to common candidate
    I do not think at upcountry Tamil will go for MR and co, they too unhappy with this family ruling
    What about educated people of this country?
    Do you believe that educated people will vote for this crazy man again? I doubted it
    He destroyed the economy of this country with his useless project like Matala air port and Hembanthoda port project
    What about curruption all levels
    What about family control all over department
    What about miscarriage of justice
    What about law and order
    What about price hype and ordinarily poor people suffer a lots
    They would be better off with UNP than this family rule
    Yet’ this is a good analytical presentation and more logical than ever written on this subject
    Dear Mr Viswamitha
    Keep it up
    Enlighten us with your good writing
    More importantly your analysis is very good

  • 2
    0

    I lived in Colombo during the 80s and the 90s and as a university student with an interest in National/Nationalistic politics, I attended many of the political rallies at the time. As a result I am fairly familiar with the brand of politics Ven Maduluwave Sobhitha Hamaduruwo promoted at the time. It is precisely because of this brand of politics that Ven Sobhitha Hamaduruwo featured in the cover picture of the book ‘Buddhism Betrayed’ by Prof S J Tambiah. In fact the modern generation of ‘militant monks’, JHU, NFF etc. was nurtured by the politics of people such as the Venerable Sobhitha Hamaduruwo (and others). At every point in my memory, when required to make a choice the Tamil Leadership has been consistent in making the wrong choice. The reason for this catalogue of errors was their consistent failure to read the political currents in the South accurately…..perhaps as a result of the language barrier (inability to understand political Sinhalese) that existed. The price for these short-sighted choices was paid by the Community during the recent Vanni war.
    Can I take this opportunity to appeal to the more enlightened segments within TNA…….please do not be guided by raw emotions when making these choices. We cannot afford yet another wrong choice.
    Dr. Mahesh Nirmalan
    University of Manchester

    • 2
      0

      M.N.

      and Dr Walpola Rahula the man who decided to sit with the National Christian Sinhalese at Ecumenical . What did he leave at the end after discussing the problems after 83 riots??

  • 3
    0

    What is your point? That the TNA not support the common opposition candidate and instead support the ruling UPFA? The TNA has only two options: Either vote for the opp common candidate (cc) or boycott the election. It is far better to try and change the MR regime by supporting the cc than boycotting/staying neutral.

    As for the chauvinistic side of Sobitha ( and Fonseka and others) that is a reality–I don’t trust them either–that has to be managed. They were silent regarding the Aluthgama attacks on Muslims. But it is possible that in the absence of the LTTE, with the focus on the Rajapaksa regime’s misdeeds, they will be less hostile to Tamil democratic interests than the MR regime.

    Despite the risks, Tamils have to take that chance. It is up to you to articulate a vision of how Tamil votes will matter otherwise, and defend it.

    • 0
      0

      Sorry–the above post was in response to Mahesan Nirmalan.

  • 2
    0

    Agnos, thanks. As far as people who stood silent in the face of violence against the Muslim community goes, I think we are all equally culpable. We seemed to have woken up to this only after Dambulla & Alutgama. We all stood silent after the Kattangudy massacre and when the Muslims were evicted from their homes overnight from the Jaffna penisula not very long ago. You, me, your family, my family, Thiru, Javi, Siva Sankaran Sharma, Fatima Fukashima, Kali, Ven Sobitha Hamaduruwo…….are all equally guilty. Having remained silent – admittedly through fear, none of us have the luxury of adopting a ‘Holier than thou’ attitude.
    In terms of the choices for the Tamils…..of course they must vote for a person of their choice. This is unfortunately not the forum to discuss these choices.
    Dr Mahesh Nirmalan

    • 0
      0

      Nirmalan,

      You are mixing up things. People as individuals leading private lives don’t always need to write to a newspaper or go on TV to condemn atrocities. For instance, when Muslims were evicted from the North-East, I was still at Peradeniya and condemned it; fellow Tamils as well as my Muslim friends knew it.

      But Sobitha Thero as a public figure and as a well-known Buddhist priest claiming to aspire to a “just society” and leading a national movement to abolish the executive presidency, owes a public condemnation of BBS atrocities, more so since it was instigated by fellow Buddhist priests. So does Fonseka if he wants to be a public figure contesting elections to represent all communities.

  • 0
    0

    Wharever I feel about the other parts of this piece I have to concede that the calculation part is spot on.

    Maybe a little more than 10% of the minority vote will go to Rajapakse; the Sinhala-Buddhist vote is 70% (74% is the Sinhala vote includes Sinhala Catholics who in the main will vote anti-Rajapakse); the plantation Tamils are not as hostile to Rajapakse as the Ceylon Tamils, and such small adjustments will not materially change the author’s conclusions.

    The key facctor is this. Rajapakse MUST hold over 66% of the Sinhala vote (0.66×70 = 46.2%)to scrape through. A combined opposition candidate will defeat him – hence the panic in the media (see Ceylon Today, today 7 Aug, for example). If the opposition is split he may win on a count of second preferences, but that will be a weak and crippled presidency.

  • 0
    0

    SOBITHA THERO WANTS TO APPEAL TO THE SINHALA-TAMIL-MUSLIM MASSES TO ELECT HIM TO BE THE PRESIDENT JUST FOR SIX MONTHS. I REPEAT, JUST FOR SIX MONTHS! AND, HIS ONLY TARGET IS TO ABOLISH THE WIDELY DISCREDITED EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY.

    [NOTE THAT THIS IS BOUND TO CREATE A TOTALLY NEW SITUATION, UNPRECEDENTED IN GLOBAL TERMS. IT IS LIKELY TO TRIGGER THE MASSES’ IMAGINATION IN UNPREDICTABLE WAYS.]

    IF SRI LANKA’S ENTIRE OPPOSITION – IRRESPECTIVE OF EACH PARTY’S POLITICAL BELIEFS – ENTHUSIASTICALLY BACKS SOBITHA AS THEIR COMMON CANDIDATE, I THINK, THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN WILL THROW THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE EVER TO THIS ‘MAFIA-REGIME’.

    EITHER THE MONK WILL WIN AND SUCCESSFULLY END THE EP-SYSTEM FOR GOOD, OR THERE WILL BE A MILITARY TAKEOVER TO PROTECT THE ‘MAFIA-REGIME’ CONFRONTING A HIGHLY MOBILIZED MASS-MOVEMENT INSPIRED BY STRONG DEMOCRATIC SENTIMENTS. IN MY VIEW, BOTH THESE OUTCOMES MUST BE WELCOME!

  • 0
    0

    THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX:

    Sri lankan people gained universal franchise in 1931, just two years after the British got this right. Also, Socialist/Marxist political parties emerged during the colonial times, prior to the Independence – in fact, Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) rapidly expanded into a mass party in the 1940s and became the leader of the opposition in the first post-independence parliament. These facts are quite relevant to the argument I have presented here. The point I want to emphasise is: nobody should underestimate the strength of Sri Lankan people’s deep-rooted democratic aspirations.

    With this background, in all probability, the ‘Sobitha Project’ could appeal to the masses’ deep-seated democratic aspirations in a unique way. Even on the government side there are many who hate the EP-System as “Sri Lanka’s Curse’. Therefore, on this one occasion, the entire-left must temporarily unite with the capitalist parties to campaign wholeheartedly to put Rev. Sobitha in power. The very election- campaign itself, on this issue of democracy, is bound to raise mass consciousness to new heights.

    The results of past elections and the nature of capitalist parties will become irrelevant to this unique campaign, if it happens. This is totally new. All forms of dogmatic thinking will be extremely counter-productive to the proposed ‘Sobitha-Project’ whose potential for new political developments, I think, is immense.

  • 0
    0

    What is the background to establishing Military Camps in every District
    at this time – it is election oriented. Even the incumbent missing his
    target will end in an “arranged coup” so that Mohan Peries will find an
    interpretation for MR to continue under a continued “war” situation more
    so with UN Investigations as being against SL sovereignty, ably supported by
    India and Pakistan.

    MR Dynasty Package is already established with Expiry date of 2024. Any
    bet?

  • 0
    0

    Vishwamithra, Dr Mahesh Nirmalan and Vasantha Raja make valuable comments. The crucial factor is opposition unity. If that can be achieved, there is little doubt that Rajapaksa can be defeated. So all our efforts should be directed towards that end. Every bit counts, so all opposition parties are important, however small. The greater responsibility however is on the major parties, the UNP, the JVP and the TNA. I do not know whether they are at present engaged in any secret negotiations, but they should be, and they should keep the smaller parties informed and involved.

    While a possible individual candidate like Bhikkhu Sobitha or any of the others usually mentioned may have a marginal advantage over another, the candidate, so long as she or he is of some stature and integrity, matters little in a context like the present when the indispensable factor is opposition unity. The major players, the UNP and the JVP have a special responsibility to forget their past quarrels and demonstrate their oft-claimed patriotism and commitment to the national interest. It is disappointing that these two parties have so far shown no open dialogue between them. By this time, they should be united under the numerous principles they can obviously invoke, and be leading the rest of the opposition parties. The TNA can do its part by making an attempt to portray itself as a national party in addition to quite legitimately professing the interests of the Tamil people.

    While the abolition of the Executive Presidency could be the rallying point, the opposition manifesto cannot be confined to that. It should only be a part of a comprehensive plan to restore democracy, rationality in governance, and meaningful social and economic development. Before leaving office in six months as proposed, the successful common candidate, should have in place a mechanism of interim governance, and for framing a new constitution that restores parliamentary government, and that should be open for public discussion for an adequate period of time. Among restorations that would be salutary for the
    re-establishment of democracy are the first-past-the-post system, and the electorate system (as opposed to the present District system).

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