The political landscape in Sri Lanka has turned upside down during the last seven days with the announcement made by Mr.Maithripala Sirisena, the former Minister of Health that he would challenge the incumbent President at the next Presidential Election as the common candidate. The President and his government never expected that he would be challenged by the General Secretary of his own political party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Panic stricken President’s family members ran helter- skelter fearing that they would lose power at the forth coming Presidential Election. They pressed some Ministers and MPs to call press conferences and deny that they would desert the government. State owned SLBC, Rupavahini and ITN, and the Lake House editors have been instructed to attack Maithri, Chandrika and the UNP from morning to late into the night. Racists such as Nalinda Siva, Gunadasa Amarasekara, Bengamuwe Nalaka have begun to mislead the public. We can expect all the Sinhala racist organizations such as BBS , Ravana Balaya, Sinhala Rawaya to join forces to launch a vituperative attack against the common candidate as they are aware that the victory of Maithri will be a grave threat to their very existence.
In the meantime the Minister of Disaster Management Mr. Mahinda Amaraweera has made an revealing statement at a press conference held at the SLFP head office on November 25. According to a news story published in the Daily Mirror he admitted that the UPFA members had amassed dirty lucre as much as they needed and as such there is no need for them to continue the plundering. Therefore, he requested not to defeat the government by voting the opposition candidate. That statement alone shows their fear and confusion. My view is all the government henchmen and most of the government Ministers and deputy Ministers are in mortal fear that Mahinda’s days are numbered.
As there were no crossovers to the Opposition on the final budget day, pro Mahinda Ministers said that there would be no further defections to the Opposition. Showing to the whole country that pro Mahinda politicians were unaware what was happening behind them, two more UPFA Members of Parliament, namely P.Rajadurai of the Nuwara Eliya district and the UPFA Wanni district MP Hunaiz Farook (ACMC) joined the UNP. In the meantime three pro government Eastern Provincial Council members of Minister Rishard Bathiudeen’s political party, All Ceylon Muslim congress crossed over to the Opposition on the instructions of their party, which incidentally may lead to capture of power there by the Opposition. The ACMC was to meet last evening(Saturday) to decide whether to remain with the government or cross to the Opposition. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress which is led by Minister Hakeem, an unhappy coalition partner of the UPFA ,will arrive at a decision within the next few days whether to remain with the government or not. They may take a decision to support Maithri in the event more government MPs rally round the common candidate. UPFA appointed MP Aswar who was a staunch supporter of Mahinda resigned from the Parliament last evening though his next move is unknown. It looks like that the Muslim community is exerting pressure on pro government Muslim politicians to desert Mahinda.
MP. Mr.Rajitha Senaratne and Venarable Rathana Thera taking part in the Satana TV programme a week ago said that many Ministers and Deputy Ministers were unhappy and frustrated as Mahinda and his family members have been interfering in their Ministries. My view is some of them are still testing waters to find out whether the sudden change of political weather is going to result in a major flood that will drown Mahinda and his cabal. As Maithri’ is becoming more and more popular every passing day we can expect more government politicians’ defections to Maithri’s camp within the course of next two weeks. It is said that Mr Jeevan Kumaratunga, the Minister of Postal Services is getting ready to join the Maithri camp. Another interesting development is Miss Hirunika Premachandra who bagged the highest number of preferential votes in the Colombo district at the last Western Provincial Council elections has praised Maithi as a clean and honest politician. It is most likely that she would join Maithri very soon. Mr. Solangaarachchi ,the chairman of the Kollonnawa Pradesheeya Sabha, a close associate of Hirunika, has already switched his allegiance to the Common candidate.
At the last Presidential Election ,which was held on January 26 2010,the President Mahinda Rajapaksha who was at the peak of his popularity received 57.88% while the Opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka polled 40.15% votes. The other 20 candidates could not even garner at least 0.5% of the total valid votes cast at the election. Today ,after almost five years, one cannot deny the fact that the President is less popular mainly due to his family bandyism, authoritarian rule and economic difficulties faced by the poor and the middle class. Due to state sponsored BBS’ anti Muslim hate campaign , Mahinda has become very unpopular among the Muslim community who voted Mahinda overwhelmingly at the last Presidential election. Though Thondaman promised his loyalty to Mahinda, two of his MPs left him and joined the UNP recently. As such we cannot expect many Indian Tamil votes to Mahinda. Hence it is fair to calculate that his popularity has gone down by around 5 % which means his popularity was around 52% prior to the Maithri earthquake and JHU’s divorce.
Maithri-Rajitha led defections to the Opposition was like a bolt from the blue to Mahinda’s arrogant rule and it has surely eroded Mahinda’s voter base at least by several hundred thousand votes. In case another 10 or 12 government MPs defect to the Opposition it will probably seal Mahinda’s fate.
However we have to warn the Maithri camp that Mahinda’s regime will do whatever possible to recapture the power at the election. During the election period we can expect unprecedented violence to demoralize the activists of the common candidate. Already four violent attacks involving firearms against anti government activists have been unleashed by pro Mahinda gangs. Those who have earned billions under Mahinda’s regime will not be silent spectators. They will pour more money to Mahinda’s campaign as they do not want to lose the gold mine. Another possibility is vote rigging. MP Ravi Karunanayake has already complained to the Commissioner of Elections that a National Identity Card printing machine had vanished.
Some have expressed fear that Mahinda would be pressurized by his close associates not to hand over power to the victorious common candidate. It is advisable for the Maithri camp to be ready for any eventuality. The only way that can defeat any illegal attempt to remain in power is organized people’s power. So far I have not seen any serious attempt made by the Maithri camp to organize people into a powerful force. It is the responsibility of the political parties and other organizations which support Maithri to organize their followers into a mass organization with branches in every village , town and city not only to prevent vote rigging but also to prevent attempts at sabotaging the victory of the common candidate.