14 June, 2024

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Will AKD Make The Cut?

By R Hariharan

Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

During the month of March, political parties continued with what they do best: politicking over electing the next president. Basil Rajapaksa, chief of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), flew home from the US in time to muddy the political waters by proposing a parliamentary poll before the presidential election. President Ranil Wickremesinghe appeared firm on holding the presidential election on time as the parliamentary election could be held only after the IMF economic recovery plan is completed, hopefully by July. The Election Commission has confirmed the presidential election will be conducted on due date i.e. Sept-Oct 2024.

The Institute of Health Policy Opinion Tracker February 2024 forecast continues to find the National People’s Power (NPP) chief Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) leading with 53 percent of people in favour. The other frontline hopeful Sajith Premadasa of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) clocked 34 percent in favour. President Wickremesinghe of the United National Party (UNP) could muster a measly 6 percent support in the forecast. However, Labour Minister Manusha Nanayakkara says Wickremesinghe will contest as an independent candidate. He will be backed by a broad alliance on a common platform “where people representing all parties, ethnicities and religions as well as people with diverse backgrounds come together” can elect him as president. SLPP has not made up its mind on the presidential candidate; it scored only 7 percent support in the forecast.

Sri Lanka’s coalition politics can queer election forecasts. But the Colombo diplomatic community seem to go by the psephologist’s reckoning. Many of them met AKD, perhaps to understand him and his party’s stand on various national and international issues. AKD has also met the IMF representatives indicating his heightened confidence in winning the presidential poll. This is perhaps reinforced by the large crowds that turn up at his meetings. India came out smiling if we go by AKD’s positive comments after his visit to India after receiving an official invitation. His overseas tours included Canada and UK where Sri Lanka political parties usually seek Diaspora’s financial support for election.

Can AKD who has a leftwing agenda laced with Sinhala nationalism, rise above that to lead the nation? At least he appears to be making an effort. But is AKD ready to handle some of the vexing issues confronting Sri Lanka for long like implementing 13th amendment in full or the vexing question of the forcibly disappeared? Of course, one can add a few more things from the NPP agenda like rewriting the constitution to abolish executive presidency and electoral reforms. Mainstream political parties have been paying a lot of lip service to these issues, without substantive action. Can he make a difference?

His tour of Tamil areas was perhaps to “feel the pulse” of the people. It is a task that is daunting even for the Tamil polity, confused about its end goals. It is dominated by Tamil leaders spending their time debating the past. They are still discussing who was the torch bearer of Tamil nationalism: SJC or VP. This was amply demonstrated by the newly elected ITAK leader Siridharan after his election; he preferred to pay homage to the martyrs memorial of LTTE, though Tamil Tigers had killed a few of the top leaders of Tamil nationalism.

AKD has claimed the ownership of Aragalaya, the spontaneous uprising of the people against Rajapaksas in 2022. His claim may not be wholly true and its articulation might have been subdued in recent times. But the Aragalaya has triggered renewed interest among the people on the need for competent corruption-free political leadership to safeguard democracy. This is borne out by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)’s opinion survey “Confidence in Democratic Governance Index. Topline Report” of March 2024. According to the report, 94-95 percent of the 1350 respondents agreed with the following simple requirements for the political class: a. All politicians should be audited and all their unaccounted wealth should be confiscated; b. Elections should be held on time; c. All politicians including the president, should disclose their assets; d. Those responsible for the economic crisis must be held accountable. Can AKD live up to their expectations for a corruption free, competent government?

Learning from incompetent presidents

Fortunately for AKD, two former presidents – Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena – whose tenures were marked by incompetency and misgovernance offer case studies on how a president should not to conduct himself. AKD would do well to go through these case studies; if and when he is elected, it can help him to deliver the essentials for corruption-free good governance. They are offered in a nutshell.

Gotabaya’s ‘The Conspiracy’

During the month, Gotabaya Rajapaksa published the book “The Conspiracy ” – his version of the foreign conspiracy behind his ouster after the Aragalaya uprising overwhelmed the government. Unfortunately, I have not read the book; however, a cross section of the analyses of the book give some insights into how Gotabaya sees his failure as a president.

Here are some quotes from the book, courtesy Dr Dayan Jayatilleka’s article from an ideological perspective on Gotabaya’s book.

Gotabaya finds Aragalaya “being fundamentally, an anti-Sinhalese and anti-Buddhist enterprise from the beginning to the end.” (p 172). Other gems from the book written with a prejudiced mind are: “…One of the reasons why I was elected President was because of the feeling that the Sinhalese had lost their rightful place in their own country…The Sinhalese and especially the Sinhala Buddhists are now once again on the back foot.” (Postscript, pp 169-177). Gotabaya’s Theravada paranoia clouds the fact people voted for him because he was seen as an architect who defeated the LTTE and put an end to Tamil separatism.

Sirisena’s wild accusation against India

A week before the fifth anniversary of the infamous Easter Sunday attacks which was carried out under his watch, former President Maithripala Sirisena made an extraordinary accusation that India was behind the Easter Sunday massacres. According to The Sunday Times which carried the story, the former president claimed that an Indian diplomat has not only “confessed to him about the attack but also the reason. It was because Sri Lanka has not been considerate in giving India any projects.”

The Easter Sunday attacks killed 247 innocent people and more than 500 others were injured. It was also one of the high points of the incompetence and callousness of President Sirisena’s tenure. He failed to act upon a warning the impending attack received from an Indian intelligence agency ten days in advance. The agency had also warned of the impending operation even a few hours before the attack.

There had been four lines of inquiries related to the attack; Sirisena had intervened in all of them. A year before the attack, the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) under DIG Nalaka de Silva had carried out an investigation into the activities of Zahran, chief suspect of Easter Sunday attackers.This was not followed up after de Silva was arrested on alleged attempt to assassinate President Sirisena. A Presidential Inquiry Commission looked into the failure act upon the advance warning from the Indian intelligence presented its report in June 2018. The government acknowledged its failure to act on the report. In a 7-member Parliamentary Select Committee appointed in May 2019 to inquire into the attacks, Chief of National Intelligence Sisira Mendis stated that President Sirisena knew about the warnings of the impending attack. President Sirisena refused to accept the findings and sacked Mendis. Its finds were never implemented though Cardinal Malcom Ranjith had been repeatedly demanding it. Further investigations into the massacre have established the identity of the suicide bombers who operated under Zahran, founder leader of the National Thowheeth Jamaath, which had links with IS terrorists. A Sri Lanka court has asked Sirisena to pay a fine of Rs one million for his negligence in handling the Easter Sunday attacks.

Sirisena’s latest theatrics on the eve of election accusing India raises two basic questions: Whom is he trying to fool with the false accusation? On whose behalf he is accusing India?

*Col R Hariharan, a retired MI specialist on South Asia and terrorism, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90. He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies. Email: haridirect@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    Here is a line that caught my eye.
    … They are still discussing who was the torch bearer of Tamil nationalism: SJC or VP.
    Here is another.
    … Can AKD who has a leftwing agenda laced with Sinhala nationalism … .
    But the one most annoying is, –
    … though Tamil Tigers had killed a few of the top leaders of Tamil nationalism.
    No Tamil nationalist was ever killed by LTTE, for being a Tamil nationalist.

    • 8
      0

      VP is no patch to SJVC. It is the foundation laid by SJVC that is still existing for future take off. He staged peaceful protests and failed. In 1956 satyagraha he suffered injuries inflicted by government sponsored thugs. In 1961 satyagraha he was put under house arrest for several days. His pacts with SWRD in 1958 and Dudley in 1966 have put Sinhala extremists to be defenceless for their posture. At last he said “Only God can save Tamils”. In contrast VP hijacked the mandate given by Tamils in 1977 on Vaddukottai resolution, monopolized it under gun point and messed it up. He wanted other peoples children to die while protecting him and his children until the last stage. He did not die fighting, but killed by getting caught to artillery barrage while fleeing in a vehicle wearing disguise.

      • 2
        1

        At last he said “Only God can save Tamils”
        Yes, after his boast that the FP will decide who rules the country fell flat in 1970.

    • 2
      0

      N
      You get angry when you should laugh to your harts content.

  • 2
    11

    Two questions posed at the end:
    .
    “Whom is he trying to fool with the false accusation?”
    .
    “On whose behalf he is accusing India?”
    .
    I don’t know about the first. But it would be interesting to find out the answer to the second!

    • 9
      1

      “I don’t know about the first. But it would be interesting to find out the answer to the second!”
      It is sad that you don’t know whom Sirisena is trying to fool the false accusation but you are interested on whose behalf he is accusing India.

      According to Sunday times it was told by Sirisena that an Indian diplomat confessed him that India did it. Sirisena knows that diplomat, so there is no need for investigation. Just arrest the diplomat and charge India for the crimes committed on this soil. The diplomat has also told the reason for that. Then what you expect to find out the answer. The answer is clear it is in the interest of India’s security it did it? What you are going to do now? Are you going to war with India?

      • 1
        4

        No. I am not interested in going to war with India or anyone else for that matter.
        .
        But what are you suggesting? That Sirisena’s claims are true?
        .
        Firstly don’t you think an investigation is warranted to ascertain their truth before arresting anyone based on a mere witness statement?
        .
        Secondly I doubt if you have understood the second question: “On whose behalf he is accusing India?”. Give it some thought…
        .
        When and if you understand it, perhaps we could then exchange much more meaningful comments. .
        Till then stay safe and have a good day!

      • 3
        0

        Hello Ajith,
        The author is being a “bit” disingenuous regarding Sirisena’s knowledge of the Easter Sunday warnings. Sirisena and the author know exactly who organised the Bombings. The Indian Diplomat story is a Red Herring.
        Best regards

        • 0
          2

          LS
          The only thing that is shady about India’s role is that it is not forthcoming about its source of information about the planned bombing.
          Perhaps it needs to protect the informants. But there are ways to provide crucial information without compromising an asset.

      • 0
        2

        “Just arrest the diplomat and charge India for the crimes committed on this soil. “
        Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

  • 8
    1

    Will AKD Make The Cut? I hope so but I have doubts.

    AKD may sincerely try but I am not sure if the NPP as a ‘socialist’ party is capable of turning around the economy any better, which, currently, is becoming stabilised. Of the 3 current main Presidential contenders, AKD is the only candidate, at least, pledging to bring to justice those who plundered the country & mismanaged the economy. It’s a Herculean task & I wish him well as future President (hopefully the last President in SL) but the NPP as the ruling party is a definite NO because I don’t trust left wing policies of the JVP & various trade unions. That scenario would end up as before, the President & the PM of the ruling party or coalition pulling in different directions as was with slimy Sirisena & RW led UNP. No doubt we will continue to see punks & yobs in Parliament but, hopefully, less, with a few behind bars & in the circumstances, happy with small mercies.

    • 9
      0

      Raj-UK:

      Do you reckon bipartisanship being a strategy for NPP? Perhaps with SJB! I don’t see such a strategy evolving prior to the elections. Should AKD/NPP succeed in the elections, then they might be willing to be magnanimous and work with SJB on economic policies.

      • 3
        0

        Sugandh

        The NPP is already a pickle of all sorts & I can’t see the SJB & NPP working in harmony, particularly, with JVP ideology mixed in. Besides, Premadasa jnr as leader of the SJB, can’t claim to have clean hands. He expected RW to hand over the reigns of the UNP as probably believed it was his old man’s legacy, so expect a clash for leadership with AKD, irrespective who is President. Perhaps, the SJB, without Premadasa jnr, & with AKD as President (until abolished), could be a better solution.
        Ideally, if the SJB & the UNP, as responsible political parties, are able to join hands after shedding the undesirables, & with a sincere President (maybe AKD) providing the leadership, is best to hope for. Ranil & Premadasa both have to accept they have failed as leaders & should stepdown if they have any honour left in them but then again, it’s not an ideal world.

  • 9
    2

    India is not a saint. They are responsible for the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka today. Not only did they help the Sri Lankan army defeat the Tamils but continued to help the Sri Lankan government in their activities against the Tamils by assisting in destroying Hindu Temples in the North and the cattle grazing fields in the East. India only wants to have a hold on Sri Lanka for fear of Chinese penetration.

    • 1
      5

      Do not blame others, but blame ourselves. Anyone fighting for rights of Tamils must be versed in geopolitics. No ethnic group has won their rights without the support of at least one powerful country. Though LTTE propaganda was that 15 countries are willing to recognise Ealam, in fact there was none. India has its hegemonic interest first before rights of Tamils. India will assist liberation of Baluchistan or Sind as it serves its domineering policy. In 1987, India was up against US to control Srilanka, and India used Tamils to bring Srilanka down. The best action would have been to join India to hit Srilanka and gain benefits, rather than the foolish act of joining Srilanka to fight India. Tamils are demanding full implementation of 13th amendment now, but they did not understand that 13th amendment with IPKF securing the ground amounts to de-facto Ealam. Driving out of IPKF and killing of Rajiv Gandhi has virtually killed Ealam and placed Tamils in this dire situation. Another opportunity has come due to India being up against China to control Srilanka. For this India will seek assistance from Tamils, and I hope that Tamil leaders will act wisely.

      • 1
        3

        “Another opportunity has come due to India being up against China to control Srilanka. For this India will seek assistance from Tamils, and I hope that Tamil leaders will act wisely.”
        It is true India and West do not like Sri Lanka going with China but both India also don’t like USA control Sri Lanka and USA doesn’t like both China and India control China. Tamils are cheated by all three in the name of geo politics. All these powers only wants to control but not allow to solve the economic or ethnic problem and Sinhalese political regimes also do not want to solving the problems of the country. Tamils should not depend on these sources and they should be only focus on their ability to solve their own problems. Now, it is time for Tamil speaking all communities should get together unite recognising each others identity. What assistance can we do for Indians? So far, Tamils have lost lot of human resources, financial resources and natural resources for India for nothing.

        • 1
          4

          “Tamils are cheated by all three in the name of geo politics.”
          Give credit where it is due.
          The Tamils only choose between India and the US to cheat them.
          The Chinese have not promised anything that they could not do.
          Why would they bother with leaders who are openly hostile to them for no tangible reason?
          They do not even bother to protest about such attitudes. They go where they are wanted— like Northern fishers who are not wanted by Tamil leaders and the Eastern University which is more welcoming of them than the UoJ which is under pressure from LTTE proxies

      • 2
        1

        Gnana,

        “Another opportunity has come due to India being up against China to control Srilanka. For this India will seek assistance from Tamils, and I hope that Tamil leaders will act wisely.”

        You indeed should be knighted for your thinking (You said that you are expecting this from the UK Government). You obviously have a lot of free time to think and write a whole lot of garbage. Rajiv Gandhis Ghost will ensure a creation of Eelam to keep china out.
        Good luck

      • 1
        0

        “The best action would have been to join India to hit Srilanka and gain benefits, rather than the foolish act of joining Srilanka to fight India.”
        The action the Tamil leaders are best at is joining anyone and in the end get the Tamils hit.

    • 2
      3

      “Chinese penetration” where?
      Across the Himalayan borders?

    • 0
      1

      Correct

  • 8
    0

    The Tamil Speaking Citizens (TSC) are expecting from AKD to be establish law & order in the country.
    If AKD can stop the politicians/journalists/ monks spreading hatred and disinformations, the country could get on to the right path to recovery. If country THRIVES, the minorities could thrive as well. AKD has to be very tactful in dealing with the super powers in the world. AKD needs to completely change/ overall the officials in the Ministry of Defence.

    • 2
      2

      AKD has recently promised much to Tamils in Canada.
      I earnestly hope for a Sinhala translation soon for the benefit of the Sinhalese people here.

      • 3
        1

        SJ

        Anura clearly said he does not believe that there were was genocide. But what he said was that people who were handed over to the authorities and who have now gone missing will be investigated.
        Also he clearly said he is not promising federalism police and land powers etc.

      • 3
        0

        He was pretty soft on devolving power in the Tamil interpretation I read.
        On genocide, even the US (or for that matter India or any other) does not accuse the GoSL of genocide. the charges are HR violations and war crimes.

    • 0
      2

      Now that’s pretty good comment from Naman. Hat’s off to him!

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