16 May, 2022


Wimal-Udaya-Vasu: What The Regime’s Rift Really Means

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The new coalition of the SLFP and smaller parties allied to the SLPP is a fascinating though entirely explicable constellation. What makes it fascinating is that the SLFP led by ex-president Sirisena was on one side of the Yahapalanaya government; Wimal, Udaya, Vasu et al were opposed to it. Now they have come together, and consequently, Wimal and Udaya have been kicked out of the Cabinet.

In another sense all this is entirely explicable: the SLFP plus Wimal, Udaya et al, is the old Center-Left. MR is trapped within a government which is now center-right (under a President who is still further to the Right).

The parties in government find their popular bases dissolving by the day, and if they do not make a move, those vote bases will defect, probably to the JVP-NPP. It is ex-president Sirisena who offers them an off-ramp. However, they still haven’t made their minds up and therefore presented an alternative program as an interim measure.

The two brothers, GR and BR are zero-tolerance guys, and also that they would stand together against any dissent, even if Wimal and/or Udaya naively thought they were defending the GR line against the BR line.

There are two cracks, not one: the crack in the Cabinet with the expulsion of the Weerawansa-Gammanpila duo, and the incipient crack in the ruling SLPP coalition manifested in the launch of a new program under the leadership of ex-president Maithripala Sirisena.

The obvious parallel is superficial, i.e., the beginnings of the crack-up of the United Front coalition in 1975. What’s happening now has a deeper dimension.

What is well-known is that Wimal and Udaya were prominent in the Mahinda Rajapaksa comeback campaign which kicked-off with the February 2015 rally in Nugegoda. That event was significant not only because of its numbers and impact but also because it was the fastest post-defeat turnaround in Sri Lankan political history.

Wimal and Udaya were the Young Turks, the dynamic drivers, of the Mahinda comeback, without which there would have not been a Pohottuwa government.

What is less well-known but is more pertinent currently, Wimal and Udaya were also the main engines of the Gotabaya candidacy project. They were the political and public opinion drivers of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa candidacy and presidency.

It is these men to whom he owes so very much, who have been dismissed from Cabinet by President GR.

However, as the expulsion from the Cabinet shows, they were not the real hardcore, the real nucleus of the GR project, though they may have thought they were.

The contradictions first began not with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, but well before he was candidate, with Basil Rajapaksa when the Pohottuwa (SLPP) was being formed.

BR exhibited scant respect for the leaders of the Joint Opposition (JO) parties which had kept the flag flying when both he and GR were out of the picture. He was rude to them on more than one occasion.

BR became a caricature of Felix Dias Bandaranaike with his undiplomatic, divisive role in the United Front coalition.

This was the beginning of the friction within the JO which has now manifested itself in the Cabinet changes.

There were three mistakes that Wimal and Udaya made and may have not yet emancipated themselves from:

1. This Government is unprecedentedly unpopular, not chiefly due to BR but to GR’s cruel move on the fertilizer issue and his autocratic style of political behavior. The entire paradigm of BR as the rightwing of the coalition government is superficial. As in the case of Felix, BR is also an economic pragmatist who is trying to keep the government afloat, repairing some of the damage of ‘closed door’ ultranationalist economic policies.

2. The strategy of fighting the “rightwing BR” on behalf of, or while defending GR, is not merely irrational, it has cost Wimal and Udaya their Cabinet portfolios, proving yet again that the Rajapaksa Clan stands together even against the loyalists of each Rajapaksa taken separately. I doubt MR threw down the gauntlet on Wimal and Udaya’s behalf.

3. Wimal and Udaya were not the real, indispensable hardcore of the GR project though they may have thought they were. They were merely the populist camouflage for a Deep State/ex-military project. The hardcore of the GR project consisted of two components, one being Viyath Maga plus Eliya. Michelle Bachelet has identified the second part, or rather, the real nucleus: “…The current Government…has incorporated military officials implicated in alleged war crimes into the highest levels of Government…”

What seems to be happening now is a GR-BR merger. It began in 2018-2019 with BR making the first move and opening the SLPP meetings to ViyathMaga/Eliya speakers, which permitted an ideological infusion and displacement from moderate-nationalist center-left to autocratic Far Right. Now GR is in such trouble politically that he has reciprocated, accommodating BR’s SLPP, which in turn is quite willing to shift from the erstwhile center-leftism to GR and his policies.

The Pohottuwa/SLPP has become a party of family fellow-travelers; a First Family Fan Club. Therefore, a gap has opened between the SLPP as ruling party and the SLPF as a governing coalition/front. The ruling party stays intact for the moment, while the ruling bloc has developed hairline cracks.

The SLPP will not stay intact for much longer. There were already SLPP MPs at the public event of the Sirisena-led grouping at which the alternative program was released.

As social rage boils over and the regime resorts to a burst of repression, escalating unrest to a volcanic upheaval, the SLPP will split. SLFPers TB Subasinghe, AM Jinadasa, Nanda Ellawela and Tennyson Edirisooriya revolted in 1976. That was far too little, far too late to save them electorally.

This time SLPPers, SLFPers and partner-party MPs will have to leave much earlier and constitute themselves a parallel Opposition if they are not to evaporate electorally.

At the center of it all is the fate of the centrist SLFP. That party dominated the island’s political life from 1994 to 2015. If you factor in the SLFP spin-off the SLPP and the shift to it, it has been in executive office from 1994 to 2022.

When it lost its way by CBK’s excess of conciliation in the face of the LTTE, MR came along and gave it another decade.

When, having won the war, MR lost his way postwar, under pressure from the competing GR and BR projects, Sirisena split off and was elected President.

When Sirisena’s SLFP was politically immuno-compromised by the Ranil-Mangala UNP, the SLPP arose and the SLFP MPs shifted to it.

Now, with the GR-BR deviation from the old MR line, the SLPP has the option of shifting back to Sirisena and the SLFP. If Sirisena’s SLFP can combine his positive side of Yahapalanaya, with the best of the CBK and MR traditions, this will give them a chance to beat the JVP-NPP and become the main Opposition or coalition partners of the main Opposition which may need allies to make up the numbers needed for Governmental and executive power.

The SLFP, the coalition parties of the SLPF and indeed the rational MPs of the SLPP, should take their seats as an independent Opposition, before the coming social explosion (around Sinhala-Tamil New Year?) consumes them politically. All it takes is a single spark. That spark can appear at a petrol shed!

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Latest comments

  • 17

    … (under a President who is still further to the Right).
    Has Dayan forgotten the fundamentals of Political Science?
    The only thing the President knows about left and right is his military commands!
    Dayan was a stalwart of the February 2015 SLPP rally in Nugegoda. He is so forgetful nowadays!
    Speaking of ‘undiplomatic’, there is no one to beat GR. BR is his second fiddle! As such GR-BR merger shouldn’t take anyone by surprise.
    There is absolutely no validity to the position, ‘CBK’s excess of conciliation in the face of the LTTE’. CBK herself has said that she would offer a ‘bit’ more now than what she did then!
    Dayan deserves some credit. His, ‘That spark can appear at a petrol shed!’, earns it!

  • 15

    Don’t complicate thangs ………. unnecessarily …….

    In the human-condition ……. there are no Sinhala-Buddhists, Communists, Leftists, Rightists, Centrists, patriots ………. only survivors. ……… well, with the exception of a few “smart-patriots!” :))

    Wimal, Gammanpila, Vasu, Vidura (even Sirisena, in the last election) ………. couldn’t have won a seat in their own right ……… had to hang on to Mahinda’s coattails.

    Now, Mahinda’s coattails are in tatters ……… they are just searching desperately for their next means of survival …………

    If they have done a single unselfish – or patriotic – deed in their lives …….. then Nimal’s my name ……… and EE is my uncle ……….

    Who has reached the farthest point of learning ……… to cut all the bullshit and just use one single word that defines human-survival ………. “selfish?”

    • 3

      You have hit the ‘nail right on the head’
      well said and accomplished.

      • 3

        OK, DJ has analysed the cracks in the Pohottuwa. But the chief advisor to Sajith is mute about what the SJB should do.
        Are hairline cracks appearing between DJ and Sajith?

        • 5

          Our prof SJ says, he debated few communists during his university days and stressed “EVEN DJ”. It would have been quite an event, Narcissist going at each other trying to outdo.

  • 6

    “What The Regime’s Rift Really Means”

    If your track-record is any guide ………. it’ll be the exact opposite of what you’re saying …………

  • 14

    Left, right center right are all bull shit. Only one common for all politicians are selfishness. How can we get power and rob the country.
    It is a fight amongst robbers simple explanation.

  • 13

    There is no left, right or centre. It is about united Rajapaksa family racism and others racism.

  • 12

    Wimal, Vasu, and Gamepilla are three crooks who have jumped off a sinking ship. We know how they play their game. These three with Abayatissa Thero and Muraththettuwe Thero are slaves of Mahinda Rajapakse. Mahinda is pulling the rug under Gota. Mahinda is using them to pull Gota down as Gota is against Namal being the PM or the President in the future. Gota knows the character of Namal. We have seen the three slaves and the other two Thero slaves during 20A and foreigners sitting in the Parliament opposing the moves until the bill came into the Parliament and then at the last minute switched sides with lame excuses and supported the bill. It’s time the five crooks are exposed and kicked out of politics for good.

  • 2

    Alas, our nation is going Bankrupt
    We shouted white man should not rule.
    We made a revolution and got freedom.
    We know to develop our country
    We shouted and got Independence .
    We took a heroic walk.
    The question for the country is whether it happened?
    People are asking the government now
    Alas, our nation is Bankrupt
    In the few years since independence
    Ethnic riots, planned Sinhala immigration
    Divided the races living in Sri Lanka,
    The governing policy of the Sinhala state.
    Many ethnic riots followed.
    Differences in education, religion, and profession
    Of frustrated Tamil students
    The war of liberation began
    Alas, our nation is Bankrupt!
    Building and developing the country’s economy
    For tea plantation workers
    Did not pay their dues
    Life like slaves is their life
    The rule of upper class families appeared
    Under the guise of growing Buddhism
    Buddhist monks got involved in politics
    Violating the three jewels of Buddhism
    The law made Sinhala the main language.
    Educated intellectuals emigrated from the country.
    Alas, our nation is Bankrup!
    Came to power with a racist policy,
    Sinhala political parties deceived villagers,
    Wealth among politicians began to rise due to corruption,
    Corruptions prevailed any government program,
    In addition, the Terrorism Act came into force.

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