Anniversary celebrations of the two main political parties were held in two consecutive weekends this September. Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in Kurunegala on Sunday 4, and the United National Party (UNP) in Colombo on Saturday 10. The UNP was formed in 1946 to take over from British colonial rule, celebrated 70 years. Bandaranayake and his Sinhala Maha Sabha clan broke off from the UNP in 1951 to form the SLFP. The party thus celebrated 65 years.
These two political parties have been racist parties and have always exploited Sinhala Buddhist sentiments in very racist terms to harvest Southern votes. They still remain the same and probably the only issue the two would work on the same frequency. And together they have ruled this country on their own and in coalitions led by them for 68 years since the sitting of first the parliament in 1947 to take over governance with the declaration of independence in February ‘48. Thus for all the social mess, for all the political and economic crises, for all the armed conflicts that bled the country pale and for all the trauma and agony this country went through for 68 years, none but these two political parties will have to share total (ir)responsibility. A mere apology in passing without any hint on bloody and arrogant mistakes made over and over again, proves how callous these leaderships are.
The people! Well, the people who kept voting them in and out of power at all the elections during 68 long years, will have to equally share responsibility for the crisis and the chaos now at hand.The academia, the professionals, the media and other social and political opinion makers no less responsible.
Yet, questions remain without answers.What trust, what credibility and what honesty is there when President Maithripala Sirisena tells the UNP convention the SLFP and the UNP can work together for the benefit of the country and would establish an undivided democratic country? Only a week before he promised the SLFP membership in Kurunegala, he would make sure a SLFP government is formed in the future. Contrary to what he said in Kurunegala, a year before in August 2015, he prevented the SLFP forming a government. He sacked the party Gen. Secretary to appoint his own, the Central Committee was muted through Court order and vowed he would not allow a SLFP government with MR as PM even if he won the August elections. If MS did not rabidly oppose MR, there was every possibility of MR closing that gap of 10 seats between SLFP and UNP to form an SLFP government.
On the UNP platform, what trust, what credibility and what honesty is there when PM Ranil Wickramasinghe as party leader tells his party men, debt would be significantly reduced this generation and 500,000 houses constructed with 3 State Banks amalgamated for easy housing loans and then sweet talks of a nation in unity by 2020? He had openly backtracked on his loudest promise of completely scrapping the Colombo Port City project.
His promise of investigating all Chinese projects entered into during the MR regime have now become his own development scheme including the much ridiculed Mattala International Airport. Despite promises to repeal the PTA, his government continues to detain Tamil youth held under the PTA without any charges filed. His government messed up the budget for 2016 very amateurishly. His own select men are seriously and openly accused of mega corruption from day one, leave alone cleaning up corruption and fraud in the MR regime.
Though tested and proved failures within 18 months, these leaders continue to promise new and better beginnings at these celebrations. No different to what they said at two election rallies within a year. These are no party conventions that hold them responsible for the membership.
What then are these hyped events for? Both political celebrations were geared to establish the leaderships as legitimate “owners” of their respective parties. MS tried his hand in mobilising the rank and file in support of his leadership, with Chandrika Kumaratunge by his side. MR’s stake in the party still seems much bigger and stronger. He is a SLFPer for over 48 years. He has not defected from the party since Srimavo Bandaranaike appointed him as Beliatte SLFP organiser in 1968. Both MS and CBK were opposites.
They betrayed the party, broke off and have opposed the SLFP.
MS thus serves Ranil and his UNP in having a fractured SLFP providing political space for him to project himself as the “leader” of this coalition government. That was evident in the two speeches by MS in Kurunegala and Ranil in Colombo. MS was out to assert himself as the legitimate leader of the SLFP. Ranil was out to prove himself as the “powerful” PM who would take the country forward. One who decides the future and for the government.
It is this projection that needs to be examined. Ranil’s leadership is carefully avoiding the trap it fell into in 2002-2003, when they went into a collision course with CBK. His government was thrown out of power. Ranil this time prefers a weak President. With MS fighting to save himself as SLFP leader, UNP is on fast track to push through “reforms” that on the surface seems what was promised. Yet would embed provisions for mechanisms to make the PM an executive power. For all that MS is allowed to play Sinhala Buddhist to encroach on the MR base. That would also allow the UNP to reach the Sinhala Buddhist majority. Ranil at this 70th celebration made certain he looked a Sinhala Buddhist patriotic. Said he never had any deals with the LTTE. So was the statement that read, UNP would not allow foreign interference, will ensure the right of Sinhala Buddhists as the privileged majority, while trying to pacify the minorities they would be taken care of.
Though Ranil projects himself a liberal democrat, his economic policy in contrast needs a completely tamed, “atomised” labour force and that is being allowed. His economic plan is totally dependent on FDIs. They don’t come any more from the rich and decent corporates. Sri Lanka has had “fly by night” businessmen only who don’t believe in management systems and patience of decent, modern corporates.
Truth is, JR’s unrestricted “Open market” development project that continued through four executive presidents has only helped evolve a “new rich” community of businessmen without a “rich” class consciousness. “Rich” businessmen you could only meet in casinos, five star hotel restaurants, night clubs and in transit at airports in a growing black market economy. They have turned the UNP into a wholly different party led by corrupt politicians. Very different to the UNP put together 70 years ago with rich landlords and urban elites. We would thus have to wait for 2017 and a Constitution that would be manipulated to see a Constitutional Bonapartist evolve. Reforms the urban elite social activists would applaud as having won the day.
A Bonapartist who may make a midget of MR, yet compelling people to seek out MR once again for absence of any valid alternative.