On the threshold of a presidential election, the political climate in Sri Lanka is plagued with uncertainty with the mainstream political parties having come up with various dates to announce their presidential candidates but keep delaying to do so for reasons best known to them.
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by former president and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa will in all probability name Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the party’s presidential candidate at the party convention now fixed for August 11, while Mahinda Amaraweera, the General Secretary of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) -- a diluted constituent of the even more diluted Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), both led by President Maithripala Sirisena – said the UPFA would announce its presidential candidate at its September 2 party convention to be held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium.
Hoping against hope that the on-going ‘blow hot, blow cold or stop and start’ discussions between the SLFP and the SLPP would reach some kind of consensus on the presidential candidate, Mr. Amaraweera said the UPFA would extend its support to a presidential candidate jointly nominated by President Maithripala Sirisena and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who in December last year denied obtaining SLPP membership though for all intents and purposes he is the head of the party.
Although the UPFA and the SLFP are continuing to talk about an alliance of convenience with the SLPP, is on its part, not taking too seriously of such an alliance though it appears to be attempting to humour the President while working out its own strategy to win the presidential election come what may.
Meanwhile, the United National Party (UNP) led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had obtained the approval of the party’s working committee to proceed with the formation of a new alliance with like-minded political parties.
Apart from the apparently uphill task of naming its presidential candidate, the UNP appears to be deeply divided with regard to the content of the constitution of the proposed alliance to be known as the Democratic National Front (DNF), with the members loyal to Minister Sajith Premadasa insisting on making several changes to its constitution.
They urged that the address of the DNF should be the UNP headquarters, ‘Sirikotha’ and that the posts of President and General Secretary be held by UNPers.
The pro-Sajith group had also insisted that the criteria for the selection of the presidential candidate should be stipulated in the DNF constitution and that the Leadership Council, which is to be the decision-making body of the alliance be made up of a majority of UNP members.
The UNP had earlier planned to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the parties to the alliance on August 5 but the signing is reported to have been postponed indefinitely amid the divergent and dissenting views expressed by various members. It once again highlights the fact that nothing but uncertainty is what we can be certain of in Sri Lanka’s political melting pot.
In addition to the UNP, which is to be the main constituent of the alliance, it will also comprise the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) led by Minister Rauff Hakeem; the All Ceylon Makkal Congress led by Minister Rishad Bathiudeen; the Tamil Progressive Alliance, the Jathika Hela Urumaya and the Prajathanthrawadi Jathika Peramuna led by MP Chathura Senaratne as the founding members.
Be that as it may, according to media reports, the President has told a gathering of SLFP members that he was still undecided whether to contest for the presidency. This is not the least bit surprising given the current political power play with political parties vying with each other to select and project a winning candidate of their choice.
In any case we will have to wait and see how all this political posturing pans out for the voter, whose much hyped sovereignty and supremacy is of little or no use no sooner he drops his or her marked or unmarked ballot paper into the ballot box, while the person, who is elected and his supporters prance around imagining the good things that await them at the expense of the hapless, voiceless and powerless voter.
Let us not forget to remember that we the voters are responsible for the leaders we get and even more important is the need to make an informed choice.