Politics in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election is becoming ever more interesting.
On Tuesday the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) announced it had on a matter of policy decided to act independently of the UPFA led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and also announced that Technology and Research Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka and Western Provincial Councillor Udaya Gammanpila had relinquished their portfolios.
Before this announcement on Tuesday, JHU stalwart and parliamentarian Ven. Athureliya Rathana Thera made public his decision to distance himself from the Rajapaksa Government again on policy grounds.
Though the party’s next course of action is still in murky territory -- whether it will support the so-called common candidate from the opposition or not -- this move by the JHU gives a new ray of hope to the deteriorating Sri Lankan political culture. We have for years seen political parties and politicians switching their allegiance for various reasons including ministerial portfolios, money, personal grudges, tax issues, etc. But quitting ministerial portfolios and distancing yourself from a strong ruling party and Government on policy differences has been rarely heard of in the recent past.
Therefore we believe this move by the JHU will definitely boost its profile and image as a credible political party. That may have been the reason which prompted Ven. Athureliya Rathana Thera to state during Tuesday’s news conference that the public trust on the JHU will be enhanced a thousand times by this move.
During the news conference several interesting facts which were largely forgotten by the people, even by some of the political parties both in the opposition and those who support the government had surfaced.
Udaya Gammanpila was reported to have said that a person should be insane to think that the executive presidency will be abolished by President Mahinda Rajapaksa because the Mahinda Chinthana manifesto in 2005 and the Mahinda Chinthana Idiri Dakma manifesto of 2010 had promised to abolish the executive presidency.
“Abolishing the presidential system was a promise made in the 2005 ‘Mahinda Chinthana’. It was also repeated in 2010 ‘Mahinda Chinthana – Idiri Dakma’. Anyone who thinks it will be done because it is included in the 2015 manifesto will, as Einstein puts it, be insane,” Gammanpila was quoted to have said.
The other important aspect of this move by the JHU is that it may pave the way to other nationalistic and socialist parties in the Government to reconsider their positions. It has been evident that some of these parties are not happy about certain policies of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.
On the other hand, this could be viewed as an extremely strategic and well-thought out political manoeuver by the JHU in re-establishing itself as Sri Lanka’s foremost Sinhala Buddhist force. The emergence of movements like the Bodu Bala Sena and the Ravana Balaya -- though they are not registered political parties -- was seen stealing the limelight from the JHU, which was largely considered the party of nationalists and a section of the Sinhala Buddhists.
All in all, with these developments, we believe the events that will unfold in the coming few weeks would be extremely critical as they could alter the country’s political direction.