No united Opposition: no victory at Presidential Elections
“Swordsmanship untested in battle is like the art of swimming mastered on land.”
(a warrior without a lord)
Those who do not learn from history will be condemned to relive it. The United National Party (UNP) and the mainstream parliamentary Opposition in Sri Lanka should be condemned for throwing away a fighting chance to grab electoral victory at the forthcoming Presidential Elections. That is, if they choose to go alone without the help of the rest of the Opposition in the forthcoming Presidential Elections. Everything that could go right for the Opposition went right in the Uva Provincial Council (PC) elections. And they managed to save face and show the rest of the country that the UNP is still breathing, stirring and waking up.
In the wake of the Uva PC elections, the average UNPer, Sirisena of the South, Mohamed of the East, Theagarajah in the North and Kandasamy in the Hill Country started breaking their cobwebs; they realised that there is a chance, a fighting chance, at ousting this corrupt, nepotistic and dictatorial regime. But to their utter dismay, the leaders of the Opposition don’t seem to have realised that. Instead of prepping and motivating their supporters to achieve greater heights, challenging the three-term controversy, bringing the people to the road and exerting every ounce of pressure upon this regime and the Rajapaksas, they chose to indulge in an orgy of premature celebrations; disbursements of party positions and cake-cutting ceremonies that punctuated the days when organisation should have been the order of the day. The Party is in the hands of political tyros and the general secretary with no political acumen, is declaring party positions with no context in mind.
An acute sense of false-jubilance has set in; twenty years of intellectual infertility cannot be erased in one single stroke by the Uva voter. When options are available and thrown in by those who are not even remotely connected to the UNP, its general secretary rushed to make statements regarding the current incumbent’s ineligibility to contest the third time for Presidency. Instead of making use of each and every opportunity, where political capital could have been made and exploited to the hilt, leaders of the UNP who are responsible for every debacle it had suffered for the last two decades are once again showing their lack of class and poise when confronted by challenge and need.
The current political status is quite simple and unambiguous. The present regime could be made to look utterly vulnerable and pathetically hopeless. And I have reasons:
1. The Uva PC elections show that incumbency-fatigue is setting in 2. Patriotism and war-victory as a political slogan and a platform are waning 3. Corruption has reached monumental levels 4. Nepotism has made even the strongest of Rajapaksa supporters within its own ranks scared and jittery; it’s making the Family Tree (Seven Years’ Scourge – ‘Hath Vasaka Saapaya’) of the Bandaranaikes look like an empty, undecorated and unlit Christmas tree. 5. Random price-slashing of essential items such as cooking gas, electricity, petrol and diesel looks more and more akin to election gimmickry rather than alleviating hardships and the people are beginning to see through it. 6. Lies and more lies are getting fully exposed before they are even being told 7. Rampant hooliganism among government ranks as manifested in the Sajin Vaas/Chris Nonis incident is making average and reasonable men and women sick. 8. The manner in which the regime is handling crisis after crisis is baring open the severe deficiencies and lack of professional and honest governing. 9. The last but not the least, the serious argument that is building ahead of the Presidential Elections that Mahinda Rajapaksa is not eligible to run for a third consecutive time is gathering momentum
All this and much more is convincing enough for a regime change. The voters are getting increasingly aware of the misdoings of those who wield power and the voter-disillusionment is manifestly appearing in street corners, boutique interiors, inside three-wheelers and of course in social clubs. It’s cutting across all walks of life and more so among those who work hard each day to put food on the table. Families are being stressed out; schoolchildren are being subjected to the most uncomfortable exercises; university students are up in arms against a maniacal minister; the community of academics and professionals are increasingly getting alarmed about the ‘real’ status of the economy. Social and moral values are showing vivid and sure signs of decay. The values held aloft by the average Sirisena, Mohamed, Theagarajah and Kandasamy are being shoved aside and street fighters and ruffians who are not fit enough to be workshop supervisors are being treated and crowned; their acts of hooliganism in international scenes are being vindicated and excused by government media spokespersons.
Instead of a set of individuals who value human life and its decent ideals and principles, we have got a set of individuals for whom political power is everything and the only thing that matters.
It is crystal clear as to what ought to be done. But there is no leadership at a moral level. That is the fundamental disagreement the writer has with the current Opposition and its lackadaisical leadership. Men who should take bold and courageous action are missing. On the day of the Dedigama by-election in 1973, when confronted by thugs and thuggish parliamentarians of the then government, J R Jayewardene, the then leader of the UNP, walked alone to the Warakapola Police Station and lodged complaints; Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali, when attacked by ‘Soththi Upali’ and thugs at the Fort Railway Station, led their troops to the respective police stations and made their entries.
However much I’ve written, I simply cannot overstate the importance of showing unflappable leadership at the top of the line. Political power is not cheap nor is it easy to attain. Only those who strive would ultimately benefit. Given the current context of a divided Opposition, there is no reason why the average voter should repose faith in the Opposition.
If all signs are indicative of a voter-propensity towards a regime change and all mathematical and statistical analyses are showing a strong likelihood that a regime change is possible, that alone is still not enough. The unknown variables are many and varied. Elections are not fought on paper, are they? They are fought on paddy fields in remote villages; they are fought on street corners of urban cities and they are also fought in exalted corridors of Colombo social clubs. If the UNP and the rest of other political parties choose to play a different game, holding on to their cocoons and nests, there is no way they can defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa. Only a common opposition led by a common candidate could lead them to that ‘promised land’. There are no buts and ifs. Period. Untested field marshals cannot lead a weary battalion to victory. General Fonseka knows that well. As Napoleon said:“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.” The country is calling out for that person who could control the chaos. It’s time that such a leader emerged. Otherwise we will be merely committing collective hara-kiri.