The hype that came about immediately after Gotabhaya was announced as the SLPP presidential candidate by a sullen faced Mahinda Rajapaksa whose preamble for the announcement was all about his own credentials and not about Gotabhaya, has virtually died down within a month with SLPP yet to come live with its presidential election campaign. Hype now in media is about UNP selecting a candidate for its proposed new alliance, with Karu Jayasuriya throwing himself into the ring for candidacy and a lack lustre early morning media event on 17 September by Sajith Premadasa announcing he would not back down.
A media release by Karu J on 17 September (from Sinhala version) says, he has been asked to stand for the presidential election by leading Buddhist monks and by other religious prelates, by civil society leaders, academics, intellects from numerous disciplines, professionals, youth organisation activists and also by political activists, while missing out women and their organisations if any. He is asked to come forward to safeguard democracy, to bring back political stability and establish a civilised, decent rule as a trustworthy leader. His promise, primarily is to abolish the “Executive Presidency” and thereafter leave he says, a promise given by all parties since 1995 that has remained a promise.
Countering Karu J, Sajith Premadasa promised at his media briefing he would not be an “elected dictatorship” coining a phrase he says from Lord Hailsham, while actually borrowing it whole. If one goes by promises these aspiring candidates lavishly churn out, 2020 and after will have Sri Lanka as one of the most democratic countries in the world, fast developing into a prosperous country free of debt and corruption and with a perfect law and order situation in everyday life. The lost “Paradise” found.
Reality is otherwise. All what they promise are all what they failed in, during the past 04 years since August 2015. It is those now grouped around Karu J and Sajith P that as UNP “leadership” in government who are corrupt beyond doubt and have failed beyond imagination. It is not Ranil Wickremesinghe alone that has to answer to all the mega corruption from Bond scam to the DPJ building with many more including “Tabs to schools”, printing of textbooks, Sandler Travis and Rosenberg PA on 630,000 US dollar lobby campaign, the appalling deal with Horana “Rigid Tyre” company, the “Central highway” and the 300 million rupee Samurdhi Tamasha listed as corrupt with many more. It is not Ranil W alone who has to take responsibility to the breakdown of law and order, for total inefficiency in public administration and for governance without social purpose. During the past 04 years, these UNP leaders sat through parliament group meetings, UNP Executive Committee meetings and in other fora were not seen or heard as intervening in anyway in correcting course of their government that was heading for disaster. They proved themselves as individuals and as a collective leadership as miserable failures in governing the country with decency and in salvaging the party from the chaos that it has slipped into.
"Countering Karu J, Sajith Premadasa promised at his media briefing he would not be an “elected dictatorship” coining a phrase he says from Lord Hailsham, while actually borrowing it whole"
The UNP leadership will nevertheless have to decide upon a single presidential candidate from one of the two, or Ranil Wickremesinghe as their choice. If the decision is not Sajith Premadasa, he, on the strength of those who are backing him, not from within the party alone but by kingmakers in the media as well, will have to go it alone. Yes, unless he decides to withdraw immediately and bid time till the next presidential election in 2025 that would certainly come despite promises yet again for its abolition.
That in fact is no irony in Sri Lankan politics; parties splitting on personal agenda and sometimes surviving. The irony is, even if by some blunder the People make as usual, the UNP manages to have 50 plus 01 percent of the votes, this chaos would continue with numerous scheming to continue with the presidency too. The party nor its leadership clan would change to be democratic and “clean”. They simply cannot in this filthy rich free market economy that sustains and nurtures the party to continue with this mess that is profitable.
That makes no difference with the SLPP either in alliance with the SLFP or not. It was a “robber clan” that is responsible for all what the Rajapaksa regime is accused for. It wasn’t Mahinda Rajapaksa alone that is responsible for mega corruption and racist dictatorial rule. Whatever the SLPP presidential candidate now says about law and order, discipline, equality, clean governance and freedom, none of which he knew not as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, were violated by the Rajapaksa clan that usurped political power without limits. It would not be any different post 9/16 with most from the same racist “robber clan” once again hitched to his bandwagon. Its again the filthy rich that will decide the culture of the next Rajapaksa regime as well, if voted to power. Irony here is, everyone knows they are so, but the larger Sinhala urban majority goes with mundane promises and the Sinhala Buddhist rural voter with the populist image of Rajapaksa. This therefore leaves Sri Lanka with equally incompetent candidates who are least interested in democracy, law and order, decent and clean governance and equality, despite their manifestos and rhetoric.
That makes the JVP and Anura Kumara important. Though not considered a front runner, importance of the JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake as the candidate of the PPM (People’s Power Movement) lies in the absence of a “choice” at this presidential election on 16 November. There is little doubt, the two mainstream candidates from the SLPP and the UNP in alliance would compete for presidency. They will reach out to the majority Sinhala Buddhist votes and one who gains around 60 percent of the Sinhala Buddhist vote, would possibly scrape through. As such, there is gossip making rounds that Anura Kumara may compromise on Karu J’s candidacy. An extremely difficult outcome now as the JVP will splinter into shrapnel if they backtrack on their already publicly declared stand of contesting elections in alliance with broad social groups launched as PPM at Galle Face.
More votes the JVP and Anura Kunara would collect will be to the disadvantage of the candidate of UNP led alliance. That candidate will not have the advantage of North-East votes this November elections that Sirisena had in January 2015 in polling 6.2 million votes. Nor would Anura Kumara and the JVP. Anura Kumara would be collecting votes from the rural Sinhala bloc of the 6.2 million votes Maithripala Sirisena polled in January. JVP is a rural based organisation that has its organisational reach among the lower middle-class. JVP has never been able to establish itself among the urban middle-class as did the old LSSP and to a certain degree the old CP too. In fact, it is still argued the failure of the LSSP leadership was that it could not go out of Colombo to reach the rural poor. It is the opposite with the JVP. Yet their problem is, the rural Sinhala polity has its own traditional politics in SLFP that has drained off into the SLPP and the UNP that still has a sizeable but a diminishing appeal.
"All what they promise are all what they failed in, during the past 04 years since August 2015"
The new space if JVP wish to capitalise on is the frustration and anger the Sinhala rural and urban middle-class has grown with during the past years with this “yahapalanaya” proving itself not only as a total failure in governance but proving no less corrupt than the Rajapaksas. And also capitalising on Tamil and Muslim frustration and anger that needs answers. It is therefore not about promising once again what was promised at the 2015 January presidential elections. That shopping list in 2015 January was for delivery within this stinking free market economy. It is now quite evident nothing can be cleaned, nor put in order within this filthy free market economy.
The JVP and Anura Kumara therefore will have to offer a totally new development programme within which education, health, public transport, housing and rural economy gain importance. They will also have to offer the Tamil people a decent democratic solution to their long standing political grievances with immediate answers to issues in post war North and East. In short, JVP and Anura Kumara will have to project themselves as the “alternate force” that can be the opposition to whatever government that is voted to power with the new President after 9/16, not just in parliament but in society too. Parliamentary politics will have little relevance in actual life of the people from 2020. That is also reason this society will have to take the JVP with Anura Kumara as a serious option and as the actual alternative to the SLPP and the UNP that will be politically together in this awfully corrupt free market economy.