o, great folly follows grand fraud, which is to say we are saddled not only with thieves but also fools. In its relations with our indispensable emerging superpower friend China, today’s UNP has reverted to its worst traditions—and those were symptomatic of one-term administrations.
My father used to say, “don’t start anything you can’t finish”. A Sunday newspaper reported that on his return from Delhi, Foreign Minister Samaraweera would “summon” China’s ambassador to lodge the Government’s “deep displeasure” at the envoy’s recent remarks (Which were but a clarification in defense of China’s loans to SL, in response to a question).
Such a move would be worse than wrong; it would be stupid.
Given the way the Govt. laps up critical and prescriptive public pronouncements by the US-UK-EU, this selective sovereignty ‘spike’ is laughable.
With the Sri Lankan rupee plummeting to 150 per US dollar, it is crass folly to antagonize Sri Lanka’s staunchest, most consistent, and economically most capacious and forthcoming friend.
Dr. Sarath Amunugama (Who supported by Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy) authored the Govt’s smart pivot back to China, must be aghast at the folly of his infinitely less literate Cabinet colleagues.
Is it that Samaraweera and Karunanayake want to provoke Chinese retrenchment so that our great and friendly neighbor can own/annex this island at bargain basement prices, or is this what Sanjana Hattotuwe calls a “systemic breakdown in policy making”?
Meanwhile, the most important single factor after the COPE controversy has been the division, however temporary and reparable, in the governing coalition, and the contrasting lack of any such fissure in the ranks of its main electoral opponent the JO.
The bond scam cover up attempt saw the fracturing of the January 8th Yahapalana bloc, what with the JVP and SLFP clashing with the UNP on prime time television.
Certainly there will be, and already are, attempts to put Humpty Dumpty together again and Humpty may be glued back to face the Rajapaksas, but the fault lines are visible and the fall out irreversible.
The JO is on the offensive, spoiling for an electoral fight.
"I got a strong sense that Mr. Wickremesinghe is going to be a one-term PM at best, and is neither going to be elected President nor re-elected PM…he may not even last out his full term and may be evicted by an Executive responding to political crisis and rising public opinion. If …lasts out his full term, the UNP will be drowned by an electoral tsunami in 2020…"
The official SLFP is critical of the UNP, in an electoral pre-emptive strike or an attempt to catch up for anti-UNP momentum lost to the JO. The JVP is taking its distance from the UNP while continuing to attack the Rajapaksas in a smart attempt to project itself as an Aam Aadmi Party type anti-corruption force, picking up dissenting young and even middle class Yahapalana votes and striving to retrieve its space as a Third Force.
The JVP is not pivoting towards the MR/JO pole of attraction, but it is certainly pivoting away from the UNP leadership, bidding to brand itself as the non-traditional ‘new Opposition’ while relegating the JO to its base vote as the traditionalist-nationalist ‘old Opposition’.
The official SLFP and the JVP pivoting away from the PM and the UNP on the bond scam could be the consequence of any one or any combination of three factors: (a) the UNP’s political behavior triggered an anti-UNP reflex action within these two traditionally anti-UNP/anti-Right parties (b) public opinion is so strongly anti-UNP on the bond scam issue that the JVP and SLFP sought to surf that wave (c) public opinion is so anti-UNP that the JVP and SLFP felt it had no option but to take an anti-UNP stand, or sought to leverage the bond scam issue to revive their anti-UNP credentials.
Mahinda Rajapaksa has played a shrewd hand. The formation of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (Sri Lanka People’s Front) signals that MR has an option ready at hand to field a slate at any election. The launch of the People’s Front could be a ‘bottom-up’ version of the SWRD Bandaranaike-DA Rajapaksa move of 1951, a necessary prelude to a replay of 1956 in 2020. Will the PF be a magnet to draw in and a successor vehicle to supersede the SLFP, or a battering ram-cum-catapult to take over the SLFP just as the breakaway SLMP and DUNF leaders Chandrika and Gamini took over the SLFP and UNP leaderships in ’94?
If the Executive Presidency is sought to be abolished or weakened, it may help the UNP but will certainly deprive the “loyal” SLFP of a power center and source of patronage. The official SLFP will disintegrate between the UNP and the pro-Mahinda opposition formation, with many of the MPs and most of the SLFP voters accruing to MR rather than the UNP, while disaffected UNPers, floaters and new voters may also be attracted by the newly emergent political project.
The external power cartel (The Government’s foreign handlers)and CBK are putting the Yahapalana band back together for one last blowout charity concert in the shape of the minoritarian, non-unitary Constitution and a special mechanism for war-crimes accountability.
What is crucially important about the new proxy party is that it provides a strong platform to mobilize a ‘NO’ vote at the upcoming referendum even if President Sirisena, the official SLFP and the JVP feel compelled to call for a ‘YES’ vote, thereby confusing and neutralizing a sizeable sliver of non-UNP Sinhala voters as in January and August 2015.
"The external power cartel (The Government’s foreign handlers)and CBK are putting the Yahapalana band back together for one last blowout charity concert in the shape of the minoritarian, non-unitary Constitution and a special mechanism for war-crimes accountability"
One of the few smart supporters of Yahapalana, Asanga Welikala has rightly cautioned in a recent opinion piece that he coauthored, that the Government wouldn’t last a day after losing a referendum on the Constitution.
Instead of risking a referendum by attempting to smuggle in federalism without the “ism” and facing the perfect storm of a fusion of a majoritarian nationalist backlash and a protest vote against economic hardship, the Government could resort to the much safer, more sustainable model of the 19th Amendment: Go beyond a mere two thirds in Parliament by suturing together an all-parties (i.e. national) consensus on reform.
This of course entails dropping anything and everything that does not obtain such all-parties support, because even a draft reform package that garners a two thirds majority in the House will almost certainly be shot down in flames at a national referendum-so why bother?
The striving must be for the least polarizing and destabilizing, broadest based, most viable reform possible, i.e. moderate reform.
Bases could be the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Rights and the UN’s Durban Declaration against Discrimination.
This presupposes a pragmatic ‘grand bargain’: The Tamil Question would have to be accurately reclassified as a social one of minority rights/equality/integration, not political-territorial self-determination of a nation/nationality.
This is a shift from the Vadukkodai-Thimpu paradigm to a Soulbury on steroids paradigm.
When you have been consciously around politics, national and international, for fifty years (Thanks initially to your widely travelled journalist father), you’ve seen a lot of stuff and you develop a sense of how things and people are likely to go.
Watching Prime Minister Wickremesinghe exhibiting his characteristically intemperate arrogance at a televised media conference on the bond scam, pitching into former COPE Chairman D.E.W. Gunasekara -a widely respected senior politician- and seeing the latter retaliate massively the next evening on a TV newscast, I got the strong sense that Mr. Wickremesinghe is going to be a one-term PM at best, and is neither going to be elected President nor re-elected PM.
This is as good as it’s going to get. As in 2001-2004, he may not even last out his full term and may be evicted by an Executive responding to political crisis and rising public opinion.
If Prime Minister Wickremesinghe lasts out his full term, the UNP will be drowned by an electoral tsunami in 2020, triggered by his polarizing personality and policies. What would be smart is for the UNP to opt for a dissenting younger, patriotic personality (populist or patrician), sooner rather than later-or for President Sirisena to do so on his Government’s behalf.
"This of course entails dropping anything and everything that does not obtain such all-parties support, because even a draft reform package that garners a two thirds majority in the House will almost certainly be shot down in flames at a national referendum-so why bother?"