Earlier this month, 21 October to be exact, President Wickremesinghe announced presidential elections would be conducted next year (2024). He added parliamentary elections and provincial council elections would follow in 2025. Wickremesinghe made these comments during his address at the Special General Convention of the United National Party held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in Colombo.
That simple statement has set the cat among the pigeons so to say. All talk of mounting a joint opposition to challenge the incumbent president has already gone up in smoke.
JVP/NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake -popularly referred to as AKD- who started his political life as a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist, has thrown his cap into the presidential race. Latterly, however, AKD seems to be more comfortable with US ambassador Julie J. Chung whose company he seems to enjoy. In the latest pictures of his visit to the US now doing the rounds, the JVP leader is seen surrounded by US and Sri Lanka flags beside him.
The times they are changing...
All other issues too seem to have now taken a back seat. The JVP which in an earlier era, at the drop of a hat, used to hold large protest demonstrations in front of the US embassy whenever Israel carried out incursions into Palestine, is completely silent this time around, despite the carnage being inflicted on those helpless people.
The party has also not been in the vanguard of protests against the ever-increasing cost of living in this country. Could it be this party too now backs the IMF package?
Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the Samagi Jana Balaya has also announced his candidature. The Chairperson of that party -Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka- has announced he is not supportive of the party candidate. Perhaps he intends to mount a challenge to the now not-so-young Sajith.
The net result is a party divided and an election looming.
PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Siddarthan of the TNA, commenting on the possibility of a presidential election said there was no enthusiasm about the event in the north and the east. He felt the upcoming elections would weaken the President’s resolve to solve the national question shortly.
SLPP’s Namal Rajapaksa despite his little experience in the political field has come out in open criticism of the President’s recent Cabinet reshuffle.
The president, Namal intoned does not know how to handle coalition politics. The young scion of the Rajapaksa dynasty was expressing his dissent against the axing of the beleaguered ex-health minister Keheliya Rambukwella.
The General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP) has challenged the president, claiming his party could defeat the forthcoming budget in November if he crossed the SLPP once too often.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) now a mere ghost of its former self seems rudderless, while the Freedom People’s Congress led by Dulles Alahaperuma has still to make an impression on the public.
Sadly as is becoming the normal practice, the minority political parties are hedging their bets.
Meanwhile, the president is building up his UNP and what his announcement on elections has done, is to expose the weaknesses within the fractious opposition in parliament.
The country is groaning under the strain of the cost of living. Charges of corruption are being hurled willy-nilly. Yet, no alternative measures to tackle either problem are being discussed. The only constant has been Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s charge of a cover-up in the Easter Sunday bombings
The people are clamouring for a change in circumstances where the cost of living is brought down to levels they can feed, educate and clothe their families. Our politicians and political parties too, seek change.
The change they desire however is different from that of the people. Political parties want a change in rulers. Yet, they present no plan for how they change the people’s circumstances.
Wickremesinghe on assuming the presidency eased the shortages and anarchy that were threatening to engulf the country.
The political opposition parties need to show how they can improve this situation and ease the burdens of the people.