Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

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The Challenge of the Second Decade of Post War Reconciliation

Posted by harimpeiris on May 27, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in Groundviews on 27th May 2020)

May 19th 2020, marked the eleventh year of the end of the fighting in Sri Lanka’s civil war. A protracted long drawn out conflict, which when it ended in 2009 was the world’s second longest running civil conflict after Lebanon’s. As a nation as we enter the second decade after the end of the war, there is a need to continue the process of reconciliation, which made slow progress during the first decade after the war. There is a continuing need to address both the effects and the causes of the war, to ensure a durable and just peace as well as heal the ethnic polarizations in our society.

The effects of the conflict are still around and visible, mostly in the Northern Province and the Vanni, much more than in the Eastern province. Especially in the districts of Killinochchi and Mullaitivu which bore the brunt of the fighting and the scene of the final existential battles of the LTTE. In the first decade after the war, the former Rajapaksa Government, rapidly rebuilt the physical infrastructure, especially the roads and government administrative buildings and structures, while its successor, the Sirisena / Wickramasinghe Administration followed up with land release, smaller scale community infrastructure and perhaps most importantly opening up and creating the space for civil society and the non-governmental sector to address the needs of the conflict affected. Especially those of the most vulnerable sectors of those communities, women and children, the war widows, the orphans and the injured, including many suffering from post-traumatic stress and other mental distress. A generous Indian housing project, granting as aid not loans, fifty thousand housing units, ensured that housing stock in the North and East was also rebuilt. However, as yet an unaddressed and continuing post war need, is the sustainable livelihoods for women headed households as well as rehabilitated ex-combatants.

The challenge of reconciliation under the SLPP

The election of the first Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) administration in November last year and the foregone conclusion of a comfortable victory for the SLPP, in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, once the Covid-19 threat in epidemic proportions is over, means that reconciliation for the next five years is going to be under the policy framework of the SLPP. While there has been no clear articulation of a reconciliation policy by the administration, the statements by the Foreign Minister at the UNHRC at the end of February, the appointment of ideological hardliners to key positions in the Administration among other insights into thinking demonstrate at the minimum, that the Government elected solely on the votes of the majority ethno-religious community, is disinclined at best to move forward a process of reconciliation or the famous home grown solutions it refers to with international audiences.

This absence of a drive for reconciliation, at the high levels of the new government means that reconciliation would need to be advanced through other actors and stakeholders, including minority political leaders, provincial and local government institutions, community leaders and civil society. Where ever Sri Lanka has done well, be it in the apparel or IT industry or cricket, we have done well with minimum government involvement and progress has generally stalled once politicians got involved. It is also useful to learn of reconciliation processes of non-western and non-European experiences, particularly from Africa like Rwanda and South Africa and even from South America, like in Colombia, all countries which suffered political violence, loss of life and property and collective community trauma.

In that context, the abysmal non performance of the first TNA controlled Northern Provincial Council was both a disappointment and complete let down for the Tamil people of the Northern Province. Led by former supreme court Justice CV Wigneswaran, his administration seemed inept and incompetent. In it’s first year, it even had to return money sent from the center for projects due to non-completion and subsequently only refrained from doing so, by diverting the funds elsewhere in a manner which stretched Government financial regulations. It ended its term in internecine squabbles, where the ITAK resigned from his administration and the Chief Minister ended up in court over his provincial ministerial appointments.  On the contrary, the performance of the SLMC-TNA Coalition Administration in the Eastern Province under an SLMC business minded chief minister, performed much better. The provincial administration, assisted in resettlement, worked in harmony with the center and generally managed the delicate Tamil-Muslim relations in the East in a manner which makes another joint SLMC-TNA provincial administration in that province, a distinct possibility.

Having a go at M.A. Sumanthiran  

With parliamentary elections called and the date pending a Supreme Court determination, the preference vote battle in the Jaffna District heated up and distinctly discarded the Queensbury rules, when the political competitors of the former Jaffna District Parliamentarian, president’s counsel and TNA Spokesman, MA Sumanthiran launched an unprecedented personal and political attack against him. Their weapon of choice was comments Sumanthiran had made in a Sinhala language interview, “Truth with Chamuditha” and specifically his reiteration that he never accepted or condoned armed struggle as a political project. An overarching well known pacifist philosophy, he subscribes to, is best known by its global champion from our region, India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, after whom it is named, as Gandhian non violence philosophy.

There were strange comments in social media, that Sumanthiran and the TNA had achieved nothing through eleven years of democratic politics. This from clear LTTE sympathizers, who are never willing to honestly explore what exactly the Tamil people achieved through twenty-five years of the armed struggle. An armed struggle whose self-harm to the Tamil community included, the conscription of their children as child soldiers, universally accepted as an international war crime and the political murders of Tamil democratic political leaders like Alfred Duraiappa, Appaapilai Amirthalingam, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Sam Thambimutthu and Joseph Pararajasingham, who never actually opposed the LTTE, but either did not dance to their tune or were competitors for political power. Certainly, the Tamil community had made no strategic gains, when the LTTE’s armed struggle ended. Indeed, the LTTE were left with few friends internationally and banned in most countries of the world.

Suren Surendiran, the de facto head and articulate spokesman for the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), best sums up a most rationale and principled approach in this manner. Writing to the Colombo Telegraph on May 26th, he states “More than a decade has passed since the war ended, and the Tamil community must embark upon honest self- reflection and learn valuable lessons from its successes and failures of the past. In this journey inclusivity of different political viewpoints is fundamental”. Surendiran begins his essay with the observation that resolving the issues of the Tamil people, requires engagement with the Sinhala and Muslim communities and endorses Sumanthiran thus “We always found Sumanthiran highly knowledgeable, articulate, hard working and honest and we reiterate our utmost confidence in him”.

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The fight against Covid-19 should not weaken the rule of law

Posted by harimpeiris on May 13, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in Groundviews on 13th May 2020)

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant shutdown of social and community life has meant that the political debate and dialogue in Sri Lanka, has moved from more traditional forms of communications, to exclusively electronic and especially social media platforms. Of these, the electronic media’s reach is universal in Sri Lanka, with almost every one of Sri Lanka’s four million households either owning a TV set or having ready access to one, though not entirely being news and current affairs TV junkies. However, phone penetration in Sri Lanka is also nearly universal, our twenty million people accounting for more than twenty-one million phone connections and the resultant internet penetration through mobile devises is also likely to be quite high, at least for the use of basic data applications like Whatsapp. The effectiveness of electronic and social media exclusively for the nation’s political dialogue has been tested during the past two months and has shown some ability to communicate ideas with political traction within society.

This is unsurprising because social media provide very effective in both the 2015 and the 2019 presidential elections. In the 2015 election, the unsuccessful Mahinda Rajapakse campaign dominated every form of media space and coverage except for social media, which was the only level playing field by its very nature and which was largely supportive of the ultimately successful Maithripala Sirisena challenge to the then Rajapakse Administration. Similarly, in the run up to the 2019 presidential election, social media was dominated by sentiments supportive of the successful candidacy of the ultimate winner in that election. More recently though with Parliament dissolved on March 2nd 2020, the opposition has had to rely solely on electronic and social media and to their credit, despite the obvious and natural national pre-occupation with preventing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic within the country, socio-political issues have been raised in the electronic and social media and effectively championed.

The most obvious and dominant issue is unsurprisingly, regarding the now dissolved parliament, the re-summoning of which, the Opposition has championed entirely via the electronic and social media. That this pressure was being felt at the highest levels, was demonstrated by the fact that the President felt obliged to do a media interview and explain his reasons for not doing so. The Prime Minister followed with his own concession in that regard, by summoning all two hundred and twenty five members of the 8th Parliament of Sri Lanka for a meeting at Temple Trees, which olive leaf was only grasped by the Tamil National Alliance, its parliamentarians coming from all parts of the North and East for the meeting and following up the same at the PM’s request with another meeting later the same day at his residence. The other political parties, including the main opposition SJB, the UNP and the JVP all boycotted the meeting.

The corollary of that issue has been the date of holding, parliamentary elections, the opposition claiming with considerable merit, that a free and fair election is not currently possible under Covid-19 preventive social distancing measures. Moreover, the period of not having a functioning legislature is exceeding the maximum period of three months and is, prima facie a violation of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. The constitutional arguments are due to be argued in the most appropriate and effective forum for the same, the Supreme Court of the Republic, with leave to proceed granted to petitioners, including Mr. Ranjith Maduma Bandara, General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Opposition Leader, Sajith Premadasa and former Ministers Patali Champika Ranawaka and Kumara Welgama, the latter two filing a joint petition. Support for the petitions and oral arguments are scheduled to be made next week on the 18th and 19th of May. In an interesting development, in recognition of the independence of the Election Commission and its own conflict of interests, the Attorney General has informed the Supreme Court, that the AG’s Department cannot appear for the Election Commission in the said case, resulting in the Commission having to retain private counsel. This also highlights the inherent conflict of interests which arises from the Attorney General (AG) being simultaneously the chief law officer of the State and the chief legal advisor to the Government, often interpreted and practiced by AGs, as being the chief legal advisor to the executive. It is pertinent to note that during the October 2018 constitutional crisis when Speaker Karu Jayasuriya wrote to the then Attorney General seeking his views on the legality of the President’s actions in dissolving parliament before four and a half years of its five year term had been completed, that the then Attorney General declined to advise the Speaker. Similarly, it is quite likely that in Court, the Attorney General on behalf of the Head of Government and the Election Commission may take divergent positions regarding the issues.

The rule of law argument for Sri Lanka is quite simple. We are politically, a functioning if somewhat challenged democratic society. Our democratic norms and freedoms are important to who we are as a nation state. The fight against Covid-19 cannot and indeed should not be permitted to be a rationale for a weakening of our democratic norms and freedoms. The most successful fights against the spread of the Corona virus has been by democratic states and its opposite, namely authoritarianism, lack of transparency and limited government accountability, such as in China has actually exacerbated the crisis. The Sri Lankan State needs all the three arms of the state, namely the executive, the judiciary and the legislature functioning to ensure that we are a society governed by law or a civilized nation under the rule of law.  The executive arm of government, in any nation always finds being held accountable to a legislature to be somewhat of an irritant but it is a staple in any civilized society, except in absolute monarchies of which there are now, only a handful in the world.

It is rather obvious that the election to the ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka, also needs to be held in a manner that does not endanger the public health. The constitutional and legal arguments in that regard would be made and heard in the apex court of Sri Lanka next week. But Sri Lanka in its fight against the spread of Covid-19 cannot and should not weaken the rule of law and / or its democratic rights and freedoms. It is unnecessary and very unwise to do so.

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Reconvening Parliament as polls postponed

Posted by harimpeiris on April 27, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in Groundviews on 27th April 2020)

Even for a country that coped with and ended a near thirty year long civil war, the Covid-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge, not merely in the area of public health, but also economically of a magnitude that has the potential to cause significant social upheaval. The backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy has been our expatriate worker remittances, tourism and the apparel industry. The global nature of the Covid-19 epidemic, styled a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), would mean that even after an end to the lock downs not just in Sri Lanka, but also in host countries for our expatriate workers, tourist originating nations and the apparel markets of the USA and the EU, the continuation of social distancing guidelines, virus spread mitigating measures and economic disruption may well cause these industries to not pick up to levels seen in prior years, at least for quite a while. This means serious economic pain and unemployment in Sri Lanka, resulting in social tensions.

As April 25th, the scheduled date for the parliamentary elections, declared with the proclamation dissolving parliament, came and went, the Elections Commission provisionally differed the election to 20th June 2020 and giving every indicator that public health authorities and the Covid-19 pandemic situation rather than any other factor would determine the date of holding the election.  In that context, a looming constitutional conundrum has arisen, as pointed out, late last month, by the Elections Commission to the Secretary to the President. In those now well-known missives, the independent Elections Commission (EC)  brought to the attention of the Secretary to the President, that relevant legislation required that Parliament must be convened three months after dissolution, i.e. by 2nd June, subsequent to the 2nd of March dissolution and the public health situation did not permit the conduct of a parliamentary election before this date. The EC recommended seeking the opinion of the Supreme Court regarding the situation. Even as this article is being penned, there are attempts at persuading the government to withdraw the gazette, which prematurely dissolved parliament and to reconvene the same, to enable all the three arms of the Sri Lankan State, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, to function effectively to create a unified non-partisan national response to a truly national, apolitical public health and economic challenge. The constitutional and legal provisions of the arguments regarding the dissolution of parliament, the absence of an approved budget, the violation of the approved debt ceiling, amid other legal issues could be better discussed in a different forum and may well end up decided by the Superior Courts, as indeed the constitutional issues of the October 2018 constitutional revolution was decided and resolved judicially.

However, this article seeks to examine some of the public policy and governance, as opposed to the legal issues, arising from the premature dissolution of parliament and the absence of a functioning legislature during this period of the national fight against the Covid-19. Firstly history, political science and common sense teaches us that facing a common enemy is best done in a united manner, as a common front and together, rather than divided, in factions and in a polarized manner. Accordingly, it would be wise for the government to seek to include the opposition parties and create some bi-partisan consensus on dealing with this very non-political public health issue and its economic and social fall out. A process best done in through the august assembly of Parliament.

On the contrary, the SLPP Administration, having recently won an election in November last year and with every confidence of winning the forthcoming parliamentary election, perceives little or no need for either any opposition cooperation or support. There is little love lost or trust reposed in their political opponents. When the idea of re-summoning parliament and seeking to extend the vote on account, if not pass a budget and other measures aimed at regularizing public finance beyond end April 2020, were first mooted, there were concerns in the highest echelons of the Government, that its minority status in parliament would make it vulnerable when seeking parliamentary approval and possibly open it up to defeat on a money bill and be ousted from office in the legislature. The SLPP had not forgotten the lessons of October 2018, where its minority Administration, sworn in by then President Sirisena, twice consecutively lost motions of no confidence in Parliament.

Avoid politicization and rights violations

Opinion surveys, Sri Lanka’s substitute for statistically accurate opinion polls supposedly shows very high approval ratings for the government’s response to the covid-19 epidemic. In fact, this is unsurprising, since the social distancing measures via a currently five week and increasing curfew has indeed been “flattening our curve” and the only real criticism of the government is that it dissolved parliament despite the looming virus pandemic and delayed the start of the fight against Covid-19 by quite a bit to accommodate the dissolution of parliament and the acceptance of nominations for the general elections on 19th March, with the curfew being declared the very next day on the 20th.  The question being asked from government leaders around the world, is also relevant in Sri Lanka, which is why were not these measures taken earlier, when the pandemic warnings were clear to national authorities, though not to the general public.

Leader of the Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya leader Sajith Premadasa has called on the government to not politicize the distribution of relief supplies, including the Rupees five thousand relief payment to needy families, resulting from the fact that local government politicians mostly from the governing SLPP have been included in the committees nominated to decide on beneficiaries. A hitherto unheard-of practice in the distribution of relief supplies from the Government in times of national emergency. This in a situation where to the contrary, the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) controlled local councils in the North have been prevented by the Government through the Governor, in even using their own funds to provide relief for their constituencies. A measure that has been widely criticized in the North. Additionally, the Opposition has raised issue about the alleged harassment of social media activists and the detention of an Attorney at Law amid alleged serious due process lapses on the part of the relevant authorities.  These are issues best avoided when facing a crucial national challenge. One in which we are all better served, if we face it together, to more effectively deal with the issues. The approach in international diplomacy and global problem solving of consultation, cooperation and collaboration, would just as effectively serve us domestically as well as internationally.

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Emerging Governance Issues Amid Covid-19

Posted by harimpeiris on April 9, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in Groundviews on 09th April 2020)

As Sri Lanka heads towards completing nearly a month of lockdown, with first the special public holiday route adopted from 16th March and then curfew from 20th March onwards, there are emerging a set of medium to long term issues, in addition to the short term measures being adopted to “flatten the curve” or reduce and stretch out the time of the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the country. The immediate short-term measures recommended by the health authorities and eventually adopted by the Government, perhaps after some hesitation, has certainly resulted in the spread of the Covid-19 virus being contained in Sri Lanka. However, as it becomes clearer now that the risk of the spread of the virus of epidemic proportions, will be around and not actually totally abate, until a vaccine and other new medical therapies and treatments are found, there are some emerging medium-term governance and longer-term economic issues which are emerging and have been flagged by the relevant parties concerned.

Last week, the Chairman of the Elections Commission wrote to the Secretary to the President, effectively the head of the civil service, to appraise His Excellency the President, that a general election to Parliament could not be held as per his gazette notification of March 2nd, prematurely dissolving the Parliament of Sri Lanka, four and a half years into its five-year term. Hard on the heels of this missive from the Elections Commission, several smaller political party leaders, have called for the recall by the President of his gazette notification on the grounds that the state of public health does not allow for the mass socialization and internal migration which a general election necessarily entails. In the alternate others have called for summoning of the dissolved parliament as permitted in the Constitution, for the purpose of a national emergency. The rationale for the recall of Parliament or the rescinding of the gazette dissolving parliament, is that Parliament has a further period in its term and the early dissolution was a discretionary political move, a presidential prerogative under the constitution after the lapse of four and a half years after a parliamentary election, but now impractical under the existing public health situation and hence should be withdrawn, as it is impractical and not implementable.

Several analysts and government voices have argued that the government is handling the Coronavirus situation satisfactorily and there is no need to summon parliament. However, several compelling arguments to the contrary exist. Firstly Sri Lanka, like any other civilized nation on earth, is not fighting the virus with its constitution suspended and under an emergency. Other civilized nations in the world have not done so either. This global pandemic is being fought by nations as civilized societies under the rule of law. Accordingly, under law basic and crucial public finance issues exist. It is a well-founded principle in most democratic governance norms, including in Sri Lanka, that the control of public finance, through the approval of the annual state budget and the oversight of government expenditure by the executive is done by the legislature, in the tradition of the separation of powers and the checks and balances, inherent and essential in a democratic society under law.

Both the former Finance and State Finance ministers, Mangala Samaraweera and Eran Wickramaratne respectively have highlighted variously, the need to extend the Vote on Account passed by the new SLPP Administration upon its assumption of office, raise the debt ceiling to continue borrowing and also create a legal basis for various public safety measures being adopted including the ongoing curfew, which is a “police curfew” rather than a nationally declared one possible under several laws, but which would then require parliament’s concurrence. In real politic terms, complicating matters for the government, is that it is a minority government in Parliament, popular in the country through its mandate in last November’s presidential election, but cautious almost pessimistic about its ability to get Parliamentary approval for any of its initiatives. However, a legal limbo over state finance does not augur well for our long-term attractiveness as an investment destination, our international credit ratings and ability to tap global financial markets. Sri-Lanka will require to tap global financial markets to refinance that portion of its public debt maturing in 2020, a not inconsiderable Billion dollars or so and in an environment when global recession may occur.

Of more immediate concern though, as the lockdown curfew continues in the most densely populated of Sri Lanka’s districts namely the Colombo, Gampaha, Kandy, Jaffna and Kalutara districts, is the livelihood and income requirements of the self-employed and the casual laborer, mostly found in the populated urban areas of the above districts. The government proposes a Rupees five thousand a month stipend or supplies of that value to them, which relief has not yet commenced and the adequacy of which for say a typical family of four or more, is questionable. In the medium term, managing the economy, especially on the production and supply side becomes crucial, especially given our skewed income distribution in society. Quite quickly the urban poor can become destitute and vulnerable, with food security and scarcity an issue. The pressure on Sri Lanka’s exchange rate has also been acute, with the Sri Lankan Rupee depreciating over eight percent since end Feb to mid-April. In the medium term, there is a need to move from complete lockdown, to a partial lockdown and then life style changes to maintain social distancing until the threat of a fresh outbreak of the virus recedes through new medical treatments, therapies and vaccines. The complex and challenging governance issues facing us, during these unprecedented times, is best dealt with in a bi-partisan manner, with consultation and consensus.

 

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Nominations close and elections postponed amid Covid-19

Posted by harimpeiris on March 23, 2020

By Harim Peiris

(Published in the Island & Groundviews on 23rd March 2020)

 

Nominations for the parliamentary elections of 2020 closed late last week and barely an hour after the close of nominations, the Elections Commission made its widely expected announcement that the poll would be postponed until the threat to public health through the rapid potential spread of the Covid-19 or Coronavirus has been contained. How long that would take is anybody’s guess, though the experience in China, the nation where it all began, seemed to indicate that a period of two to three months was needed to contain the worst threat and gear public health systems to deal with the epidemic over a longer term basis. End May is currently referred to as the earliest possible date when the elections could be held, with June or July a more prudent and likely time frame.

Politically the ruling party was keen to see the election happen sooner rather than later, the President informing his SAARC counterparts in a conference call prior to the close of nominations that the elections would proceed, while to the contrary Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa called for the postponement of the elections, stating that public health and safety was paramount, rather than elections and should be ensured before the polls. The JVP and the TNA, respectively the third and fourth largest political parties in the country, after the two main blocks, echoed similar sentiments. The Elections Commission concurred. Given that the electoral process requires a mass domestic human migration or movement of people and that campaigning makes social distancing impossible, the decision of the Elections Commission was inevitable. Perhaps in hindsight the hasty dissolution of parliament when Covid-19 was known as a global pandemic was unwise.

The SLPP and the SLFP unite while the SJB and UNP fail to do so

 The most notable feature of the election nominations now concluded, is that the SLPP was able to draw the vast majority of the SLFP into its ranks, baring its Kalutara strongman Kumara Welgama, who formed the new SLFP and joined Sajith Premadasa and the SJB. The SLFP will contest the elections together with the SLPP in 18 districts with the exception of four districts with sizable minority voters, where it will contest under its own ‘hand’ symbol. Perhaps, acknowledging the futility of seeking to persuade minority voters to vote for the SLPP. In recognition of the same, the SLPP is not contesting in the Jaffna district, having received single digits levels of support there in the presidential elections and that was when its EPDP allies were campaigning for it. For the parliamentary polls the EPDP is going it alone and its leader Douglas Devananda is likely to mobiliSe the EPDP’s customary voter base and retain his seat in Parliament.

It is in the main opposition block, that negotiations, shuttle talks and even direct discussions between Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and his erstwhile political leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe failed to persuade the latter, that rather like his political mentor and uncle former president JR Jayawardena, who graciously, if not entirely willingly, conceded the Party leadership to Premadasa Senior, that he should follow suit and do likewise in this instance. Instead he has chosen, rather like Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s immortalized poem, to do the charge of the light brigade and for the UNP to contest elections in all districts, with most incumbent UNP MPs and all their political allies, including the JHU, the SLMC and the TPA contesting as part of the SJB. Just as senior British military officers in the Crimean war had not internalized the reality of heavy artillery in open warfare and still believed in the horse- mounted cavalry charge of yesteryear, the UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe seems convinced that it is not the political personas, policies and promise, but the party brand, history and most strangely the party symbol which carry weight with voters. The experience of the SLFP vis-a-vis the SLPP, the TULF vis a vis the TNA, all point to the contrary. Even more concretely, the political acumen of the UNP’s junior partner parties are the most accurate bell weather regarding which way the political winds are blowing and the UNP has been unable to persuade a single ally to contest alongside it. All are with the SJB and its leader Sajith Premadasa. In fact except in Colombo where the UNP is likely to ensure the election of both Ravi Karunanayake and Ranil Wickramasinghe himself as well as in Gampaha, it is hard to see in which other districts the UNP can end up anything other than a distant fourth behind the SLPP, the SJB and the JVP and thereby generally fail to secure a seat. It may pick up a single national list seat as well. The SJB also has the advantage of the presidential elections which was a massive political coming out party for the young Premadasa. He is generally believed in opposition circles to have acquitted himself quite well in that process. It is a gross error on the part of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s advisors to believe that the younger Premadasa will politically decline rather like then Field Marshall (the General) Sarath Fonseka did after his own unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2010. Sarath Fonseka was an outsider to the UNP as well as inexperienced in politics and it showed up both during the 2010 campaign and thereafter. On the contrary Sajith Premadasa has spent 20 years in Parliament, a little less than half that time in Government, comes deep from within the UNP, with a generational heritage of leadership in that party, accomplished a self-made rise to the top rungs of the party, successfully wrested the presidential election nomination away from his leader and post-election weaned away all the political allies away from the UNP to his wider SJB opposition alliance.

Putting politics and elections very much on the back burner, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans will focus on their public health challenge and overcoming the global Covid-19 pandemic within Sri Lanka’s borders and recovering from a battered economy in the context of a global slowdown, before focusing on electing the next Parliament of Sri Lanka.

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