Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

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The SLMC and TNA also support Maithripala Sirisena for President

Posted by harimpeiris on January 6, 2015


The SLMC and TNA also support Maithripala Sirisena for President

By Harim Peiris

(published in The Island of 31st December 2014)

 

Tissa Attanayake leads an inconsequential group of political light weights, who post the Uva PC polls have crossed over from the opposition to the government, rumored to be for considerable sums of money. The real substantive political consolidation and coalescing of support has been in the opposition camp where common candidate Maithripala Sirisena has been making friends and influencing people at an astonishing pace. In contrast Mahinda Rajapakse finds himself without many of the people who stood by his side in the 2010 campaign; they are on his opponent’s political platform, explaining to Rajapakse’s constituency, why seven more years of Rajapakse rule would be disastrous for the country.

It is corruption verses development

 

The Mahinda Rajapakse camp seems short of ideas and stuck back in 2010 as far as their political message goes. Recognizing that economics or bread and butter issues as they are often called, matter to people, the government has been focusing on its infrastructure development plans. The counter to this, of course has been that the development has been with such significant corruption that we for instance have the world’s most expensive high ways. The Rajapakse Administration does not help their cause by violating every government tender procedure in the implementation of the mega projects.

Maithripala Sirisena is campaigning on constitutional reform, an end to corruption and good governance. The Mahinda Rajapakse Administration is campaigning and indeed governed as if none of these issues mattered to the Sinhala constituency as much as security and development. During the war, yes for the sake of security, a national consensus did exist to limit certain freedoms. But even at the height of the war, judicial independence and democratic norms were generally followed. It is really post the end of the war and after re election in 2010 that the Rajapakse Administration really lost their way, jailing the opposition presidential candidate, impeaching the chief justice, repealing the 17th amendment and centralizing all powers in the presidency, abolishing term limits, getting nearly 60% of the national budget directly under the control of Rajapakse family members, compromising our foreign relations with nations which had  supported our war effort and providing an enabling environment for communal violence against religious minorities to flourish. It is no surprise that the Muslim parties have now deserted him.

Maithripala Sirisena himself, personally as a seasoned politician, firmly believes in his own message. That the Sinhala electorate, though security conscious and wanting development is also extraordinarily proud of the Sri Lankan state and believe that it belongs to them. High literacy rates means that Sri Lanka has a fairly sophisticated electorate and a highly politicized society. Accordingly in such a context, the alleged abuse of state power by the Rajapakse’s (apparent in even the increasingly violent election campaign) which they believe does not matter to the Sinhala electorate, may actually prove to be their undoing. Abusing the Sri Lankan State, is unpopular among the Sinhalese. On January 9th, we will know.

The SLMC quits the Government

 

After weeks of consultations with their constituencies, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) of former Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, resigned all their posts in the Rajapakse led UPFA and pledged their support for the common opposition candidate. This follows the previous defection to the opposition of the ACMC of Rishard Bathuideen. The SLMC decision to quit the government seems popular with their rank and file all of whom have little sympathy for the Rajapakse regime. The SLMC did not make a major justification for their decision, their principal rationale was that in a process of consultation with the community, this decision was the message they received. Given that it is indeed so, this was the easiest argument to make.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) bets on a  future with a Maithri Palanya

 

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the third largest party in Parliament, with thirteen members, followed the SLMC on Tuesday 30th by formally announcing that it was requesting their supporters to support the candidacy of Maithripala Sirisena for president. The rationale they provided was along the lines of the SLMC but more articulate and forthright than the SLMC. Listing a litany of the governance issues including devaluing the judiciary, the TNA has essentially claimed that strengthening democracy was a priority and in the interest of all Sri Lankans including the Tamil people.

Now the Rajapakse campaign will use the TNA support and active participation in the opposition campaign in the North to allege an LTTE resurrection or a Tamil Diaspora plot. Clearly the Rajapakse Administration having fought the war claiming that it was only against the LTTE and not against the Tamil people and indeed claiming that the war was a humanitarian operation to liberate the Tamils from the clutches of the LTTE, have once the LTTE are defeated, now treating all the Tamil people not as a liberated people but as enemies of the Sri Lankan State. To the extent that ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka are alienated from the State, there is a political problem or challenge to be overcome through dialogue, rather than a politically opportunistic exercise to persist with ethnic polarization and social divisiveness. The Rajapakse regime’s own pre war Tissa Vitharana report or the post war LLRC reports on reconciliation gather dust as nonexistent processes.

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