Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

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Archive for January, 2015

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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The TNA follows JVP strategy

Posted by harimpeiris on January 6, 2015

The TNA follows JVP strategy

By Harim Peiris   (Published in Groundviews)

 No less a person than the JHU’s General Secretary, Patali Champika Ranawaka, went on record over the past weekend, stating that every attempt at campaigning by the joint opposition is being violently and illegally suppressed by the Rajapakse regime. He stated that if democratic dissent and a genuine electoral process did not occur, the country would slip back to the era of extra parliamentary and violent opposition to the regime. A free and fair election, at least by Sri Lanka’s own flawed standards is a must for us to continue our claims to be a democracy. That claim is being negated by the unprecedented abuses of the entire election process by the Rajapakse campaign. Notwithstanding the same, the joint opposition campaign is graining traction, politically because the SLFP is not really running too hard on behalf of Rajapakse’s and administratively because officials and police are no longer certain that come January 9th that the Rajapakse regime will remain and accordingly are loath to accept illegal commands. The IGP standing up to the Law and Order Ministry on the illegal transfer of police officers is a good example.

It is in this context, that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Anuradhapura, His Grace Norbert Andradi, was quoted in the press earlier in the week as stating that this was not an opportune time for the Pope to visit Sri Lanka and claimed that several other Bishops too shared this view and also expressed concern about the misuse of the Papal visit for political advantage at the election. However, this caution about the visit, has been pulled back through a pastoral letter by the Catholic Bishops Conference welcoming and anticipating the visit. Now the Vatican foreign ministry and security desired to access the post election climate prior to making a final decision on the visit. However, the pre election environment has been so badly tarnished that for the Pope to visit Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of a disputed, flawed and violent election, might be just unsuitable for the Holy Father. However, many observers believe that the visit of the Pope will act as a damper to any thoughts of post election violence.

The TNA and the JVP  

Two important political parties, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) arguably the third and fourth political forces in the country, have both adopted a similar strategy, which is actually working well for the joint opposition’s National Democratic Front (NDF) of Maithripala Sirisena. The NDF holds out the promise of a National Government of both the UNP and the SLFP, under a “Maithri palanaye” in a post Rajapakse political environment. The general expectation is that with a Rajapakse defeat the SLFP will revert back to a Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Maithripala Sirisena leadership, especially when it holds the promise of continued partnership in government, as opposed to languishing in opposition.

Not directly joining in this process, is both the JVP and the TNA for slightly different but also similar reasons. The JVP would be well placed to be the small but main opposition to a UNP- SLFP combine, while the TNA or its predecessor the TULF / Federal Party, which historically does not hold executive office in government, except for its one experiment under Dudley Senanayake, can continue to represent the interest of its constituency from outside the executive.

However both the TNA and the JVP will play a crucial role in the presidential election, because this early presidential election, wanted by no one expect President Rajapakse, is in fact, a request from Mahinda Rajapakse to continue to rule this country for seven more years ( six year term plus one from the current term) or until 2022 as opposed to retiring in 2016. The JVP is already busy telling their supporters countrywide that a further term for Mahinda Rajapakse is not in the interest of all Sri Lankans. Essentially the TNA is most likely to be telling its constituency the exact same thing. After all Sinhalese and Tamils have many if not more shared common interests, than just only competing ones. Listen carefully to ITAK spokesman, Human Rights lawyer MA Sumanthiran and several things become clear.

Firstly the ITAK / TNA believes that a democratic and law abiding Sri Lanka is beneficial to everyone including the Tamil people. After all minority rights cannot exist in an environment where all rights are at stake. Incidentally, MP Sumanthiran was a leading part of Chief Justice Bandaranaike’s impeachment defense team and put up a valiant fight to prevent the usurpation of judicial power by the Rajapakse presidency. Moreover, the Tamil people like to exercise their franchise, something which some misguided sections of the Tamil Diaspora should bear in mind as it supports the Rajapakse campaign’s dream of a Tamil vote boycott. It was such a Tamil boycott in the close 2005 election which saw Mahinda Rajapakse elected. On that occasion with allegations of having paid the LTTE money, via an alleged Tiran Alles deal to boycott the vote. History must not repeat itself. However, the real lesson of the 2005 election was this, in the Batticalo District, where the LTTE was weakened post the Karuna defection, the Tamil people disregarded the LTTE boycott call and voted in droves for the UNP. If the LTTE could not stop the Batticalo voter in 2005, one pities some Diaspora busybodies, playing to the Rajapakse campaign’s dreams of seeing a Tamil vote boycott in 2015.

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