Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

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A national government verses a Rajapakse come back

Posted by harimpeiris on March 3, 2015


A national government verses a Rajapakse come back

By Harim Peiris

(published in the Daily Island)

 

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) dominated and led United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) met its political Waterloo, two months back when Mahinda Rajapakse was defeated in the presidential elections by Maithripala Sirisena from the UNP led National Democratic Front. That stark reality, which is that they lost the presidential election, has obviously been lost on Mahinda, Dinesh, Wimal, Vasu and co. That reality was rather obvious to most of the SLFP seniors, who fairly quickly decided that their bread was buttered on the side of President Maithripala and elected him as their leader. Now the SLFP sits in opposition but in support of the one hundred (100) day program of the NDF Administration.

General Election Options

 

The offer which the NDF presents to the SLFP is quite a generous one and after a daylong seminar, the SLFP has decided in principal to support a “national government”. The concept of a national government is not new and Premier Ranil Wickramasinghe has been a firm believer for quite some time, that the best way for a nation building and reform agenda in Sri Lanka is to share political power with the opposition and create a broad based or a grand coalition, to use the European term for a government of the two main parties.

Particularly with regard to the ethnic issues and post war reconciliation, Sri Lanka faces an unfinished task of nation building or a post war nation rebuilding, sustainable peace creating situation. The ethnic and perhaps religious minorities, who are alienated from the Sri Lankan State, need to be brought in, a theme which occurs throughout in the report of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) interim and final reports. A national government or broad coalition provides the best and actually the only method of dealing with such a national issue, to prevent it from being kicked around as a political football by the rivals for political power. A smaller extreme ethno nationalist entity like the NFF or BBS on the Sinhala side and the lunatic fringe on the Tamil side such as the Ponnambalam, Gurubaran ACTC can reduce the moderate center but not have the clout to be real spoilers. On the Tamil side the reason why the extremist ACTC is lunatic in not because their leaders and spokesmen are not educated, articulate and erudite, which they are, but because just like their counterparts in the Sinhala polity, they have no real solution to the problem and the logical end result of their intransigence would only be renewed conflict, which even does not produce a solution.

The lunatic rationale of a Rajapakse comeback

 

Failing to see rather obvious political reality is the alternate view put forward by the minor parties of the UPFA and some political lightweights in the SLFP, who having lost one election with Mahinda Rajapakse, would like the winner, President Sirisena to gloss over their lack of political foresight and political courage by dumping the reform agenda and his allies in the NDF to accommodate the Rajapakse losers, on the premise that they are all in one party. Well, President Sirisena also heads the NDF Administration, he is in government with the UNP.

But what is the real attraction of a Rajapakse comeback? Do we need more corruption, white vans, abductions, kickbacks, anti Muslim violence, VIP kids in Lamborghinis? Or perhaps it is to bring back the casinos, the ethanol rackets, the drug smuggling through VIP channels and other hallmarks which marked the practical expression of the Mahinda Chinthanaya.

Regarding corruption in the Rajapakse regime and the slow pace of investigation, especially with regards the large Chinese funded projects, the Sri Lankan Government should coordinate with China’s own anti corruption agency, the CCDI, which has been targeting high level corruption within China, but also has a mandate with regard to state and semi state agencies operating abroad. Seemingly the Chinese seem to have a problem with state corruption, going by their own conviction of over three thousand officials in the past year alone.

So instead, how could the SLFP go into the general elections? With a commitment to the national government, which would mean that it would be guaranteed to be in government and hold office and the genuinely popular individuals in both the major parties would be elected and with the outside chance that they might pip the UNP in the seat count.

The canard of the “Eelam vote” 

 

Mahinda Rajapakse just cannot accept that he has been defeated at the polls. He wants to blame the ethnic minorities for his defeat. Mercifully for Sri Lanka, despite our many weaknesses in national integration, we do still have one person one vote, irrespective of ethnicity or religion. Mahinda Rajapakse to his eternal shame should be the first leader to publicly try and distinguish and try and demean and devalue a vote based on ethnicity and geographic location. Dr.Dayan Jayatileke, the seemingly newly appointed spokesman for President Rajapakse, who did after all read out the former president’s speech at a large public gathering, has taken great pains to argue that the Nugegoda meeting was not ethno nationalist but patriotic. That distinction and debate for another occasion. However, examining the electoral results of the presidential election, Maithripala Sirisena did not just win in the North and East, which he did handsomely but he also won the districts of Colombo, Gampaha, Kandy, Polonaruwa, Puttlam, Badulla and Nuwara Eliya, a nice cross section of districts outside the North and East.

What Mahinda Rajapakse learnt in 2015, was the reality that in a multi ethnic and multi religious society, broad based support that cuts across ethnic and religious divides are necessary for national leadership. The senior SLFP leaders have always understood this, except for the Rajapakse coterie. The 2010 election was a unique exception in the euphoria of a war victory but the equilibrium is back now to the previous status quo and the SLFP should understand the political ground realities and shift from Rajapakse extremism to Sirisena moderation.

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