Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

  • July 2015
    M T W T F S S
    « Jun   Aug »
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  

Archive for July, 2015

Does Sri Lanka need a Prime Minister hostile to President Sirisena

Posted by harimpeiris on July 30, 2015

Does Sri Lanka need a Prime Minister hostile to President Sirisena

By Harim Peiris

(Published in the Daily News and Island of 30th July 2015)

The general election campaign is in full swing and the UPFA campaign which hit a major road block at its inception, is slowly sputtering to life. The overall low key campaign, sans posters etc, through a tough enforcement of the election laws, by both the Commissioner of Elections and the Inspector General of Police, masks the fact that the UPFA campaign has none of the glamour of state patronage with which the UPFA is used to running its campaigns.

The most significant political development of the post nominations period (when the election campaign is deemed to have really begun) was President Sirisena’s landmark address to the nation in which he (i) declared his neutrality in the election (ii) Made public his political hostility to defeated President Mahinda Rajapakse  and (iii) reiterated his own commitment to his manifesto and requested voters to elect a government which would work towards and partner in the fulfillment of his mandate. The obvious question which arose from that statement has been, how would the UPFA respond to this challenge?

A divided and directionless UPFA

 

The UPFA response to President Sirisena’s challenge has been compounded confusion. They waffled between taking on a popularly elected President, who is leader of their own party and alliance no less and in trying to side step the issue, merely seem incoherent, divided and confused. Despite a clear message by President Maithripala Sirisena, both within party hierarchies and to the country that Mahinda Rajapakse would be unsuitable, unreliable and unacceptable as a prime ministerial candidate, the UPFA gang of four and their SLFP stooges running the UPFA campaign has been clearly projecting defeated president and Kurunegala District candidate Mahinda Rajapakse, as its prime ministerial nominee.

A Prime Minister hostile to President Sirisena?

 

The current Sri Lankan election scenario raises, the rather unlikely but nonetheless possible outcome of a Prime Minister Rajapakse hostile to a President Sirisena. The real question as to can Sri Lanka afford and frankly do our people require or deserve, a prime minister and a government hostile to the recently and popularly elected president of the republic? The Sirisena Presidency, the “Maithri Yugaya” that was promised in the January election and the consequent victory of the National Democratic Front (NDF) is much more than the political persona or politics of Maithripala Sirisena. It was a complete repudiation of the policies and governance of the Rajapakse Administration. In no other Sri Lankan election, in recent times, was the election issues centered and based on the governance of the incumbent administration which then historically and unexpectedly lost. The criticism of the Rajapakse Administration was severe and focused on the then ruling Rajapakse family. Accordingly the defeat in January was a people’s mandate for change. During the presidential campaign Mahinda Rajapakse and his allies alleged every manner of evil upon Maithripala Sirisena, there has been no public repudiation of the same by Rajapakse, even if we concede that the UPFA invitation to Maithri to take over the leadership was a concession by the party that they were wrong in January.

 

A UPFA promise of more of the same

 

Listening to Kurunegala District candidate Mahinda Rajapakse and his cheer leaders, there is a total absence of anything new in their thinking or their policy programs. It is the same old rhetoric, the same tired slogans and basically promises of more of the same. The biggest problem is that Mahinda Rajapakse and the UPFA make little or no concession that they were wrong at any point in their governance. The cronyism, the kleptocratic corruption, the family bandyism, the assault on independent governance institutions, the unsolicited proposals, the disregard of tender procedures, the disappearance of government vehicles, floating private armories, among a long and non exhaustive list is what was wrong with Rajapakse rule, is what the UPFA promises to the country. Just more of the same.

The myth of retaining the 5.8m losing vote bank

 

The UPFA in its January defeat was emboldened by its winning more districts outside the North and East, than the NDF and basically counts on two factors. Namely that the NDF alliance will separate for the general election and hence if the UPFA stays together that it will retain the five point eight (5.8 m) million votes it secured in its loosing campaign in the general elections.

Firstly by no stretch of the imagination, does the UPFA believe that they will secure more than the 5.8m it polled in January. Can there be any conceivable reason, why someone who did not vote for more of Mahinda Rajapakse in January 2015, will do so in August 2015? On the contrary there are plenty of reasons why people who might have voted for the UPFA in January, will not do so in August. In January, the UPFA used and abused state resources, including law enforcement and the state media for its own political advantage, that is not a luxury it enjoys at this election. More importantly the rural voter, on whom the UPFA is banking on heavily, is often intimidated to vote for the winner on the pain of losing their Samurdhi benefits to fertilizer subsidies if they are identified as opposition sympathizers. This is not the case in this election. Moreover the UPFA is clearly and publicly politically divided between those advocating a national government and cooperating with the “Maithri vision” and those advocating “Bring back Rajapakse (rule)”. Basically you cannot have a “Maithri Yuagaya” and “Rajapakse rule”, confused SLFPers may vote UNP or JVP or just stay away.

Moreover the winning,  rainbow coalition of the NDF has largely remained intact as the UNP led UNFGG, with only the TNA choosing to contest separately. Correspondingly the EPDP, the UPFA ally in the North has also opted to go it alone. Further the UNFGG has a stated policy of going for a national government which is an inclusive and attractive proposition for the country at large, while a discredited and defeated UPFA is trying hard to turn back the clock and convince voters, that their decision of January 8th was a big mistake. A tough  and unlikely sell indeed.

(The write is the Chairman of the Resettlement Authority. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

President Sirisena repudiates Mahinda Rajapakse as UPFA prepares for a second defeat

Posted by harimpeiris on July 20, 2015

President Sirisena repudiates Mahinda Rajapakse as UPFA prepares for a second defeat

By Harim Peiris

 

(Published in the Island of 17th July 2015)

 

In a widely viewed televised address to the nation after the close of nominations for the parliamentary elections, President Maithripala Sirisena, repudiated any political rapprochement or partnership with defeated President Mahinda Rajapakse, whom he probably correctly predicted would lead the UPFA to a second ignoble defeat in six months, having been defeated by President Sirisena, at the start of the year and accordingly needs to be recognized as defeated President Rajapakse, to differentiate from retired President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Mahinda Rajapakse has the ignominy of being the only executive president of Sri Lanka, who was shown the door, by the sovereign people of Sri Lanka.

The SLFP parliamentary leadership, like puppets on a string, in the hands of the UPFA political lightweight, small party, gang of four, namely Dinesh, Wimal, Vasu and Udaya, whose politically orphaned state and barely concealed racism required, hanging on the scarlet shawl of Rajapakase, misled the SLFP to refuse the opportunity of beginning a new journey with President Sirisena and leaving behind its checked and now discredited past of a corrupt and authoritarian rule.

President Sirisena was scathing in his criticism of defeated President Rajapakse and his misguided attempt at an electoral comeback. He correctly observed that Mahinda Rajapakse had removed term limits on the presidency, so he can rule for life and fortunately, the people of Sri Lanka had other ideas. Now Mahinda Rajapakse refuses to hand over the baton to the next level of SLFP leadership and is instead trying the equivalent of a rematch, hoping for a different result to what was achieved in January.

That fantasy of reversing the January election loss will not happen, as none other than President Maithripala Sirisena confidentially predicted. In January, besides the abuse of the entire state machinery at his disposal, Rajapakse and the UPFA lost. This time around there will be no state resources to abuse, though a portion of alleged ill gotten gains would have to be used for the campaign. Given the estimated size of the loot stash in Dubai, Seychelles and who knows where else, funding the campaign is the least of the Rajapakse worries. But in January a significant part of the floating voters supported Rajapakse, based on the local level propensity to support the likely winner. This time around, not even the Rajapakse astrologers, that discredited bunch of magic diviners, are likely to be predicting his victory.

The politically educated voter will not elect a Prime Minister hostile to President Sirisena   

 

Sri Lanka, is a highly politicized society. With our high literacy rate, we have also a highly politically literate citizenry, which can and does deal with political issues. It is to the credit of the Sri Lankan voter, in January this year, they opted for a democratic state, over a Chinese style developmental state, sans real democracy. The white vans, the judicial impeachments, the corruption, the nepotism and dynastic project were all rejected by the people, in a quiet, poster less campaign by the National Democratic Front (NDF). Now the political mantle and much of the NDF rainbow coalition is within the UNP led UNFGG or United National Front for Good Governance. The UNFGG is also really an amazing rainbow coalition with the JHU on the one side and the Muslim and other minority parties on the other end with the UNP at the political center. It would have to be a particular glutton for punishment, even in the Sinhala rural electorates, where the UPFA is placing its entire hope on, who would want a return of Rajapakse rule. Actually what one would have if the UPFA wins a majority, is gross political instability, with a Prime Minster hostile to President Sirisena and indeed trying to get rid of him.

President Sirisena’s vision for the future

 

President Sirisena in his address to the nation, frequently referred to his manifesto, its attendant mandate and his compact with the people. As the President quite correctly observed the reform program in his manifesto was not one limited to one hundred days, but a reform program for five years. This includes the Right to Information Act, which really should begin by televising parliamentary proceedings, another progressive step, stopped by the reactionary UPFA and a complete overhaul of government procument and the tender system, through a proposed National Audit Act. The president promised to be neutral in the parliamentary election and basically requested the country to give him a Parliament that would support his vision and manifesto which had been mandated by the people.

The electorate once again in six months has a stark choice. Does it roll back the clock and retreat to a corrupt and authoritarian past with a Rajapakse led UPFA or does it travel on the journey of state reform and good governance under President Sirisena as advocated and promised by the UNP led United National Front.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

UNP creates broad front while UPFA leads a retreat to the past

Posted by harimpeiris on July 15, 2015

 

UNP creates broad front while UPFA leads a retreat to the past

By Harim Peiris

 

As nominations closed earlier this week, the contours of the battle lines for the general election to Parliament became clear. The two major political formations in the country, the UNP and the UPFA are vying for a parliamentary majority and with it effective control of the next government.

The UNP spent an useful weekend, creating a broad political front, styled the United National Front for Good Governance, (UNFGG) which will contest the elections under the UNP’s elephant symbol and be registered as a party after the elections. The UNFGG is a broad rainbow alliance, much like the NDF of January this year, having in its spectrum, the Sinhala nationalist JHU to the ethnic minority parties, including the SLMC, the breakaway Maithri faction of the SLFP and the up country political parties with the dominant UNP in the center. The UNFGG, as successor to the NDF, are clear favorites to win the elections, not least because of the myriad of problems that beset the UPFA.

A declining trend for the UPFA

 

A quick analysis of elections results from early 2014, shows the UPFA in a steady decline from the Western and Southern Provincial Council elections of early 2014, to a more comprehensive near loss at the Uva provincial elections in October last year and of course its historic and monumental loss by over half a million votes in the presidential elections of 2015. There is little reasons for the trend to not continue (with Arjuna Mahendran’s alleged foibles hardly a game changer) and the UPFA is headed for a more ignominious defeat.

 

While the UNP has reinvented itself by having the JHU to guard its Sinhala nationalist flank, the UPFA has lost its sole Tamil alley of the EPDP, now going solo in Jaffna and as well as having lost all its Muslim allies in January itself. The presence of both AHM Fowzi and Faizer Mustapha on the national list and not contesting, is a clear indication, that the UPFA let alone elect a Muslim is unlikely to get a single Muslim vote, almost.

The UPFA nostalgia for Rajapakse

 

The presence of the discredited and defeated former President Rajapakse, in practice leading the UPFA’s electoral effort to a mono ethno religious, rural Sinhala Buddhist voter base needs to be understood in the context of two factors. Firstly, President Maithripala Sirisena was seen as unwilling to be a partisan leader of his own political party, the SLFP. Especially in an electoral contest in which his political allies were vying for parliamentary seats as well as in governance since January, President Sirisena has played the role of umpire, rather than that of captain of the SLFP. This left the SLFP in a dilemma since they obviously did not want to face the hustling led by Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala De Silva, who failed to secure the Badulla District for the UPFA in the last provincial poll, let alone lead in the country. Since Rajapakse had been nursing a dynastic project, his sudden defeat left a leadership vacuum, which President Sirisena as the opponent who defeated him could not really fill, as was demonstrated by his party continuing to be in opposition, while he headed the government.

UPFA out of ideas in the midst of declining support

 

This writer way back in 2010, had both in private and in the press, advised the then Rajapakse Administration, that it had maxed out on Sinhala nationalist support. In other words, it had moved so far to a Sinhala nationalist political hue, that it could not hope to ever increase its support by being more nationalist than it already was. There are no additional votes to be got by being more Sinhala nationalist than it already was. The only socio political space more extreme than Mahinda Rajapakse, was overt communal violence and at the tail end of the Rajapakse regime, even that was unleashed with impunity from Dambulla to Dharga Town. So increasing voter support for the UPFA meant a shift to the center. That is a shift it has failed to do. Out of ideas, stuck in the past and morally and intellectually bankrupt, the UPFA will be ratcheting up the rhetoric and engaging in the same racist hate mongering and fear peddling which is its only stock in trade and the only language that its gang of four, the main non SLFP leaders of the “Bring back Mahinda Campaign” understand.

Protecting the January 8th People’s Revolution

 

On January 8th this year, the non populist, lesser known, non iconic and soft spoken presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena, defeated the larger than life, populist and war win glory hugging, two term incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse. Mahinda Rajapakse won every aspect of the January election campaign, he won the poster war, we were smiled down at every street corner by North Korean dictator style giant cutouts, the state media, especially electronic gave a totally monopoly to Mahinda Rajapakse and slandered Maithripala Sirisena. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission released Rupees six hundred million for giveaways to voters and despite all this Mahinda lost. Even the pre dawn attempt to stop the vote count, complete with advice by the interloper who impersonated as the Chief Justice for two years, was unsuccessful as the public, the officials, observers, security forces and international community saw the writing on the wall. Mahinda Rajapakse’s astrologers, magicians and soothsayers had been wrong about his reelection prospects and they and his political allies are similarly wrong about his rather misguided attempt at a political come back. The country needs a better opposition leader than Mahinda Rajapakse.

(The writer is the Chairman of the Resettlement Authority, the views expressed are personal)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

An open letter to SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa

Posted by harimpeiris on July 14, 2015

 

An open letter to SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa

By Harim Peiris

Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa

General Secretary

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)

Colombo.

My dear Sir,

I am writing to you, since you are much in the news, together with your colleague Susil Premajayath, due to the intrigue and compounded confusion regarding SLFP and UPFA nominations for the general elections and specifically the issue of nominations for defeated former President Mahinda Rajapakse.

As a Sri Lankan, I was deeply disappointed at the astounding news last Friday, that the defeated president was going to be a candidate at the general elections. If Mahinda Rajapakse cannot internalize that he was repudiated by the people at the polls, you as the General Secretary of the party he belongs to should assist him in that regard. Not pander to his whims and fancies.

However, I was rather impressed with your performance at the UPFA press conference yesterday, when you stated that your party has learnt the mistakes of its past and as a mature political organization it would correct the same and face the general election. However, I found the fact that you did not divulge or admit to any specific mistakes to be evasive and hence unpersuasive. Accordingly I would present a few serious mistakes which I believe a future SLFP led Administration should never repeat and it would be reassuring if you could confirm that these lessons have indeed been learned.

Firstly I would recommend that the SLFP never again seeks to casually and illegally interfere with and politicize the higher judiciary and ultimately impeach the Chief Justice. Your own rather sordid role in that affair can frankly be overlooked, since implicit obedience to Rajapakse, was a necessity for survival.

I would also avoid imprisoning defeated presidential candidates. The whining and self centered bleats of the defeated Rajapakse regime, is hilarious considering the shameful manner in which they treated their own defeated rivals such as Field Marshal Fonseka and even predecessor in office President Kumaratunga, who gracefully left office. As President Maithripala Sirisena himself, personally mentioned, if he had lost the presidential election, he would have been six feet underground by now.

The Rajapakse Administration was, as you are well aware, the most corrupt Government, Sri Lanka has ever had the misfortune to have. The allegations are long and voluminous, But you should strive for an SLFP led government to never repeat, the world’s most expensive highways per kilometer, missing government vehicles, the sovereignty selling giveaway terms of the port city project, many unsolicited projects approved without tender processes, floating armories and unlicensed weapons to private parties, massive corruption at Sri Lankan Airlines, casinos made strategic enterprises, abusing TRC funds for election campaigns, to name just a few, of a very long list. So, avoid giving nominations to the drug barons, casino kings, ethanol importers and cheap thugs who are among Rajapakse’s strongest backers. Also I would avoid trying to use ill gotten gains in the campaign. It only lends credence to the corruption allegations to see the amount of money which the Abayaramaya Cabal is able to throw at its campaign.

Further, you should also take note that since Mahinda and his cabal was defeated, there has not been a single attack or mob assault on religious minorities, the mosque attacks and Koran burnings and indeed the church attacks and Bible burnings have ceased completely, together with the white vans. Once strongly suspects, this is due their patronage and protection from the State ceasing.  I should also state in this context, that the distortion of the National Flag outside the Bribery Commission by some of your senior SLFP colleagues, in cohorts with the “rent mob extremist groups” is in extremely bad taste and should not be repeated. I am glad that Dulles Allaperuma has apologized for his shameful role in the same.

My dear Anura, it should concern you greatly, that Mahinda Rajapakse and his “Abayaramaya Cabal” had been indulging from the time of their defeat in an exercise of barely disguised racism. This began with Mahinda’s disgusting statement of “Eelam votes”, his absolute inability to accept that since 1931, we have had universal adult franchise or one man, one vote, irrespective of race, religion or gender. If the Abayaramaya Cabal’s racism was thinly disguised earlier, it is now open and blatant. This is a natural path for intellectually and morally bankrupt minor allies but not a path the SLFP should tread. The SLFP has a proud tradition of minority leaders such as Alfred Duraippa and Bathuideen Mohammad and should work hard to recapture the minority vote it has lost, rather than lose its multi ethnic and multi religious character. The SLFP is in the process alienating urbanites and the young, both key constituencies and important segments of society.

The big problem with brining back Mahinda is that he has just not learnt his mistakes. Listening to his coterie and him, they really seem to believe that more of the same, the same tired slogans, the same racism, the same fear mongering and hate peddling which lost Rajapakse and the UPFA the January presidential election, will somehow magically result in a victory in August. Your colleague SB Dissanayake among others are correct, that Mahinda Rajapakse is a complete turn off to the floating voter and will only make civil society coalesce around the UNP, to simply safeguard the hard won new freedom and people’s democratic revolution achieved in January this year.

I hope you will consider the above and even at this late stage, reverse the disastrous “party before country SLFP policies” going forward and instead work towards a country first, party policies. An enlightened path of supporting President Sirisena and working towards a nation building post election national government is a much more beneficial political strategy, than a dangerous dalliance with a discredited and disastrous past.  Remember that he, who nestles a Viper to his bosom, will surely get bitten, sooner rather than later.

Best regards,

 

Harim Peiris

(The writer is the Chairman of the Resettlement Authority. The views expressed are personal)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: