Home / Columnists/ A 4D presidential ‘laugh-a-thon’ that’s not on

A 4D presidential ‘laugh-a-thon’ that’s not on


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 24 October 2019 00:16


A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Where once we had a paucity of presidential candidates, we now have a superfluity of them. You would think that from this panoply of contenders who’ve thrown their hat in the ring, we’d be spoilt for choice. On closer inspection however, it transpires that perhaps ‘plethora’ simply means ‘extreme excess’. With that being said, if you asked me to wager a bet or stake my life on it – and one can only hope it doesn’t come to that – I’d say it’s a four-way race between a tetrad of major players. 

All but one of them were willing to face the electorate at a recent public platform. The odd man out turned out to be odder than ever when he finally faced his critics, turning to his brother as to his keeper to field the odd googly about wartime lapses and other inconvenient truths. While the former event was hardly a debate, it showcased a step in the right direction whereby Sri Lankans aspiring to public office go through the motions of being accountable. There is a consummation still devoutly to be wished as far as the latter event goes, because it doesn’t go nearly far enough to convince the sceptics that media conferences by former strongmen-bureaucrats are not a farce.    

 

The Democratic conundrum

For ever so long, in fact for far too long for a party preaching democracy but practising oligarchy, it seemed like tradition/custom/convention (call it what you like – even chicanery) would win, and Ranil would take the field again. Failing that, the UNP would engineer an ‘independent’ ‘national’ candidate in the shape and form of the democracy-defending Speaker of the House, with a wider appeal and as broad a chance as his party leader hadn’t. The machinations of the palace coup – it was a Machiavellian one at that – put paid to all that. This prince among his people now comes with a not-so-poor blend of his father’s populism and his own savvy or sophistication.  

 

For ever so long, in fact for far too long for a party preaching democracy but practising oligarchy, it seemed like tradition/custom/convention (call it what you like – even chicanery) would win, and Ranil would take the field again. Failing that, the UNP would engineer an ‘independent’ ‘national’ candidate in the shape and form of the democracy-defending Speaker of the House, with a wider appeal and as broad a chance as his party leader hadn’t. The machinations of the palace coup – it was a Machiavellian one at that – put paid to all that.

One bright ray of hope – or so it may seem to the naïve – is the campaign mounted by a former Army Chief. Full of vim, vigour and vitality, and able to appear squeaky-clean by dint of its relative newness, these tyros at a dirty game have a lot riding on their facsimiles to the national security platform. “There but for the grace of God,” they seem to be saying, “goes General Sarath Fonseka; or worse, former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.”

Of course, the problem is – ’twas ever thus, wasn’t it? – that he also comes on the wings of a media house that, once upon a time, backed both horses in a two-horse race. Today, it has evicted its sworn enemy – our erstwhile Premier who proved inimical to ‘capital’ overtures – while holding the incumbent President in check to boot … talk about bi-party backing by press barons triumphing over bipartisan polities! In the end, it will descend to a showdown between one electronic media house and another, viewers: is it ‘SP’ v. ‘GR’, or ‘Kili’ vs. ‘Dili’, or both?   

Smile … you’re on candid camera, folks – even if it’s the populist counter-revolution that’s being televised!

 

The Demagogue contestation

With that said, ostensibly the least sophisticated mainstream political party is proving it has more savvy than some of its major opponents. AKD’s suave admission of his movement’s violent origins – when asked essentially the same question as GR as regards his party’s past misdemeanours – is testament to that individual’s integrity as much as his political intelligence. Contrite hearts and championing causes unpopular with social conservatives is likely to see the JVP candidate cull between 500,000 to a potential million votes from both blue and green camps.  It reflects a principled protest on the part of former fans of ‘Yahapaalanaya’ as much as a pragmatic harbinger of the shape of the post-General Election electorate. Maybe the only thing standing in AKD’s way is Colombo and the urban voters’ flirtatious volte-faces when it comes to going the full Monty with a formerly Marxist outfit?     

 

The Disciplinarian confusion

I can’t, in the meantime, help feel some concern at the mixed messages that a budding dynastic regime-in-the-waiting is sending out like a thousand lotus flowers over the land of the lost. On the one hand, they vow stringently to bring to book the despicable culprits who commissioned and carried out the dastardly Easter Sunday attacks.  

 

I can’t, in the meantime, help feel some concern at the mixed messages that a budding dynastic regime-in-the-waiting is sending out like a thousand lotus flowers over the land of the lost. On the one hand, they vow stringently to bring to book the despicable culprits who commissioned and carried out the dastardly Easter Sunday attacks. On the other, as far as wars they fought and axes they once had to grind are concerned, they’d have us all forgive and forget!

AKD’s suave admission of his movement’s violent origins – when asked essentially the same question as GR as regards his party’s past misdemeanours – is testament to that individual’s integrity as much as his political intelligence. Contrite hearts and championing causes unpopular with social conservatives is likely to see the JVP candidate cull between 500,000 to a potential million votes from both blue and green camps.

 

On the other, as far as wars they fought and axes they once had to grind are concerned, they’d have us all forgive and forget! Diabolically double-minded is not a word …

Of course, perhaps I’d better save some of the chagrin and consternation for me and others of my ilk. For whoever comes to power soon enough, speaking truth to power is bound (no pun intended) to be a thing of the past … sooner or later – and if it’s one Grim Reaper rather than another Sordid Populist, it’ll be sooner than later.

 

The Daring challenge

One bright ray of hope – or so it may seem to the naïve – is the campaign mounted by a former Army Chief. Full of vim, vigour and vitality, and able to appear squeaky-clean by dint of its relative newness, these tyros at a dirty game have a lot riding on their facsimiles to the national security platform. “There but for the grace of God,” they seem to be saying, “goes General Sarath Fonseka; or worse, former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.” 

It is a pity perhaps that while appearing to be apolitical, their grassroots are damp with the honey-dew of the paradise that is non-governmental intrigue. So they may as well be hanged for sheep as for a lamb … for all the good they might do in the unlikely event they inveigle the general (no pun) public away …

The bottom line? Two media houses will fight a proxy war, with two political frontmen espousing larger non-polity-related emblazonments. AKD will be spoilt for choice in terms of a later parliamentary alliance. 

And the electorate will be saddled with big-business-backed politics as usual until a new cleaner leaner greener (not UNP/F, but planetary-woes aware) generation rises from the ashes of our once recognisably bipartisan chase.   



Journalist | Editor-at-large of LMD | Writer #SpeakingTruthToPower 


Share This Article

Facebook Twitter


DISCLAIMER:

1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.

COMMENTS

Today's Columnists

A child’s guide to MCC Compact Sri Lanka

Monday, 18 November 2019

Intelligent children, unlike some of the adults, are curious, probing and questioning. They do not jump to conclusions until and unless they are convinced of facts that have been presented to them. Asani, a student in the Advanced Level class in a le


Re-thinking voting

Saturday, 16 November 2019

We use our vote (in a democracy) to elect those who should govern us. We can only be governed as long as we are alive. Therefore, our current age and life expectancy determine how long we have left to be governed! So, should the younger population, h


Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony: A nation rich in unity

Friday, 15 November 2019

This series is based on business leader Dhammika Perera’s recently revealed ‘Economic Growth Strategy and Action Plan to increase GDP Per Capita from $ 4,000 to $ 12,000’. The document outlines goals and action plans for 23 ministries and to


Securing a People’s Constitution

Friday, 15 November 2019

The need for making a People’s Constitution has become a topic of interest not only among the public but also among some candidates of the Presidential Election. Rohan Pallewatte and Mahesh Senanayake have included it in their election manifestos.


Columnists More