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Many roads open

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  • “There is great disorder under heaven. The situation is excellent!” – Mao Zedong
  • “A Change is Gonna Come…” – Sam Cooke

We have just commenced Yahapalana Year 4. The third anniversary of Yahapalanaya is also the third anniversary of the defeat of the Rajapaksa regime. Both anniversaries coincide happily with the imminence of an island-wide election, the first since 2015. 

The Yahapalana Government is also well past its halfway mark. The occasion therefore permits a reflection on the record of Yahapalanaya and the prospects ahead, especially in the light of the upcoming election.

The most damning indictments of Yahapalana were made by D.S. Senanayake’s great grandson Vasantha Senanayake when he said that as our State Minister for Foreign Affairs it seems to him that Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is made elsewhere, by foreign countries. 

His whistle-blowing was preceded a few months ago by J.R. Jayewardene grandson Pradip’s denunciatory interviews in which he said that under its present leadership the UNP had abandoned the core values of his grandfather’s party, beginning with the strong role of the state in the economy. 

The IMF has just called for ‘structural and state reform’ by Sri Lanka. The Indian Army Chief declares that India must “not allow” Sri Lanka and other neighbours to “drift towards China”. The UNP plans to Indianise the Trincomalee-Mannar-Mattala triangle. 

The good news though is that the hegemonic moment of the neoliberal globalist project of January 2015 has long evaporated, the hegemonic model sought to be erected has been blocked. The strategic counter offensive by the nationalist-populist forces has begun and will crest in 2020. 

Road seems clear for a Mahinda Rajapaksa comeback

The road seems clear for a Mahinda Rajapaksa comeback. How so? The Supreme Court judgment suddenly shifted politics on its axis. The mere fact that the Presidential election is next year (2019) brings the prospect of the end of the Yahapalana model and policy regime closer. 

So it’s all good, except that the Left is failing to fulfil its full potential. It can learn from experiences as diverse as Nepal and Britain. If the JVP and FSP can present a united front under a collective leadership, incorporating student, worker and peasant organizations, Lankan politics would have a strong Left Opposition and government-in-waiting. This is an indispensable positive factor in any scenario whatsoever.

The most recent Supreme Court ruling is not the end of the road for President Sirisena and perhaps not even for the Yahapalana experiment, but most certainly for the 2015-2017 Yahapalana model.

Either the present Yahapalana model ends after 10 February or the entire Yahapalana experiment and the Sirisena Presidency can end at the end of next year. 

If President Sirisena wants to run for re-election, he has to drop Ranil and Chandrika after 10 February and reposition himself in new centrist alliance with either (I) a reconfigured UNP, the SLFP and the JO, or (II) with the SLFP-SLPP/J and elements of the UNP. 

If it is Scenario I, Mahinda Rajapaksa has to be accorded his rightful place as the Leader of the Opposition on Feb 11th and publicly pledged the Prime Ministership next year. 

If it is Scenario II, Mahinda Rajapaksa has to be made Prime Minister after February 10th.  

Road map for Mahinda-led JO/Pohottuwa

The road map draws itself clearly for the Mahinda-led JO/Pohottuwa:

Step 1. Win the Local Government elections or clearly dominate the Opposition space as the main anti-UNP force. Establish an alignment with the SLFP or not.

Step 2. Win the Provincial Council elections later this year or clearly dominate the Opposition space as the main anti-UNP force. Establish an alignment with the SLFP or not.

Step 3. Push in and outside of Parliament for the dissolution as per the 19th amendment when the four years are over, i.e. in August 2019, before the Presidential election.

Step 4. Amend the 19th amendment bringing it into line with international norms by retaining the two-term limit but establishing a bar only to a previous President contesting for a third consecutive term.   

Step 5a. Endgame: Launch Mahinda as the Presidential candidate in November 2019.

Step 5b. Endgame: If Step 4 and Step 5a are not possible, launch ‘Operation Gota 2019’, with Mahinda as the main motor force and Prime Minister-designate with all the powers of the existing 19A. 

The Establishment has to decide on whether it was a soft landing or a hard landing. As they say, we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way. The soft option or the hard option. There are two easy ways. One is a Sirisena-Mahinda Rajapaksa equation. The other is a Mahinda Rajapaksa restoration via the revision of 19A. 

Then there is the hard way. Gota 2019: GR Next Year. It’s that close.

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