By the Prince of Kandy
Pass the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and go for a Parliamentary Election.
This would be the best thing for Sri Lanka at the moment. Going for a Parliamentary Election in a few months’ time wherein even if the UNP wins they will have to deal with an SLPP President is not an ideal situation.
This circumstance could in the future work against the SLPP especially if the UNP fields a candidate not as unpopular in the south.
Dynamics of the SLPP
The SLPP is styled around the Rajapaksa family. The trust embedded in family ties has worked well for them. The leadership is very charismatic and there is a succession plan. This, however, might not last.
The choice of presidential candidate in the future may become difficult as overtime any character grows out of favour with the general populous. This is because it is difficult to please everyone.
Read Dayan Jayatilleka’s article1; there can be no question as to who the vice-captain is because the country’s citizenry sees it every night on TV news, whenever there is footage from the centre of the nation’s political life, the Parliament. And that man, that vice-captain, is Dinesh Gunawardena. This is the sort of problem you have when you keep people unrelated to you around for too long. Family bonds normally have a sense of duty to each other that changes slowly over time.
Notice that it’s over multiple decades that a father changes from a provider to someone who needs to be provided for.
Lackeys, on the other hand, require need almost yearly increments. They also can be disloyal.
Here let’s digress from the subheading to build up the context.
Young Professional’s Association: I am part of a politically affiliated Young Professionals’ Association. This association tried to make me pay membership dues directly into the chairman of the association’s account.
They said that they were working on approval to open an account.
The kids in this association are fairly well-to-do. The money collected is a very small sum.
The notion however that one would be so lax in the handling of money in such close proximity to politics is what is worrying.
Sri Lanka’s political parties were better organised back in the 1960s. The parties might have been elitist and the membership limited but the ingress and egress of funds would have been documented.
Sri Lanka’s political parties tend to have relatively small balance sheets. That being said, the expenditure on the recent elections by the SLPP is estimated by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence at Rs. 1.5 billion2.
The UNP spent a similar figure. Where these funds came from are not publicly disclosed.
In such a vein party chairmen are not important figures. Party constitutions themselves are not very public documents. They are chiefly titleholders that do tasks that within our culture the political leadership is not expected to do.
Political consensus on the 20th Amendment and a quick election will also help maintain the SLFP-SLPP union. Political consensus between the UNP and the SLPP to pass the 20th Amendment could help bring in some respectable members of the SLFP rebels back in line.
No one wants to be under a president that they campaigned against.
This will be important at Parliamentary Elections some SLFP rebels are able to secure certain electorates. Holding provincial council elections in the interim should also help force cooperation.
Ranil currently is in a funny position. He has never been more powerful within the UNP. He at the same time has to face a Parliamentary Election that could effectively oust him from power.
You should never waste a crisis and this would be a great time to implement Ruwan Wijewardene’s party recommendations3. The United National Party could be the first mainstream political party in Sri Lanka to actually give meaning to becoming a common party member.
This democracy within the party would reflect well against the SLPP. It would also deflect any dictatorial descriptions by disgruntled party members.
So why now?
Given the limited scope of the President and the unpopularity of all past presidents, it will always be a winning slogan at future elections. If you can credibly claim to support the abolition of the executive presidency you are likely to win.
This was what Karu Jayasuriya was planning to do. This was what should have played out.
If I was the SLPP I would not want someone as uncharismatic as the current President to run for a second term.
Given the premature dissolving of Parliament, the next Presidential Election will likely happen close to the next Parliamentary Election. Sri Lanka will have a personality contest followed by an election for control of the Legislature.
A loss in a Presidential Election will not bode well for the subsequent Parliamentary Election given the sequencing brought about by a premature dissolution. The only people who would want back-to-back elections are the media oligarchy. As with all lackeys, their prices will go up over time.
Ranil is the only person who will be capable of forming a government in the coming Parliamentary Election. After all if Sajith wanted to be Opposition Leader he shouldn’t have stepped down from the Deputy Leadership of the UNP.
His desire to regain this Deputy Leadership should not hinder the unity of the party. Give him the deputy leadership and as he did in 2015 tell him to keep quiet. Contesting Sajith who sought an explicit mandate to get rid of Ranil failed. There is no reason to think trying it again is going to work.
Karu Jayasuriya as a candidate was signalled as far back as March. Opportunism by Mangala Samaraweera and an attack on Karu by a TV station stifled this. The same reactionary idiots who didn’t think we would win in 2015 are now clamouring for a knee jerk reaction to party leadership. Those untrustworthy news sources claiming he is looking to step down have clearly not been following the signals given on official party social media channels.
One must note Donald Trump’s recent victory over ISIS and withdrawal from the Middle East sans the oil pipelines. In such a global climate it is really likely that Sri Lanka can renegotiate its UN commitments avoiding anything that is electorally divisive. Even the BJP-led Indian Government got away with invading Kashmir.
Ranil is the only person with foreign policy expertise. He can renegotiate the UN commitments. He can still drum up minority support by delivering on things that are important to their future. Remember that Ranil has made himself integral to constitutional reform, guaranteeing him support from minority parties.
Anyone who is serious about holding the armed forces and police to account from a political perspective would understand that you must begin in the south.