Mahinda Rajapakse who has created himself a cult-like image especially among the Sinhala Buddhist majority in the aftermath of the war victory of 2009 still commands a significant influence within the aforementioned vote base. Six years on after the defeat of the LTTE, Rajapaksa who was the only incumbent president to lose a presidential election in the history of SL when he was defeated by president Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015 elections is back in the limelight, this time running for the post of Prime Minister from the UPFA in the upcoming elections which is to be held in August 2015.
The UPFA are yet to put together a manifesto for the upcoming election, and the only salient message that we can derive from 'Rajapaksa For PM' campaign is that people should reinstate MR in power to solidify the war victory. Their propaganda machine seems to rely heavily on the personality of Rajapaksa than attempting to address the issue which led to their downfall in the January elections. The main accusation against the Rajapaksa government was the wide-spread corruptions that were being carried out under the pretext of infrastructure development. MR went to the extent of making a public statement that he protected certain corrupt MPs during his tenure as president but most of the members who are accused of corruption are back in the fray running for parliamentary seats from their respective districts.
Interestingly literally nothing is being spoken by the UPFA camp on the racial reconciliation front, while they continue to harp on an imminent awakening of the Tamil diaspora and Sri Lankan Muslim extremists. It is blatantly obvious that UPFA is employing racist tactics to win this election with hook or crook. Racial reconciliation is the need of the hour, it is quite sad the way they are trying to appease the Sinhala majority by spreading racist sentiments while inciting fear and distrust against the minority communities,threatening the ethnic harmony of the country. Political leaders should be more careful of the consequences of fueling racial tensions in a country like Sri Lanka who has enough and more lessons to learn from such instigations like the Black July of 1983. It is no secret that Sri Lanka got a massive advantage by the events that unfolded post 2001 which resulted with LTTE being banned in many western countries and SL being able to get recognized as a nation engaged in a war against terrorism. With all these instigations by UPFA propagandists, Will Sri Lanka get a second chance should there be another incident akin to 1983?
If you are to solidify the war victory this country needs a lasting solution to the ethnic problem, rather than stoking the dying flames of racism. Sri Lankan voter, especially the Sinhalese voter will have to decide wisely in the upcoming election, now that the war is over we need leaders who can pave the way for a free and fair society and create lasting ethnic harmony. Sri Lankan citizenry wouldn't want to be embroiled in another civil war for a few more decades and squander this golden opportunity to put our country back on the right track.
Sunday, 3 May 2015
The US secretary of state John Kerry's visit to Sri Lanka this week sent the message that US-SL relations which reached an all-time low during the last nine years or so is back on track. As much as President Mahinda Rajapakse should be commended for resisting pressure exerted by the west to stop the war during the final stages of the war, President Sirisena and PM Wickemasinghe should win kudos for finally putting Sri Lanka's foreign policy on the right track.
Anti-Western sentiments were very much in fashion during the course of the Rajapakse regime, not only did it won him a lot of votes locally, it also gave a plausible justification for dealing almost exclusively with China when it came to development projects carried out in the country. SL had to put a lot of time and effort trying to deal with the UN resolution against SL which was engineered by the western powers who were sulking after the way they were snubbed during the latter stages of the war in 2009. Although it was woefully ineffective, this 'taking the bull by the horns' kind of approach made waves in the local political arena, President Rajapaksa was unstoppable winning election after election. Only real beneficiary of this exercise of continued distancing from the west was the Tamil Diaspora who are hellbent on creating a separate state for Tamils within Sri Lankan soil. What the ultra-nationalists did not understand was the fact that if SL is to put and end to separatism it had to fight its battle at the right front which is in the west, but all they did was harping on anti-western rhetoric to reinforce local vote base.
It appears that this new approach to dealing with the west will alleviate some of the difficulties faced by SL in the international arena related to war crimes, one can also speculate that SL will win over significant economic and military assistance from the west. Another remarkable aspect of Sri Lanka's refreshed foreign policy is that it acknowledges the importance of keeping good relations with key players in the region like India, China and the rest, in keeping with the non-aligned policy which brought significant benefits to the country in the past.
There will no doubt be harsh criticism by ultra-nationalist political forces within the country regarding the new policy, but it is of profound importance for SL to engage with the west so that they can negate any threat of separatist forces rising its head and concentrate on economic development that was hindered by a three decade long civil war. It is however important that Sri Lanka make sure they do not over compensate in the process of mending fences with the west, like the previous regime did with China, bending over backwards for the military assistance they gained during the civil war.
Posted by Hasith Tennakoon at 15:48
Friday, 9 January 2015
The common candidate of the opposition Mr. Maithreepala Sirisena has secured a resounding victory in the presidential election held yesterday (8th). Apart from winning traditional UNP strongholds the president elect has managed to edge out his opponent by huge margins within the majority of the urban electorates in the south plus the north and the east. The large scale efforts by the government to woo the Sinhalese rural voters by means of propaganda designed to spread fears of another Ealam war in the event the opposition wins seems to have resonated well within these voters. Government media upon which the rural population place a higher credibility, kept harping on the importance of the executive presidency in ending the war and maintaining the country's status quo as a unitary state. In spite of the grave violations of the election laws related to the use of state media and state resources by the government MS backed by the newly formed alliance managed to secure victory by a reasonable margin.
Some of the ultra-nationalists have already started uttering racist sentiments, pointing out that given the amount of support MS has got from the minority voters, the majority Sinhalese will be sidelined and he will have to act according to the whims of separatist forces. However considering the fact that the joint opposition's decision to keep the provincial councils under the purview of the President and the fact that the main architects of the War victory (JHU, Gen. Fonseka) are key partners of the joint opposition, we can assume that such developments are highly unlikely. On the other hand government has only themselves to blame for failing to secure the support of the Muslims who had to face a series of attacks by BBS backed by the government in a bid to get cheap political mileage among their rural Sinhala Buddhist vote base. As far as the Tamil voters are concerned the government failed to address their issues related to resettlement and reconciliation, they were ignored simply because of the sense of complacency that was created within the government ranks that they can win any election by reinforcing the rural Sinhala vote base by spreading racial disharmony and mistrust.
One remarkable factor which helped the joint opposition victory was the widespread use of social media to undermine the government propaganda that was channeled through state media. Credit should go to Janatha Vmukthi Peramuna (JVP) led by Mr. Anura Kumara Dissanayake for keeping the masses informed through social media with his simple but sharp rhetoric. Mr. Dissanayake's efforts gave fresh impetus to the somewhat lukewarm efforts from the main opposition UNP (barring a handful of active individuals) which eventually found its way back on track during the latter half of the presidential campaign. It is a very positive sign for the democracy of this country that the people power prevailed over the might of state media propaganda.
What is even more remarkable is the fact that this phenomenon of emerging people power sends out a strong message along with their mandate to the opposition; that is the consequences that even someone like Mahinda Rajapakse who created himself a cult-like image after war victory will have to face if they go off track. One would think that Ranil, Chandrika and Maithreepala being astute and seasoned politicians would take this message seriously and start working towards the promises given to the people from day one, instead of learning the lesson the hard way.
Posted by Hasith Tennakoon at 03:03
Sunday, 23 November 2014
Soon after the proclamation of the presidential election the joint opposition has unveiled the long-awaited common candidate, Former UPFA Minister and Chairman of the SLFP Maithripala Sirirsena was declared as the opposition 'common candidate' yesterday evening at a press conference held at New Town Hall, UNP has pledged their unanimous support to the former minister at the presidential election to be held on the 8th of January 2015 . It has to be said that it is quite an audacious decision on the part of Mr. Sirisena considering the plight of his predecessor General Sarath Fonseka who contested the presidential election as the common candidate in 2010. The latter who was the principal architect of the 2009 war victory was court marshaled and sent to prison, his civic rights remain withdrawn to this date.
It appears to be a prudent move by the UNP to field minister Sirisena for the presidency as he is the type of personality who could easily win the Sinhalese rural vote base (which the UNP have been continuing to distance itself from), this will be a crucial factor which will determine the outcome of this election. This arrangement also becomes handy with regard to winning the support of all parties of the joint opposition as JVP and JHU may have certain ideological issues in backing a candidate from the UNP. The Abolition of executive presidency and reinstating the independent commissions being the main agenda behind Mr. Sirisena's campaign one would expect the JVP would pledge their support to the common candidate in due course, however there may be some resistance by the JVP for the proposition of UNP leader becoming the Prime Minister in the event MS secures victory.
As far as the SLFP voter base is concerned one cannot expect MS to trigger a major shake up since it would be seen as an effort to make UNP leader the executive PM in the eyes of the typical SLFP voter. Lot will depend on how far the joint opposition is successful in luring UPFA defectors in to the coalition, president will no doubt try to take counter measures to make sure no more MPs cross over. Where UNP voter base is concerned it is critical that they are kept reinforced as they might become apathetic to this proposition evoking bad memories of what happened to the UNF government in 2004.
If a president Sirisena in 2015 honors his election pledge to abolish executive presidency, reinstate the independent commissions, introduce reforms to the electoral system it would no doubt be a crucial turning point in Sri Lanka's political history, at a time when there exists a virtual dictatorship with unlimited powers vested in the hands of the executive where rule of law has flown out the window.
Posted by Hasith Tennakoon at 12:53
Saturday, 20 September 2014
Voting in the Uva provincial council commenced today with a healthy voter turnout. The high voter turnout can be attributed to the increased enthusiasm aroused by the opposition in the Badulla and Moneragala districts leading up to the elections and the growing unpopularity of the Government who have been riding the wave of the war victory of 2009. The widespread apathy in the electorate which caused high number of 'no shows' in the previous elections could translate to more votes for the opposition.
From the main opposition UNP's perspective, it all will depend on how strongly the oppositions' pitch resonates with the Sinhala Buddhist vote. Looking at the ethnic composition, Badulla district with a higher minority votes has to be won convincingly by the UNP (without the help of Upcountry Tamil Parties) to have a realistic chance of coming out victorious. It will be interesting to see how Moneragala district will vote with a significant percentage of Sinhala Buddhist voters. the JVP and the Democratic party too are expected to boost their vote base looking at their respective campaigns in the lead up to the election.
Posted by Hasith Tennakoon at 05:56
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
What this government fail to understand is that these dirty tactics will have much more detrimental impact on an international front when it comes to countering a resolution against SL at the UNHRC like they did in March 2014. It is no secret that if not for the support of the 'Muslim Nations' led by Pakistan, Sri Lanka would have been facing a much severe repercussions. Therefore by supporting (overtly or covertly) these organisations who spread racism, the government of SL is going to make itself hugely unpopular among these Muslim nations who came to our rescue in the need of the hour.
Ethnic reconciliation should be the order of the day, employing cheap tactics of this nature to garner votes locally will have a knock-on effect on the country at large on an international front. From a religious point of view the damage this group of unscrupulous monks has done to Buddhism and the country's image as a Buddhist nation is monumental. The sooner we put an end to Bodu Bala Sena's antics the better for the country's racial harmony and its Human Rights record.
Posted by Hasith Tennakoon at 07:02
Wednesday, 7 August 2013
The Human Rights record of Sri Lanka was marred by another ugly incident last Thursday when residents of the Weliweriya town in the Gampaha District who protested demanding clean drinking water were fired live bullets by Army personnel killing three. The villagers thronged the streets of Weliveriya in protest against a factory in Rathupaswala (thought to have strong links with the government) that discharged chemical waste that contaminated the ground water in and around the area.
The government mouthpieces that keep harping on the military victory of 2009, glorifying commander-in-chief the president who gave the political leadership and the Defense Secretary who gave the military leadership as the main architects of it have gone mute. But we don't see the political and military leadership taking responsibility for the lives that were lost due to excessive use of force to suppress a group of unarmed civilians.
This can obviously have serious international implications on the country at a time when its Human Rights record is under scrutiny. In the eyes of the international community this can be particularly disadvantageous since the pro LTTE elements can leverage this incident to carry their message forward labeling the Sri Lankan Army as an army of genocide. It makes the Diaspora's accusations that much more plausible when the international community see how the military is using their force against the people of the south. With the Commonwealth Conference and the sessions with the Human Rights Council around the corner, our External Affairs minister does not seem to be helping our course either in reportedly playing it down saying incidents of this nature are part and parcel of life.
Apparently the message that the government is trying to get across to the people is that they are prepared to suppress any uprising against it using full force of the military. It appears that recent developments related to racial disharmony like the emergence of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) are propaganda campaigns by elements connected to the government to shift the focus away from an imminent uprising against the government. But sooner the people of the south are disillusioned with these elements distracting them we can be sure that a major uprising akin to the 'Arab Spring' is not too far away.
Posted by Hasith Tennakoon at 21:45