Sunday, 28 April 2019

Easter Sunday Attacks: Just What the Doctor Ordered for Gota

Last week's Easter Sunday attacks which claimed lives of over 360 and over 500 casualties is no doubt one of the deadliest terrorist attacks Sri Lanka ever had to face. Now its revealed that Islamic extremist group National Thowheed Jamaath is behind the serial blasts that were carried out within Catholic churches and five star hotels.

Why the national intelligence's warning to the high authorities was ignored and no action was taken to address the matter before the catastrophe, is still a mystery. The failure to address matters related to national security would definitely be the prelude to the imminent ouster of the incumbent government in a future election. The terrorist attacks would be a major hit to the nations' booming tourism industry which is probably the only positive in the economic front that Sri Lanka was feeling upbeat about. 

On he other hand this has given fresh impetus to the likely SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapakse's case as the Presidential candidate, suddenly the national security has become the need of the hour, Gota who was instrumental in ending the 30 year old war against the LTTE, with the reputation he has earned as a exemplary administrator has made him the obvious favorite to win the presidential election in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

The run up to the presidential election so far saw a probable dark horse in Nagananda Kodituwakku a public interest litigation activist who's main focus was on eradicating corruption and establishing rule of law, however has become less of a threat as the priorities of the masses have again shifted to national security. It appears its the nail in the coffin for UNP led by PM Wickremasinge who failed their promise to end corruption and put the economy on track have now failed on national security. If they are to bring forth a common candidate to the fray they will have to think of someone in the caliber of Gota with strong credentials with regard to national security; with Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka being an unlikely candidate for 2020, it could be a walk in the park for Gota.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Racist Tactics in Sri Lankan Politics

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

SL Sheds Anti-Western Dogma: Nail in the Coffin for Separatists

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.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Presidential Election | A Clear Mandate from People with a Strong Message.

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.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Common Candidate Unveiled: Whither future of this country?

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.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Uva Provincial Council Elections: Will the Opposition Make History?

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.

It is high time all these opposition parties come on board the 'common opposition platform' that never really materialized largely owing to JVP's sidestepping. If they do manage to work together it will no doubt will be a formidable force and it will be in best interest of the general public. Having said that the main opposition party the UNP has to get their act together going forward, if this is to become a reality, not only they will have to take the initiative but also they will have to make sure they maintain their intra-party unity which has been their holy grail of late. If the opposition manages to edge out the government in this election it will no doubt gather momentum, a good example would be the People's Alliance victory in the 1994 Southern Provincial Election (against a hugely unpopular UNP government once deemed unassailable) which was the prelude to landslide victories in the General Election and the presidential Election that followed.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Government's Apathy Towards Bodu Bala Sena's Antics

In the light of the looming threat of sanctions against Sri Lanka, implications could be quite detrimental if government continues to turn a blind eye towards the blatant acts of persecutions on both racial and religious grounds carried out by a group of corrupt monks who call themselves 'Bodu Bala Sena'. The defense secretary of the country was seen attending as chief guest at several ceremonies held by this group, hence hinting the public of the government's overt support towards such acts of racial and religious persecutions as an obvious attempt to garner support of the sinhala buddhist sections, with the understanding that harping on the 'War Victory of 2009' alone will not assure them of continued support of the ultra-nationalists.

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.