By Izeth Hussain –
I am no psephologist with specialist skills in the evaluation of elections but I have found that commonsense can serve effectively in the prediction of electoral outcomes. On commonsensical grounds I count on the UNP to win by a comfy margin. Perhaps the most important explanation is a sense of fatigue with SLFP-led Governments given that 1994, except for a brief UNP inter-regnum. There is a deep human impulse that seeks renewal by turning to the new. One more crucial element is that the minorities’ vote that proved so decisive at the Presidential elections is certain to stay with the UNP. On the economy the voters could hope to see an finish to gigantic idiocies such as Mattala Airport and Hambantota Port. On democracy, and all the troubles of good governance, the UNP would clearly have the edge.
If it is true that there is a deep human impulse to seek renewal by turning to the new, the UPFA campaign can be observed to be deeply flawed. There has been a monomaniacal focusing on one particular point, the other points not being actually critical. It is that Sri Lanka is once more in danger each internally and externally and the Nation for that reason requires a Saviour, the exact same Saviour who saved us in 2009, the correct-blue Ruhunaputra, the descendent of the culture hero of the Sinhalese men and women, Dutugemunu. That concept did not have all that a lot traction amongst the Sinhala Buddhist masses at the Presidential elections. 45% of them voted against Rajapaksa, and the percentage could have been drastically higher if not for the command of the huge sources of the state by the Rajapaksa campaigners.
The assertion of Sinhala Buddhist supremacy by the State could be losing its attraction among the masses. That is recommended by the failure of the state-backed anti-Muslim campaign of the BBS. Impressive mass demonstrations have been held but right after the tumult and the shouting died down the usual relations of amity and co-operation amongst the Sinhalese and the Muslims continued. There would have been an enhance in anti-Muslim sentiment but there was no ignition of an anti-Muslim conflagration. What happened at Aluthgama/Beruwela was an organized affair, not a mass conflagration. The underlying cause why the assertion of Sinhala Buddhist and Sinhalese supremacy may be losing its attraction could be this: they asserted their supremacy with total success as far back as 1971 by the outrageously discriminatory University admission standardization scheme. Given that then it has been shown that there isn’t a dam point the minorities can do to challenge that supremacy. 44 years later it need to look to many sane and wholesome Sinhalese that there is no point in going on yelling and howling and screeching about a non-existent threat to the really existence of the Sinhalese. The time has come to really try to establish some degree of ethnic harmony and some degree of unity in this so-called nation. The mass appeal of racist neo-Fascism will continue. But the mass appeal of the assertion of Sinhala supremacy could diminish. It should be achievable to contain racist neo-Fascism inside a properly-entrenched democracy as in India – as I argued in the very first element of this article.
I would attach significantly importance to a linguistic change that has taken spot more than the final 3 years or so. Linguistic modifications in the kind of neologisms, words falling into desuetude, old words all of a sudden coming into vogue, words changing their meaning or acquiring new nuances, indicate alterations taking spot in a society. They signify new approaches of conceptualizing the world and evaluating it. I have in mind the reality that the word “communalism”, once ubiquitous in Sri Lankan usage has now fallen into desuetude and is used only infrequently. It has been replaced by “racism” which we utilised to think of as some thing that applied to what the whites did to the coloured, not what the coloured do to the coloured. I believe that the explanation why “racism” has come into vogue is that it has considerably stronger adverse connotations than “communalism”. We had 100,000 deaths as a consequence of communalism. The strongly denunciatory “racism” is much more apposite in that context. I take this linguistic modify as signifying that Rajapaksa’s racist neo-Fascism is not the wave of the future.
A noteworthy feature of the present pre-election scene in Sri Lanka is that there is not much well-liked enthusiasm about it, which is in striking contrast to a properly-established norm. The explanation for this could be that we are moving from a conflictual to a consensual model of politics. On the very first of the three great problems facing us, that of the economy, there is consensus about the basics amongst the two major parties. On the issue of democracy there is an apparent polarization, but it is not in the kind of a stark dichotomy in between democracy and dictatorship as in the Arab planet and elsewhere. There is no doubt that Rajapaksa is ideologically committed to racist neo-Fascism but in practice he is committed to operating within a democratic framework. Otherwise he would not have held democratic elections. On the ethnic problem, the moderates are clearly in the ascendant in the GTF and the TNA, and on the Sinhalese side both significant parties remain committed to a political remedy within the framework of 13A. It is not surprising that in this predicament our politicians are commuting from 1 Celebration to yet another without any sense of strain, so significantly so that we discover it hard to bear in mind to which Party this or that politician belongs at the moment.
There are also variables of a socio-financial structural order behind the move to consensual politics. I have explored that in an earlier post and I am not going to repeat my argument here. Instead I will quote a poem of Hilaire Belloc, one of the excellent political poems of the last century, which expresses the underlying reality of democratic politics with lovely lucidity:
The accursed reign of Privilege,
Which goes with girls and champagne and bridge,
Broke – and Democracy resumed its reign,
Which goes with ladies and bridge and champagne.
There is a school of believed according to which we are moving towards a three-Celebration system with the JVP as the third Celebration, comparable to Britain’s Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Parties. In that case the following nursery rhyme, also a fantastic political poem in my view, will be entirely apposite:
Hey rub-a-dub dub,
3 men in a tub,
The butcher, the baker, the candle-stick maker –
Turn ‘em out! Rogues all 3!
It is masterly, the way the rhythm moves towards that thundering emphasis on Rogues – so apposite to Sri Lankan politics. I recommend that both poems be inscribed in our new Constitution.