By Ruvan Weerasinghe –
Very first a card carrying member of the SLFP, then a Sri Lankan – that’s what President Maithripala Sirisena proved to be in the end. That can also be so for many politicians in the UNP, JVP, JHU or any of the plethora of parties and alliances contesting elections in Sri Lanka. We need to advocate voting for principles over parties in the forthcoming elections.
When President Maithripala Sirisena agreed to give nominations to the really individual he took a courageous stand to oppose in the interest of the people of Sri Lanka, he didn’t just let them down. He dealt however another blow to the Sri Lankan identity.
Sri Lanka has had more than its fair share of believed leaders who espoused diverse types of identity as valid, or even far more potent, than our typical Sri Lankan identity. Ranging from the old caste program that nevertheless has its proponents even amongst some educated folks, to the ‘brown sahib’ that gave us respectability (and jobs) amongst our colonial masters, we have dabbled in other types, especially our ethnicity (as espoused by the LTTE and to some extent the JHU) and our religion (by the likes of the more extreme elements of the SLMC and the BBS).
President Maithripala Sirisena, has added however yet another identity as a reasonable and valid one to replace our Sri Lankanness. Even though his unexpected and fearless act of defecting from a celebration he was so much a element of gave us hope of a statesman emerging in Sri Lanka, his capitulation to be far more worried about being accused of splitting the celebration than letting down the individuals who voted for him, would probably class him with all politicians ahead of him – not acting really in the interest of being Sri Lankan first, and card-carrying members of a political party second (or certainly at least third, behind our philosophical worldview). So, he has unintentionally forwarded party as a much more crucial identity for us than our nationality.
The UPFA manifesto
Can there be one? To say that a coherent manifesto is not possible for the UPFA, would be an understatement. When the President of the party nonetheless speaks of furthering the methods taken towards great governance (a word that brings distaste to the mouth, Yahapalanaya), and the majority of its prime leadership scoffs at it, or far more accurately hopes to put do away with it (by possibly stoning the law enforcement agencies of the state), there could be no coherent manifesto for the UPFA – nor even the SLFP.
To be sure, the rank and file of the UPFA who have benefited from the 10 years of Rajapaska rule, would be far happier if they were offered an additional possibility to emulate their leaders who now seem to have ‘made hay even though the sun shone’. They had missed that opportunity – or didn’t understand the levels it could be taken to. It is crystal clear now that in any internal celebration vote amongst strengthening great governance and renegading on the progressive methods taken in the last six months, the latter would easily triumph. This is all the much more clear as we see, not just the massive crooks inside the celebration being nominated, but even these handful of who have been to be not given nominations by the leadership of the UPFA, now becoming provided prominent districts to contest from. The corrupt of the corrupt.
If we are to think that both in the SLFP and UPFA constitutions, it is the Common Secretary who controls the nominations (as implied by the President of both), we need to pretty and squarely lay the blame on each the top officials of these two parties for it. Nonetheless, that is not the complete story. When the former president was the President of the party, none of this (the constitutional provisions) mattered. There was no doubt in our minds who controlled the nomination method. And the General Secretaries of the two parties didn’t utter any words to the contrary – simply obeyed their master. In a situation where the very leaders of a celebration exemplify the which means of getting spineless so clearly, what can we anticipate of their members?
Far more worryingly, what does that do to the actual leaders waiting in the sidelines? These who would fearlessly proclaim that what is critical is our national identity as Sri Lankans, and not our party, our ethnicity, religion or our cast? They would be blocked out from nominations from the party and the alliance for some time to come.
The young voice
Functioning in a vocation that revolves about the youth of the country, it is clear to me that there are many amongst them who feel differently. These who are sickened by the charade played by our pontificating politicians. It offers me hope for a better Sri Lanka. Exactly where the Sri Lankan identity will lastly be a lot more essential than any of the sub-identities that have been brandied about so freely by so known as leaders of our nation.
This is a generation that at a single and the identical time are ‘tolerant’ and yet loathe ‘pretense’. They are in a position to get in touch with the bluff. They could not be as expressive as the generations just before them so that you don’t see them in marches and protests the way we are usually employed to. But when they are named upon to vote at an election, they will definitely make their ‘voice heard’.
And they are sickened to the core about the circus becoming played out prior to our eyes. How our polity dances to the tunes of the political parties that just really like election time. It’d be challenging for them, except the couple of card-carrying kinds amongst them, to vote for a celebration that tries to maintain up pretenses as to what it stands for.
This need to be a clear warning to the President and the SLFP/UPFA, that they are going down a slippery slope, when they rely on their old slogans of war victory (‘we won the war’) and worry mongering (‘the UN will take all our leaders to the tribunal’).
Why assistance the UPFA?
There are still a handful of factors for individuals to help the UPFA. Primary amongst them is the band of robbers and their supporters who benefited financially over the previous decade. To be positive, this is a little, though raucous and vociferous, bunch. We shouldn’t fear their rhetoric – as we saw, they shiver prior to state agencies such as the FCID and the courts (when these are empowered to play the role they are meant to).
Then there are the few intellectuals who have ‘bought into’ a single of two stories (myths?): (a) Sri Lanka, as many nations in the region have showed (to be sure, with the exception of India), demands a sturdy leader – even a dictator or (b) Sri Lanka has only been united in history below populist ‘Sinhala Buddhist‘ rule. Some organization leaders join this group in the interest of ‘stability’. These types are referred to the superb piece by Priyan Dias on the ‘Choice between stability and virtue’. Certainly, it is this really community, the intellectuals and the business community, who need to welcome the type of ‘instability’ that led a lot of nations in the planet to new heights in scientific discovery and economic acquire.
So, is there a way forward for the UPFA or SLFP? Yes, but its going to take time and guts. The type of courage that even the fearless Maithripala Sirisena demonstrated in January (just six months ago) didn’t have, in the finish. The party needs to be reconstituted about a new leadership with a much more attractive and forward-searching agenda, than that of harping on its previous success. It is indeed when parties (or for that matter countries, and men and women) recall the ‘good old days’ that we require to recognize the signals of decline (and lack of relevance).
In brief, the party can not be ‘patched up’ – it demands to be flushed of its old garbage, and fully rejuvenated into a new and potent force. That takes time. Possibly a decade.
How to vote at this election?
This is the query on most men and women’s lips. Especially soon after the 3rd of July evening ‘sell out’. Typical responses range from ‘giving up’ to ‘spoiling vote’. Right after all, if the only individual we really trusted could let us down so badly, they argue, who can we trust for the future? This is an additional legacy that Maithripala Sirisena would have to carry.
What appears clear is that no principled voter can vote for a party that has no principles itself! A celebration at conflict with itself. Sadly, that has these days become the really definition of the SLFP and therefore, the UPFA.
What hope is there outdoors of it? Can the UNP be trusted? Or the JVP? Or certainly the JHU, TNA or SLMC?
It is clear that, as opposed to ever prior to, Sri Lankans may possibly be prompted to vote for parties and people that they’ve never just before voted for. Sinhalese have frequently expressed confidence in the TNA obtaining very good leaders! Tamils have stated the JVP appears to be the only celebration talking sense! This is not altogether a bad thing. It could even be a optimistic improvement. Folks forced to vote on principles rather than on dogmatic party political lines that they traditionally have been utilised to.
Of course, campaigning could alter all that. Established parties know that what matters finally is not principles, but promises. Specifically promises of prosperity. This is correct not just in Sri Lanka, but in all nations exactly where poverty is a important problem. On the other hand, individuals are also employed to becoming let down on the promises.
The best resolution would be for all progressive parties to type an alliance. The great forces within the UNP, the JVP , the TNA, the SLMC and the JHU can indeed from a sturdy alliance around the delivery of genuine great governance. The lasting sort. The type that will allow the populace to be truly free, company to thrive and education to take us to greater heights as a country.
Is this hoping for utopia? The next very best point is for these parties to contest separately with a widespread aim to defeat the regressive UPFA. Sri Lanka can not afford to go back on the infant steps towards democracy that we have taken in 2015. Ideally, no single celebration need to have a two-thirds majority in parliament. None of them can be trusted with such energy. Coalition politics is always greater. It guarantees that extremist views are tempered. That sanity would prevail.
To be positive, the only potent force able to send a clear message of ‘no’ to the UPFA (and much more specifically to the band of robbers who have taken manage of it) is the UNP. Though fraught with its own goofs in handling the Central Bank problem and tendency to autocratic leadership within, the new checks and balances introduced in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution can guarantee that rule will be by consensus than autocracy. As such, pragmatically speaking, though by no means a card-carrying celebration member, it seems clear that only a vote for a coalition about the UNP could make sure that we as a nation can avoid going back to the dark days of the pre-2015 era.