The only person who thought that defeating the UPFA was possible was the young charismatic Chief Ministerial candidate of the UNP, Harin Fernando. He risked his political career by resigning from Parliament and contesting the Provincial Council elections as the UNP Chief Ministerial candidate and won by a huge margin. He beat Sashendra by 77,000 votes ! If Presidential Elections are held early next year as predicted, a common candidate who has the blessings of the UNP which is the party that has the biggest political base and support in the opposition, could very well win.
The winds of change have started to blow and the opposition needs to seize this moment and capitalize on the gains that they have made. As much as there are cracks appearing in the governments armor, a few false moves by the opposition, and the pendulum could shift back in their favor. Having said that, one has to analyze and ascertain where the UPFA government and the Rajapaksa Presidency has failed having had such tremendous support amongst the masses after the victory over the LTTE in 2009. How have they lost such a huge segment of their support in a space of five years?
The government has failed to capitalize on the goodwill that they gained soon after the ending of the war by doing something tangible for the general masses of the country. Having undertaken some massive projects in the country such as the Norocholoi Coal Power Project (approved during Chandrika’s term), the Hambantotta Harbor Project, the Mattala International Airport Project, and the massive Highway Projects including the Southern Exprssway, the International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota among others, they could have easily mobilized the Sri Lankan work force by providing thousands of jobs in these projects.
Unfortunately, all these projects that were undertaken using funds obtained through commercial borrowings for the Exim Bank of China and other commercial banks also in China, they failed to negotiate or for that matter insist that whilst the major contracts be given to Chinese construction enterprises, that the sub contracts and the employment must be from the country.
However, nothing on these lines was done and only Chinese labor and Chinese companies benefited from these projects. In the end the Sri Lankan people for generations to come will be paying the Chinese for keeping their workforce employed.
Apart from the fact that these projects were undertaken on commercial borrowings, mainly from State banks in China (EXIM) or other commercial banks in China, it has been widely reported rightly or wrongly, that massive kickbacks in the form of commissions have been paid to several politicians and other government high ups. Therefore the popular belief is that politicians at very high levels, and government officials loyal to the regime got filthy rich on the backs of the poor masses.
Also, there is no immediate benefit to the country even after the completion of these projects, barring the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant. Even that has been shut down for long periods.
Leaving aside the argument that these massive development projects were ill conceived and does not merit the investment, there could have been an immediate impact to the country economically, had the terms of these loans been properly negotiated.
The people in Hambantota lost their property and their livelihood as they were evicted from their lands and settled in areas totally unfamiliar to them. Only a third of the compensation promised to them was given.
Riding cock a hoop after the massive victory over the "Common Candidate", General Sarath Fonseka, the Rajapaksa regime, has ridden rough shod over the very people who voted him into power. Repression is what the Sri Lankan population abhor the most. The silencing of the free media, using the Police and armed forces to break up opposition rallies, the disappearances of editors and writers apposed to the government have not sat well with the people. Human Right violations are reported frequently. They have systematically dismantled the democratic precepts that the people have been used to, and replaced it with authoritarian rule. Conflicting stories emerge, with no one knowing the truth. Some say that the President is totally unaware of the goings on, and that the man behind the strong arm tactics is younger brother Deleted who is also the all powerful Secretary to the Minister of Defence who is incidentally the President. Some say that all his actions (Deleted’s) has the tacit approval of the President, and for obvious political reasons, he fakes total ignorance.
Added to all this, are the financial burdens heaped on the poor masses. Electricity costs are prohibitive, food prices have gone through the roof, infant food is so expensive that a taxi driver told me that he has to buy 200 grams of infant milk powder daily to feed his baby! Good health care is only for the rich who can afford it.
In such a backdrop, one would think that the Rajapaksas will stand no chance to be re-elected? Far from it. They still hold a very powerful voter base, that they have garnered by using narrow and unethical political tactics of using race and religion to bolster their standing with the majority Sinhala Buddhist population. They strongly believe that the end justifies the means, and they are now focusing their attention on the Muslim community and trying to drive fear into the minds of the Sinhalese population that the Muslims are trying to introduce and spread radical Islam in the country. The Sinhalese who have suffered in the hands of LTTE who fought for a Tamil homeland, are made to believe that they will only be safe in the hands of the Rajapaksa who are a bastion of the Sinhala Buddhist.
The Rajapaksas believe that the way to victory is by creating a division in the opposition, thereby ensuring a multiple number of candidates opposing him in the Presidential elections, and by holding Sinhala Buddhist nationalists together behind him; also ensuring disunity within the main opposition i.e. the UNP. By and large this tactic appears to be working. However, the recent Uva Provincial Council results have shown that there are chinks in their armor. If only the UNP secured some of the estate Tamil votes, about 7,000, they could have won this election. This is something that they will have to work on for the presidential election.
At last, the UNP appear to have got their act together with the patching up of differences between Premadasa and Ranil Wickremesinghe. There are other players who must also be brought into the fold. Unity is the keyword and the leadership should do everything to ensure this.
The JVP and the UNP also has to work together for the betterment of both parties. It is time for the JVP to realize that they cannot muster a substantial vote working alone. They should also realize that languishing in the opposition does not provide them the opportunity to prove their worth to the people. This can only be achieved by joining hands with a major party and coming into power.
It may be difficult to forge an alliance with the UNP due to their political ideologies being poles apart. However, I do not think that it is all that difficult to reach some common ground on politics and economic philosophy for the purpose of fighting an election. The JVP believes in socialist economic structure with state controlled public sector enterprises. The UNP strongly believes in a democratic system that ensures free and fair elections held frequently and on an open and free economic policy.
I am certain that both parties could compromise particularly in respect of their economic policies. A 100% socialist economic policy has failed in even communist countries such as China, Russia and Vietnam and all these countries have now resorted to the capitalist open market system. I think that one could safely say that a mixed economic policy may be the best for the country.
This has been tried out in Scandinavian countries very successfully. There are some services that one provides the public and these services need not necessarily be entirely profit oriented. What is needed is for them to provide a service to the masses at an affordable price. This would include transportation, electricity, water and health. What the government needs to do is to provide an efficient and effective public utility service that competes with the private sector.
Since Sri Lanka has been a predominantly agriculture based economy, or was and should be, I strongly feel that very strong government control must be placed on agriculture. Tea, rubber and coconut must come under an Authority that monitors and ensures that plantations are maintained at the highest levels to ensure maximum productivity. The same would apply to rice farming and other food. Subsidies and incentives must be given to farmers to ensure increased productivity. A strong marketing arm should be put in place for rice and vegetable farmers to ensure that they are not monopolized by unscrupulous venders. Irrigation must be controlled by the state to ensure proper distribution of water.
I think that the JVP and the UNP can agree on these principles and so could the Democratic Party headed by General Sarath Fonseka.
What of the minorities? We know what the current governments policies are towards minorities. It is now left to the opposition to articulate what their policies are going to be. Do not be afraid to spell out an all embracing all encompassing policy of live and let live. Sri Lanka is for all communities. They should not be afraid that they will alienate the Sinhala nationalists. They will any way vote for Rajapaksa. They must realize that the majority Sinhalese are not racists. They are a very tolerant people who strongly believe in moderate policies towards the minorities.
Obviously, the UNP is the major player in the opposition and has to endorse the common candidate. A common candidate that does not have the blessing to the UNP will not be a common candidate. If Ranil is the UNP nominee, then Ranil Wickremesinghe has to be the common candidate of the opposition. So much has been written about his inability to win an election etc. since 1996. This is not entirely true. He lost the Presidential Election to Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1999. This was an election that he was winning according to opinion polls but Chandrika was struck by a LTTE bomb 48 hours before the election and lost the sight of her left eye. A shocked electorate, showed sympathy towards the incumbent and a last minute swing ensured victory for her.
In 2001 the UNF under the stewardship of Ranil, won the General Election and formed a government. Despite a hostile Executive President, Ranil as Prime Minister pushed through economic reforms and raised the GDP which stood at 1.5% when he took office to 5.9% . Inflation was kept below 10%.
In 2005 he lost the Presidential Election to Mahinda Rajapaksa by 50,000 votes. The loss was put down to the fact that the LTTE leader who controlled the North and the Eastern Province, stopped the Tamil population from voting. The North and the East overwhelmingly supported Ranil. Conservatively speaking, by this action Ranil lost about a quarter of a million votes! There are the usual conspiracy theories that are floating around, giving reasons why Prabhakaran stopped the Tamils from voting. All we know is that his actions ensured a victory for Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wickremesinghe is well educated, has been a very successful Prime Minister twice who has achieved more than most who have held that office in the recent past. He is well respected by leaders in most western countries and even in Russia and China. For several years the opposition particularly the Rajapaksa government has successfully sold a canard to the public and even to members of his own party that Ranil is a loser and cannot win. This has worked extremely well to their advantage.
So at this point we must ask ourselves, what has Sri Lanka achieved instead? Unprecedented corruption at a magnitude never seen in the history of this country, racial and religious disharmony, galloping inflation, dictatorial rule and police incompetence, a corrupt judiciary, total financial subservience to China for generations to come on projects that may never bear fruit, a foreign policy that has completely alienated the west and perhaps the most powerful county in the world. Must I continue?
The winds of change are blowing, and I think it is time from Sri Lanka to emerge from the abyss that we put ourselves into and chose the right leader for the right time.
Last edited by Sstar on Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:48 pm; edited 1 time in total