SLFP & SLPP: enemies, rivals or allies? MAY DAY 2017
Posted on April 10th, 2017

“The correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything.”(Mao)

UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is mightily helped by the confusion in the ranks of the SLFP and Oppositional forces in general. The SLFP voters and the broader constituency of non-UNP (or non-hardcore UNP) voters are being sent three messages, all of which are wrong. The three messages come, NOT from Mahinda Rajapaksa but from President Sirisena, ex-president Kumaratunga and architect-strategist of the breakaway Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (Sri Lanka People’s Front SLPF), Basil Rajapaksa.

Chandrika Kumaratunga wants a strategic alliance of the SLFP and the UNP, even under the UNP’s leadership. She seems willing to go as far as fusion, which means turning the clock back to pre-1951 and her father’s rupture with the UNP. The alliance she advocates is with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and the neoliberal globalism he represents, rather than with a populist-patriotic (‘neo-Premadasaist’) tendency of the UNP. Chandrika sees the UNP-TNA-SLFP-civil society liberals-West as a durable and desirable bloc.

President Sirisena sees the UNP-SLFP alliance not as strategic, and certainly not as a potential fusion, unless the UNP is led by an ideological co-thinker who is a centrist-populist. He is striving to cultivate such a constituency within the UNP. If not, or until that fructifies, the alliance with the UNP is tactical, not strategic. He is keeping open the January 2015 alignment and its possible recycling but that is not his Plan A, not least because he sees its exponentially growing unpopularity. He has his eye on the exits that are coming up but he hasn’t made up his mind. His main aim is to nurture a moderate, more youthful and modern, non-Rajapaksa/post-Rajapaksa SLFP which is ideologically progressive or even mildly social democrat. He hopes to use it to seize the hegemony within the existing Yahapalana coalition or lead it to victory as part of a new centrist alliance with compatible elements of the JO and the UNP.

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Basil Rajapaksa’s perspective is clear. He is seeing it through the eyes of his father DA Rajapaksa and uncle, DM Rajapaksa. He sees the SLFP vacating its historic role as a moderate nationalist alternative to the UNP, while the UNP is playing the role that made SWRD and DA Rajapaksa rupture with it and found the SLFP. Basil sees a historic opportunity. He hopes to build an alternative to the UNP which in this first stage has to be an alternative to the official SLFP. He hopes to kill two birds with one stone, and strengthen himself through this project, vis-a-vis a sibling perceived as a potential rival and successor to the iconic elder brother Mahinda.

CBK’s vision of the merger or long-term strategic alliance of the UNP and SLFP which forms a single center-right, pro-West liberal formation is doomed to be a mirage or at best, have a short shelf-life. Once Ranil’s polarizing policies sink the UNP in a reprise of 1956/1970, both the UNP and the official SLFP will dump the line that got them into the hole and swing decisively to populist-nationalist personalities.

This leaves standing two perspectives of the three: President Sirisena’s and Basil Rajapaksa’s. They are both intelligent, politically knowledgeable individuals, who dislike each other and have a “history”. President Sirisena’s problem with Mahinda Rajapaksa was a derivative of his problem with Basil. President Sirisena and Gotabhaya never had a problem with one another, and the latter actually canvassed unsuccessfully for Mr. Sirisena to be made PM. President Rajapaksa was unable to accommodate Minister Maithripala Sirisena fairly because he was reluctant to antagonize two people—Nimal Siripala de Silva and much more importantly, Basil Rajapaksa. Maithripala Sirisena’s defection and candidacy owed much more to bitterness generated by Basil Rajapaksa’s political behavior than to moves by India, the US and CBK!

Ironically, President Sirisena and Mr. Basil Rajapaksa share the same crippling flaw. The Sirisena line expects us to agree that Ranil and Chandrika are better, or better political company, for the country and the SLFP, than Mahinda Rajapaksa. Hardly any SLFP voter will agree with that proposition. Not many Sri Lankan Sinhalese will, by the next election. Mr. Sirisena’s moderate, modern, non-Rajapaksa family SLFP may have been a viable, even attractive proposition, but not while he is in the company of Ranil and CBK, and the country is careening in the direction decided upon by them. In other words, President Sirisena’s vision for the SLFP would have worked and can work, only in the Opposition or as the dominant element of a government that is headed in a very different direction from this one. As things are, and so long as they remain this way, his line cannot work.

CBK and President Sirisena, albeit to different degrees, push the line that the main enemy is Mahinda Rajapaksa; that the main danger facing the country is a Rajapaksa return; and that the main task is to prevent it. Basil Rajapaksa and the SLPP’s line is that the main enemy is Maithripala Sirisena, rather than Ranil Wickremesinghe, and that the main target should be the official SLFP. In a classic “category error” all these players conflate “rival/competitor” with “enemy/threat”. Neither line is going to work with most SLFP voters (as distinct from hardcore activists) or anti-government voters; those who want change.

While Basil and the SLPF expect another 1956, they are not positioning themselves correctly for it. SWRD and DA Rajapaksa did not regard their competitors the LSSP and CP as the main enemies, but correctly attacked the UNP and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s precursor, the pro-Western, anti-national Sir John Kotelawela (whose ideological advisor was Ranil’s father, Esmond).

The SLPP’s “maestro” does not know what a real maestro, JR Jayewardene did when in the Opposition. JRJ knew that the coalitional character of the government of the day is not only a source of strength but also of weakness, and should be the “seam” or “fault line” that that numerically weaker Opposition should tactically focus on opening up, thereby causing an implosion, while strategically focusing on rebranding, repositioning and (re)building one’s own party as a powerful grassroots movement.

The SLPP counter-argument may be that the Sirisena SLFP is propping up the UNP, which was not the case with the LSSP and CP in the 1950s when the SLFP was launched. True, but when JRJ split the UF Coalition as a prelude to his landslide in 1977, he didn’t target the LSSP-CPSL as main enemy because they were a powerful prop of the SLFP, but instead drew the LSSP and CP out of the coalition while targeting the duo Felix Dias Bandaranaike and Mrs. B as the main enemy. An intelligent strategist would not attack the prop but deprive the enemy of it by detaching it and drawing it away from the enemy it is propping up! An intelligent strategist would also realize that the SLFP in government should not be targeted as the enemy but should be treated as allies, and converted into a Fifth Column waging a guerrilla war of attrition in the government camp, behind the UNP’s lines.

Basil Rajapaksa knows that if the elected Executive Presidential system remains there will have to be a common Opposition candidate at the next election; one whom all factions of the SLFP agree on. Whether the candidate is or isn’t a Rajapaksa, it sure won’t be Basil. No wonder then that the SLPP is fudging the issue of the UNP’s constitutional power grab i.e. the effort to transfer power from Sirisena to Ranil via the abolition of the executive Presidency.

Mahinda himself cannot run, but he won’t mind too much as long as the candidate is a Rajapaksa, because as PM he will have more power than ever before (thanks to the 19th amendment) and will be treated with more respect by the next President than Madam Bandaranaike was when she was PM and CBK was President. He is ambivalent on the abolition of the Presidency not on his own account but because of the complications of balancing the interests of all the political players of two generations within the family—which was the real motivation for the counterproductive 18th amendment (abolishing terms limits) anyway.

The SLPP strategists appear to think that a possible intervention by President Sirisena to recompose the government, ousting Ranil and the Right and effecting a centrist realignment under Presidential auspices would retard the chances of a landslide in 2020. They think that retaining Ranil undisturbed till 2020 would help a backlash and an avalanche. They forget several factors. Firstly, the Presidential election comes before the parliamentary election and a Presidential candidate is an imperative. A split in the anti-UNP vote could mean a victory for the UNP candidate supported by the minorities. Secondly, the UNP’s ongoing sell-off of the country would leave very little to inherit in 2020 except a rump Sri Lankan state. Therefore exploring to the maximum any possibility of an intermediate, interimand transitional solution, a re-set of the political equation, is in the national interest.

If that doesn’t work out, then a “Jathika Virodatha Dinaya” (Day of National Protest), a “Samastha Maha Veda Varjanaya” (General Strike), a “pipireema” (explosion) and “Peraliya”(overturn) – to use terms that are currently in the public political discourse–and are not only inevitable but could also prove our country’s salvation.

Meanwhile, “Stop handing Trincomalee to India!” should be the key slogan of the JO’s May Day 2017 at Galle Face Green, and every citizen who is opposed to giving Trincomalee to the Indians should be urged to be present on that day at that venue.

10 Responses to “SLFP & SLPP: enemies, rivals or allies? MAY DAY 2017”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Dividing SLFP is giving UNP an easy win.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    The joint opposition should come out of the wood work and form a new party so that they can forge ahead unencumbered by Sirisena, the current two timing SLFPers, the fence sitters, the Choura Ragina and many other undesirables.

    Gota’s Vyath Maga should point the way to a new paradigm and strong new patriotic political party which can attract patriotic voters, educated and learned leaders from both the SLFP and the UNP. SLFP is dead as Dodo and longer Mahinda faction waits it will only cause despondency and apathy in the rank and file patriotic voters.

    There are enough unpatriotic issues that can be brought to the surface to malign both the current SLFP and the UNP. We can never rely on the minorities to lead our motherland to stable politics. This is the lesson of nearly 70 years of post independence politics in Sri Lanka. It is they who deprived Sri Lanka’s march to progress.

    This notion has been proven right time and again. In 2010 they voted for Sarath Fonseka in spite of him being the Army Chief in large part responsible for the on the ground Victory over Terrorism at Nandi Kadal. In 2015 they voted for Sirisena hardly known by any of their voters – the Tamils and the Muslims. On both these occasion they voted in the directions pointed out by their leaders with a view to destabilise the existing establishment.

    Only a combination of SLFP and UNP patriots can form the foundation for a stable Sri Lanka.

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Dayan is correct in his last 4 paragraphs.

    But the others are not. Basil cannot enter parliament due to his US citizenship. Surely he won’t settle for a provincial council or pradeshiya sabha job. Therefore, his aim is the presidency. It is obvious he will lose very badly if he runs for president. He was very unsuccessful as UNP Hambantota District organiser in 1980s, failed as a DUNF advisors in early 1990s and as SLFP national organiser and Gampaha District organiser saw the worst electoral collapse in Sri Lankan history (2010 August to 2015 January). JO must not field him.

    JO can win the presidential election alone provided it fields a nationalist with strong nationalist promises. Dayan will never support such policies. If Sirisena contests with UNP support, SLFP voters will reject him. If the two contest alone, Ranil will be unable to win 50% and a follow-up contest between Ranil and the JO candidate will edge out Ranil.

    I agree the JO and SLPP slogan should be “Stop handing Trincomalee to India!” but not “Stop handing Hambantota to China!”. However, I doubt they will be specific on India.

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    Ratnapala,

    I doubt that there are any PATRIOTS left in the UNP.

    The current crop of UNPers seem to be self-serving jawaram-karayas who could not care less about most things patriotic.

    My father was a UNP stalwart during the days when the UNP represented the patriotic voice of newly independent Sri Lanka.

    That UNP is, unfortunately, DOES NOT EXIST ANYMORE!

    The current UNP was so unpatriotic that could not even support the war effort that reunified our Motherland and was a major impediment to winning the war!

    The Republican and Democratic parties of the USA bloody each other in politics, but join together to defend the country when it is threatened.

    In stark contrast, the current UNP would join the enemy!

    What a pity that a once great party has descended so low!

  5. Ratanapala Says:

    Ananda,,

    I agree, but we need to do politics in Sri Lanka.

    I am desperately hoping that there are at least a majority of Buddhist UNPers who can see through the Christian Ranil’s masquerade n how much harm he has brought n now planning to bring to our beloved land.

    This is why I am hoping Gota can make the difference n take Sri Lanka out of the man-made quagmire we have got into. Only way out is to have a government unencumbered by minority machinations. It is the unquenchable minority demands that is ruining Sri Lanka.

    The Buddhist majority from both the SLFP n UNP must see this reality to save Sri Lanka.

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    Ratanapala,

    GR is NOT allowed to come to politics by MR, NR, SR and BR.

    Over 1 million Singhala voters are in the MIDDLE EAST and cannot vote. The others will have to vote in LARGE numbers to GR to make him win.

    UNP has the advantage of minorities – 30%.

    IF SLFP is divided SINGHALA BUDDHIST voters will be divided. Minorities will be EVEN MORE powerful. This is why JO must WORK WITH (not work against) Sira. IF Sira dies, then OK but will not happen.

    I AGREE with Dayan.

  7. Christie Says:

    “She seems willing to go as far as fusion, which means turning the clock back to pre-1951 and her father’s rupture with the UNP.”

    Dayan; Both rupture and fusion, work of India and Indian Colonial Parasites.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    China & H’thota and INDIA & Trinco :

    Ought to be always govt to govt deals with clear cut terms – no ambiguity.

    NO sale, only leases.

    Bear in mind that INDIA has already acted harshly toward Lanka if and when Lanka drifts toward too much of ex-Colonial powers. Parts of INDIA suffered greatly under colonisation – that fact has to be understood by all Lankan leaders, particularly the ‘Crash & Sell’ crowd.

  9. Christie Says:

    Fran India gained so much from the British=Indian Empire partnership. In fact India was made by the British.

  10. Ratanapala Says:

    Chritie,

    I agree with Christie. India is a British construct and there was no India before the British unified all the fiefdoms and the remnants of the Mogul Empire. India is a severely bastardised country without a soul or a proper identity, now in the hands of big business. While the middle India is getting rich the poor in India are getting poorer by the day – but then that is their problem!

    Patriots in Sri Lanka must not let the Indians dip their ‘always soiled’ hands into Sri Lanka!

    Lorenzo,

    Sri Lanka must go for ‘broke’ this time and carryout an island wide campaign to sensitive the Buddhists in both the SLFP and the UNP to the need to bring Gota as the President. By that time we also need a good, educated, experienced and committed advisory group to keep Gota on the correct path. Going by the current polling Sirisena group will have no place to stand. In fact Sirisena is a nobody except for the position he got into – mainly decided by the minority votes in the North, East and elsewhere.

    We can never rely on the minorities. The current problems in Sri Lanka are due to the insatiable demands of the minorities who are always asking for more. Both the Racist Tamils and the Muslims want the whole of Sri Lanka for themselves and the Sinhalese as their slaves!

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