YAHAPALANA ELECTIONS AND ‘REGIME CHANGE’ Part 3
Posted on August 23rd, 2017

KAMALIKA PIERIS

There is deep dissatisfaction with the Yahapalana government. People are asking what kind of change have we got, observed Sinharaja Tammita Delgoda in January 2017.  He reports the reaction of one dissatisfied voter. Sisira had been driving a bus for the last 15 years. Although he was from the deep south, he had voted against Rajapaksa in the last two elections. Now look! I wish I had never done it. Nothing is happening! Two years later they are still saying it is Mr. Mahinda’s fault. Development? What development? The only things they are doing are the things that Mahinda started,  said Sisira.

Razeen Sally, Chairman, Institute of Policy studies, compared the Rajapaksa administration and Yahapalana administration. Razeen Salley said that the former in spite of waste, corruption and irregularities at every level was able to achieve development objectives whereas the present day UNP-SLFP coalition was struggling.  Yahapalana government hadn’t been able to achieve even the basic requirements. He criticized the government heavily for the shocking state of mismanagement at every level and further rapid deterioration of the national economy for want of proper strategy.

In 2014, we had a government with one powerful head. It was doing alright as it had managed to eliminate terrorism, overcoming huge obstacles, local and foreign. A feat no other government in the world has been able to do, said N.A. de S Amaratunge.       Then    that head launched a massive development project that took the country into the fast track of growth with all economic parameters showing positive values. Roads, electricity, and water visibly reached the four corners of the country. New harbors and redundant airports were built. Employment, inflation, GDP, foreign exchange rate went down. Corruption and nepotism were rampant, but things were better than what we have now.

What do we have now, asked Amaratunge. There is rampant corruption and nepotism but no development. Earlier we had corruption and nepotism but also development. The present government has betrayed the country in co- sponsoring the UN resolution with the US. Development projects started by the earlier government have been stopped.  Ministry of Agriculture has rented a building unnecessarily for Rs 20 million, luxury vehicles for the MPs. The imperialist powers have succeeded in getting the UNP back to destabilize the country; UNP obligingly follows their dictates to the detriment of security, constitution, economy and sovereignty of the country, Amaratunge concluded.

Public animosity to Yahapalana was shown through political demonstrations. These started as mammoth ‘pro- Mahinda rallies’ drawing crowds of about 200-300 monks and about 700-800 laymen. The first was ‘Mahinda sulanga’ rally in Nugegoda in February 2015. Then came the Matara meeting of June 2015. There was much open opposition to American and Indian meddling in Sri Lanka. There was a clenched fist oath taken at this meeting to protect the nation against enemies within and without.

The Joint Opposition rally on March 17, 2016 at Hyde Park in Colombo, became a ‘bring back Mahinda rally. ‘  The audience overflowed on to the roads around and Rajapakse was given a great welcome.  The ‘bring back Mahinda’ movement as it progressed became an opposition movement which was barreling along on its own regardless of whether Mahinda was there or not, observed Chandraprema.

On May Day 2016 the biggest May Day rally was at Kirulapone. The entire High Level Road, all four lanes from near the Kirulapone public market to and beyond the Y junction was one sea of heads and so tightly packed that no one could get through, said Chandraprema. The   crowd has accumulated up to Baseline road.  All four lanes of Baseline road was also a sea of heads.  This was the biggest crowd ever to assemble at a political rally anywhere in Colombo within living memory, Chandraprema concluded.

The Joint Opposition’s Pada Yatra from Kandy to Colombo,    from      28 July to 1 August 2016 made political history. The country has not seen anything like this before, reported Island. The march attracted massive numbers. It could not have been any bigger given the population of the country. People walked distances that nobody would walk in normal circumstances. It is a grueling and exhausting form of protest but the crowd that participated was larger than at most political meetings.  There were more than 1.5 million participants in the Pada Yatra said observers.  Many Muslims were seen in the march flowing into Colombo. They joined the Pada Yatra from Kegalle, Mawanella and Thihariya.

At Kiribathgoda, on the last day, police had cleared three lanes. People were walking 25-30 abreast from pavement to the centre fence and the entire road was full of them. It took an hour for the procession to pass one point. The pavements and the balconies of houses had supporters, waving away. Others had prepared refreshments for the participants and were busy serving them.  Rajapakse could be seen waving to his supporters in a regal manner. He had to. They were directly cheering him, not simply urging on a procession. Both at Kandy and at Kiribathgoda, there was a mass of protesters who were assembled ahead and they joined the procession on their own and went ahead of the pilot vehicles.

There were academics  medical specialists, trade unionists, farmers, workers, teachers and artistes in the procession. The whole of Lipton Circus was one sea of heads.  There were about 50,000 to 60,000 which is politically significant said Kumar David. While Rajapaksa was speaking at Lipton Circus, the crowd also was yelling on its own, about VAT, ECTA, cost of living.  They were not quietly listening to Rajapakse and applauding, as audiences are expected to do. They were   protesting on their own. That was what they had come to do, not to listen to speeches.  This, I think, is something new in the local rallies. When Rajapaksa asked who is benefiting from the paddy issue, the crowd shouted ‘Araliya’ the brand name of a rice miller in Polonnaruwa who   has links with the government.

The crowd at the Joint Opposition rally held in Nugegoda in January 2017 was huge. The fact that there was such a turnout despite overcast skies the whole day and torrential rains in many parts of the country was telling, said Chandraprema. The large crowd at Nugegoda showed the unpopularity of the present government.  Unlike at previous such meetings that this writer has observed, continued Chandraprema, this was an uncommunicative and almost unfriendly crowd. Attempts to engage people in conversation elicited only grunts and monosyllables. Everybody wanted to listen to the speeches that were being made even though nothing new was being said.

At previous meetings, people did not seem to have come to listen to speeches but to express solidarity with a cause. But this time, people were very serious, with hardly a smile on their faces. They were listening to the speeches as if their lives depended on it. A request to raise their hands and cheer elicited a single minded response even from the fringes of the crowd on the Nawala and Pagoda Roads with people lustily bellowing their allegiance to the cause. Each person seemed to be bound to the stage, not to his fellows around him.

Then came the pro-Rajapakse May Day rally of 2017 on Galle Face Green. This rally was larger than anything seen before. The crowd was well over 100,000. It is possible that Galle Face was given as venue to Rajapakse on the instructions of the west, as the west wished to see the true support for the Joint Opposition and Rajapakse.

What we saw on May Day, 2017 was a phenomenon that no one has ever seen in this country, said Chandraprema. The Galle Face green, the broad walkway on the seaside and the main road were just one sea of heads from the Galle Face Hotel to the Bandaranaike statue on the other side of the esplanade and beyond, said Chandraprema. There were people lining the road up to the roundabout near the Kingsbury and Galadari hotels. The crowds had come in private coaches and smaller vehicles since state run buses were not given to them. There was a broad cross section of society, including professionals, doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants   Many of the protesters feel that they brought this on themselves by voting for this government, observed Chandraprema.

The parallel UNP May Day rally in Campbell Park, had turnout of 45,000 whilst at the Getambe   Yahapalana rally the turnout was around 40,000. This means that the crowds at Galle Face Green were more than both the UNP and the pro-Maithripala SLFP crowds put together. the Getambe rally had the usual long faces, unlike the enthusiastic crowd at Rajapakse rally.

That the large turnout at the Galle Face Green last Monday has come as a wakeup call to the Government is in no doubt. There is also little doubt, judging by their reactions, that both the SLFP and the UNP are shaken by the developments, reported Sunday Times. Yahapalana accepted that the rally showed that there is anti-Government feeling in the country, noted Chandraprema. The fact that they were able to muster a vast crowd and have a good media strategy makes them a force to reckon with. it demonstrated the anti-Government feeling in the country” It shows that people were fed up with this Government which has imposed great hardships on them.

An organized opposition to Yahapalana is starting. ‘Political watch’ observed in June 2016 that an  opposition force which does not even have a name is gaining ground while the JVP, UNP and the Sirisena controlled SLFP are losing ground. This opposition is coming in from two opposite sides, political and non-political.

The political dimension is seen in the Sri Lanka Podujana Party formed to contest future elections. This party is just a year old, yet they have already broken all records as a crowd puller, not once but on multiple occasions, in different locations, said Chandraprema. Galle Face May day rally being the most impressive show of strength yet. Podujana activists are holding meetings in different parts of the island. Ada Derana news of 22.7.17 and 23.7.17 showed two such meetings. the first Podujana outstation branch was in Ratnapura. The entire political future of this country is being determined by a political force that has taken shape outside the main political parties of the country said Chandraprema.

There are ‘non-political’ movements too. A centre called National Assets Protecting Centre was started at Abhayarama, Narahenpita in February, 2017, by the Joint Opposition. Setting up a centre and creating a movement to protect public assets at this moment is the need of the hour as the government has lined up several state ventures to sell or privatize, the Opposition said.

‘Viyathmaga’ is a network of academics, professionals, and entrepreneurs who love this country and wish to contribute actively towards its development. Viyathmaga said it was a civil society movement, not a political organization.  It has members of all communities.   Viyathmaga calls on professionals, academics, intellectuals and entrepreneurs to join them and become a force that guides the country, irrespective of party politics.

We formed Viyathmaga because our highly-talented professionals, academics and entrepreneurs lack the opportunity to speak out, said Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. If the present government overlooks our views, we will contribute our expertise to the next government. Viyathmaga is growing into a forceful professional body today, he concluded.

Other professionals agreed. We doctors are ready to share our expertise, but we don’t get the opportunity, said ENT Surgeon Arambepola.  Viyathmaga has opened the door for us. Viyathmaga has   held a series of successful conferences in Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Kandy, Galle, Matara and Kuliyapitiya in 2016. Viyathmaga has branches in Italy and Switzerland.

Viyathmaga, as one would expect, deals in hard facts. FCID could be established only on an order from the Defence Minister, who is also the President of the country. The IGP has no authority to create the FCID, said lawyer Dolawatta . A Viyathmaga publication written by Prof Janitha Liyanage, S.R.D. Rosa, Raja Guneratne, Jayampathi Molligoda and Shermila Rajapakse  has a detailed analysis of Yahapalana economics.[i]

We have seen the 2017 budget, said Viyathmaga in its home page. Telecommunication is now one of the highest taxed industries. There is 25% Telecommunication Levy 3% NBT 2% Cess 4% NBT 15% VAT 2016. International Telecommunication Operator Levy (ITOL) has increased from USD Cents 9 to USD Cents 12 and total increase is to be credited to the Consolidated Fund.

Viyathmaga strongly supports Mahinda Rajapakse. Viyathmaga publication ‘Conflict and Stability’ drew attention to several anti-Mahinda actions of the Yahapalana government .These included the removal of information on development activities during the period 2009 – 2015 in some ministry websites, removal of plaques which recorded the work of the  Rajapaksa government ,   taking   credit for development activity commenced by the previous Government, adopting a relentless propaganda campaign against the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family with ‘unfounded and exaggerated allegations of corruption and misgovernment as a part of a strategic plan to undermine the popularity of the former President’. [ii]

 

Viyathmaga emphasizes the need for strong leadership. Kamil Hussein,   President of the Tiles and Sanitary-ware Importers Association, said financial giants like Shangri-La came into Sri Lanka due to presence of a strong leadership. They invested in Sri Lanka because of the confidence they had in the political leadership. He said the country needed a strong leadership, which could take effective and timely decisions and also has the vision and passion to build investor confidence. [1] We need a strong leader, who is able to take correct decisions, listen to experts and implement their ideas, agreed Arambepola.

‘Viyath Maga’ annual convention was held at the Golden Rose in Boralesgamuwa in March 2017. This was not open to the public and was not advertised on Facebook or on any of the websites or the mainline media. It was just representatives of the membership of the organization which was started barely a year ago, reported Chandraprema. Usually an AGM of an organization is followed by a relaxed dinner where people listen to speeches, sitting around dinner tables. This however was different. The Viyath Maga AGM resembled a Nugegoda rally inside a ballroom. The enormous ballroom was packed wall to wall with row upon row of chairs and it was filled to capacity with standing room only. The corridors and walkways were also full, approximating an audience of about 2,000,  added another commentator.

The audience consisted predominantly of young professionals, academics and businessmen, both male and female.  The attendance records  showed that there were 185 doctors, 103 lawyers, 47 engineers, 46 accountants and 57 university academics, not to mention the other categories such corporate executives, artists, marketers, IT professionals, architects, journalists, hoteliers, businessmen, school teachers and principals etcetera  who attended in large numbers.

The excitement amongst the crowd was electrifying and the deliveries of the speakers were excellent. The key message of the Viyath Maga Convention was that the professionals of this country should play a more active role in planning and implementing the national policies. This was highlighted by speaker after speaker and finally endorsed even by the chief guest of the event.  This shows that Viyath Maga has made an impact on the public mindset within a short period of time, providing independent professional input towards the much-needed political, sociological and economic policy formulation.  The fact that they have come so far in such a short time, is a sign of the times.  The impact and landmark nature of the Viyath Maga annual convention is discernible in the coverage given to it in the media, said Dayan Jayatilleke.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa Prof. G.L. Peiris, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Gamini Lokuge, Pavitra Wanniarachchi, Udaya Gammanpila, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema and Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri were present at the Convention. ( continued)

 

 

[i]  The authors say that the   Sirisena- Wickremesinghe administration has caused massive economic turmoil. They have listed 12 causes of the current economic downturn. They say the previous government had been successful in sustained fiscal consolidation during 2010-2014 period. They faulted the present government for the alarming increase in local and foreign borrowing, approximately USD3.1 million had been borrowed through Sri Lanka development bonds from March 2015- May 2015 whereas only USD 1.500 had been borrowed between 2011 and 2014. Yahapalana has caused massive crisis while accusing the previous government of  manipulating the data. The Super Gains tax imposed by the present government had caused grave concerns among major private sector investors, leading to a crisis in the stock market. The 100 day administration had wasted foreign reserved in the run-up to August general elections thereby transforming a healthy BOP balance of payments surplus of USD1.3 million in 2014 to a deficit of USD 1.489 in 2015. The government had also failed to profit from the plummeting price of  crude oil. [i] ( Island 15.8.16 p 3 )

 

[ii] The primary reason for the writers to embarking presenting this document, said the text,  was to give a clear account to the public and the international community who could have been misled, of the actual security and economic situation that prevailed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces at the commencement of presidency of President Rajapaksa in November 2005 and to describe the dedication and dynamism displayed by him and his Government to usher in peace and stability. In addition this document showcases and enlightens the reader the unprecedented development which took place post-conflict in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces with massive funds pledged and expended towards this goal. It also highlights the strategies adopted in eliminating and reducing the distrust between communities as normally experienced in societies emerging from a long drawn conflict and the process adopted by the Government to transform the lives of majority of the people living in Northern and Eastern Provinces to what it is today from virtually nothing.

 

 

 

 

5 Responses to “YAHAPALANA ELECTIONS AND ‘REGIME CHANGE’ Part 3”

  1. Christie Says:

    Ceylon the Indian Colony run by three million Indian colonists. They are doing well.

  2. Christie Says:

    ඉන්දියානු අදිරදයේ කොලනියක් වන තිස් ලක්ශයකට වඩා වැඩි ඉන්දියානු කොලනිවාසීන් විසින් පාලනය කරන ඉන්දියානු යටත්විජිතයේ මුල් වැසියෝ එකිනෙකා කුලල් කාගනිති. ඇයි සින්හල අපි අපි කුලලල් කාගන්නේ කියා විපරම් කර බලාන්න. අපි බනින්නෙත් ගරහන්නෙත් සින්හලයන්ටය. මම කියන දේ ගැන සිතා බලන්න. ඔබේ අදහස් දක්වන්න.

    Ceylon the Indian Colony run by three million Indian colonists. They are doing well. We are fighting among ourselves like the oppressed in any society.

    Please think why do our leaders behave like that they do and why do we blame them one or the other. How come we are divided. Please think of what I am saying and respond.

  3. SA Kumar Says:

    Christie

    this We-Kallathoni three million Indian colonists kicked out IPKF even though they have offered NEP in gold plate not You Mother Lankan 15 million !!!

    We can not blame next door hand same man for my wife run away from me .

  4. dingiri bandara Says:

    In order not to give reasons for attempting to for privatization, the employees of these organizations need along with administration need to work hard and honestly. Like some employees seem to think, they are paid to come work and work not only to come to work.
    The authorities also need make it possible for people to come to work by providing a decent trans port and and provide a non hostile working environment without any political interference.

  5. Christie Says:

    Indian Colonial Parasites are not Kallathonis. They are colonists who went with the British. The best example is Mahatma Gandhi who made his fortunes in South Africa.

    Indian imperialists send in IPKF to provide live training to its terrorists the LTTE.

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