THE POHOTTUWA IS IN DANGER OF LOSING THE LG ELECTIONS
Posted on January 26th, 2018

DHARSHAN WEERASEKERA, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW

The People of Sri Lanka are thoroughly frustrated with the present Government and the way the country is being run.  The Pohottowa is an option towards which they can turn in order to change what is happening.  However, the Pohottuwa cannot take such support for granted and must make a compelling argument as to why people ought to embrace it.  Unfortunately, the Pohottuwa has not done this so

Instead, it is relying on a set of stock arguments for which Maithripala Sirisena has good counters.  Meanwhile, Sirisena is using a clever tactic – i.e. the Bond Scam and the public’s demand that the culprits be punished – to project himself as a ‘reformer’ and ask the public to give him the time and the mandate to mete out such punishment.  In short, he is trying to distract the public from the real issue that is at the heart of this election.

Sirisena’s SLFP does not have to clobber the Pohottuwa – it cannot hope to do so in the first place – but if the Pohottuwa does not clobber the SLFP, the public will see it as a victory for Sirisena.  And this all that Sirisena needs at the moment.  He will take it as a reaffirmation of his purported ‘January 8th Mandate,’ and immediately push for the new Constitution.

I have argued in previous articles and repeat here that, a new Constitution will solve all of Sirisena’s (and friend Ranil’s) problems, because it will help them to extend their ‘reign’ past 2020.[1]  In this article, I shall briefly explain the Pohottuwa’s stock arguments, the replies that I think Sirisena can give to them, discuss what I think is really at stake in these elections, and the ‘Red Herring’ or distraction that Sirisena is using to confuse the public, and finally offer some recommendations.

THE ARGUMENTS

Mahinda Rajapaksa is the heart and soul of the Pohottuwa.  So, in order to find out the Pohottuwa’s stock arguments it suffices to study MR’s speeches on the campaign trail.  I have looked at a number of them, and to the best of my knowledge he makes six arguments.  He varies his emphasis one or the other of these arguments depending on the locale, but generally he touches on all six in any given speech.

The six are:  1) the skyrocketing cost of living; 2) the present Government has not done anything to develop the country but is merely completing projects that he started; 3) the present Government is determined to bring a new Constitution that will divide the country; 4) the economy is in shambles and crime is rampant; 5) the Bond Scam; and 6) Sirisena’s character, i.e. he cannot be trusted.

I focus here on a speech Rajapaksa had given in Hanguranketha and reported in the ‘Divaina’ of 22nd January 2018.  I shall first quote a few of MR’s words as reported in the article, and then the replies that I think Sirisena would make.  I should emphasize that the words I put in Sirisena’s mouth are not actually his.  They are what I think he or any reasonable person would say under the circumstances.  I have taken some poetic license with the translations.

Argument 1:  Skyrocketing cost of living

MR:  ‘Pol elavalu labhatha?  Athe salli thiyanavada?[2]

‘Are coconuts and vegetables cheap?  Do you have enough money [even to buy essentials]?

Sirisena:  ‘Ov, jeevana vivadama ihala gihin.  Namuth eka mage veraddhak nevei.  Mama Ranilta rate arthikaya bara dunna.  Eka thamai veraddha.  Mang then arthikaya aith mage athata aragena geevana viyadhama palanaya karanava’

‘Yes, the cost of living is high, but that is not my fault.  I handed over control of the economy to Ranil.  That was a bad idea.  From now on, I will be the one making the decisions on the economy.  I can then bring the skyrocketing cost of living under control.’

Argument 2:  Development

MR:  ‘Paarawal api heduwata passe haduwatha?  Game carpet para kohomada?  Ithin meyala kathava vitharai.  Nama amathaka vela kiyala mama hathapuwa avurudu thunakata passé vivurtha karanava.[3]

‘Did anyone build a road after us?  How is the carpeted road in your village?  These people can only talk.  They say that they forgot my name but after three years ceremonially open things (roads etc.) that I made.’

Sirisena:  ‘Ov, Mahinda Rajapaksage kale godak sanvardama veda una.  Hebai meka mathaka thiya ganne.  Mamath ekala Mahinda Rajapaksa arrnduwe kotas karuwek.  Sri lanka nithahas pakshey lekam lesa Mahinda Rajapaksa arndive sanvardana veda pilivelalata mama vishala deshapalana kalamanakaranayak dunna.  Mang kavadawath kiyuwe ne Mahinda Rajapaksa ugaye honda veda une ne kiyala.  Mata e rajaya epa une eke thibba dushanaya nisa. Ekata thamai mama thamath viruddha.

‘Yes, a lot of development work took place during the Rajapaksa era.  But, remember this.  I was an important member of the Rajapaksa Government.  As Secretary of the SLFP, I was instrumental in creating the political stability that was essential for such development to take place.  At any rate, I contributed my share to it.  I never said that, nothing good was ever done during the Rajapaksa years.  What made me turn against the Rajapaksa regime was its corruption.  It is what makes me despise that regime to this day.’

 Argument 3:  New Constitution

MR:  ‘Thavath venasakata kathiraya gahuwoth thunvana venesakata rata keli valata kadala dala illannne eelamata eha giya rata hadanda varamak.[4]

‘What they are asking for now, under the pretext of another mandate for ‘change’ is a mandate to break this country into pieces and to create a country that goes beyond even the fondest dreams of the Eelamists.’

Sirisena:  ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa bana katha karanava.  Eya rata bedana viyavasthavakata viruddhanam ai 2017 marthu 9 venida parlimetuva viyawasthadayaka sabhawak karana yojanawata atha issuwe?  Eya vitharak nevei eyage mulu kandamama?  Eyage minissu viyavastha dayaka kamitu vala digatama hitiya.  Ithin rata bedana monawa hari venevanam ei e kamitu vala digatama hitiye?  Aluth viyawasthavakata virudhanam ai swameevahansela kara vage apita than aluth viyavasthavak kisisethma oni ne kiyala thedi sthavarayak nogaththe?  Megolla hadanne egollonge patu deshapalana hethu mata ratata hondak kala heki viyavasthavak gene eke natara koranta.

‘Mahinda Rajapaksa is talking nonsense.  If he is opposed to a so-called ‘rata bedana’ Constitution why did he raise his hand on 9th March 2017 to the resolution that converted the entire Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly?  Not only him, but his entire group.  His men were in the various committees tasked with preparing the reports that were to be the basis for the new Constitution.  So, if these committees were formulating ways to ‘divide the country’ why did his men remain?  If he is truly opposed to a new Constitution why didn’t he take a firm stand against it from the start, like the venerable monks have done?  He is only interested in advancing his selfish political goals.  In order to advance those goals he will prevent the adoption of a Constitution that can do good to the entire country.’

Argument 4:  Economy

MR:  ‘Ada rata diha ballanta arthikaya kada vetila.  Tharunayanta rakiya ne.  Api goda thapu rata vinasha vela.[5]

‘Look at the country today.  The economy is in shambles.  Young men and women can’t find jobs.  The country that we hauled out of the mud is destroyed.’

Sirisena‘Ov, arrthikaya then vediya honda ne. hebai eka  mage veraddak nevei.  Mung isslella kiyuva vage mung ranilta arrthkaya bara dunna.  Mung hithuva eya vede hariata korai kiyala.  Den mamama me vede athata gannava.  Chandeta passé mama vede karala pennannam.’

‘Yes, the economy is not doing very well.  But that is not my fault.  As I said earlier, I let Ranil handle the economy.  I thought he would do a good job.  Now, I will take the economy into my own hands.  After the elections I’ll show you just what I can do.’

Argument 5:  Bond Scam

 

MR: ‘Mulu lokema bankuvakata mehema gahapu nayakayo ne….etha parlimetuva visireuve neththam mevani horakamak sithuvenne ne….Me horokamata vagakiyyane kavuda?  Ita passé komisamak damma Mahendran gena.  Report eka dunnnatath passé arpahu meya horakam kala.  Shuddha labe billion 9.  komisama dala thibbata passé meyava thiyaganeema nisa thavath padukala.[6]

‘In the whole world you can’t find leaders who have perpetrated a bank-heist like this one….If the Parliament was not dissolved at that time, a robbery like this could have been prevented….Who is responsible for this robbery?  Then they appointed a Commission to investigate Mahendran.  Even after the report was out, this man continued to rob.  The loss is 9 billion.  Because he (Mahendran) was allowed to continue working even after the Commission was appointed the loss was even greater.’

Sirisena:  ‘Mama badumkara vanchava gena hoyanna janathipathi commisamak path kara.  Eke varthava than evilla thiyenava.  Mama eka nithi pathi departhumentuvata yavala thienava.  Aparatha nadu thanne niti pathi.  Eka ekkena kiana vitihata mata puluvanda nadu thanna?  E kiyanne mata nithi pathitai athikaranayatai balapam korrotai kiyalatha?  E vidiha deval mama korranne ne.  Habei mama meka kiyyanam.  Mama than ‘Operation 2’ ekata bahinava.  E kiyanne badumkara vanchava vitharak nevei anith sialu vanchaval gane solaya balala eva karapu hamomo samajayenma athugala dala apayatama pannala danava.  Eka koranta mata thava tikak kal oni.  Echcharai.’

 

‘I appointed a Presidential Commission to investigate the Bond Scam.  The report of that Commission is now out.  I have referred that report to the Attorney general’s Department.  Criminal charges are filed by the AG’s Department.  Am I to file cases on the say-so of this or that person?  Does that mean I am to influence the AG’s Department and even the Judiciary of this country?  I don’t do such things.  But, let me say this.  I have now begun Operation 2.’  That is, I am going to hunt down not just the perpetrators of the Bond Scam, but all the scams that preceded it, and no matter who is responsible I’ll chase them out of society.  I’ll chase them to the very gates of hell if I have to.  But to do this I need some time, that’s all.’

Argument 6:  Sirisena’s character (the ‘Hopper Argument’)  

MR:  ‘Eya kavuda kiyanna avurudu gananak marth ekka hiti nisa dannava.  Minihata mage verathi pennila thienne arrppa kevata passé.[7]

‘I know what sort of man he is because I worked with him for many years.  It seems he recognized my faults only after he ate hoppers with me (i.e. he broke bread with me as a friend and then stabbed me in the back!)’

Sirisena:  ‘Ov, mama etha re Makinda Rajapaksa ekka eka mesa ithan arrpa kala anith davase eyata viruddava satanata bassa.  Habei eka kore mage hurda sakshiya annuva, ratata saha mulu sri lankiya janathawatama sevayak korranta.  Etha mama Mahinda Rajapaksage arrnduwen elitaya arve naththum e dushitha arrnduwa thama pavathinava.  Mama honda miniheks the naraka minihek the kiyala ithihasagnaya thiranay koravi.  Eka gena Mahinda Rajapaksata kalabalavenna oni ne.  Eyata thienne eyayi eyage vate hitiya minissui me ratata kalapu haniya gena hithala balanna.

‘Yes, that evening I sat at the same table with Mahinda Rajapaksa and munched on hoppers, and the next morning turned against him.  But I did that according to my conscience, in order to serve the country and the entire people of Sri Lanka.  If I didn’t take up the fight against Mahinda Rajapaksa that day, that corrupt regime will still be around.  It is up to historians to decide whether I was a good man or bad.  Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t have to worry about that.  He should instead reflect on the harm he and those around him did to this country.’

No doubt MR will have good rejoinders to Sirisena’s claims, but the point is this:  if we look at the two sets of arguments objectively, and especially from the perspective of an average Sri Lankan, say a villager or a government worker, MR’s and Sirisena’s arguments appear to balance each other out.  At any rate, MR does not have a clear-cut or overwhelming argumentative advantage over Sirisena.

To put it another way, if what is at stake in these elections are the points that MR raises, then Sirisena has little worry about.  He can give, as good as he gets.  So, why was he – indeed, why is he – terrified of facing elections?  To understand this, one must understand what is really at stake at these elections, and to that I turn next.

THE CENTRAL ISSUE IN THESE ELECTIONS, AND SIRISENA’S RED HERRING

In my view, the central issue in these elections is whether the SLFP vote-base will turn to the Pohottuwa.  If it does, Sirisena is finished. There’s no question of Sirisena betraying the SLFP:  he contested the Presidency as the candidate of choice of the UNP, so if he betrayed the SLFP it was in November 2015, that is, prior to the Presidential Elections.

The persons who have really betrayed the SLFP – indeed continue to do so – are the 45 or so SLFP MP’s  who contested the 2015 Parliamentary Elections under the UPFA banner and then at Sirisena’s behest formed a ‘National Government’ with the UNP.  Sirisena’s control over these 45 MP’s makes it possible for him – and Ranil – to do whatever they want in Parliament, and is in fact the reason for all the governmental problems that have happened during the past two years.

In short, those 45 MP’s have allowed Sirisena to hijack the SLFP.  What Sirisena dreads most is that, at an election, the SLFP voter will remember the aforesaid fact.  If he does, he will vote against the SLFP and for the Pohottuwa, because there’s no other option.  So, Sirisena has to find a way to make the SLFP voter forget what those 45 SLFP MP’s in the ‘National Government’ have done and are continuing to do to the Party.

How will Sirisena accomplish this task?  In my view, he has decided to resort to the mother of all Red Herrings, namely, to call fire down on himself and his closest ally (Ranil) in order to let his 45 henchman escape alive to fight another day.  Sirisena is executing his plan in two steps, as follows:

  1. First, he throws an epic tantrum in the Cabinet, berates everyone, and says in effect that, he let Ranil make all the important economic decisions for the country including appointing the CB Governor along with the Finance Minister, that he (Sirisena) regrets doing this and is now going to use his full executive powers in order to bring the culprits including presumably Ranil to justice.[8]
  2. He follows up the last point in a subsequent speech at a political rally, where he vows to dedicate his Presidency – indeed his very life – to hunting down all criminals, fraudsters and cheats (including especially the Bond Scam culprits) and eradicate corruption from this land.[9]

How will an SLFP voter react when he hears of Sirisena’s antics above?  I submit the following surmises are reasonable.  First, if the voter is a hardcore SLFP’er, that is, someone who already loathes Sirisena, he will say something like this:

‘What a lying sack of sh..!  Without Sirisena, Ranil could never have done what he did.  All of Ranil’s important decisions on the economy were put to the Cabinet, and later to Parliament.  Without Sirisena’s support those measures will never have got the nod either in the Cabinet or the Parliament.  Now, he wants to put everything on Ranil and escape scot free!’  ’

Second, if the voter is a ‘moderate’ SLFP’er, that is, someone who still thinks that Sirisena is ‘basically a decent chap, albeit one who has bitten off more than he can chew,’ he will think something like this:

‘Whatever Sirisena’s faults may be, Ranil is the real culprit behind the Bond Scam.  It’s Ranil and the UNP that have benefitted entirely from it.  But, Ranil will sacrifice Ravi (Karunanayake) or some other patsy and get away.  It may be, Sirisena has finally grown a backbone.  So, why not give him a chance to bring Ranil to book?’

I do not say that the above two positions exhaust the sentiments of SLFP’ers towards Sirisen’s antics, but the point is this.  If Sirisena can get SLFP’ers riled up over questions such as:

  1. How can we show that Sirisena is ultimately responsible for the Bond Scam?
  2. How can we show that Ranil is the real culprit behind the scam?
  3. What are all the ways in which Ranil can slip away without ever being held to account (for the scam)?
  4. Can we trust Maithri to bring Ranil to book?

To that extent Sirisena distracts the SLFP voter.  And to the extent that he can deflect attention away from what his 45 MP’s have done to the Party, to that extent he makes the SLFP voter forget that the Party has been hijacked.  He hopes that, by pulling the wool over the eyes of SLFP’ers in this way, he will be able to get even a moderate number of those SLFP’ers to vote for the Party on 10th February 2018.  A moderate number is all he needs.

RECOMMENDATIONS

I hope my forebodings above are misplaced, and the Pohottuwa cruises to a resounding victory over the SLFP.  The stakes for the country are simply too high to wish for anything else.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to take precautions against potential disasters.  Sirisena is a formidable adversary.  He has twice out-maneuvered – or rather duped – Rajapaksa.  Rajapaksa has to make sure he doesn’t get taken for a ride again.

Rajapaksa has to sharpen his message to its keenest edge.  He has to hammer home to SLFP voter the single point:  A VOTE FOR THE SLFP THIS TIME IS A VOTE FOR THE UNP.

He should also play on the visceral hatred that many SLFP’ers have for Sirisena’s ‘45.’  At rallies, he should parade large cut-outs of the most prominent, or rather the most hated, of Sirisena’s men, including the ones who were rejected by the voters in 2015 (precisely because they were seen as being Sirisena’s henchmen) and yell – or have one of his undercard speakers yell:  ‘How much longer will you let these baboons thumb their noses at you!’

Then, he should say something like this:

‘Me chanden theeranaya venne ranilui maithrii 2025 venethek innavada nedda kiyana eka.  Bond scam gena then katha karala vedak ne ranilui maithrii balaye inna kang.  Ekko mama, nathnam sirisena.  Onna oya tika theeranaya karapalla. Umbalata sirisenava onnimum minihava thora ganilla.  Habeei eka deyak kiyannam. Sirisena umbalage balaporottu kadakappal karala dammoth, aimath mage pitipasse anda anda enna epa.  Umbalage veradde vipake umbalama bukthi vindapalla.  Onna ochcharai kathava.

[1] See for instance, The JO will betray the Sinhalas again re the new Constitution,’ Dharshan Weerasekera, 30th October 2017, www.lankaweb.com

[2] ‘Ranil and Maithri can yell at the top of their lungs, we are not scared,’ Udaya B. Yativella and A. M. Aththanayake, Divaina, 22nd January 2018, p.18

[3] Divaina, 22nd January 2018, p.18

[4] Divaina, 22nd January 2018, p.18

[5] Divaina, 22nd January 2018, p.18

[6] Divaina, 22nd January 2018, p.18

[7] Divaina, 22nd January 2018, p.18

[8] I am relying on the account of the tantrum reported in the ‘Mawbima’ of 21st January 2018, p.8

[9] I am relying on the article in the Daily Mirror of 20th January 2018 titled, ‘Will step down after sending corrupt to hell.’  P.1

8 Responses to “THE POHOTTUWA IS IN DANGER OF LOSING THE LG ELECTIONS”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Very good argument. But I don’t think most here can take it. SLPP’s sole charge is the faults of this regime. They have nothing to offer. This approach can take you somewhere but not to national leadership. JVP always use this tactic. But JVP never offers anything constructive and people know where to keep them.

    However, for a “new” party, SLPP will do very well. SLPP will easily defeat Sirisena’s SLFP. But that is not the end of the story. Unless elected LG members toe the government line, the government will bypass them. This will force crossovers to the government side after the election.

    There is another aspect forgotten by most. Pro-Mahinda people in LGs will lose wholesale. In 2011 pro-Mahinda people absolutely dominated almost all LGs outside the north and east. They will lose most. This is the key thing of this election. The collapse of relative power of Mahinda in LGs. UNP will enormously gain new seats they don’t have at the moment. JVP will follow. SLFP is a small party struggling to remain relevant. It is this change (from 2011) that matters most. That will determine the relative grassroots level power at the PC election.

    To put it another way, in 2015 when Mahinda went to election, he had 155 MPs, 8 out of 9 PCs and almost all LGs outside the north-east. His party will have far fewer when it goes to the 2019 election. This can be changed if above recommendations are followed and people are offered some constructive positive than just the faults of this regime which voters already know. Absence of Gotabaya is also taking a toll. He is in USA after taking a court order delaying his arrest by the FCID. He has to argue and win his case. It cannot be postponed indefinitely. Media statements are not a replacement for court action.

  2. aloy Says:

    The prez is responsible for making SL a lawless country where nothing works properly. He came to power with UNP to catch thieves three years ago but none has been caught so far and put in jail. Instead of jailing the likes of Basil he and his party has allowed them to do politics from a different party again thinking that they will protect him when the former thieves come to power.
    Once patriotic party founded by DS has been turned to be a Bank robber party. They should be ashamed to come forward again ask for votes without at least asking those responsible to step aside; they have been identified by a proper legal process. The prez is unable to do anything and is only shouting. Meanwhile the destructive elements of our country are making use of UNP to achieve what they could not get even with a thirty year war. To diehard UNPers I say, if you love your party do not vote for it this time around. wait until you get a patriotic leader.

  3. ranjit Says:

    What ever said and done pohottuwa will definitely win this coming elections. Mahinda is the only leader we can trust at the moment nobody else. How much Sira try to be like a lion he is only a pussycat. He barks loudly like a stray doge but nobody listens or cares because for three years he did nothing to this country. He and Ranil both ruined the economy, culture and the peace we had after winning the war. His heart is evil although he says I am a good buddhist. He and Ranil both playing a game with the same old stories they uttered during Jan 8th elections. He is a very low quality person who hasn’t any vision for the country. Both these rulers bad example for the country. After they came to power our country became a lawlessness country with drugs, prostitution, murders and accidents etc. People must unite to send them for retirement before they take our country towards a failed state.

  4. Christie Says:

    What this government is doing is what India and Indian Colonial Parasites are asking them to do.

    Look at Sirasa; attacking Bond Scam Thief Mahendran and portraying Sirisena the Chief Indian puppet with his sword.

    L G Polls are not an important issue. It is interesting to note how this government delayed it to mislead us to think it is important.

    Indians and Indian Colonial Parasites know how to play the game with the Sinhalese.

  5. SA Kumar Says:

    What ever said and done pohottuwa will definitely win this coming elections.- No , SLFP won’t get not even 10% votes .

  6. Charles Says:

    Dharshan, I have same thoughts , ” I hope my forebodings above are misplaced, and the Pohottuwa cruises to a resounding victory over the SLFP. The stakes for the country are simply too high to wish for anything else. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to take precautions against potential disasters. Sirisena is a formidable adversary. He has twice out-maneuvered – or rather duped – Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa has to make sure he doesn’t get taken for a ride again.

    Rajapaksa has to sharpen his message to its keenest edge. He has to hammer home to SLFP voter the single point: A VOTE FOR THE SLFP THIS TIME IS A VOTE FOR THE UNP.

    He should also play on the visceral hatred that many SLFP’ers have for Sirisena’s ‘45.’ ”

    Of course this is not a general election, nevertheless , it is the only election at which the differences could be hammered out., and make the voter at least -the mass of the voters out side Colombo. get the message and understand that it is not only Sirisena but the 45 others with him, who have betrayed the SLFP voter, therfore they should turn to Pohottuva to get rid of the 45 along with Sirisena who betrayed the SLFP creeping back to UNP and the reactionary camp.

    I hope you could get this message to MR, perhaps sit with him and beat the arguments onto him.

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    How many commentators have DONE ELECTION WORK?

    Whenever the SLFP was DIVIDED UNP always WON. This is the REALITY.

    SLFP President Sirisena has the MOST POWER, Mahinda has the MOST SUPPORT. You need BOTH to WIN.

    AFTER candidates win the election they HAVE TO work with the govt. Otherwise they get NO FUNDS!! This will bring all SLPP elected people into the SLFP or the UNP.

    SLPP can NEVER win over 90% of the SLFP vote.

  8. Charles Says:

    Lorenzo tell that to your boss Sirisena

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