Politics just shifted in the world and Sri Lanka
Posted on May 9th, 2018

Things just moved, changed, in the world and Sri Lanka, and I hope we are taking notice. Let’s start with the world and move on to Sri Lanka.

President Trump’s pullout from the Iran deal sharply enhances the prospect of war in the Middle East, with devastating consequences for the world economy as a whole and the economies of developing (or in our case, under-developing) countries of the global South, in particular. The neoconservative hawks in the Trump administration—most notably National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—and their allies the Netanyahu administration and the Saudi monarchy, are clearly hoping to provoke Iran into resuming its nuclear weapons programme which it had abandoned even before the signing of the deal.

Iran may then become the target of an attack on the ground that itis “racing” towards a nuclear weapon. The gamble is that the US will back Israel and that the two military machines, being the most formidable alliance on the planet, supported by the far less impressive Saudi Arabia, will be able to prevail over Iran. The ultimate goal is that military defeat will trigger regime change in Tehran, reversing the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

For Israel, the goal is strategic and regional: weaken Iran, the Hezbollah and Hamas. For the US, the goal is grand-strategic and global: push Russia back in the region, and tighten the encirclement of Moscow, thereby weakening Putin– and by weakening Russia, also weaken China, the ultimate enemy. This is how the hawks in the US hope to reverse the relative decline of US global hegemony and the rise of Eurasia, chiefly China backed by Russia.

Matters may not be that easy. Iran is a highly motivated state and society. It is motivated by a combination of factors that social scientists recognize as the strongest combination of motivational factors in the world: religion (any theistic religion) and revolution (any type of real revolution). In the Iranian case there is also the powerful motivator of civilisational nationalism/patriotism.

The Iranian military, the elite Revolutionary Guards, their strategic allies Hezbollah (which, through its political proxies and partners, has just secured preponderance in the Lebanese parliament, defeating the pro-western bloc), Hamas, and the Shiite militias in Iraq, have developed an impressive capacity for asymmetric warfare. The entire Middle East region may turn into a new Vietnam for the US and may even alter the situation for Israel in a manner that Tel Aviv least expects—now that the demonstrations on the Gaza border, where unarmed teenagers are shot dead by Israeli snipers with explosive bullets, show just how much self-sacrificial desperation the Palestinian people have been driven to.

Sri Lanka: The candidacy stakes

In Sri Lanka, the balance of forces is shifting. Veteran politician Dinesh Gunawardena notes that the recent SLFP rebellion marks the largest number to cross over from Government to the Opposition at any one time, in the history of the Sri Lankan parliament. When traffic flows usually from opposition to government for reasons of opportunism and purposes of patronage, any reverse flow is noteworthy. Such reverse flows, such as in 1964 and 1975 are signs of a government doomed to be defeated at the next election. So it is with the rebellion of the SLFP Sixteen.

The SLFP rebellion is noteworthy not only because of quantitative factors, but qualitative ones. As Dayasiri Jayasekara pointed out on Derana 360, of the 16 rebels, 14 have university degrees, eight are lawyers and one is a specialist doctor.

The Sri Lankan political scenario registered yet another change at the Sugathadasa Stadium, with Sajith Premadasa receiving sustained applause; far more so than any other personality. His speech which was punctuated by lusty cheers, was a full-on attack on the neoliberal economic orthodoxy that has brought the UNP’s base vote from 40%-45% down to 32%. He didn’t stop at that but went on to invoke his father’s memory – President Ranasinghe Premadasa was a local equivalent of a Juan Peron or Salvador Allende—and unfurl what sounded suspiciously like an election manifesto.

With the UNP’s crisis having triggered boycotts from within the parliamentary group, ghettoized its May Day in the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, and manifested disaffection from supporters outside the stadium, Sajith Premadasa emerged clearly as the most popular personality in the UNP and the only hope – and outside chance at best– of avoiding a catastrophe at the Presidential election next year.

Already the UNP’s rightwing elite has begun to counterattack in the mainstream and social media, arguing that the UNP does not need a “duplicate Mahinda Rajapaksa”. In the first place that’s overly flattering – and today’s UNP would be lucky to produce anyone who could be credibly compared with the country’s most loved personality who will doubtless become a folk deity when he is no more.

In the second place, these rightwing propagandists have dismally failed to understand the lessons of the miraculous 1988 turnaround, where the UNP snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. It was precisely by fielding a candidate who was even more patriotic and populist than Mrs. Bandaranaike. As UNP Gen Sec Ranjan Wijeratne’s survey had clearly indicated, the mood in the country was such that Premadasa was the only acceptable option; the only one with even half a chance. Had Gamini Dissanayake been the candidate in 1988 instead of Premadasa, not only would the UNP have lost; it would have been overrun and massacred by the violent xenophobes—so hated was the governing party, for its perceived treachery and manifest insensitivity to the poor. Ranasinghe Premadasa was the only exception.

If the UNP does not repeat the move of the maestro, President Jayawardene, in 1988 when the party and government’s back was to the wall, and play the Premadasa card, then, as Sajith said, to the assembled party loyalists in his Sugathadasa stadium May 7th speech (referring to the need for total change and radical democratization of the party and its policies): “May God help us!”

Meanwhile, the SLPP-JO was the sole formation among the serious national contenders for state power next year, to have a May Day procession and rally, signaling that it is still the largest political formation in the island. The number of references to Basil Rajapaksa made it clear that the race for the Presidential candidacy is underway.

There are SLPP voices supporting Basil but the SLPP is not the JO and not even the whole of the SLFP group with Mahinda. The JO parliamentarians as a bloc are loyal to Mahinda and no one else. Any aspiring candidate will not only have to secure MR’s fullest support but also earn the trust of the JO parliamentarians. Among the broader public; i.e. in society at large, the groundswell is for Gotabhaya. Inexorably, the choice before Mahinda Rajapaksa is becoming Gotabhaya (or Chamal).

Unless Mahinda Rajapaksa can become Prime Minister and revise the 19th Amendment before late 2019—which is the best possible outcome for the country—then the choices have to be made as to the candidates of the respective sides. The increasingly restless and rebellious social mood will impact the final choices.

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9 Responses to “Politics just shifted in the world and Sri Lanka”

  1. DR M D P DISSANAYAKE Says:

    Unlike SLFP and UNP, the JO&SLPP Co. has built a strong leadership team. MR is the kingpin, but it is an integrated force to drive the nation forward. The momentum is with the JO/SLPP, lets not attempt to create a conflict.

    Of course every one speak of Gotabaya Rajapakse as he has delivered the goods in his previous role.Sarath Weerasekera, Wimal Weerawansa, Basil Rajapakse or Ven.Iththakande Saddhatissa thero of Ravana Balaya are not very far from Dr Gotabaya ensuring solid succession planning which will reflect and drive the new force with commitment.
    MR will within next 5 years be some one like Senior Minister Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, to hand over the reins to Dr Gotabaya for the next stint. In my books, that is rock solid.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Agree with Dayan except some claims about the 1988 flawed election. Voters’ turnout was just 55%. That is dismal and that was how Premadasa narrowly won the election (by just 0.43%). If JVP didn’t boycott the election, Sirima would have easily won.

    Gotabaya is the only choice and certainly not Basil or Chamal. If Gotabaya is not contesting, the next best choice is Sarath Weerasekera or Wimal Weerawansa. Don’t forget UNP is very heavily backed by minorities and the Sinhala vote is divided. JVP will also field its own candidate just to ensure its voters maintain their say for the parliamentary election that will soon follow. Supporting another candidate or not contesting reduces JVP number of seats.

    UNP’s best chance is to neutralize Gotabaya and Basil either by having the presidential election held before they could renounce their US citizenship or frame them in crimes. They are very reluctant to revoke US citizenship because it is very valuable for them and also because it gives them protection from law enforcement. Pro-US Sri Lankan government is very careful not to mess with the US law in harassing its citizens going beyond the letter of the law. Sirisena ordered not to proceed with any court case against Gotabaya unless it is a water-tight case. So it is a balancing act for them. If they revoke US citizenship too early they have to face courts as any other helpless Sri Lankan. If they don’t do it on time they will be unable to contest the election.

  3. Hiranthe Says:

    The war with LieTTE supported by the rich West was totally due to Gota’s proper planning in all the areas. MR gave the leadership of course. But everyone has to accept that the main driving force was Gotas planning, not only the war at front, but also stopping the arms supplies to LieTTE.

    Similarly Gota is planning for reversing these negative elements which are forcing the destruction of Mother Lanka from every angle.

    He is a visionary. Please watch his latest “Viyath Maga” held at Panadura.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vS3hL-flXc

    We need a strong patriotic leader in the driving seat to develop this little island Lanka, like Singapore and Malaysia. At the age of 92, Mr. Mahathir Mohamed is coming back to the driving seat after 10 or so years… That shows the importance of a strong leader.

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    I AGREE with Dilrook: “Gotabaya is the only choice and certainly not Basil or Chamal. If Gotabaya is not contesting, the next best choice is Sarath Weerasekera or Wimal Weerawansa.”

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    ISRAEL is a superpower and IRAN is not.

    ALL countries that messed with Israel learned the hard way why they should NOT mess with a superpower. ANY Iranian attack on Israeli population centers than breaches the IRON DOME will get a NUCLEAR response IRAN will NEVER forget!!

    A war between Israel and Iran will end with Israel owning part of Iranian OIL FIELDS.

    SL MUST KEEP out of these battles. DJ and his father Mervyn De Silva worked hard with Premathasan to CLOSE DOWN Israel section of US embassy. VERY WRONG move and SL paid a heavy price. Israel helpd SL win the war and that is all that matters.

    AGREE with USA. Sarath Weerasekara stands a GOOD CHANCE in winning after GR. WW should NOT contest. I don’t think he can win. CHAMAL may be old but he can win too. MAHATHIR MOHOMMAD won at 92 with a new party!!!

  6. Nihal Perera Says:

    USA is controlled by the Jews.. They control the finances (big banks, Wall Street), economy, defence industry, and the foreign policies of Trump’s (Jared Kushner’s – a Jew) government.

    They will do anything to defend Israel and the Jewish domination of USA. The problem for them is the world has changed. USA is no longer capable of carrying out a war, like they did in the past. In spite of all the war-mongering by the Trump team, USA (and NATO), cannot afford to finance, nor scarify US soldiers the way they did in the past. Those days are over.

    The geo-politics of the Middle East has changed. Except for the corrupted and the Jew-lover of Saudi Arabian new king, there is not a single country in the ME is supporting US. Iran’s influence in the ME has grown substantially, especially in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Qatar.

    Russia has gained so much influence and respect in the ME, especially the way it has supported Syria to get rid of ISIS, and other militia groups which were supported and financed by the Saudis and US.

    In spite of Lorenzo’s claim, Israel is NOT a superpower, but a cunning military power thanks to relentless pumping of US$$$’s by the rich and powerful Jewish lobby in US. This is why main stream media never talk about the massive atrocities done by the Israeli forces to the Palestinian people, while robbing their land in massive scale.

    Do not underestimate Iran and its people when it comes to defending their country. The pro-Western (mostly Jewish owned) media has been portraying Iran as a fanatical Muslim, backward country, and an International pariah.

    This is not true. Over the years they have developed and modernized their army with the help of Russia, China, etc. Both US, Israel, and their corrupted collaborator Saudi Arabia are in for a surprise if they think they can attack Iran and get away with it. Iran is not Iraq. If they couldn’t win in Iraq, they will certainly NOT going to win in Iran. Both Russia and China, and other Muslim nations that hate Israel and US will side with Iran.

    As for Sri Lanka, Iran has always been a friend and a trading partner, especially when its come to our tea industry, and their oil. I hope the present regime, with their pro-colonial mentality, wouldn’t jeopardise our long standing friendship with Iran

    As for the Sri Lankan politics, there is only one leader who can save SL. That’s none other than Gotabaya Rajapakse. He is the only proven, and a truly patriotic leader who is capable of moving the country forward.

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    Nihal,

    ISRAEL is a superpower and everyone knows that. The ONLY country to have NUKES in the middle east. NO COUNTRY messes with Israel except Iranian fanatics. Iran will pay a HEAVY PRICE for messing with Israel. Already Israel has destroyed MOST Iranian hide-out foxholes in SYRIA. More will follow.

    Israel did NOT go to Iran’s border!

    It was Iran that came to Israeli border!!

    So who is the aggressor?

    Israel is backed by all superpowers not just USA. JERUSALEM is the capital of Israel. NOT Tel Aviv. The sooner the capital is transferred the better. IF Iran cannot take it lets have war which ISRAEL will WIN. After that part of Iranian oil fields will be owned by Israel.

  8. Lorenzo Says:

    2 weeks ago Israel bombed Iranian T-4 base in Syria with massive bombs. The explosion was recorded in RICHTER SCALE as a mini earthquake!!

    This is why SENSIBLE countries don’t mess with Israel.

    Russia has STOPPED selling S-400 SAM missile system to Iran. Another operation orchard in the making!!

  9. Nihal Perera Says:

    Lorenzo, I certainly wouldn’t share your sentiment you have for Israel.

    It is Israel, backed by US is the biggest problem in the Middle East. In spite of its military superiority – thanks to billions of US funds coming from the American Jews, Israelis will NEVER be able to live in peace as long as the Palestinian genocide continues by the Jews.

    It is foolish and naïve to think that Israel and US can dominate the ME. Right now, Israel is defiant because they got a puppet US President, and a son of an Orthodox Jew – Jared Kushner (ME adviser to Trump), who want to decimate the Palestinians, and grab their land, for Jewish settlement.

    These Jews are the same people who have been crying foul for generations about genocide of Jews by the Nazis. They used it to maximize their gains for the last 75 years, claiming they are the chosen people, and falsely claiming Palestinian land as their promise land.

    It is also important to note that many Western nations supported Hitler and turn a blind eye to extermination of Jews in Germany. It’s only after Hitler started invading other European nations and expanding his empire, that the Western nations went to war. (Read the cause and history of WWII).

    It was the guilt of genocide and ignoring it, was the reason why the West decided to help the Jews to move to Palestine. By taking Palestinian land by force with the help of US and UK, to establish their promise land called Israel. And, as they say, the rest is history.

    It is the powerful Judeo-Christian forces in the West, especially in US, that are supporting and protecting Israel, mainly due to Biblical significance to this land, and also their dislike of Islam.

    This is the reason why Israel has been getting away with genocide of Palestinians, in spite of many HRs violation resolution by the UN. Because, they know that they are well-protected and supported by the very powerful American Jewish lobby. Unfortunately, many Arab nations in the region (like Saudis..) are so corrupted. The West has done a great job dividing and destroying the countries in the ME, which naturally benefits Israel’s agenda.

    Certainly, the US, Israel and Saudis are very worried about Iran’s nuclear capability and its growing influence throughout the ME. That’s why they are so keen on attacking Iran, in spite of the fact that it could set the whole region on fire.

    The dumbest mistake Trump had made so far (out of many..) is to withdraw from the Iran’s nuclear deal, which Obama was clever enough to come up, with the help of UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.

    All these countries know Iran’s Nuclear capabilities, and its potential danger to the region, and the whole world. It’s the world-class idiots, and war-mongers like Trump and Benjamin Nethanyahu, (and their idiotic supporters) who think they can attack Iran and get away with it…!

    They don’t know what they are getting into….

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