THE ‘POHOTTUWA’ GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 1
Posted on September 22nd, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna  ( Pohottu) had a sweeping victory at the General Election of 2020.  Pohottu got  59.09 %of the total vote and 145 seats. Nobody expected such a  landslide   victory and it was promptly dubbed the ‘mother of  all landslides’. Voter turnout island-wide was 71%.  It would have been more, but Pohottu supporters from abroad were unable to attend due to  Covid 19.. They have won a ‘super majority’, said BBC.  The two-and-half-year-old SLPP has placed a firm footprint in Sri Lanka’s political firmament, said analysts.  That remains to be seen.

 Cartoon is from Sunday Times 9.8.20

The general election is Pohottu’s third win.  Pohottu did  well at  its very first election, Local  Government elections in February 2018.  It polled 44.65% of the total votes polled and won the highest number of seats and local authorities.  Pohottu got 231 out of 338 Local Government  bodies.  Then at the presidential election in November, last year, SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa won 52.25% or 6.9 million votes.The SLPP has secured a steamroller majority in Parliament and needs only a single crossover from the Opposition benches to have two-thirds of MPs on its side, said analysts. It has 145 seats, and its allies which contested separately in some areas have four seats among them.

Pohottu is a brand new political party, built  around the Rajapaksa brothers, but primarily, Gotabaya ,not Mahinda.  The architect  was Basin Rajapaksa. Basil Rajapaksa formed the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) ahead of the Local  Government elections of February 2018.

However, the  Pohottu trade union, ‘Pragathashili Sevaka Sangamaya’ of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon, ( Lake House) was set up at ANCL even before the party was established, its chairman said.  Support was provided by SLPP National Organizer Basil Rajapaksa, while MP Gamini Lokuge provided the leadership.We are not functioning as a traditional trade union; we worked hard for the victory at the Local Government and Presidential elections,” the Chairman of the Union said, but he added that Basil Rajapaksa had instructed the trade union to stand for the rights of the employees.

During Yahapalana  time, Pohottu created two talk shops, ‘Viyathmaga’ in early 2016 followed by ‘Eliya’.  The emergence of the Viyathmaga, ‘Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s own political organization’,  as a political entity at the 2020 general election was a significant development. Civil society organization Viyathmaga has emerged as an influential group within the SLPP parliamentary group with eight out of nine contestants gaining entry into Parliament, said analysts.

 Nalaka Godahewa came first on preference votes in the Gampaha district polling 325,429 and Professor Channa Jayasumana with 125,980 came second in the Anuradhapura district. Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera came first in preference votes winning 328,092 votes in the Colombo district.  Viyathmaga candidates have also found places in the SLPP National List and were set to become Cabinet Ministers, said commentators. There hadn’t been a previous instance of a President fielding a team of his own for parliamentary election  said  Sarath  Weerasekera.

This is the first occasion where a landslide victory took place in a country where the Proportional Representation system (PR) exists. Proportional Representation system was introduced by President JR Jayawardene  to ensure not only that the UNP never lost an election but also that no party would ever command a two thirds majority in Parliament. It was thought that PR would prevent stable governments appearing. The SLPP leaders have given the lie to this claim.

Three  measures taken by President Gotabaya  ensured him the loving support of  the voters. One was the measures taken to contain the deadly Covid-19 from spreading. At present the number of those afflicted by the disease remains below 3,000 with only 13 deaths. That is a feat that could only be achieved by a developed country where the health system is advanced and modern.

The second is the major crackdowns he ordered on the illegal drug trade and the bosses who ran them, even from jails together with an order to crackdown on the underworld.  The third is his meet the people” election campaign  which won him  much public support.

 BBC commented, Sri Lanka has been one of the few nations to hold an election despite the corona virus pandemic.Just nine months after his impressive win in the presidential election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has led his Sri Lanka People’s Front to a two-thirds majority. He is hugely popular among the Sinhala majority for crushing the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in 2009 when he was Defence secretary. Many in the country also credit his administration for bringing stability and successfully containing the corona virus outbreak.

Lord Naseby, who is also the President and founder of the All Party British Sri Lanka Parliamentary Group in the UK said, ‘This is a truly remarkable result; yet again the ordinary people of Sri Lanka have turned out to vote at a level rarely seen anywhere in the World. This is true democracy at work.

By conducting a peaceful general election under very strict health precautions (even though this cost so much of money) Sri Lanka has become a model to the entire world under the present trying conditions of health and economy all over the world, said Father Vimal Tirimanne .

 The 2020 General Election is a clear indication that even with regard to local politics, there are quite a number of positive points that should never be ignored. As a matter of fact, this election could well be the moment of transition which marks the beginning of a new political culture in the country, Father Vimal  stated.

Mahinda Rajapaksa  was sworn in as Prime Minister  at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. After taking oaths as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa visited  Vidyalankara Pirivena, Gangaramaya, Abhayaramaya, Pepiliyana Sunetra Devi Pirivena  and  Bellanwila Raja Maha Vihara .   The Prime Minister was acknowledging the support given to him by the Maha Sangha.

The  third and last ceremony, the swearing in of Cabinet of ministers was  held in Kandy, in the Audience hall next to the Dalada Maligawa. This Audience Hall  is not a part of the Dalada Maligawa. It is part of the royal palace. Therefore, the choice of venue  is most appropriate.

Both ceremonies included Pansil and pirit and was watched over by a formidable number of bhikkhus who sat  stolidly through the whole ceremony.     This excessive emphasis on Buddhist rituals is  significant.

It is the first time since independence that a Sri Lanka   government has decided to recognize the island’s unique  Sinhala Buddhist civilization and emphasis  the  Buddhist  ethos that accompanies it. This does not mean the   start of Buddhist rule”. There are no theocratic Buddhist states. The Buddhist philosophy does not  make this possible.

In  having a ceremony in Kandy, Pohottu is drawing attention to  Sri Lanka ‘s   historic  Sinhala kingdom. This Sinhala kingdom, carrying the name Sinhaladvipa, dates from the time of king Panduvasudeva, but the earliest accepted date is that of Devanampiyatissa,  250BC – 210. This Sinhala kingdom continued unbroken up to 1815,  making a total of around 2000  years of unbroken, sovereign, monarchical rule. This is, I  think, unique to  both South  and South East Asia, with the exception of China.

The new  government has   created state ministries for its agricultural commodities and cottage industries. There are cabinet portfolios for Batiks and handlooms, Gem and Jewelry, Pharmaceutical Production, Ornamental Fish Cane, Brass, Clay products. Also for Vegetables, Fruits, Chilies, Onions, Potatoes, Coconut,  Palmyra, Sugarcane, Maize, Cashew, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves and  Betel. 

This has been sniggered at. Actually, it is most praiseworthy. It  means that each  of these ‘village’ subjects will have a specific budget allocation  all to itself. This will be the first time ever that these village subjects have been given the financial attention they deserve.

These ‘subjects’ have been highly criticized and laughed at but there is a purpose, said a Pohottu spokesman. This is a very timely decision taken by the government to uplift the living standards of people dependent on those industries and also to expand the country’s export-oriented production,.

Through new State Ministerial portfolios, it is expected to achieve a considerable growth in local production. Unlike in the past, now State Ministers too have to play a key role in the Government’s development agenda. With the assignment of specific subjects for the State Ministers, the Government can easily monitor the growth of fields allocated for them, the spokesman concluded.  

The Lion Flag of Kandyan Kings briefly held monopolistic sway and fluttered in the winds of Sinhale over Senkadagala hills hours before modern day Lanka’s new Government were to be sworn in and officially come into being in the hallowed precincts of the Sri Dalada, said the media.

Over enthusiastic municipal workers were blamed for decorating Kandy town with a set of the now defunct Royal Flag of the Kandyan Kingdom, with the solitary lion symbolising Sinhala supremacy, the day before the Government carnival was expected to arrive in this once historic capital

When the Kandy Municipal Council finally awoke to the blunder and realised Kandy was awash with lion flags devoid of the green and orange stripes meant to represent the minority Muslims and Tamils respectively, an immediate counter operation to hoist down the offending ‘imposter’ flags,  flying , from every flag pole in the city was launched.  (continued)

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