Politics in the South after April 8 -Part II.
Posted on April 5th, 2010

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Last night (Saturday) I felt sorry for Ranil Wickremesinghe as he was coming under pressure with each question put to him on Swarnavahini TV. In his evasive answers he was skimming the surface without addressing the underlying issues of each question. Predictably, he was trying to make out that the nation was better off when he was Prime Minister and he had the answers to all the post-war problems. He even claimed that the country was overflowing with chillies, kurrakan and rice and went on to boast that the good works of Mahinda Rajapakse like the bridge in the east was first initiated by him and Rauf Hakeem. He dismissed the claim that the new roads crisscrossing the nation is not a positive signs of development. Obviously, he has convinced himself that he is the answer to the problems of the nation though, of course, the nation does not think so.

The national consensus has concluded, rightly or wrongly, that Ranil Wickremesinghe, when he was the Prime Minister, went all out to defend and protect the larger interests of the LTTE than the nation. The nation has not forgiven him for this betrayal of going to bed with Prabhakaran and he has been paying for it ever since. In return the Tigers (thankfully) spared his life because he was useful to them to get what the others like President Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake would not concede. But in the end they buried him alive in the grave of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and made sure that he would stay there when they imposed a ban on the Tamils preventing them from voting in the presidential election of 2005. This is what he got in return after giving the Tamil Tiger all what he could give. He is a walking dead man today because the Tamil Tigers put him there.

The Jaffna Tamil leadership played him out as per usual. They constantly blame the Sinhalese saying that they never give what they want nor keep their promises. But when it is given, with international guarantees, they take everything without reciprocating at least for their own benefit let alone for peaceful co-existence with other communities. Political analysts concede that there has been a “paradigm shift” in southern politics, since “1956” to accommodate the mono-ethnic demands of the north. But the peninsular political caste/class has adhered consistently to S. J.V. Chelvanayakam’s dictum of “little now and more later.” Their tactic has been to grab everything given to them and then renew their attacks on the Sinhalese for not giving more. They even blame the Sinhalese for Nanthikadal after sabotaging the CFA that gave them the nearest thing to Eelam. Not satisfied with that, they will go to the extreme of cutting the throats of the Sinhalese who gave them the most. That is the gratitude that Wickremesinghe got from his allies in the north.

Wickremesinghe too did not stop at giving territory and power in the CFA. He went out of his way to stop the war to save Prabhakaran, particularly by demoralizing the army. He even campaigned for them abroad and through diplomatic channels. So how many votes did get in return? He lost his base in the south and he could hardly get a toe-hold in the north. .As they say in Sinhalese, he had neither the branch he held nor the branch on which he put his foot on. It is not surprising, therefore, to find Wickremesinghe suspended in limbo.

Consider also the numerous moves he made to stop the war and help Prabhakaran. All UNP-led political agitations against Mahinda Rajapakse were aimed at crippling him. Which meant crippling the Forces advancing towards the ending of the war. But his political maneuvers have proved that he could neither end the war nor win the peace. His negative politics amounted to his playing the role of the dog in the manger. When Chandrika Bandaranaike proposed a formula together with Neelan Tiruchelvam he burnt the document in parliament, pretending that he was the champion of the Sinhalese. He was in a way trying to repeat the equivalent of his uncle “JRJ”s” stunt of leading the march against Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact. Then he did a u-turn and went all out to go beyond his predecessors to grant virtual Eelam to Prabhakaran in the doomed Ceasefire Agreement of 2002. What was he thinking? Where was he going? What did he achieve?

Even when the overwhelming evidence was hitting him in the eye to convince that Prabhakaran had shot the CFA to pieces (see My Belly is White written by his Defence Secretary Austin Fernando) he persisted in appeasing the Tigers. Wickremesinghe, as usual, failed to recognize the nature of the beast. The more he gave in the more he was pushed to give more. His duty at this stage was to end the war militarily and regain lost territory because Prabhakaran was flexing his muscles and flaunting his military power to dictate terms at peace talks, aided and abetted, of course, by the Norwegians.

Well, having failed in that the least he could have done was to back Mahinda Rajapakse to the hilt. Instead of advancing with Rajapakse he went into reverse gear and ran campaigns in the south that would directly serve the political and military objectives of the Tamil Tigers. He also had a personal agenda woven into this: it was to change the Rajapakse regime and jump into the presidential, if no premier’s seat. To Wickremesinghe overthrowing Rajapakse was more important than overthrowing Prabhakaran. He was so desperate that he offered the prime ministership to Mangala Samaraweera who promised to topple the government by crossing over with 14 SFP backbenchers. The hopes that rise in the bosom of Wickremesinghe have only gone as a far as soap bubbles.

He also went the extra mile to cohabit with the JVPers to defeat the budget at the height of the Vadukoddai War. It was a direct move to hit the advancing forces from the rear. Fortunately, at the last minute the JVP did a back flip and Wickremesinghe was back to square one. In the end he had neither the SLFPers nor the JVPers. All his make-shift alliances with Prabhakaran, Mangala Samaraweera, Rauf Hakeem, JVPers, IDU, Western diplomats, NGOs have failed to make him the prime minister or the president for one simple: the movement at the top failed to move the people at the grassroots.

In the meantime, he was engaged in dragging out all kinds of men, women and beasts to promote his negative politics. He dragged the dogs out of the Municipal pound to protest against the decision of the Supreme Court for jailing S. B. Dissanayake. Then he brought the bullock carts to town introducing his “juck-muck” politics. When that failed he went for “toot-toot” politics urging car drivers to honk their horns in support of his cost of living protests. From there he jumped to Lipton Circus issuing threats to foreign banks not to pay back loans advanced to the Rajapakse government. Then he came back to the city banging pots and pans to protest once again on the cost of living.

His last gamble was to nominate Gen. Sarath Fonseka as his presidential candidate because he conceded, with this suicidal act, that he was not fit to be a presidential candidate against Mahinda Rajapakse. In other words, it was an abject confession in which he admitted that he was not fit to be the leader of the nation. Which UNP giants of the past would have ever dreamt of handing over the contest of the leadership of the nation to an untried, unreliable, uncouth political opportunist who was better known for his authoritarian characteristics than for any democratic personality traits?

Wickremesinghe has exhausted all avenues available to him. He had tried dogs, cows, cars, pots and pans and even retired Generals to win power and got nowhere. Having exhausted all his stunts “”…” he never had viable strategies “”…” he is back to selling Rosy Senanayake’s rosy cheeks and lipsticks and Ravi Karunanayake’s Pamankade politics. He is also out in the front selling a two-page manifesto promising to solve all problems within two years. But there are no buyers out there in the streets and villages.

So what should be his role after April 8? His primary task “”…” as it is the task of every community leader and leaders in public and private sectors “”…” is to stabilize the nation. We have had enough of instability and insecurity ever since the divisive politics contained in the Vadukoddai Resolution led to futile violence. Thirty three years of the Vadukoddai War (1976 — 2009) is enough to reject, once and for all, divisive politics that inevitably leads to violence and instability. The business community will be among those who will be affected first. They must at all costs put pressure on the political leaders not to embrace divisive and negative politics. As events have proved there are no votes, nor a future for those who go down that track.

The time has come for them to choose between destabilizing the nation once again or building on the gains achieved so far to march forward to a stable and progressive future. A good deal of this depends on Wickremesinghe ending his negative politics. He must give up any moves to turn the clock back. If the UNP decides to go back to its failed CFA and negative politics the results can be disastrous for the business community. Neither they nor the rest of the nation has anything to gain .from Wickremesinghe returning to his failed past.

He has a valuable role to play though after April 8. The first part of it is to redeem himself by returning to the grassroots of the Founding Fathers. The second part of it is to present a solid front with all willing parties and send a clear message to the international community and to the agents of divisive politics that the nation has to build on the achievements gained so far. Wickremesinghe negative politics will inevitably rekindle the extinguished fires of “little now and more later” politics of Chelvanayakam. If Wickremesinghe decides arbitrarily to go beyond the mandate given by the people to Mahinda Rajapakse he will be playing into the hands of the anti-national forces. He will be seen as replaying the negative role he launched to oppose the military campaigns to end the Vadukoddai War. Prabhakaran failed because he engaged in intransigent politics. Wickremesinghe too has gone down that path. At least for the sake of the war-weary nation he must help the people by retuning the positive politics of his forefathers.

Presenting a common front to the international community and the agents of divisive politics can come only if Wickremesinghe decides to end his negative politics. The maturity, the credibility, the leadership qualities and the commitment of Wickremesinghe to the nation will be put on trial once again after April 8. Is he capable of grasping this opportunity and bring back the UNP to the roots of its Founding Fathers? Or will he continue to play the same old game of promising to give more than what the people will endorse in the mandate “”…” a stunt which will not help the nation but open up space for the so-called firefighters from overseas to meddle in domestic affairs? Well, if he could have joined hands with Prabhakaran to virtually divide the nation what is holding him from joining hands with Mahinda Rajapakse to unite it?

Besides, the time has come for leaders to say enough is enough. Restoring justice and equality has its limits. There is no argument about all Sri Lankans having equal rights in all parts of the nation without discrimination. This cannot be achieved by delivering asymmetrical power to an exclusive enclave. Justice and equality must be shared without discrimination at all levels in all parts of the nation. For instance, justice and equality cannot be guaranteed to all Sri Lankans by giving special powers of “nationhood” (in any shape or form) to a community in the north, or going back to so-called “Thimpu principles”, or the violent political agenda of Vadukoddai Resolution. The Jaffna Tamils should know by now that they will have a better future only if they avoid, at any cost, the bloody route that took them to Nanthikadal.

But the Jaffna Tamils, who have been thriving on the political divisions in the south, will continue to play up if Wickremesinghe continues to give them hopes of getting more and more. They know that they can fool Wickremesinghe “”…” as they have done in the past “”…” and play their usual game of divisive politics, increasing their demands until they get to Eelam. For instance, the Jaffna Tamil leadership accepted, with the advice and consent of India, the 13th Amendment as the final solution to their demands. Now they are demanding that the south should go beyond the 13th Amendment. This is the same old game of “little now and more later”. And Wickremesinghe is the sly cat ever willing to lend his paw for the Tamils to pull out their chestnuts from the fires of peninsular racism.

This game will never end until the southern fronts unite to say enough is enough. If Wickremesinghe, for his own sake, hopes to be the leader of the nation one day he must join hands with those who are laying the foundation to build an undivided nation, with one Army, one Navy, one Air Force, and one Police under one flag. There can’t be a deviation from this fundamental “”…” an inviolable principle set in concrete by the Founding Father of the nation and the party, D. S. Senanayake, and all his successors. Wickremesinghe can’t go on feeding Oliver Twists with asymmetrical shares of power and territory. It is the insatiable demands of Oliver Twist played by one community that led to 33 years of Vadukoddai violence and destabilization. Oliver Twists can gain only at the expense of the others who will be forced to make sacrifices for one party pursing disproportionate shares of power and territory.

In his own interest Wickremesinghe must go for a realistic assessment now and make a lasting contribution to the bloodied nation struggling to raise its head. He must move into a positive mode and accept the new realities facing him and the nation. If he is to gain in the future he has no option but to serve the larger interests of the nation which had made sacrifices to arrive at the place where it is now. If he fails now he will be prolonging the agony of all communities. Neither he nor the nation will gain in the long run if he fails to present a common front to the world. The nation’s gain will be his gain too. He has nothing to lose except his negative politics.

3 Responses to “Politics in the South after April 8 -Part II.”

  1. anura seneviratna Says:

    “Last night (Saturday) I felt sorry for Ranil Wickremesinghe as he was coming under pressure with each question put to him on Swarnavahini TV.”

    This is monumental folly and naivety to waste one’s energy even to write anymore about “Ranilan” let alone to feel sorry. There is no negative politics or misguided ways but we all must realize that there is no difference between him and Parayakaran as he is hellbent in destroying our Nation & Country, and set up a second Tamil Nadu (Tamil Country) out of our tiny Island Country. This is in his genes and psyche alike. Best action plan is to agitate Ranilan and his clan to leave the country for good and ban him from ever returning.

  2. Siri Says:

    Ranil has no place in Sri Lankan Politics. He is a dead duck. He should retire from Politics peacefully after his defeat at the elections. He is responsible for a good part of the agony the country had to go thrugh. He is lucky he was not tried for the Athurugiriya crime and sentanced to death, where he was directly responsible for the death of the deep penetration unit of the army by the LTTE. He betrayed our forces. He is a National Traitor and has no place in the political arena of Sri Lanka. He should realize by now that his being in politics is an asset to Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa as every time he opens his stupid mouth, Mahinda and his party gets more votes. This is the reason he is helped along to continue.

  3. M.S.MUdali Says:

    Why cannot someone give a place to Ranil to live in England? Because he is still under orders of British!

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