Needed a lion to lead the pride
Posted on November 10th, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Lo! The main contenders with gusto swing into full stride

With today begins the election week. Unless another Zaharan-style attack befalls us between now and the 16 November, our entire focus would be dominated on the upcoming Presidential Election.

 The key question we as a nation would be trying to solve this week is who would be the correct leader for our country for the next five years. Though over 30 nominates have come forward, only two can be considered as serious contenders: Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa.

Interestingly, the rebellious voter who does not want to support either one of these two main candidates are gravitating more towards General Mahesh Senanayake than Anura Kumara Dissanayake. The JVP politburo had better make note of this phenomenon. 

Voter would rather waste his vote on a candidate who neither has a chance at winning the election, nor a presence in Parliament than one who had been a member of the Parliament since 2004 and has apolitical presence in Parliament. The reason being is that apart from the die-hard JVP block vote, both the rebellious and the floating voter has identified Dissanayake as an UNP stooge.

This voter is clearly rejecting both the main candidates – despite one of them will become the President of our country and the other will have a political representation in the Parliament to weigh policies adopted against his policies. 

Considering this election is also a mandate for the incumbent Government to continue its tenure for the next five years, the rebellious voter is one who is clearly disenchanted by the Yahapalana Government. The fact that he does not want to consider Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the other winning possibility, indicates that he also has issues with the previous administration, which is the Rajapaksa Administration.

Therefore, it is safe to deduce that those who are gravitating towards General Senanayake are those who voted for Yahapalana Government and got their fingers burnt.

 Almost from the beginning of the Yahapalana Government, it has been exposed that most of the issues they levelled against the Rajapaksa Administration had been fabricated for political gain. Still, the rebellious voter would rather take his chances again on yet another unknown candidate as he did in 2015 than someone who has been exonerated from allegations.

The floating voter is the other factor that can tilt the balance between the two main candidates. There is actually very little difference between the rebellious and the floating voter. Both are too lazy to do their homework. 

They would rather latch on to real or imagined misdeeds of all political entities and yap about it, than make an informed decision to use their vote effectively. Within an imperfect system, they are expecting all politicians to be just like Julius Caesars’ wife.

Vaddukkoddai Resolution

However, this Presidential Election is significant perhaps more than any other in the past because the sovereignty of the nation is backed right up against the wall. From one end, the economy is fast crumbling.

 From the other end, we are facing a rise in both Tamil and Islamist extremism. TNA attempts to push their Vaddukkoddai Resolution, albeit with different names must be carefully observed for it is far more subtle than the rise of Islamist extremism for which to date a reason does not exist.

Both candidates had pledged to prioritise national security. However, two extreme elements have voiced support to the two candidates. Hizbullah had pledged his support to Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) and had even called upon his voters to cast their second preference to GR. Premadasa has been promised the support of TNA. The two candidates’ reaction could not have been more different.

GR did not waste any time to disown Hizbullah. He categorically stated that extremists would not be entertained in his camp, even if it cost him the election. Undeterred, Hizbullah like a prospective suitor keeps expressing his support, but to no effect.

The TNA made a huge drama for weeks to show that they had not yet decided on the candidate to support. Perhaps TNA was the only ones fooled by the drama. The Yahapalana Government could not have come to power in 2015 without TNA’s support.

 Throughout these five years, the Yahapalana Government and the TNA had only pretended to be in the opposite side of the fence, when in reality both had been partners for all practical purposes. In fact, the Yahapalana Government could not have made it this far either had it not been for TNA’s support.

Having promised their constituents to win Eelam through the pen, the TNA cannot afford to part ways from the UNP. Therefore, their support to the Yahapalana candidate is a given.

 The show was only for the benefit of those who can still be hoodwinked into thinking that the TNA and the UNP are two separate entities. Yet, once again by extending their support for the incumbent Government to continue along its current path, TNA exposed themselves as being in cahoots with the UNP than not.

TNA’s 13 demands

Just over a week before the much delayed Yahapalana candidate’s manifesto was released, the TNA released 13 demands. These 13 demands are actually a rewording of the 1976 Vaddukkoddai Resolution that calls upon the rejection of the unitary status of the country and introduce a federal system. Furthermore, it is being demanded that Tamils must be recognised as a nation with a distinct sovereignty. Therefore, Tamils must be recognised as a nation with the right to self determination.

It was TNA’s stipulation that their support is only to the candidate who accepts their demands. Gotabaya Rajapaksa outrightly rejected all 13 demands, without even indicating a space to negotiate any of these demands.

Premadasa’s camp on the other hand remained very silent. They appeared to be having trouble with their own manifesto for they could not even release it before the postal vote began. Therefore, those who cast a postal vote on the first and second days did so without knowing the Yahapalana plan for the next five years of our country. It was speculated that the delay must be to plagiarise content from the Pohottuwa manifesto, for in the campaign Premadasa has become noted for copying speech notes from GR.

However, when finally Premadasa’s manifesto was released it was obvious that his manifesto is a rewording of the draft Constitution that was presented earlier this year by PM Ranil Wickremesinghe.

 As political analyst C.A. Chandraprema had noted, not even Maithripala Sirisena toed the TNA line as blatantly as Premadasa has done. He had resorted to the same manipulation of words to create confusion over the unitary status as the draft Constitution did. Though Premadasa referred to an “ekeeyarajya” when he presented his manifesto to the Prelates, his manifesto does not make any reference to a Unitary State.

In his manifesto he has explicitly outlined a second tier where the Provincial Councils will have control over policies passed in Parliament. In effect, the supremacy of the Parliament would no longer count, instead would be subjugated to the will of the Provincial Councils. Furthermore, it will be Constitutional Court and not Supreme Court that will hold constitutional jurisdiction to resolve any dispute between Parliament and Provincial Council.

If, Premadasa’s manifesto is implemented, then we would end up with a very weak central government. 

How such a Government could handle foreign Agreements such as the MCC or even the foreign Trade Agreements such as the one signed with Singapore becomes a matter of great concern. The fact that the MCC was almost signed when everyone’s attention was on election signifies that Premadasa does not share the same concerns that the GR camp does. Hence, he does not believe that the MCC needs a revisit and a renegotiation that GR had pledged to do.

The main question in GR’s manifesto is whether he can achieve all he plans within five years. The fact that he comes with a plan and a capable team, with achievements such as winning a war that dragged on for 30 years in just under three years and revolutionising the urban landscape gives hope that he can achieve all he has set to do. Premadasa’s achievements despite being a Member of Parliament for 20 years cannot hold a candle to GR’s list.

There are undesirables in both candidates’ camps. They will need to be managed firmly. As the idiom goes, a pack of dogs led by a lion will behave like lions, but a pride of lions led by a dog will cower like dogs. At the end of the day, what matters is leadership. 

Our job as the voter is to decide which of the two candidates – Gotabaya Rajapaksa or Sajith Premadasa – would be the lion to lead the country forward.

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