Posted on July 5th, 2024

By Sena Thoradeniya

(Continued from June 20, 2024)

[As a typographical error appeared in sub-heading 1, paragraphs 1 and 2 of Part IV (posted onJune 20, 2024) of this series, the error 1989 is being corrected as 1994. Para 2, line 5 should be read as: Janith Priyantha Vidyatilaka Vipulaguna who obtained the highest number of preferential votes under Sri Lanka Progressive Front (SLPF) ticket, took oaths in the Parliament and resigned. In Parliament if an elected MP wants to resign, he should first take oaths and then resign. Then only the party can appoint the next person in the list. All 10 in the SLPF (in other words JVP) list took oaths and resigned paving the way for Nihal Galappaththy, who was not in the list to be appointed as JVP’s first MP.]  

1. For What Reasons People Give Anura Kumara and NPP a Chance?

For what reasons people give Anura Kumara and NPP a chance is the million-dollar question. In our previous articles we have clearly stated that JVP/NPP is not new to governance that it has formed political alliances with center- left (CBK and MR), militarists (Fonseka and Fonseka led DNA) and ultra-right (MS-RW-TNA) yahapalanists respectively. JVP showed its incapability in managing the four ministries entrusted to them by CBK in 2004 (Please refer part IV of this series).

Has the JVP/NPP shown any maturity and ideological soundness to take up themantle of powerby itself, without aligning itself with any other political party or group or forming a coalition?  We have stated in part II of this series the favourable conditions that existed for SWRD in 1956, Sirimavo in 1970, JRJ in 1977, CBK in 1994, MR in 2005 and 2010, GR in 2019 and Anura Kumara or NPP do not have such favourable economic, political and socio-cultural factors that contribute to an electoral victory.  Furthermore, we have expressed that personal attributes, leadership qualities and knowledge and expertise of Anura Kumara (Please refer part III) do not pave the way for him to lead in the race to the Presidential House.  

What are NPP’s policies? What are its policies related to national economy, politics and governance, international affairs, education, health and culture? Here we left aside many government affairs for the sake of brevity.

New voters or first-time votersaccording to the Election Commission will be in the range of 200,000; if all of them vote for NPP can it win?

Anura Kumara and his fellow travelers dream; all are over confident and over optimistic; Anura Kumara behaves like as he has won already; he declares what he is going to do; already he has selected his Cabinet of Ministers; what will happen to him if he does not win? In our article posted on 14, December 2023, we saw him as a modern-day Icarus.  Icarus was warned not to fly too low nor too high, lest the sea’s dampness clogs his wings or the sun’s heat melt them. He ignored instructions not to fly close to the sun causing beeswax in his wings to melt. He felt from the sky, plunged into the sea, was drowned and doomed. 

What solutions he has, to make the prevailing temporary stability to a permanent and sustainable stability, pay foreign debts, reduce cost of living, alleviate the economic burdens majority of the population encounter? He only seeks power; give us power. For what? Anura Kumara lacks ingenuity and resourcefulness, in short, a vision; he only promises;his catchy slogans need to be theorized. How he is going to achieve what he promises? He has limited his action only to lecturing people.

Has the NPP really understood the present crisis which is not only economic or financial? It is a combination of political, geopolitical, social and cultural crises; some time ago addressing a meeting at Udadumbara, Anura Kumara said that there are no Sinhala films in Netflix. Is that our cultural problem?

What guarantee he can give, the country will not face a similar crisis as in 2022?

What is the power base of NPP? Men and women of affiliated organizations? Blood sucking lawyers? Alienated and vainglorious academics or artists? Retired tri- forces personnel or retired corrupt policemen?  (a columnist who identified himself as One Who Knows” referred to a Deputy Commander of the Sri Lankan troops in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti in which about 114 Sri Lankan troops including 3 officers were involved in the sex exploitation of hundreds of children”; it is said that the person who is alleged to have shot Nandasiri Wijeweera at the crematorium at Kanatta  is in the NPP ranks; a person who knocked down a pedestrian after drunk driving has become the spokesperson of retired police brigade; who knowswhether the retired army men involved in recruiting mercenaries to Russia/Ukraine are among the NPP ranks?).

It is not surprising that Anura Kumara when he worked closely with yahapalanists, saying that Shani Abeysekera was the best officer in the entire police force and he shed copious tears about the disciplinary action taken against him. We will not be astonished if the NPP lays a red carpet to the most hated and most feared police officer by the JVP/DJV during 1988-1989 Udugampola, if he was alive today!

Everyone knew howRanjan Ramanayakabehaved during yahapalana regime releasing his infamous tapes; telephoning judges, bribery chiefs and law enforcement officers including Shani Abeysekera unduly influencing their investigations and judgments; a man who said that he was ready to wash pots and pans of Ramanayaka Sir, now has joined the NPP; we don’t know for what purpose; it cannot be to wash pots and pans. 

NPP has become a political salad; only thing they do is picking people and building partnerships with individuals; still they have not enlisted LGBTIQ+ community; very soon they will open a wing for them also as they have supported RW’s Gender Equality Bill. Its ideological positioning is questionable. It mobilizes all excluding the working class.  More than the working class and peasantry, today NPP work closely with the capitalists, upper middle class and diaspora, cooperating with the Indians and the Western Block.

Why does NPP mobilize ex-servicemen? Isn’t it a strange paradox, a party that paid  lip service to Marxism/Socialism some time ago, enlisting former army and police personnel who were a part of chief instruments of state power, an organ for the oppression of the oppressed class? Isn’t it an attempt to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, to surround their names with a certain halo” as Lenin said in The State and Revolution” (1917)? They held privileged positions as officials of organs of state power.

Anura Kumara addressing a meeting at Batticaloa recently said that he is going to disarm paramilitary forces. How he is going to do it? Entrusting that work to ex-servicemen? This again demonstrated how naïve he was; State Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanth (Pillaiyan), shot back immediately, recalling how JVP sought arms and ammunition from the Tamil Tigers. How did JVP/DJV get the technology to detonate claymore mines in the South?

Those who are in glass houses should not throw stones at others is mild enough to describe Anura Kumara’s naivety.

Or else, does NPP mobilize ex-servicemen to engage with Sri Lankan armed forces after an election, to train and command storm troopers?

NPP leaders demonstrate their lack of knowledge of political history when they make noisy utterances at public meetings.

At Mannar, Anura Kumara said that the Tamils (read as secessionists) decided to have a separate government because the government in the South burned down the Jaffna library; at the same time, he named some living and dead top UNP politicians alleging that they had masterminded it; sadly, he did not mention the names of the police officers who were with those politicians. Is he aware that certain retired police officers who joined the ranks of NPP, in their newspaper articles written in English had cleared the names of those politicians named by Anura Kumara as masterminds of that heinous crime? What is the most heinous crime?  Burning Jaffna library is equal to burning of tea factories, bus depots, railway stations, transformers and agricultural service centers.  Anura Kumara should study that the Tamil separatist movement began several decades ago before the burning of Jaffna library.

Anura Kumara is very smart in copying what other contenders say. He also says to increase production, but falls short of how he is going to do it. Addressing a meeting Youth Api” at Kekirawa he began talking about entrepreneurship, copying what Dilith Jayaweera says.

Anura Kumara showed again that he has short memories or total ignorance when he declared that when he comes into power, he will set up a new Development Bank which will provide initial capital without collateral. W. D. Luxman, the former Governor of the Central Bank dared promise a DevelopmentBank which resulted in his removal. In the late 1950s Philip Gunewardena for the same reason was expelled from the Cabinet of Ministers and SWRD received a bullet.

Has Anura Kumara studied why Development Finance Corporation of Ceylon (DFCC) was set up in 1955 as Sri Lanka’s pioneer development finance institution on the recommendations of the World Bank and the National Development Bank (NDB) which begun its operations in 1979; both institutions became two more licensed commercial banks, the latter listed in the Colombo stock Exchange (CSE).

Anura Kumara does not know what he says at different occasions; addressing a meeting at Batticaloa he said that Sri Lanka is not a big industrialised country; that our country is not endowed with rich commercial resources; but NPP organised a meeting of technologists importing a lecturer from the US.

He does not have the capacity to address different audiences; to address diverse audiences to suit their needs; saying specifics to suit varied listeners; he utters the same muck at every meeting; the above meeting was not different.

On 29 June JVP/NPP hosted a meeting called Quantum Leap” importing a US based Sri Lankan Professor to lecture on innovation; at that forum it was announced that the NPP had formulated its Research and Development Policy”.  First a word on Quantum Leap”. It is a hackneyed term in vogue since 1956 originated as quantum jump in Physics denoting a sudden change, later transferred to other important advances; many use it in different discourses as they use the most hackneyed term Paradigm Shift”. Our politicians and theoreticians see everything as a paradigm shift. For the educated” Sri Lankan politician even a fellow politician jumping from one group to another becomes a paradigm shift!

Have Anura Kumara and NPP studied the work of our own institutions such as Industrial Technology Institute (ITI: successor to former Ceylon Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR; established in 1955), National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS: former IFS, established in 1981),  National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka (NSF: successor to Natural Resources, Energy and Science Authority of Sri Lanka (NARESA) established in 1981), and former Ministry of Science and Technology,  before embarking on  formulating a Research and Development Policy”? Anura Kumara and NPP are lagging few decades behind and at the same time attempting to reinvent the wheel! What he and his fellow travelers must do is harnessing expertise available in these institutions and streamlining their activities.

The writer guesses that the above-mentioned lecture was nothing more than repeating Mariana Mazzucato’s concept of Entrepreneurial State (The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths” (2013)). The author argues that US economic success is a result of public and state funded investments in innovation and technology. Entrepreneurial State is the primary risk taker in innovation-based investments; state influences on innovation and technological development within the private sector, which popularizes the government created technologies. Apple (iPhone, iPad devises), GPS navigation, touch screen technologies, voice recognition, smartphones are examples. She argues that the private sector undertakes the least risky part of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. She introduces the concept of Entrepreneurial State, where the state is actively takes risks by investing in innovation-based projects.

There are many more state led innovations. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of US Department of Defense is responsible for the development of many emerging technologies.

It is a fashionable trope, sounding hip (stylish/trendy/ fashionable); for the JVP/NPP it is better than saying that they are going to establish an industrial/ socialist/ or proletarian state; a synonym for saying that we will not oppose bourgeois individualism.

Problem is how we can create a production culture that will produce forces of production (labour, capital etc.).

How does Anura Kumara go for innovations, new technologies and innovation-based investments having a hand to mouth economy in Sri Lanka, although the JVP/DJV had mastered galkatas” technology? It’s only a pipedream.

So, Anura Kumara has gone far ahead than Xi Jinping!  With all those industrial progress and innovations Xi Jinping admitted that China is relatively weak” in innovation and needs more talent to dominate the tech battlefield” at a National Conference held in Beijing on 25 June and urged to innovate in the tech sector. While praising China’s progress he highlighted several shortcomings. Only a few days ago China’s Chang’e 6 robotic lunar lander came back with lunar samples exploring the far side (dark side) of the moon!  

Recently Handunnetti, NPP’s self-proclaimed economic wizard” addressing a meeting at Badulla, branded Bill Gates, Elon Musk et al as economic assassins” ; he compared Musk to casino owner James Packer; but apologized a day later; is it with these people Anura Kumara going to have a Quantum Leap in innovations, technology and investment?

Any reason to justify why people give Anura Kumara and NPP a chance?

2. RW/SP/AKD -Whom to Select?

In many occasions and about many issues RW, Sajith Premadasa and Anura Kumara say the same thing portraying themselves as a three-headed monster. So, the people are flabbergasted which head to keep turning the monster into a normal human being. Or are the people looking for a hero to slay this monster as in Greek mythology without allowing it to ravage the country anymore? We cannot keep chaining the maiden to the cliff to feed the monster anymore.

Do we see any difference between Ranil Wickremasinghe’s, Sajith Premadasa’s and Anura Kumara’s policies? Nothing. It is like selecting a bride from among three women, each of them suffering from three different incurable diseases.

Both Anura Kumara and Sajith Premadasa do not give alternative solutions to the pressing problems Sri Lanka is engrossed with.  Both bellow rhetoric full of populist fantasy to get votes rather than offering realistic alternatives about economy, corruption and how to deal with the IMF, all restricted to platform oratory. None of them say how they will increase state revenue. People are fed up with catchy slogans such as Horu allanawa”, fighting corruption, recovering stolen assets, bringing back stolen money parked abroad and many more.

Both are not concerned about the draft law RW and Wijedasa jointly presented to the Cabinet that allows forfeiture of the proceeds of ill-gotten money, after the IMF insisted on the promised legislation be enacted before it releases its 3rd tranche of US $ 337 million.

According to rhetoric and fantasies of both Anura Kumara and Sajith Premadasa and their hurrah boys, it seems that already both have won the Presidential Elections even before signing their nomination papers. Both instill in the minds of voters that there are two Presidential posts in Sri Lanka! Only King Pandukabhaya in our history had created a title called Re Rajaya” (administrator after nightfall?) which he bestowed upon his uncle Abhaya. OnlyJVP/DJV has any experience in such an arrangement as it was running a punchi anduwa” during 1988/1989!

At an ITN Thulawa” talk show Anura Kumara said that he has to carry forward the IMF programme, reduce the number of government officers and  restructure  loss making enterprises; at a  Derana 360”  discussion he said that if the debt restructuring has not occurred by the time they assume office, they must step into ensure a fair restructuring process. He accepted that he cannot do without restructuring; that they must proceed in this direction to address the crisis that has emerged in the financial sector.

Both SJB and NPP have vowed to renegotiate IMF agreement in case they come into power; in June Central Bank Assistant Governor said there is no solution other than IMF; how NPP is going to make use of CBSL expertise if it comes into power? Why NPP was silent about the unrealistic and unethical pay hike given to all employees in the Central Bank? This again demonstrated its dubious nature.

Governor of the Central Bank at a press conference held in December 2023 said, that Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreement with the IMF should continue for the next 4 years under any government, in order to get the debt relief and international financial support required; he warned that unilateral withdrawal from the IMF-EFF agreement will result in severe implications; any deviation from this path would bring detrimental and irreversible consequences to the financial system and the economy, he reiterated.

Mahinda Siriwardena, Secretary Finance, said even if Sri Lanka achieves the goal of zero corruption, tax revenue still has to be increased to bridge the budget deficit and lessen the country’s debt burden, delivering the Prof. K. Dharmasena memorial lecture at the Kelaniya University on 30 January 2024. He added that home grown” solutions are not the remedy; asset recovery, collection of taxes in arrears, elimination of waste, while all being essential actions do not serve as an alternative to the macroeconomics reforms.

IMF expressed about the continuity of its programme in view of the next Presidential Elections;  IMF Chief of Mission for Sri Lanka, Peter Breuer has revealed that IMF was willing to listen to different views on how those objectives are being achieved and alternative proposals needed to be realistic and achievable within the timeframe of the programme; continuity of its programme whoever comes into power, alternative proposals needed to be realistic and achievable within the timeframe of the programme are the key words of his statement. Do SJB and NPP have such realistic and achievable alternative proposals is the biggest question. What was inferred was whoever comes into power he must adhere to the IMF programme which requires Sri Lanka to do basically two things; expediting external debt restructuring and increasing state revenue substantially. What are NPP’s plans for that?  How does it achieve revenue targets? IMF has set the guidelines; even a future government will have to meet these specified revenue goals as taxes.

NPP is free to say anything about the economy. But who will spearhead the economy without the assistance of the Central Bank?Is NPP going to retain Nandalal Weerasinghe as the Governor, a former IMF employee, who represents American interests, always photographed with Julie Chung US Viceroy in Sri Lanka, brought by GR, notwithstanding political rivalries between Rajapaksas and Weerasinghes? Is it the reason the NPP was silent about the unrealistic and unethical pay hike given to all employees in the Central Bank? If so, NPP should tender an apology to him for gunning down his uncle, former UNP MP for Tangalle callously called by a name of a sleep-inducing indigenous plant?

How both Anura Kumara and Sajith Premadasa would reach a deal with the International Sovereign Bonds (ISB), the private commercial creditors, settling their loans by their future governments? They are afraid of telling the truth or rather discussing these critical issues. Criticizing is the easiest way.

3. Reenactment of an ancient Svayamwara”

The three-headed monster like in an ancient Svayamwara” (self-choice) ceremony are wooing the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim voters. The only difference is, in an ancient Svayamwara” ceremony, the woman chose a man as her husband from a group of suitors who demonstrated their skills on an appointed day.

UNP, SJB and NPP leaders and their followers are busy promoting themselves and their candidates in view of the Presidential Election.

The three suitorsare engaged in a competitionto secure the support of TNA and other Tamil parties and to woo Tamil voters in the North and the Vanni seeking their endorsement at the Presidential Election than any other group. Sajith Premadasa visiting Kilinochchi on 16 June, declared his intention to implement the 13th Amendment in full; Abraham Sumanthitharan was in attendance.

On the following day Anura Kumara was in Jaffna; he had a private meeting with Sumanthitharan; Sumanthitharan said afterwards that during his discussions Anura Kumara had admitted that the Tamils should have the right to decide on their requirements and admitted that Provincial Councils had failed to provide solutions to the problems of the Tamil people; later in London Anura Kumara said that they will continue with the Provincial Councils. He said that it is in the law. We do not intend to repeat again and again the atrocities committed by the JVP/DJV during 1988/1989 opposing the 13th Amendment and Provincial Councils.

Thus TNA received assurances from all three contenders as regards to full implementation of the 13th Amendment;  all three promise going beyond it to solve the  ethnic crisis”, all trying to win North and East votes; but RW is having an advantage over the other two because he was the person who signed the Norwegian crafted 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) acting above the President at the time CBK ; recently Sumanthitharan regretted the LTTE- TNA joint decision to boycott 2005 Presidential Elections which caused as some say RW’s defeat, giving an advantage to MR.

After Sajith Premadasa ’s visit, G.L. Pieris visited Jaffna to promote Premadasa’s candidature; he said that he would not give empty promises; Pieris who supported CBK, RW, MR, GR and Dulles in his earlier political avatars is the ideal person to woo Tamils.  Tamil separatists have a rapport with him as RW’s chief negotiator with Tigers.  These are the games academic- politicians play aiming a National List slot that will culminate with the coziest seat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs whoever at the helm.

But S. Sritharan, the newly elected leader of TNA rejects the 13th Amendment as inadequate to meet aspirations” of the Tamils.  All others also reject it. What do Premadasa and Anura Kumara going to do? Are they going to have a referendum as in South Sudan, Timor etc. and create a separate state amalgamating the North and the East?

All three contenders promise to hold Provincial Councils elections; but people have not forgotten who supported the postponement of Provincial Councils elections; RW, SP, AKD and TNA together passed an amendment to the Provincial Councils Elections Act to put off Provincial Councils elections indefinitely.

Sajith Premadasa visiting Jaffna in mid-June said he is going to develop North, then the North could contribute more to the GDP; now lowest province compared to Western, Central and North Western provinces he said. He promised to establish international cricket stadia, one in Jaffna and another in Batticaloa. They were the people who criticized Suriyawewa as an international stadium where cricket matches are not being played, Hambantota as a port where ships never call at, Mattala as an airstrip where no planes land.

But RW has won the support of Douglas Devananda, Karuna Amman. Pillaiyan, Thondaman and many other Tamil and Muslim politicians. This will be discussed under Ranil’s Strategic Maneuvers in the next part of this series.

On 2 July 2024, RW after his special address in the Parliament paid a tribute to Sampanthan the late leader of the TNA; Sajith Premadasa replying to RW also wanted to pay his condolences and a verbal battle followed with the Speaker, despite Speaker’s  assurance that a special day will be allotted for parliamentarians to pay their respects to the dead leader of the TNA; anyway like a kid who grabbed a balloon Premadasa succeeded.

Both speakers said Sampanthan worked for territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka, forgetting how TNA under his leadership acted as the mouthpiece of LTTE, condoning all atrocities committed by it.

On 3 July 2024, when the body of Sampanthan was brought to the Parliament Anura Kumara was seen meekly escorting the coffin as if he was the cross-bearer in a Christian funeral procession rather than a pallbearer!

RW and SP both provide handouts; RW misuses public funds and state machinery; SJB promises a mid-day meal to all school children; distributing busses and smart class rooms” he has become a joke, writingcat sat on a mat”, something in Tamil, drawing diagrams ondigital boards, asking the children whether they know Japanese. The school children especially primary school children cannot stomach what Premadasa lectures; he does not have any knowledge of the audience he addresses; he does not understand that the macro level politics and economics he preaches are not suitable to his audience; the most harmful aspect of his lectures is the weightage he gives to English and IT, creating confusion, ambiguity, anxiety, discontent, frustration, maladjustment and alienation among rural and semi- urban children. His utterances about knowledge-based economy, human capital are not novel concepts although he dramatizes them in front of empty receptacles. Why the government and the Ministry of Education allow him to play political games with school children, teachers and parents?  Does RW think that he has given Premadasa an opportunity to dig his own grave?  Fonseka, the SJB Chairman alleged what Premadasa uses is casino money. 

Both SJB and NPP promise to tackle corruption, waste and mismanagement and to punish wrongdoers; all these promises are populist and unrealistic; both do not address the real economic issues.  Both promise to investigate Easter Sunday carnage; Premadasa has forgotten that he was in the Yahapalana government when Easter Sunday massacre took place; Anura Kumara has forgotten that the NPP had accommodated Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim, one of the country’s richest spice exporters in its 2015 national list, that his two sons Iham Ahmad Ibrahim and Imsath Ahmad denotated their explosives at the Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand Hotel respectively and daughter- in- law denotated a bomb at Dematagoda.

Both SJB and NPP support RW’s Gender Equality Bill. Harini Amarasuriya the neo-liberal voice of NPP has become the spokesperson of LGBTIQ+ community, both in and outside the Parliament.

Recently at Ada Derana, At Hyde Park Corner” discussion, Nandalal Weerasinghe said, salaries must increase when overcoming a crisis”. Increasing only for Central Bank officials? During the crisis or after overcoming the crisis? He further said that the manufacturing economy is a myth”. If it is so how RW, Sajith and Anura Kumara going to increase export economy, as all of them want to make Sri Lanka an export economy? For what purposes FDIs sought after? With what exports they create an export economy? Soya beans and peanuts?

NEXT: JVP/NPP behavior during the crisis in 2022; Internal Contradictions within NPP; JVP/NPP volte-face; Ranil’s strategic maneuvers; Political dynamics and unpredictable nature of voters; Entrepreneurial State; Future of Sri Lanka as an independent sovereign state under US and Indian hegemonic influence.

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