Lightning within the political scene but no thunder

Many questions are now being raised on the new political alliance envisaged by former Minister Mangala Samaraweera to sustain his political viability in the Sri Lankan political landscape.
The first question so asked is as to whether UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe could work with Samaraweera. Samaraweera being one of the most bitter political enemies of the UNP leader some UNP insiders entertain doubts about an alliance between the two. But others say this is quite possible citing the example of UNP National Organiser S.B.Dissanayake.

S.B, as he is known among the political circles, was also an arch political rival of Wickremesinghe. S.B finally fell in line with the Wickremesinghe thinking, after he fell out with President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
He led a team along with Professor G.L.Peiris and others to push the Kumaratunga government in to the opposition in the year 2001, while accepting the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe in the newly formed United National Front (UNF).
Wickremesinghe sorted out all his differences with SB. The two joined hands in a common front to defeat Kumaratunga’s SLFP in the Parliamentary General Elections that followed.

Wickremesinghe knew where to draw the line with SB. He did not bother too much when SB was jailed by the Supreme Court on a matter of contempt of court over some utterance made by him (SB) at a function held in Habaraduwa.
This incident in question took place after the UNP was ousted by the SLFP-JVP alliance which was masterminded by Mangala Samaraweera the erstwhile lieutenant of then President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 2004, approximately two years after the UNP was elected to power.

It is a consolation for Ranil Wickremesinghe that Mangala Samaraweera, one of his most virulent critics, has now come round and is trying to mend fences with the UNP to secure his political future. It is similar in kind to the S.B. Dissanayake political exercise as far as Wickremesinghe is concerned. Dissanayake politically manoeuvred and manipulated many an election in favour of Chandrika Kumaratunga in the past and used all his mental faculties in the exercise.

In short Wickremesinghe has achieved something politically over the years though he failed to reach the higher echelons of power.
At least his silence in Parliament, when his critics were at his throat, paid him dividends. Three of them in numbers including Sripathi Samaraweera fell onto his lap and virtually all of them are at his disposal.
Some political analysts want to play down the present scenario by saying that this was only a re-enactment of a common historical event and cite the case of Late Philip Gunawardene and many others as examples.

Philip Gunawardene a Trotskyite and a political giant of the day, and who was branded as an arch political enemy of Dudley Senanayake, joined hands with the latter finally to form a government under the Premiership of Senanayake.
However, for Ranil Wickremesinghe, whether it is Mangala or anybody else, it is a political opportunity knocking at his door. Mangala Samaraweera’s departure from the government ranks had made a dent in the Rajapaksa administration and it is for the advantage of Ranil Wickremesinghe

Wickremesinghe met with Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi at the former’s Cambridge Terrace office. At this meeting the expression on Wickremesinghe’s face suggested that he was thinking of political expediency and to rise for the occasion. The question is whether the time is right?

The ever escalating cost of living and the unsettled political conditions have already put the government in a very difficult situation. Some think the economic depth the government has fallen into is beyond redemption.
In urban areas the government’s popularity had taken a nose dive while in rural areas too it is diminishing gradually mainly because of the sky rocketing prices of essential commodities. The on going military offensive in the North and the East is the main factor besides other contributing factors such as price fluctuations in the world market and the depreciating value of the Rupee that has brought the country down the economic precipice.

However, the rural masses still believe that the government is trying to do a good job as far as the war is concerned. They find it hard to fathom the story about President Mahinda Rajapaksa having had a deal with the LTTE just prior to the Presidential elections. This is because government troops are engaging the LTTE and inflicting heavy losses on them in the East.

As the insiders see it, the slogan used by the UNP against the government “Dooshsanaya Beeshanaya and Rajapaksa Poshanaya” (Corruption, terror and nourishment for Rajapaksas) goes down well with the city folk but not with the rural masses as expected by the UNP.

The reason being , there is hardly any fear instilled in the minds of the people in rural areas unlike the days during which both the JVP and the government committed atrocities against the rural masses in the late eighties.
In addition to a cycle of violence unleashed by the JVP there were state sponsored human rights violations in 1987 and 1988 which brought the whole country to a complete standstill.

But of course there have been instances where dead bodies were found in isolated places in rural areas which is reminiscent of the 1987 period of terror that may lead to a sudden change of the psyche of the rural masses. A situation like this would make things far worse for the Rajapaksa administration

Presently the abductions, extortions and terrorising anti government activists are only confined to the city and immediate suburbs where the anti government feelings are running high and gathering momentum. Besides the city the terror campaign unleashed by the LTTE and the state continue unabated in the North and the East where there is heightened LTTE activity. The LTTE is unleashing terror causing economic mayhem while the government is responding in kind.

In this back drop there are doubts as to whether Mangala Samaraweera’s “DARE TO DREAM” document would have the desired impact. It has already been handed over to the UNP leader who would go through it thoroughly and make his own observations. But it wound be rather difficult for the UNP to agree for the abolition of the Executive Presidency or drastic reduction of the powers of the Executive Presidency and to do away with the Proportionate representation system (PR system) for Parliamentary general elections.

The only point where the UNP could agree with the SLFP (Mahajana Wing) is to topple the present regime at a forced Parliamentary General elections and thereafter clip the wings of the Executive President by pruning down his vote in Parliament.
This could only happen if the UNP and the SLFP (M) could muster sufficient support from the other minority parties and the disillusioned SLFPers within the government.

Though Mangala Samaraweera and others claim that there are more to join his struggle to restore democracy within the SLFP, it remains a cry in the wilderness.
Will it be possible for Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi to keep this issue alive for a longer period and sustain it until they achieve desired results, is the million dollar question in this exercise. If there is a way out for Mangala and Sripathi that is only through the strength of the UNP and by forging closer to it and forming an alliance.

The invite extended by the JVP to join hands with them in their struggle to create a better society and a better country is a far fetched dream for Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi who are seeking a short cut to gain power. Their ultimate place of refuge is the UNP. This could bring victory to Wickremesinghe despite a few hiccups in his party over the intended alliance.

At the meeting held last week between UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and SLFP (M) leaders Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi it was decided to pursue their own agendas as separate entities and at the same time to come on the common platform on a common agenda of defeating the government.
They are likely to work closely in Parliament on various issues while exerting pressure on the government to come to terms with the opposition. They would force the government to appoint a Parliamentary select committee to formally probe the allegations levelled by the departed members, on a purported deal between the Rajapaksas and the LTTE where the latter imposed a forced boycott on the Tamil people on the day of the Presidential elections 2005.

The government appears to be amused over the new political alliance being forged between the UNP and the Mangala Samaraweera faction of the SLFP. Some government politicians feel that Mangala’s timing is wrong and his purported alliance with the UNP had exposed his hypocrisy.
In short he said that the meeting with the UNP was a wrong step forward and the sympathy he gained from the SLFPers is fast diminishing a result.
However, we are yet to see as to how the electorate would respond to the latest political twist in the country.