The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 4

Resolving to hate
4
Sunday, Frbruary 15, 2015
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op-ed
T
he Northern Provincial Council
(NPC) has passed a resolution
charging
successive
govern-
ments of perpetrating genocide on Tam-
ils in Sri Lanka. For a Council that has
an ex-judge of the Supreme Court as
Chief Minister the interjection of the
word ‘genocide’ is mischievous at best.
If language legislation in 1956 amounts
to ‘genocide’ then clearly Wigneswaran
does not understand the meaning of the
word. The point is, Wigneswaran does
understand and therefore discredits the
document and in the end does much dis-
service to legitimate grievances of the
community he claims to represent.
The resolution is symptomatic of the
disease that has always plagued Tamil
Nationalism: exaggeration. It does two
things. Firstly it amounts to rabble-
rousing and preys on the most base
of human sentiments. It encourages
extremism and empowers extremists.
Secondly, it ensures that whatever sup-
port you may have from those in other
communities will erode simply because
you’ve lost the legitimacy that comes
from keeping your articulation within
the dimensions of reality. Together, they
make for entrenchment of ‘hard lines’.
There is no argument in the conten-
tion that Tamil people in this island
suffered. It would be as hard to dispute
that their suffering can be attributed
to one community and one community
alone. Wigneswaran would know that
the men who his party (Tamil National
Alliance) affirmed were the ‘sole repre-
sentatives of the Tamil people’ abducted
Tamil children, murdered Tamil politi-
cians, professionals and leaders of rival
groups. He knows who held hundreds
of thousands of Tamils hostage in the
last stages of the armed conflict. He also
knows who saved them.
Pointing the fing
ction
and pretending to be blind to crimes per-
petrated by members of one’s own com-
munity against others in that very same
community makes it hard to embrace
such resolutions as being informed by
moral and ethical consideration. Do
that and you cannot whine if those in
the community you charge with ‘geno-
cide’ decide to treat you as a third-rate
rabble-rousing politician who is not in-
terested in things like peace, reconcilia-
tion, inter-ethnic harmony and such.
Wigneswaran and the TNA must
not forget that it was not the Tamil
community alone that suffered. They
should not forget that it was not only
Tamils who spoke about the legiti-
mate grievances of Tamils. As of now,
when the TNA refuses point blank to
use existing space for airing legiti-
mate grievances, the claim of being
‘lesser citizens’ does, ironically, gain
credence not as something conferred
but as something desired or at least
acquired by choice.
If truth and reconciliation are im-
portant (as the regime has often stated)
then spades should be called spades.
The TNA is clearly sharpening knives
of separatism.
Wigneswaran, the so-called ‘moder-
ate,’ is acquiring Tiger stripes at an
alarming rate and clearly without his
conscience being pricked on account
of inconsistency, the shameless utter-
ing of falsehoods, mislabeling of myth
as history and conjecture as fact. It just
wrecks the search for truth because
few would want to make conversation
with such people.
Those who truly desire to reconcile
and move on in the Tamil community
are fast being marginalized. The self-
labeled ‘moderates’ of an earlier avatar
of Tamil Nationalism, the Tamil United
Liberation Front played t
e
game. Wigneswaran knows what hap-
pened to them. Everyone knows the
costs incurred by all communities. We
need not go into all that. We need not
walk that path again.
By Malinda Seneviratne
A
group of essentially one-
man parties have organized a
rally. They’ve invited the 5.8
million who voted for Mahinda Raja-
paksa in a losing cause on January 8,
2015 to attend. They have asked for
a show of force.
Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Dinesh
Gunawardena, Wimal Weerawansa
and Udaya Gammanpila are all fiery
speakers no doubt, but in terms of
political endowments such as mem-
bership, party machinery and vote-
getting ability outside of alignment
with a major party, they are impov-
erished. Today, with all MPs from
the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)
pledging support to President Mai-
thripala Sirisena and given their
long standing antipathy to the Unit-
ed National Party (UNP), they do not
have that political big tree so neces-
sary for them to cling on to if they
want to remain politically relevant.
They clearly need Mahinda Raja-
paksa more than Mahinda Rajapak-
sa needs them. If one were to assess
their chances at a general election
contested as a coalition even under
the present proportional represen-
tation system they would be lucky
to get two seats. Even the Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), clinging
on to Sarath Fonseka could return
only three members to Parliament
(down from the 40 they had in 2004).
Ideally, therefore, as far as they are
concernedMahindaRajapaksawould
lead a coalition and help secure
enough votes for them to squeeze in.
Those votes would probably come
from the SLFP and might end up
gifting the bonus seats of relevant
districts to the UNP, but it would not
help Mahinda’s cause (whatever it
may be) at this point. An all-power-
ful executive president who becomes
a mere Member of Parliament (one
out of 225) would look dwarfed.
Why on earth should Mahinda wish
such an eventuality on himself ? He,
more than anyone else, knows the
true weight of an MP. ‘Lightweight’
would be an exaggeration.
If Mahinda wants to be politically
relevant he must remain outside the
parliamentary equation. Today, hav-
ing recovered a part of a persona that
was so crucial in propelling him into
the highest political office, the for-
mer president is basking in post-elec-
tion adoration from those who credit
him for putting an end to terrorism.
People are going to Medamulana in
their hundreds on a daily basis. This
is a phenomenon that we did not see
when either Chandrika Kumaratun-
ga or Ranil Wickremesinghe left of-
fice. It would be naïve to count all
these as ‘sure votes’ or as evidence
of a massive demand for him to enter
parliament. However, should he play
a ‘distancing game’ such a demand
may grow to a politically relevant
magnitude.
He has made the politically as-
tute move of pledging support to the
SLFP and insisting that he will not
be part of any moves that cause divi-
sion in the party. In short he will not
be a spoiler. He could go further. He
could say for instance that if he has
done wrong then let there be a prop-
er investigation and that if found
guilty be put behind bars. He can
then add, ‘by the way, since this is all
about the primacy of the law, let the
principle of equality be applied and
all wrongdoing be investigated and
all wrongdoers charged in court’.
That would not only make the many
wrongdoers currently enjoying high
office as well as the favor of the gov-
ernment squirm, it would position
him strongly for any future political
moves should he be so inclined.
The only way Mahinda Rajapaksa
can remain relevant politically is for
him to acknowledge and affirm at ev-
ery turn that (a) Maithripala Sirisena
is not only the President of the coun-
try he is his (Mahinda’s) president as
well, and (b) Maithripala Sirisena is
not only the leader of the SLFP, he
is his (Mahinda’s) leader as well. He
could add that just as he did what his
predecessors could not (defeat the
LTTE and end the war), his successor
is attempting what he himself could
not (constitutional reform), observ-
ing that both men are SLFP stalwarts.
This would not only help the party
but would enhance his stature which
(he has to admit) too some severe hits
thanks to his own errors.
Those who love Mahinda, then,
should encourage him to remain
where he is, which is also where he
operates best – on the ground and far
away from the cameras. Those who
pretend to love him, but are only con-
cerned about their political futures
would of course want to drag him
out of that ‘better zone’ and into a
campaign that is scripted to belittle
the man.
Mahinda Rajapaksa
is loved and ‘loved’
J
ust six months ago, the United National
Party (UNP) was in disarray, locked in
a leadership battle between Ranil Wick-
remesinghe and Sajith Premadasa that
was driving the party on a downward spiral.
Now, they are in government and the rival
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) faces that
fate.
This was after the defeat of former Presi-
dent Mahinda Rajapaksa at the presiden-
tial election. In fact, even after the victory
of President Maithripala Sirisena, a faction
of its decision making body, the SLFP cen-
tral committee, met at their party headquar-
ters at Darley Road with Rajapaksa in the
chair.
After this meeting, the present Leader
of the Opposition, Nimal Siripala de Silva
noted that though the party Constitution
stipulated that if the President was from the
SLFP, he would lead the party, this did not
apply to President Sirisena as he contested
from a rival party and ran against the SLFP
candidate.
What could have escalated into a wide
rift in the SLFP was pre-empted when Ra-
japaksa met President Sirisena at Speaker
Chamal Rajapaksa’s residence shortly af-
terwards and the party leadership was con-
ceded to the President. Now though, the
cracks in the SLFP are emerging again.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly,
there is a group within the SLFP who feel
that Rajapaksa’s charisma and mass ap-
peal is essential to the party’s campaign,
if it is to make any headway in the general
election that will be held in June. Otherwise,
its prospects are quite bleak, they believe.
Thus, there were efforts by the old guard
of the SLFP to rope in Rajapaksa and for-
mer President Chandrika Kumaratunga
into a grand partnership of Presidents for
the general election. That did not material-
ize because Kumaratunga was vehement
in her objections to giving Rajapaksa any
position.
Secondly, there are several leaders of the
United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA)
such as Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gu-
nawardena Vasudeva Nanayakkara and
Udaya Gammanpila who are agitating for
Rajapaksa’s return. They will hold their first
rally at Nugegoda this Wednesday.
This group feels marginalized in the
‘new’ SLFP under President Sirisena. They
are likely to contest the general elections
as a separate entity because they feel
they will not be accommodated alongside
the SLFP as much as they were during the
Rajapaksa era.
Wimal Weerawansa in particular is keen
to enlist Rajapaksa’s services. That is be-
cause a section of the SLFP views him as
one of the major reasons for Rajapaksa’s
downfall. Weerawansa was at the forefront
of Rajapaksa’s election campaign, even
more so than die-hard SLFP stalwarts.
His oratory, while entertaining, also has
the power to polarize the masses. His re-
marks at the UPFA’s campaign, where he
referred to President Sirisena in a deroga-
tory manner went viral on social media.
Moderate sections of the SLFP believe
this alienated voters away from the former
President.
Weerawansa and his Jathika Nidahas
Peramuna would not be welcome under a
SLFP-led list because President Sirisena
will have the final say on party nominations
for the elections. Hence the clamor for an
alliance headed by Rajapaksa.
The likes of Weerawansa, Gunawardena,
Nanayakkara and Gammanpila all head
political parties with a negligible vote base.
While they can aspire to become ministers
under a SLFP-led government, they carry
no clout by themselves. So, the Rajapaksa
proposition is very attractive to them.
The biggest stumbling block to
such an alliance is ironically Rajapaksa
himself. In his public utterances since the
election it is evident that Rajapaksa, the
political street fighter that he is, is itching
to re-enter the political arena. However, for
now, that would have to be from outside the
SLFP.
Rajapaksa would have second thoughts
about this. The Rajapaksas - save for Ba-
sil, who worked as an election agent for the
UNP at the May 1983 by-election in Mulkiri-
gala - have been loyal SLFPers for genera-
tions. Mahinda Rajapaksa has been with
the SLFP all his political life, for forty-five
years.
That is an umbilical cord that is hard to
cut. Besides, the prospect of contesting
with three or four small-scale political par-
ties, with the likelihood of being an ‘also-
ran’ at the polls cannot be appealing to a
man who ruled the waves and waived the
rules in the country only a few months ago.
The most likely outcome of all this is that
Rajapaksa will not get on the Weerawansa-
Gunawardena-Nanayakkara-Gammanpila
platform but would allow his return to be
used as a slogan. Besides, Nimal Siripa-
la de Silva wouldn’t want to let go of the
chance to be at least the Deputy Prime
Minister.
With the benefits dished out to the mass-
es by the UNP-led government and the
details of wastage of public funds and al-
legations of corruption that are slowly but
surely coming to light, this elections is not
for the UNP to lose. Yet, stranger events
have occurred in Sri Lankan politics in the
last few weeks!
In his public utterances since the election it is
evident that Rajapaksa is itching to re-enter
the political arena. The likes of Weerawansa,
Gunawardena, Nanayakkara and Gammanpila are
keen to welcome former President to a new alliance
but the biggest stumbling block to such an alliance
is ironically Rajapaksa himself
Efforts to enlist MR for poll campaign
Efforts to form a grand partnership of
former Presidents Rajapaksa and Chandrika
Kumaratunga for the general election will
not succeeded
1,2,3 5,6,7,8-9,10,11,12,13,14,15,...68
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