For Ranil or Sajith to win, they must attack AKD and NPP, not the old JVP..!

-By Virgil

(Lanka-e-News -17.April.2024, 5.50 PM) “They said this day would never come...” ~Barack Obama's Iowa Caucus victory speech Jan 3, 2008

Both the United National Party (UNP) led by Ranil Wickremasinghe and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya led by Sajith Premadasa are making a monumental political blunder. Instead of attacking the National People's Power (NPP) and Anura Kumara Dissanayake, they have resorted to attacking the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) once led by Rohana Wijeweera. The people do not want to go back in time. Rohana Wijeweera and his JVP are things of the past. They belong to history. Rohana Wijeweera died in 1989 and with him died the JVP as it existed then, thirty five (35) years ago. As much as our electorate has forgotten the Senanayakes, Bandaranaikes and even Jayawardenes, the present generation might have forgotten the then JVP and Rohana Wijeweera.

Nevertheless, the atrocities visited upon our innocent men and women in the late nineteen eighties should never be forgotten. We have not forgotten the heinous crimes committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and Prabhakaran. Even a rudimentary recollection of the times of the Elam War is a no-no for every Sinhalese, Buddhist or non-Buddhist. Yet they might choose to go down that road for the sake of the sacrifice of their loved ones. It is but human to indulge in occasional nostalgic walking down the memory lane, even for a short time. One cannot find fault with such fundamental human behavior.

But framing an election campaign and inserting the real meat into the campaign with valid, legitimate and strategically advantageous material cannot be overruled nor could it be foreclosed. But fundamentally centering your campaign on the morbid history of the then JVP and expecting the electorate to consume it is strategically flawed. Such a strategy may have worked a couple of decades ago. In fact, it did work in the UNP campaign in 1988 and R Premadasa, Sajith's father, succeeded in doing. That was pre-Social Media time.

As I have repeatedly written in my previous columns, the Social Media has managed to alter the reporting and dissemination of information and basic data on matters that matter to national life. One is constantly and consistently reminded about what is happening around one's surroundings, one's political leaders, parliamentary and Presidential business, corrupt practices of their leaders, how and who is letting the corrupt leaders get away, who is responsible for shortages of medicines and other essential drugs, who is indulging in extravagant lifestyles at the expense of suffering masses etc. etc.

The list is long and could be ugly and obscene when completed. Those government servants whom you know because they are your neighbors might be in those blacklists. But thanks to the social media, they can no longer be evasive; they may run but they cannot hide as the cliché goes. A truly new era is dawning; new dimensions are framing our daily lives and along with it our political, economic and sociocultural architecture too.

Ranil and Sajith must come to terms with it. Discarding the impact and effects of the social media and callously ignoring the young men and women and their unquenchable thirst for fresh information would not deliver the election to either one of them. The masses who have gone through deceit and lies for the last seven decades are sick of such brazen political deceit and dishonesty. But Ranil and Sajith still can make very legitimate and valid claim to power through the vote. Numbers and arithmetic is disproportionately in favor of a victory for Ranil or Sajith or Ranil/Sajith combination.

Another strange phenomenon one must remember is that Ranil, at his core, knows that he cannot win an election by himself. After the 2005 debacle when Prabhakaran decreed that Jaffna Tamils should stay away from the voting booth, Ranil lost the election which was in his grab twenty four hours before. Ever since that misfortune, Ranil, despite being the leader of the UNP, always put forward a candidate other than himself. He must have realized even now, that reality is staring in his face: he cannot win a Presidential election by himself.

However, for the first time in his life, he has realized that dream of being the Executive President of the country outside the process of election. He does not want to give that away when he thinks that he could easily win this time provided he secures the votes of Pohottuwa voters and the breakaway group from the UNP, Samagi Jana Balavegaya. He would offer everything to Sajith, including his kitchen sink along with Premiership in his government to ensure the candidacy of a coalition that includes the UNP, SJB and the SLPP (Pohottuwa group).

On paper, such a coalition surely looks a winning formula. Numbers, as I enunciated above, are on their side.  Nearly seven million voted for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Sajith Premadasa secured five and half million votes. Addition of both exceeds twelve million (12 million)! Anura Kumara Dissanayake's vote was a mere four hundred thousand plus some change (less than half a million)!

Is it possible at all that AKD could win just after five years? How on earth can he increase his vote from less than half  million (<.5 million) to six million plus (6 + million)? Highly, highly unlikely; but not impossible in the sense that anything is possible. It is widely rumored and maybe even as a consequence of a strategic move by the NPP to spread the so-called results of varied polls and surveys conducted over the last twelve months. No one has certified these surveys and polls as correct, valid or legitimate. At the same time, both the UNP and SJB have not questioned the validity of these polls either. If these polls are, in fact, false and fake, they could have easily taken to task these pollsters and those channels, digital media outlets on the very validity about the data that is being spilled out. Absent such challenges, one has no option but to accept their results as valid.

There is one other indication that the National People's Power is gaining enormous popularity in the electorate: cancellation of the local government elections. With their tremendously galvanizing campaign of mass rallies, press briefings and parliamentary speeches, NPP was right on top of the election trajectory.

But what one must remember is, when the local government election was canceled for whatever reason the government attributed to the postponement or cancellation of the local government elections, the NPP had not started their Gahenu Eka Mitata (women's rallies) campaign. They had not gone to the North, they did not have a finely manged youth rallies-program. The progression of the NPP and even of AKD could be traced to the last six months. The very visibility and the optics of their painstakingly structured campaign mirror a well managed program on the lines of defined roles for each man and woman involved in the campaign. To launch such a multi-pronged campaign require not only the devotion and commitment of those who actually perform the tasks that they are given. It requires a great number of men and women, it requires a thoroughly and sufficiently trained organization that make all parts turning in a well oiled machine with precision and without procrastination. It is no easy undertaking. And above all, one question that everyone asks is: where do they get the money from to do all this?

The signals can be deceptive. One simply cannot  under or overestimate the NPP's potentiality for success. Images tell only a minute fraction of the story. NPP and AKD have to discard  not only the the JVP's notorious past; they have to embrace the new; they need to go beyond their rhetoric; they should be able to convince a huge electorate that has been very nervous and fearful about their propensities for violence, chaos and anarchic tendencies. The current leadership of the Party may have stepped outside that chaotic, anarchic and violent past. But how about the grassroots? Have they taken stock on the present? How did they conduct themselves during the Aragalaya days? Did they show the same discipline that the Aragalakaruwos (participants of the Aragalaya) displayed?

The relevant question is, would they be disciplined to stay away from violence and other unruly mayhem? Has that message been passed down the line? Or has their been any relaxation of attitude settled in them so that they would misread the leadership's silence as approval or endorsement? The NPP has to grapple with all these issues one by one. They were once a cellish party; it's rather easy to impose discipline on such a small group of operatives. Now that party has grown to be a people's movement for which a sense of regimen, regulation and order could be loose and sometimes even alien. Growth has a price and that price may well be sacrifice of order, regulation and discipline. The National People's Power has to learn on their feet.

Nothing is assured in politics; hard-nosed attitudes and tough-minded execution without discipline, without applying brakes at the right juncture and at the right time, victory could be as elusive as the furthermost mirage on a barren, sandy desert. If the seemingly impossible numbers can be challenged and attained, the NPP and its current leadership can. They have a long way to go and little time to do it in. If anyone can, they can. Ranil's and Sajith's task is to challenge AKD and NPP, not Wijeweera and JVP.

-By Virgil

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]

Virgil's Collection

by     (2024-04-17 12:34:31)

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