The economic crisis and the resultant political upheaval that brought down the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime have created ridiculous political alignments. In fact, the major part of the “credit” for the creation of those alignments should go to Gotabaya’s younger brother and his Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
The alignments have now grown into political alliances with the approach of the local government elections that have now been scheduled to be held on March 9. Of these coalitions, the one between President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s party, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) headed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa must be the one that is most talked about.
Another group of politicians, some of whom had been ministers of the governments of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa has formed two alliances, one under Wimal Weerawansa, the leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the other headed by Dullas Alahapperuma, who played a leading role in the two Rajapaksa brothers’ Presidential election campaigns in 2005, 2010, 2014/2015 and 2019.
Meanwhile, Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), the once powerful party representing the up-country Tamils has this time coalesced with the UNP. The party was first formed as a trade union movement in the 1930s with the title of Ceylon Indian Congress (CIC) under the guidance of Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the leaders of the Indian National Congress during his visit to Sri Lanka in 1939. Later it changed its name to Ceylon Workers Congress in 1956. It was with the UNP since Independence but after 1977 has been swaying between the two main parties, almost always being in the government.
Despite there being so many coalitions, in terms of visibility, the groupings between the UNP and the SLPP, the Uttara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS) headed by Wimal Weerawansa and Dullas Alahapperuma’s Nidhahasa Janatha Sabhawa (NJS) are the prominent ones
The other main up-country Tamil parties which have organised themselves as an umbrella grouping called Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) under Mano Ganesan as well as the two main Muslim parties; the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) are continuing their coalition with the Samagi Jana Balawegaya led by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.
Major changes could be seen in the political alignments in the North as well. The two-decade-old Tamil amalgam, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which was formed under the guidance of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2001 has shed its power and reach of influence with the main and the largest constituent of it, the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi leaving the alliance a few days ago. It now consists of its original smaller parties some of which had distanced themselves from the grouping some years ago.
The Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) which is consistent in its policy towards the ethnic problem and political partnership with the main political parties is contesting this time with the UNP and the SLPP in the north. The party has always pursued the slogan “Autonomy in the periphery and confederation in the centre” and thereby had coalesced with whatever party that runs the country, since its formation in the early nineties.
The rivalry and hostility between the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has been the focal conflict in Sri Lankan politics since the formation of the latter in 1951
Despite there being so many coalitions, in terms of visibility, the groupings between the UNP and the SLPP, the Uttara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS) headed by Wimal Weerawansa and Dullas Alahapperuma’s Nidhahasa Janatha Sabhawa (NJS) are the prominent ones. The more their prominence is, the more visible their shamelessness.
The rivalry and hostility between the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has been the focal conflict in Sri Lankan politics since the formation of the latter in 1951. This hostility has been the key component of the “two-party system” in Sri Lanka to date. In spite of them having formed coalitions with other smaller parties during various elections, they were the core element in those amalgams. For instance, the SLFP, the party that led the most number of blocs such as United Front in 1970, People’s Alliance (PA) in 1994, and United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in 2003 has been the dominant party in those blocs with full control and the ultimate say. The SLPP in essence is nothing but the SLFP despite the rank and file as well as the leadership working under a new name.
Similarly, the UNP formed two alliances with the signboards United National Front (UNF) in 2001 and United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) in 2014, while reserving the dominant influence and the say for it.
For the past seventy years, the UNP has been the most treacherous party to the SLFP as well as the SLPP and their allies. Its allegiance to the West was considered to be servile to Western imperialism. The leaders of the party, especially former President J.R. Jayewardene and Ranil Wickremesinghe were called stooges of the West. Jayewardene was also known as “Yankee Dickey.”
The SLFP, its allies and the SLPP have been viewing Wickremesinghe as a weak and failed leader until June last year. However, all of a sudden, with the SLPP leaders being threatened by a massive public uprising since March last year, they began to see a totally different man in him. Now, strangely, not an iota of sheepishness is seen from them when they tell the masses that he was the only leader who can save the country from the current economic mess. They conveniently shed their responsibility to explain to the country how this collective mind change occurred. Either they lied to the people then or are doing so now.
For the past seventy years, the UNP has been the most treacherous party to the SLFP as well as the SLPP and their allies. Its allegiance to the West was considered to be servile to Western imperialism
It was Wickremesinghe who masterminded the Central Bank bond scam and it was his government’s weakness that led to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks on April 21, 2019, according to the SLPP and its allies then. They who blamed him and the Yahapalana government for weakening the country’s intelligence mechanism and jeopardizing national security gave the supreme responsibility of the land, totally relying on him for the security of the country and especially of theirs.
On the other hand, the main slogan of the UNP during the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2015 was the high profile corruption and waste under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. It must be recalled Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister in the previous government ordered storing paddy in Mattala International Airport, in order to prove that it was a white elephant.
Similarly, on what grounds the leaders of the ULS of Weerawansa and NJS headed by Alahapperuma criticize the SLPP for its contribution to the destruction of the economy, nepotism and mass-scale corruption, after working hand in glove with them for more than a decade? Even after seeing firsthand the mass-scale frauds and monumental wastage in the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, Weerawansa equated Mahinda with Mahathir Mohamed of Malaysia and Gotabaya with Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, during the 2019 Presidential election.
We never heard leaders of these two new coalitions raising a finger when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned the importation of chemical fertilizer or when the sugar scam occurred. They attempt to defend President Rajapaksa while opposing the awarding of the Eastern terminal of the Colombo harbour to India as well as the Yugadanavi Power Plant to the US company, the New Fortress. They never uttered a single word against the forced cremation policy of the government, but some of them ardently supported it. Now Foreign Minister Ali Sabry is lamenting that the policy is now standing in the way when seeking economic assistance from the Middle Eastern countries.
It was not their opposition to corruption or the harm the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government did to the country that led them to leave the administration. If not for SLPP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa having sidelined them, not a single MP of both these new coalitions would have taken the slightest stance against any of the policies or actions of the current government. Besides, the plethora of posts on social media about Weerawansa and former President Maithripala Sirisena standing together against the government are amusing.
It is amazing that all these leaders believe that the people of this country still trust them. However, given the Sri Lankan political history and the political literacy of the masses, we might sometimes be awakened on March 10 to see what we deem impossible today to have happened.
Courtesy Daily Mirror
Disclaimer: Shameless coalitions ahead of LG polls - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view