of the end for SLFP
the words of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, "it is the
highest political victory recorded by an SLFP led coalition in
Weerawansa, Nandana Gunatilake, Vijitha Herath, Anura Dissanayake,
Sunil Handunnetti, Bimal Ratnayake and Anjan Umma
nobody would contest the veracity of Kumaratunga's address to the
nation, made in the afterglow of a convincing political victory.
did not forget to add for good measure that the poll results - despite
recording a UPFA victory - failed to reflect the extent of the victory
in the number of seats secured by the UPFA in parliament. She quite
rightly found the system somewhat flawed, hence the non-reflection of
the massive victory.
strange logic, the leader of the People's Alliance held this to be the
best performance by the party so far, a claim that would have been true
had it emanated from the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which
has suddenly shot to a decisive position in Sri Lankan politics.
are no doubts about the validity of the Presidential claim as far as the
extent of the UPFA's victory goes. But what Kumaratunga in her euphoric
state forgot to mention was that this victory, however great it is from
the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) perspective, could never be
considered a victory for the party founded by her father and nurtured by
her mother, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). In fact, it marked the
beginning of the end for Sri Lanka's second largest political party and
the true emergence of the third force that is able to give the SLFP a
run for its place.
along, the SLFP, as did the UNP from time to time, has been in
coalitions to secure political power. Enjoying a block vote of some 30%,
the SLFP always fell short of mustering the required majority to set up
government on its own. The dream to be the second largest political
force in the country had to be often sacrificed when it came to the
ambition of forming governments which called for electoral pacts and
even having to put up with troublesome coalition partners who often
turned into Shylocks demanding their political pounds of flesh.
what the PA did not calculate, or miscalculated was the emergence of the
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), their newest coalition partner as a
group that is far stronger than any of their previous allies.
JVP's political base has increased to such an extent that in the present
context, the JVP only requires a few good years work to emerge as the
second largest political party in the country with the SLFP showing all
signs of simply withering away.
into thinking that like all the leftist political parties that lent
support to the SLFP that the JVP too would be the 'insignificant
appendage,' the SLFP did not pause to consider the political
consequences of an alliance with the Marxists.
blues did not foresee the JVP's ability to take over - or simply brush
the SLFP's presence aside in areas where they are strong. Not only did
they make the SLFP seem an insignificant political influence in their
power bases but in areas that were hitherto unfriendly to the JVP - such
as Colombo which was given a red hue during the April poll.
truth, according to several key SLFP members who spoke on the basis of
anonymity dawned only when election results were announced. As much as
they gloated over the victory which is largely a JVP victory, they
realised only in hindsight that their party base had been simply
encroached upon with the full concurrence of the party membership and
that this alliance was hara kiri for the SLFP.
effect at electoral level was stunning. It had leading candidates and
aspiring leaders like Anura Bandaranaike gasping behind UPFA Vice
President and a relative new entrant to politics, Wijitha Herath who not
only beat Bandaranaike but UNP's Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya in the
preferential warfare. Such was the political humiliation the JVP managed
to deliver, reducing non-JVP members within the UPFA collective appear
as rather unnecessary baggage.
overtaking of the SLFP was best manifest in the Colombo results. The
three JVP candidates, Wimal Weerawansa, Sunil Handunnetti and Lakshman
Nipunaarachchi simply swept the polls - all three polling well over
100,000 preferential votes.
result was the sliding of District Leader, UPFA, Susil Premajayantha to
the fourth position. He was also lagging behind with some 137,000
preferential votes less than Weerawansa."It is as if the SLFP
members simply did not exist anymore. As if we exist only after the JVP,"
noted a defeated SLFP candidate from Gampaha.
predicament was repeated in most areas, barring in districts like
Hambantota and Matara where both Mahinda Rajapakse and Mangala
Samaraweera managed to keep the SLFP flag flying.
Colombo, Wimal Weerawansa emerged as the UPFA candidate with the highest
preferential votes and the second highest in the entire island, coming
only second to former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
significant factor is that the PA had seven seats in opposition and
today, under a new government it has been reduced to five seats with the
JVP taking the top three slots.
Kurunegala, the pattern was repeated with the three JVP members
capturing the first three slots. All three candidates, Anura Dissanayake,
Bimal Ratnayake and Namal Karunaratne polled over 100,000 preferences.
The fourth, PA's Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, a former cabinet minister
mustered only 65,724 preferences whereas District Leader, S. B. Nawinna
fell to position number six.
Galle too it was the same with District Leader Amarasiri Dodangoda
securing only the fifth place while in Kalutara, District leader
Reginald Cooray secured the third position - after the two JVP
candidates who led by a huge margin.
SLFP's slide was also manifest in Puttalam and Kegalle where District
Leaders Milroy Fernando and Athauda Seneviratne came last on the
preferential list. In Badulla, a new entrant pushed seniors Nimal
Siripala de Silva and Dilan Perera to second and third positions.
the most stinging blow was delivered to the UPFA's Anuradhapura District
Leader, H. B. Semasinghe who altogether failed to secure a place in the
the People's Alliance this time has secured only 57 seats as a party
whereas the JVP has won 39 seats and
that too only after it patronisingly conceded two national list
slots to the SLFP. The JVP afterall had to string the SLFP for the rest
of the ride, at least till the next election to complete their coup de
grace. It is an indictment on the party's performance that it has 57
seats when in government as opposed to having 77 seats when in
opposition - a plight that the SLFP led coalitions have never suffered
there was a reduction of seats, that was due to us being defeated. Not
that we lost to coalition partners," explained a leading PA member
from Colombo who was known for being anti-JVP.
unwilling to be critical, most PA members are now beginning to complain
that their political futures are at stake.
to The Sunday Leader, one successful candidate from the south said that
hereafter the SLFP would definitely have to play second fiddle. Though
successful, the same candidate said that his preferences have plummeted
as the JVP members have polled much better.
is true that we only looked at forming a government. We seriously did
not believe this would be the outcome," said a senior PA politician
from Raja Rata. He was unhappy that a family member who fared extremely
well at the 2001 election has lost out to the JVP in the preference
is this factor that the PA leaders did not bargain for. They did not
fear the possibilities of falling way behind the JVP candidates,
overconfident as they were of their own popularity as a party and
the parties are almost in reverse position with the JVP in the driving
seat with more numbers - 41 to boot - having received more convincing
mandates from the people.
have obviously had more public acceptance. This party is willing to work
and work alongside the people, and the people have kept faith and given
us a better mandate," says JVP's MP elect, Sunil Handunnetti.
is no doubt that the JVP's propaganda strategy too has paid off. Out of
39 candidates, 36 have made it to parliament - a rare feat by any
political party and a relatively young party as the JVP. So much so that
the Marxists who have been promised five slots on the UPFA National List
felt generous enough to give up two positions.
JVP's effective campaign strategy, according to analysts undermined the
collective UPFA campaign. The JVP simply campaigned for their three
candidates and where there were two candidates as in the case of
Hambantota, they also campaigned for a favoured PA candidate.
is interesting how they have manipulated the system. When you have
simply three candidates, there is no confusion in the mind of the voter.
He simply marks three preferences unlike the bigger parties that give
you 20 odd names to select from," explains UNF's Dr. Rajitha
Senaratne who admits that the JVP has been "extremely clever"
in its campaign strategy.
is also this factor that contributed largely to the defeat of two
popular Colombo District candidates - Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and
Chandana Kathriaarachchi - SLFP members who opposed the forging of an
alliance with the JVP. It is well known that the JVP conducted an
orchestrated campaign in Colombo to discredit the two members for
"opposing new wave socialist and reformist politics."
never had to suffer this humiliating defeat. This is a collective
victory which covers the true defeat within," said a defeated
Colombo District UPFA candidate.
strategy was to get more seats secured in parliament and to build a
considerable JVP parliamentary group - a feat easily achieved by the JVP.
Having entered parliament just 10 years ago and having started off with
a single member, Nihal Galappatty from Hambantota - today it has grown
to a group of 39 - a feat that would have made late leader Rohana
Wijitha Herath said: "On April 5, the day we celebrated our 33rd
heroes' day, the JVP had reasons to be truly proud. We have proved our
worth and the people have accepted us. Our sacrifices have not been in
vain," he said.
for the SLFP, it is a clear case of sleeping with the enemy with more
defeats and the further deterioration of its political base imminent as
the JVP continues to gain political ground upon a platform that has
largely been created by the
the final analysis, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe saw this
as a "stand off" and a selection of the "young and the
new"- a political truth that encapsulated the JVP's victory at the
recently concluded poll.
the litmus test for the young Marxists - in government for the first
time - would be to translate the opposition rhetoric into reality.
People have kept faith with the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha example,
voted as the best local body in the island. The country waits to see how
the JVP would now, paint on a larger political canvas.