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2nd April, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 38

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Editorial

Mahinda frees himself from JVP and JHU bonds

The confident comrades of the JVP who expected to come out with a magnificent performance in the March 30 elections at the local government polls would by now be licking their wounds in some party hideout. The results of the polls will no doubt be interpreted in various ways by political analysts, according to their prejudices and loyalties.

However, an undeniable fact is that it brought the JVP down to earth. JVP leaders were convinced of their support in the electorate and during the last two weeks of the election campaign, they unequivocally told President Mahinda Rajapakse: ‘We made the government and you the President. This is our government. We can keep you as President or revert you to your former position of the leader of the opposition.’

The JVP comrades were apparently afflicted with a common political ailment: Too much power too soon and were convincing themselves of their power with their own rhetoric.

The immediate impact of this JVP debacle is that it frees President Rajapakse from the chains that bind him — chains which he put on himself to win power at any cost.

Now despite the JVP holding 39 seats in parliament and together with other parties having the potential of defeating the government, President Rajapakse can tell the JVP comrades in true Avurudhu tradition : Go hang yourself on a kadju puhulang tree. President Rajapakse will be free to proceed with the peace process irrespective of the demands of the JVP and JHU regarding facilitation of the negotiations by Norway and tearing up the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA).

There is no other sensible option available now for the JVP other than to become the chief dayakaya of the Temple of Mahinda Chinthana. However, it can also opt for the hara kiri way by confronting the government with the allegation that it was going back on agreements signed with them and the JHU and betraying their constituents on two of the main election pledges. But such a move is unlikely because the stand taken by both parties have been positively rejected by the electorate.

The extent of the JVP’s defeat last week can be gauged from their performance together with the SLFP at the last general election. Massive preferential votes were polled by some JVPers such as by Wimal Weerawansa. It surprised all because in elections before this party had been barely able to scrape more than 5 to 10 percent of the total vote. In comparison this time their performance has been abjectly poor failing to win even pradeshiya sabhas in remote areas. At the time of writing the only pradeshiya sabha won has been at Tissamaharama, considered the birth place of the JVP which they won the last time as well.

Polling this time dropped to around 60 percent where as Sri Lanka has been noted for the high percentage of polling, reaching at times even more than 80 percent. This low poll adds on to the misery of the JVP defeat because their vote being largely based on party cadres, low polling should not have affected them as it did to other parties. Did it mean that their supporters and even their party cadres were getting weary of JVP politics?

The JVP defeat also raises another question about its potential. Did they at the last general election eat into the SLFP vote bank or was the SLFP saved by the support extended to it by the JVP? This election was said to be a test of strength of the JVP and surprisingly they came a cropper. Is Sri Lankan political history repeating itself?

When the Marxist parties the Samasamaja Party and Communist Party joined hands with the SLFP the fear expressed by political analysts of the time was that the well-disciplined Marxist parties would gobble up the rag- tag SLFP under a dynastic leadership. Yet the contrary happened.

On the other hand, President Rajapakse owes an explanation to the people at large on why he is going back on the two main issues on which he won the presidential election: Tearing up the CFA and sending the Norwegians back home.

Rajapakse was compelled to eat his own words and publicly proclaim that that the Norwegians will remain as the peace facilitators. He attempted to getaway claiming that at the Geneva talks the CFA was revised because of the changes agreed at Geneva by both sides. But this argument is not convincing enough because Rajapakse cannot pin point to any clause of the agreement that had been changed. The least Rajapakse can do is to confess to his gross errors which held out false promises to the people and assured him a slender victory. He has to admit his crass political opportunism that made him President. But such admissions and confessions are not a part of the Sri Lankan political tradition.

The UNP suffered a further erosion of its vote bank on Thursday. The grand old party still ranks among the first two parties in the country as is evident from Thursday’s results and obviously it has to be revamped. It has happened to the UNP before, in 1956 when it suffered its first disastrous defeat. The party revamped itself and within four years bounced back to power. It happened in 1970 after an ignominious defeat but J.R. Jayewardene in seven years was able to lead it to the biggest ever election triumph and the party went on to rule for 17 continuous years. There are leadership problems today caused by Velupillai Pirapaharan wiping out the cream of the party.

The UNP has to rejuvenate itself. This should be done by looking out for new blood and not old hack horses that have crossed over for their own political gain.

The UNP has been attracting quite a lot of flotsam and jetsam, whose immediate past such as that of Mahinda Wijesekera would bring it no credit.

In most democracies it is said that a party comes into power not so much because of its own dynamism and leaders but because the public had got tired and weary of the ruling party. This is also the reason why a party that has won an election a few months ago cannot be defeated because its still fresh in the minds of its supporters and there has been no time to commit major mistakes. That perhaps is part reason for the victory of the SLFP despite its leader going back on the two pledges on which he won the presidential election.

But President Rajapakse has great potential. He can go on for six and even 12 years some say. That is one reason why many are flocking from the UNP to join his party. But can he do it with the scarce talent available? Some form of alliance with the UNP can be mutually beneficial to both parties as well as the future of this country.


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