It is all very simple really. This election is about you. If you vote for the UNP, you think that the country is better off under Ranil, is doing better and will do better under him as PM than it did when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in charge. If you voted for regime change in 2015 it is because you thought that a government with Ranil and Chandrika driving it would or could do better than one under MR.
If you vote for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP this time, you are saying the Central Bank Bond Scam was OK, and are then morally responsible as a citizen for more such scams being pulled until 2020.
If you think Ranil’s government – Bond Scam, a lousy 3.3% growth rate, Geneva resolution, quasi-federal constitutional draft and all – are better than MR’s performance; if you feel you, your family, your neighbourhood, your community and your nation are doing/ did better under Ranil’s government than MR’s; if you feel you have progressed since MR’s departure in 2015; you should vote for this government.
If you feel otherwise, if you feel the opposite, if you feel cheated by this government, then you should give the government a signal by voting for the Opposition. If you don’t, the government will keep on keeping on, doing what it is doing, heading along the same path.
It took Russia a decade (the 1990s) and Putin to escape the madness of economic neo-liberalism and genuflection to the West. The USSR was bad but all opinion polls prove that the Russian people think the West-centric Boris Yeltsin was far worse, and therefore they keep voting for Putin because they never want to go back to another pro-Western liberal. We, Sri Lankans have a choice. Either we can go through this cycle of neo-liberal politics, crash the economy and burn in the fires of ultra-nationalist blowback, and then come to our collective senses, rebuilding from the ashes — or we can short-circuit the cycle and start exiting the matrix with the forthcoming local government elections.
The economy is contracting or in a downward spiral, with just over 3% growth this quarter. If PM Wickremesinghe’s UNP wins the upcoming local authorities elections, they will reshape Sri Lanka in such a manner that the ownership and control of our island home, and therefore our destiny, is irrevocably out of our hands and placed in the hands of the US and India which sees our island as strategic real estate in their attempt to prevent China from changing the global and regional power balance and reforming the world order in a more equitable manner.
The PM will give the Trincomalee oil tank farm and a chunk of the Trincomalee harbour, the Mannar-Trincomalee highway as well as an airport in the deep South to India; confer quasi-federal powers over land to the provinces of Sri Lanka, most crucially the North and East; dismantle the state sector of the economy; dismember existing labour and land reform legislation, and allow foreign corporations to own large tracts of arable land on this small island.
Far from the claim of restoring democracy, only an ignorant, moronic administration would do what no government anywhere in the world has dared to: risk destabilizing democracy by humiliating, affronting and enraging through war crimes probes agreed upon in Geneva, a huge, patriotic military of which 40,000 regular infantrymen received Special Forces training (be they currently in service or not).
If on the other hand, the UNP loses the local authorities election, there will be much rethinking all round and the chance for a new political and economic equilibrium, in which we have to adjust to external realities but regain, retain and exercise our national autonomy.
The collective consciousness of the Sri Lankan political class has long been divided, and remains divided in accordance with attitudes to 1956. The basic divide is between those who hold that 1956 was good, positive, progressive, and those who think the opposite.
I was literally one of the “Children of 1956” (to use my father’s metaphorical phrase of 1972). 1956 produced two types of children: nativism and internationalism; parochialism and progressivism; ‘Sinhala Only’ and ‘Bandung / Third Worldism / Maoism / Fidelism-Guevarism’. I see things through the prism of the national and global trends of 1956—SWRD, Fidel and Che’s ‘Granma’ landing in Cuba, the Sino-Soviet schism.
The upcoming local government elections will mark the death or the rebirth of 1956, the disintegration and end, or reassertion and new arc, of the progressive 1956 project. It is also a battle of values — between the progressive values of 1956 and 1970, and those of appeasement, capitulation and neo-liberalism of 2001 (Ranil’s CFA) and 2015.
It is when I understand the stakes involved in the upcoming elections that I understand my choices and myself, and more—I understand those of my father. I never had a problem in understanding his admiration for and loyalty to the sophisticated intellectual and Afro-Asianist SWRD. However I could not comprehend my father’s loyalty, more elastic though it was, to the robustly non-intellectual Sirimavo especially after she had dismissed him from the post of Editor of a reputed news paper, in a reverse gesture of SWRD’s recruitment of him.
Today I understand it, in the light of my response to the upcoming election and given my own attitude to MR, who appointed and then fired me after a crucial and difficult international task successfully accomplished.
In the 1950s, SWRD incarnated the Spirit of Bandung, of Afro-Asianism, in contrast to the UNP which incarnated identification with and loyalty to Anglo-Americanism. The SLFP government recognized Fidel’s Revolution before Mao’s China did. Che Guevara visited Ceylon in the Cuban Revolution’s first year which was to be SWRD’s last.
In the decades that followed (right up to 1989 and the Premadasa ‘pivot’), Sirimavo was the strong symbol of those Non-aligned values and identity, and more essentially, of national resistance against the alignment of Sri Lanka with the West during what scholars defined as the New Cold War.
If I may lapse into the language of the latest Star Wars movie, I see the PM and his UNP as the loyal local puppets of ‘the First Order’, a successor Empire which strives to maintain over-lordship against all comers and all those who seem to challenge or resist it. The sleazy satraps of the US-dominated First Order, the UNP, for whom Sri Lanka is only a location to sell or rent, not an ontological identity, will constitutionally carve up, sell off and convert this island into a colony, a link in the chain of the First Order’s Indo-Pacific ‘grand strategy’ against our consistent friends and allies in Eurasia (China and Russia).
In this scenario, MR and the Joint Opposition [SLPP] represent the Resistance, the Rebellion. I see MR as ‘The Last Jedi’. If I may switch to an earlier movie (with Tom Cruise) depicting heroic nationalist resistance to a ‘modernizing’ Western puppet PM in Asia under a patriotic but vacillating Emperor, MR is ‘The Last Samurai’.
MR is the closest Lankan approximation of two qualities that Princeton’s Emeritus Professor of International Law, Richard Falk, testifies were shared by the Vietnamese and the Palestinians: “desired national narrative [which] collided with the geopolitical ambitions and commitments of the United States…”and “empowering and charismatic resilience is the core identity”.(https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/parallel-universes-vietnam-and-palestine/)
That is why I regard his battle at the upcoming local election as crucial in deciding the identity of our nation. That is why I wish him luck and sympathize with him, and am still on his side, all things considered.