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Hold Elections & Avert A Dual-Power Crisis

May 21, 2022 3:56:56 PM - colombotelegraph.com

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

On Wednesday I hinted at a standoff between Ranil (RW) and Gota (GR). Things have moved rapidly not by explicit declaration of war but by the stark fact that RW has taken control of the Interim Administration (IA) while GR is blank-minded. RW is in control of the emergency measures and pushing ahead including making the former Maldivian president ambassador at large to negotiate Lanka’s case in the world’s capitals. He is also dictating what crumbs will be left for GR to lick off the floor when 21A is enacted. The RW vs. GR contest seems to be moving to the formers advantage. But RW suffers from a fatal Achilles’ heel, he has no support in Parliament and is dependent on GR’s SLPP goons to get anything enacted since Sajith is playing hard to get like a coy virgin. 21A of course needs a 2/3 majority and its passage may depend on how much residual power is to remain in the hands of the castrated Executive Presidency. (In my view EP must be demolished root-and-branch, but that will have to await 22A)

There is something of a balance of power. GR derives power from an overwhelming majority in the legislature and whatever residual influence the Paksa Clan retains in the country at large; even a tenth of the infamous 69 lakhs is a problem. RW’s strength comes from two sources: (i) people are fed up; they are willing to give any goddamn mother’s son a chance to do something. And (ii) RW seems to be setting about the emergency repair process with determination. Hence more than just the car-owning upper middleclass is breathing a cautious sigh of relief. In cricketing parlance RW’s team has opened the batting and at lunch is 49 for no wickets. Yes, early days you will justifiably say; but Gota’s fielding side has no bowlers and no balls.

Could this uneasy truce deteriorate into conflict? Yes, it could if alarmed by the spectacle of falling flat on its face and the possibility that down the road plunderers, murderers and human-rights violators may be brought to book (not by RW but by a rising groundswell of bottled up anger), the Paksa side decides to counterattack. Recall the events outside Temple Trees on 9 May and multiply it many-fold, read history about military coups, then you can imagine what may happen in a worst-case scenario.

Allow me to say a few words about two worst-case dual-power scenarios in the contemporary world; Libya is one. Libya has two governments and the nation is embroiled in civil war. One government is appointed by the so-called Eastern Parliament, the other was set up by international negotiations in Geneva. Both justifiably claim a high degree of legitimacy. The worst of it is not this, but that it is now physically impossible to hold elections because ground conditions are brutal. The moral of the story is that there is a need to elect a legitimate government before descent into hell. The sooner a general election is conducted the better. In Sri Lanka surely four months from now is adequate! Whichever purveyor of faeces wins, if a constitutionally legitimate government is established, we Lankans can get back to our usual hobbies of robbing, slacking at work and bullying the minorities. Well that’s better than anarchy and civil war isn’t it? I am serious; a Paksas versus the rest dual-power battle could degenerate into chaos; or are you confident that the Paksas are already dead meat? You may be right but quick elections will circumvent all this.

Who wins the election is less important than holding it and restoring political stability. There are four at the starting-post; Sajith and his SJB, some kind of rump-SLPP maybe by another name, RW and a contraption he clobbers together, and the JVP-NPP. It is absurd to speculate on the outcome but it’s fun to bet at the races; so, feel free to choose your odds and place your bets. Sajith seems set to win more seats than he now has and the rump-SLPP-Paksa-apology will surely suffer catastrophe. A fun thing to speculate about is: If RW does ok in pulling the country a little bit out of the current mire, what sort of contraption will he be able to stitch together? He has his UNP of course and upper-class and upper-middle class SJB types may dump the boy from Keselwatte and move back to their ancestral home. RW is well aware that he must pull off this gamble, that’s why he is going at it with gusto. At a strategically correct time I can see him too intoning “Gota Go Home”. There is no honour among opportunists. He came close to saying this in an interview with Sky-TV (UK).

Another interesting matter is that after 21A and hopefully with abolition of EP promised by all parties except the Paksa-rump party in their election manifestoes, the ground will be cut under the ambitions of Champika, Fonny and a prospective President-RW. Why an earth will any of these worthies want a Ceremonial Presidency but to park his bum on a soft, purple cushioned throne? Oh well, maybe Funny Fonny! A post 22A (and possibly a post 21A) president will be a stuffed doll chosen by parliament; no more presidential elections. How nice!

It remains for readers to assess whether RW will be able to secure partial relief of the terrible hardships facing Lanka at this moment. The fuel crisis is likely to ease in the coming weeks as mercy tankers from India dock and discharge their precious juices. Part of the problem is that panicking car and three-wheeler owners are keeping their tanks full to the brim. If juice begins to flow the panic may ease but then will begin a far more serious problem; food. UN agencies earlier this week warned that a very serious food crisis is on its way. Some 400 million people will go hungry. A March 22, 2022 FAO Information Note said Russia’s wheat production accounts for 16.8% of world wheat trade, while Ukraine’s ‘s share is 11.5%%. In 2021, either Russian or Ukraine (or both) ranked amongst the top three global exporters of wheat, maize, rapeseed, sunflower seed and sunflower oil, while the Russia is the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, second in potassium fertilizer and the third in of phosphorous fertilizer. UN agencies have warned of dire and unavoidable consequences to come.

Were our fertiliser scuttling imbeciles working in cahoots with Russia and Ukraine? The Treasury and the Central Bank have been robbed and emptied by the villainy or idiocy, respectively, of MR and the Royal Family, or of GR. The future is bleak. RW cannot overcome all this; not a chance. Then the point is will people say “This bugger tried and did some small things; the real villains are the goddamned Paksas” or will people roll him up and damn him as well? Remains to be seen.

I spoke of dual-power, maybe I should have said two-and-a-half power. There is another force, electorally peripheral but energetic in street power. I refer to what middle of road people call “extremists” who make up a goodly part of the Galle Face mobilisation. This contingent marches to the slogans of 1971 and 1989; the names of its heroes are from that era. If elections are denied and the degeneration of the conflict into extra-parliamentary spaces is not averted, this contingent will make hay when the rains stop and the sun shines upon it. What do you think of that option? I mentioned two examples of dual power, the other is Yemen where a civil-war with mighty international involvement is raging. What do you think of that option? The international antagonists who will practising in Lankan waters and soils will be the QUAD led by India in this instance, and China by remote control. Think about it.

The post Hold Elections & Avert A Dual-Power Crisis appeared first on Colombo Telegraph.