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Sri Lanka: Alas! Who Can Prevent Rajapaksa’s Third Term?

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By Nilantha Ilangamuwa*

Who will be the winner of the next presidential election? Is there any doubt in the minds of the citizens that the outcome has not already been decided? In the rotten political culture of Sri Lanka is there any room for a genuine election? Perhaps you may, like me, dream and yearn for a society which stands on the shoulders of human dignity and which is prepared to stand up and say enough is enough.

Immediately following the departure of Pope Francis, who is visiting the Island nation, it is expected that the government will declare the date of the next election. This, of course, means the country is going to spend billions of desperately needed capital to elect a new president, or make sure the the existing one is guaranteed another six years. Sadly, when you look at the options and examine the devastating scenario facing the opposition collation it is very much a matter of Hobson’s choice.

The opposition and its fans are trying desperately to select a common candidate that will fire the imagination of the people. He, or she will have to come up with all the usual campaign promises but this is where the situation falls down, because the citizens of Sri Lanka are fully aware that any such promises will evaporate as soon as their candidate moves into the Presidential Palace. On the other hand they may well vote for any half suitable choice simply to ensure that the reign of the Rajapaksas comes to an end. However, what everyone must realise is that the Tyrant is not going to go quietly into the night. The Rajapaksas simply have too much to loose. They have invested too much time and effort into ensuring a dynasty that will last for a thousand years.

All the opposition parties are in a severe dilemma over selecting their common candidate. It is more than evident that most of them have forgotten common sense in this hour of need. None of them are think beyond what the incumbent president has already sold to grab the votes. In other words, the president understands perfectly what Walter Lippmann once explained as the "manufacture of consent" which is an innovation in the usage of democracy.

Since coming to power Rajapaksa has not only been able to ignore the local and international protests over his style of governance but gain ground steadily for his personality beneficiaries. Neither the country nor the people were able to grasp his, almost brilliant single-mindedness, when it came to retaining power and fulfilling his personal agenda, which was, simply, to enrich himself, his family and close friends at a cost which had to be paid by the people. It is this single-mindedness that the opposition parties have to deal with if they have any hope of defeating him at the next election.

The secret behind Rajapaksa’s success is nothing else but the “manufacture of consent” in order to distort the truth. Here is the main principal that the opposition parties appear to be ignorant of. It is this concept that they are going to have to master if they want to take power. Singing their old songs about democracy and the good of the people is going to get them nowhere. Drinking new wine in an old glass does not make the wine taste any better. It only beguiles the drinker.

As I wrote to the local press two weeks ago, the president is focusing on two major silent but deadly strategies. First is disabling every possibility for the opposition to field a common candidate. He most certainly does not want another General Sarath Fonseka, like in the previous election.

the second is making for a financially weaker opposition. In reality, the next election will be more about the communication skills and technological advances each parties have. It will certainly be more than what the country has faced in the past. The ruling parties will experience 3D meetings and other kinds of propaganda machineries. But, to-date, no one knows anything of the counter strategies of the helpless and internally divided opposition alliance.

If the Rajapaksa remain in power, and yes, I do ‘Rajapaksas’ because it is nothing less than a family business then the situation ‘will’ change. It will change for the worse because their regime will be firmly established and the same old rotten system will be established with a greater degree of greed and power. Then the opposition will be powerless for generations to come. In order to shatter the dream of the tyrant they have to convince the public not only of their dreams and aspirations for the country but why they opposed the tyrant and how they are going to reform the system.

This is the matter of intelligent discourse which has to be designed within the most trusted people in the alliance. As Mao Tse Tung once said, a plan must be designed in the room but its implementation must take place on the streets in full view of the public. And then there can be possibilities for a real candidate who can conquer the tyrant and help the people to achieve the real meaning of freedom.

Unfortunately no signs have yet arisen that any such candidate in ready to put his or her name forward. And if this does not happen soon the outcome of the next election is a forgone conclusion. Will the opposition come up with an authentic ideology which is most urgently required by the nation?

* Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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