POST-ELECTION 2015 SCENARIO: GOTABAYA’S ENTRY TO ELECTORAL POLITICS

Image courtesy Business Today

The news, based on an exclusive interview, that Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa may formally enter mainstream politics by contesting Colombo at the parliamentary election (Deshaya and Daily FT) casts a significant light — some may say shadow— on the character of the regime as it will emerge recomposed after that election which will almost certainly be in the first quarter of 2015.

The declaration of willingness by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to toss his hat into the ring is a response to two factors; a challenge and an imperative: secession and succession. It is a combination of intra-clan dynamics, the logical progression of the increasing influence of the security establishment, and above all, an entirely predictable response to perceptions of external and ethnic siege from afar and the ‘near abroad’. We have the Gang of Four of David Cameron, Samantha Power, Jayalalitha and Navi Pillay to thank for the prospective radicalization of the Rajapaksa regime and the darkening of the island’s prospect.

In its second post-war metamorphosis the regime will be hardened. The centre of gravity will shift. In Rajapaksa Regime Mk III, President Rajapaksa will play Shimon Peres to his younger brother’s Benjamin Netanyahu. The panoptic National Security ideology and ethos will become dominant— not only determinant as it is now. It will be prescriptive, not merely parametric.

With or without Gotabhaya, the SLFP is about to be totally recomposed and not in the nicest way imaginable. In the process of nomination for the parliamentary election, the centrist old guard of the ruling party will in all probability be replaced by nominees of the ruling family, most especially those of the heir apparent and his intra-family patrons.

If Gotabhaya is elected, which is quite likely, he will doubtless be included in Cabinet. Given his well known views on security, human rights and allied issues, his presence in Cabinet will render the government far more hard-line than it is now. He will push his line through Cabinet almost totally unopposed. That line will include hawkish positions on the North and East as well as on Southern dissent. The North will get the Gaza treatment. In the South the Weliweriya Doctrine will be more in evidence than not. There will be “two, three, many” Rathupaswelas. The hard-line will include neo-isolationism in foreign relations, a firmer positioning on an Islamabad–Beijing axis, and greater reliance on Israel.

The ‘deep state’ will rise. Post-war Sri Lanka will be transformed into a garrison state. The role of the security establishment in society, economy and the state, as well as its weight in the policy process, will take a quantum leap to the proportions of pre-Nawaz Sharif Pakistan or worse, the ‘military-civilian junta’ model of the National Security State in pre-democratic Latin America, Turkey and South East Asia.

Of course, in the final analysis, this project is not viable, given the sheer facts of location (India’s doorstep), economic vulnerability (an island without natural resources such as fuel, and susceptible to economic embargo), and the geostrategic pincer of the West and India. While this is the long range scenario, an irresistible external force meeting an immovable domestic object does spell combustion. Given the ethnic demography of the island all external endgames will turn into a Mexican stand-off (if not a bloodily sectarian Lebanon- Syria scenario) in the Indian Ocean.

There is one last chance to avoid or reduce the magnitude of this drastic dual shift to a far more compliant SLFP composed of ruling-clan clones and a far more hawkish regime and state which will raise the drawbridge and shrink democratic civic space. That last chance is constituted by the two national elections of end-2014/early 2015. If the opposition puts up a decent fight in the Presidential race, it can do well at the parliamentary election. If it puts up a good candidate, it can put up a good battle at the presidential election, which can facilitate a breakthrough at the parliamentary election.

Who is and what makes a ‘good candidate’? What would he/she look like? Two objective factors must form the base of this decision. Firstly the terrain of the battle field itself: the Presidential election will not be fought and won or lost at the Tamil speaking periphery of the island but rather in its Sinhala Buddhist heartland. That also corresponds to the lesson of the recent Indian election. Secondly, the Modi model and message: pick a candidate who can win the majority of the majority; eschew a minoritarian electoral strategy; do not force the electorate into a choice between economic improvement and ethnic pride; choose a candidate who offers a win-win scenario; find a good public communicator, a media-genic man or woman.

Right now, the Opposition is deadlocked. Not only is it divided between the UNP, DP and JVP, the UNP is itself divided between Ranil, Karu and Sajith. Here’s my betting: if Ranil is the candidate the UNP will secure 20% of the vote. If it is Karu it will be 25%-30%. If it is Sajith it will be 30%-40%. If it is a Karu-Sajith ticket it will poll 30%-35%. It would be nice if the UNP picked a candidate who could secure a percentage of votes that is larger than the gap between him and Mahinda Rajapaksa. This would have a cascade effect on the parliamentary election.

A broad opposition front is certainly desirable but it must not be on the laughable basis of the abolition of the Executive Presidency; a slogan which has no rural resonance whatsoever. The TNA provides a contrary example. It didn’t waste its time on building a common platform with Gajan Ponnambalam’s TNPF and putting forward a common slate. Instead it picked Wigneswaran as candidate and got its electoral act together.

If the Sri Lankan opposition behaves in a rational or at the least, a less than decidedly suicidal fashion, a Rajapaksa regime reinforced by Gotabhaya in Cabinet can be contained by a strong parliamentary counterweight. If not, a halved parliamentary opposition will face a hardened regime.

  • Fitzpatrick

    It’s a bit late to lament, having opened Pandora’s box !

  • Fitzpatrick

    Let’s analyze the following statement by Dayan:

    We have the Gang of Four of David Cameron, Samantha Power, Jayalalitha and Navi Pillay to thank for the prospective radicalization of the Rajapaksa regime and the darkening of the island’s prospect.

    So it was these 4 that hounded the ex-CJ Bandaranaike out so they can appoint Mohan?

    So it was these 4 that passed the 18th amendment for continuing in power (which I remind you you support as you support another term for MR)?

    Were these 4 responsible for the murder of innocent children and assault of bystanders (which you criticized ) when they asked for clean water?

    Lets go pre 2009, was these 4 that were responsible for the slaughter of Lasantha?
    Were these 4 responsible for the slaughter of many other journalists including silencing Iqbal?
    (I have not even mentioned the war time atrocities)

    First it was the burghers who took all the jobs because of the English ability (so let’s make Sinhala the official language and hound them out to NZ and Australia) (1948-1956)

    Then they blamed the Tamils (1956-2009)

    Now it is the Muslims/Christians/Human Rights Organizations/USA/UK/EU

    The slide of Sri Lanka began in 1948, Most of these people you cite were even born then except Ms. Pillay who was 7 at the time !
    The list goes on and on….

    [Edited out]

    • Anpu

      Excellent Fitzpatrick.
      I wont be surprised if Dayan says it all (from 1948…) because of GG’s 50:50

  • shiiraan

    There is no harm in Mr.Gotabhaya Rajapakse coming forward as a candidate to contest a General election . Why paint a gloomy picture ?

  • James Chance

    A question for Dayan, meant in all seriousness: what do you make of the widespread belief, shared by many credible political observers, that Sajith Premadasa is close to the Rajapaksas – to the extent of regularly sharing UNP intelligence with the President and his people? Do you think this is true? If so, in what way could Premadasa junior be a credible anti-regime candidate? This is not meant as support for Ranil or Karu or anyone else, all of whom have serious baggage. But it does suggest the situation may be more complicated than your recent and repeated support for Sajith suggest. Thoughts?

    • Dev

      While I have been flagged for giving the author’s motivation for writing this piece by GV I think it is important to fully comprehend the author’s motivations.
      I again urge you James to travel back in time to the late 80s to the Premadasa era, JVP politics and Dayan to understand the relationship between Dayan and the Premedasa’s.

  • Jack Point

    Well I must say Mr Jayatilleka seems to have awoken from a deep slumber to find that his nightmares have come to life.

    He claims “an entirely predictable response to perceptions of external and ethnic
    siege from afar and the ‘near abroad’. We have the Gang of Four of David
    Cameron, Samantha Power, Jayalalitha and Navi Pillay to thank for the
    prospective radicalization”

    What utter nonsense. For those of us who were wide awake while Mr Jayatilleka was speaking up and standing up for the regime, these trends were apparent from the very start of 2005, from the time that family descended en-masse from all corners of the globe.

    http://jestforkicks.blogspot.com/2008/08/who-succeeds-mahinda.html

    “The North will get the Gaza treatment. In the South the Weliweriya
    Doctrine will be more in evidence than not. There will be “two, three,
    many” Rathupaswelas. ”

    The Weliveriya doctrine, as Mr Jayatilleka terms it is only the logical result of the culture of impunity that prevailed in the military that enabled the war victory. It follows incidents in Chilaw (fisherman killed), Katunayake (worker killed, factories smashed by Government goon) and a couple of others. The war victory was a result of a no-holds barred, assault. Whether these tactics went against the rules of war we cannot tell, but there is a lot of very uncomfortable material that is surfacing.

    As for this:

    “The hard-line will include neo-isolationism in
    foreign relations, a firmer positioning on an Islamabad–Beijing axis,
    and greater reliance on Israel.

    Is this not already already very much in evidence? I agree though that this will get worse, so we will be keeping company with Zimbabwe and other rogue states.

    As for the election, it is not the candidate that will matter. All that will matter is the quantum of resources the rulers will pour into the election (state, crony perhaps even some personal funds?) and how many they are prepared to kill.

    • Gamarala

      Jack Point is quite right. “Entirely predictable” indeed! Wish you’d predicted this when it mattered Dayan! Dayan should have the humility to admit that he was flat wrong on this issue, instead of continuing to paint himself as the regular clairvoyant. God knows I was, and I have apologised for this both pseudonymously and in person, for not getting wiser to this sooner.

      Let me just ask this though: I would like to know whether people believe that we are in a better overall position than we used to be sans the LTTE, or not? My view is, we are, although I am open to changing my mind.

      • Dev

        Humility? That’s a rare commodity these days !

  • Fitzpatrick

    Can our Dayan man tell us what prevented the government from providing a solution from 1948-2009?
    Esp 1948-1983????
    Samantha powers? N. Pillay? …

    Who is trying to fool whom?

  • Sasi197

    Dayan knows where his bread is buttered and will tilt towards what bring him the better rewards. He knows that the government is fast becoming unpopular, so he wants to test the waters by writing such stuff.
    Anyhow, even now, its an open secret that Big Brother is watching the movements of those the regimes believes is ‘anti’ government – with top priority given to media personnel. I dread to think what Sri Lanka would become under a hawk like Gotabaya Rajapakshe. Its time that the opposition got its act together and come out with a credible alternative that’s acceptable to the majority of the people and not to the international community or the Tamil diaspora.

  • alex f

    It is DJ’s obsession with Sri Lanka’s sovereignty that has painted him into a corner. For within those parameters a Sinhala populist (really nationalist) leader must emerge who will dislodge the Rajapakses and transform it to a state that DJ is happy with and the Tamils just have to live with. Once you remove the boundaries of sovereignty many more liberal solutions are on the table. However, DJ won’t tolerate undermining sovereignty, even if it leads to a more liberal peace.

  • Dev

    I am still lost as to why Dayan suddenly raises alarm bells.
    This is not the first Rajapakse to enter politics, nor will it be the last. He hasn’t entered yet, and then too he must “win” a seat !

    Didn’t he see the impending doom?

    When one brother was made an economic development minister?
    Didn’t he see it when the other was made a speaker ?
    Didn’t he realize it when nieces and nephews became ministers and chief ministers?
    Didn’t he realize it when kith and kin became chairmen of govt. entities?
    Didn’t he realize it when the diplomatic positions were filled through political appointments

    All these happened when Dayan was in Geneva/Paris “defending” this very same government !
    I guess when you are in Geneva/Paris these things don’t occur to oneself, only when they return to earth (SL) that one starts to see clearly…..

    Why this sudden worry? As Bobby McFerrin sang Don’t worry Be happy

  • Justice & Fair play.

    Well, what does the majority in this forum feel about Dayan? Given the arguments put forward, could we say the majority in this forum are ignorant, illiterate, unfair or biased?
    I need hardly add to what people think of Dayan’s approach. What I think has already been written. How unfortunate things have turned out that way, given Dayan’s undoubted learning and intelligence.
    If he was seen as someone who was sincere and consistant, he would have by now been considered a brilliant political analyst, well sought after.
    Analysts however can NEVER take sides. If they do, the result is what you now see.

  • Justice

    Heres is a link to a reputable academic sight and what it has to say about GR.

    http://justsecurity.org/10537/sri-lanka-gotabaya-us-citizen-war-crimes-accountability/

  • Nick

    GR, disciplined gentleman with a great vision may be the next potential candidate for presidency after MR. But we would like to see his development work for many more years to come