Campaign issues revolve around leadership

By Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne

Ranil the Prime Minister placed his UNP Working Committee on a serious footing by explaining the difficulties that should not be under estimated. As a leader in full control, he need not neglect anybody with a possible important contribution. Now there are no such complains and all have accepted his leadership.

On the other hand there is evidence that a wide split is growing in the SLFP and in the United People’s Freedom Alliance. Hence the general belief in the UNP leadership is, that they could return to power, is inevitable. However for the UNP, the short term minority rule has created several corruption and mismanagement issues which are heavily publicized by the opposition which includes several media organizations.

Such things are common for any government. The Central Bank Bond issue is named a scandal connecting the Prime Minister and Governor Mahendran; they said it was a Treasury Bonds scam. Certainly there was a leak in the Treasury, but to say that Ranil and Mahendran got together to rob the Treasury is just a mockery. Before making such accusation it is necessary to expose why, where and what purpose this was done.

WICKRAMABAHUWith the dissolution, however, the COPE has ceased to exist and its investigations have turned invalid. Then, one could say that President Sirisena the Leader of the SLFP has saved the UNP from an embarrassment. Also there were complaints in, rise in prices of essential commodities, a worsening economy, bribery and corruption within government ranks. These were not taken seriously by the UNP leadership. Criticism over the same and other issues has been directed at President Sirisena too. One SLFP Parliament Leader claimed that Maithri has not been assertive, nor was able to control the government. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) too has pledged to make bribery and corruption in the UNP regime a campaign issue.

Though its leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake has said he would ‘expose’ corrupt activity of the UNP regime at election rallies, his own record as a Cabinet member in the Chandrika regime, could easily be used by the UNP back benchers to demolish his image.

Crowds

It is claimed that there has been a surge of crowds at meetings held by Rajapaksa, mostly at temple premises. UNP and others have ridiculed these claims saying that these meetings are packed with artificial crowds and same faces could be seen in pictures taken in different places. Nevertheless, in certain districts it is clear that the UNP has a tough challenge ahead.

Some media claim that one is not yet sure whether the UPFA and indeed its main constituent partner, the SLFP would close ranks and contest as a single entity or break in two. There are no serious indications that the SLFP albeit the UPFA may forward one list of candidates. A division, no doubt, would help the UNP. Also it would help the SLFP to win back the populist socialist image it had in the past. All those who participated in the January 8th uprising, believe that Maithri will not tie up with Mahinda Rajapaksa. There were other reports that Sirisena reached an understanding with Rajapaksa over key issues.

However, this could not be verified and both sides remained tight lipped and denied of such understanding. Yet, there is reliable news that on Friday 27th morning, Maithri summoned a meeting of his close confidantes who included SLFP ministers. He told them that he had met Mahinda at his request.

Apparently Mahinda had come to his Wijerama residence, the house Maithri is supposed to vacate soon. He said Rajapaksa had come to ask him to be made the prime ministerial candidate from the SLFP. He has refused to do so. Then Maithree has indicated that Parliament will be dissolved during the week end and they should prepare for elections.

A committee was named to formulate SLFP election campaign strategy for the parliamentary elections. Among its members are Sarath Amunugama, S.B. Dissanayake and Mahinda Amaraweera, and they were asked to consult all left parties including the Nava Sama Samaja Party.
These leaders are expected to mobilize the Left to slam down the false power of fascistic forces. In the meantime, Mahinda has met SLFP parliamentarians, sympathetic to his politics and has revealed the led down by the President. Apparently 87 UPFA parliamentarians turned up at his consultation meeting. Mahinda, who made a brief speech, noted that he was used to winning and losing elections. When President Maithri had sought the leadership of the SLFP, he had readily heeded the request.

However, Mahinda has charged that the party had now been given to the UNP. He also has said that he had never quit the SLFP and had remained a member. Young parliamentarians, he said, should draw a lesson from this.

Mahinda has only one method to win the youth. He must show the ‘good’ that emerge from war and racism; this is an easy way out. All meetings held at temples, thus go against the teachings of Buddha. Maithri should counter this simple mistake, made by fascistic teachers of Mahinda group. That could be the only way to resurrect the populist democratic image of the SLFP.