Maithiri-Ranil-Mahinda: Who will take whom for a ride in 2017

mahinda-hitlerDonald Trump won the US electoral college vote last week this driving the final nail into the coffin of the liberal mafia that had spread its tencacles throughout the globe extending into Sri Lanka as well. This was a mafia that destroyed everything it touched, as we in Sri Lanka are now experiencing on a daily basis. Even after Trump won the election, the Clinton camp did not give up. They tried to change the result by asking for recounts in certain key states. When that failed to produce the desired result, they tried to persuade Republican members of the electoral college to defect. The excuse they trotted out was that Clinton had won the popular vote and the members of the electoral college could do justice to the people by voting for the Democratic candidate. But last week all these efforts came to nought and Donald Trump is now set to be sworn in as the President of the United States on 20 January 2017.

The Clinton camp has made much of the fact that Clinton got about 2.9 million more votes than Trump. That however is irrelevant. As a matter of strategy, Trump concentrated on winning key states to be able to get the necessary number of electoral college votes. If popular votes are what mattered, Trump would have concentrated his efforts on campaigning in the most populous states instead of what are called the swing states. In any event, had Trump been given a fair chance by the establishment – at least to the extent that other Republican candidates normally get, there is little doubt that he would have won the popular vote as well. What we saw happening in America is an unusual situation where the entire establishment – the big business interests, the media, the liberal mafia and indeed even the Republican establishment itself closed ranks against Donald Trump.

He in fact won in a situation that no presidential candidate has ever had to face, which makes his victory one of the most significant election victories in the USA if not the world. As he now prepares to take over the reins of power, he has shown early signs that he will be a successful President. The first sign of this was that he basically forgot about the threat he made during the elections to prosecute Hillary Clinton over the goings on in the Clinton Foundation. Even though there would be good grounds for prosecution with the Clinton Foundation receiving donations from interested foreign parties when the Clintons were wielding power, still for Trump not to pursue the matter when he has won power shows his maturity. In a democracy, if you try to prosecute your opponent at an election even on justifiable grounds, that will lead to needless turbulence and democracies don’t need that. In a democracy defeat should be the biggest publishment that a political opponent faces. One of the reasons that Hillary lost was the mistrust that people and the foreign interests that were funding her.

This was a lesson that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa also learnt through experience. When Sarath Fonseka contested the 2010 pledging to put his opponents in jail and make them wear the ‘jumpers’ worn by convicts, it was not surprising that the Rajapaksas put Fonseka behind bars and made him wear a jumper so show him what it was like. There is no gainsaying that it worked because the word ‘jumper’ or ‘jail’ is no longer seems to be in Fonseka’s vocabulary. Quite on the contrary, what we see now is him playing the victim card by saying that he was jailed by the Rajapaksas. Be that as it may, what Mahinda Rajapaksa learnt after jailing Fonseka is that it conferred on Fonseka the mantle of being a persecuted opponent of the government and was only serving to enhance Fonseka’s image. So after a point he put Fonseka out. Once he was out of jail, Fonseka lost his popular backing and is today a mere passenger in the UNP.

That Trump has allowed Hillary Clinton to go without the promised prosecution shows his need to put sideshows aside and get on with the work at hand. His selection of a cabinet also indicates his will to get things done. The choice of a non-politician and a businessman as Secretary of State shows that he wishes to use foreign policy as a means to strengthen America and to make the best deals for his country. The State Department is the Achilles heel of the American government. Officials of the State Department have had a tendency to go around the world lecturing to other governments on how they should run their countries and needlessly turning whole populations against the USA. It is unlikely that a lifelong businessman will have such an approach to foreign policy. It is also unlikely that he will have eccentric, bee-in-the-bonnet type human rights activists and liberal theorists as key decision makers in the State Department to carry out their sociological and political experiments on the rest of mankind.

Old, but still immature democracy

For those of us in a country like Sri Lanka, one of the most shocking things about the American presidential election is that the woman card could become a central campaign platform. We in South Asia know through experience that having a woman at the helm will not do anything special for women. We had the world first woman prime minister and she was just that – a prime minister who happened to be a female. Mrs Bandaranaike may have been more resolute in making decisions than her male counterparts in the party. But women gained nothing from her premiership that they would not have got in equal measure from a male prime minister. This is something that the inhabitants of most countries in South Asia know because India, Sri Lanka, Bangaladesh and Pakistan have all had female rulers.

Yet the Americans didn’t seem to know what less mature democracies have known for many decades. While it may be true that the Americans may never have had a female President, they have had a black president and they should know by now that having a black president has not really done anything for the blacks in America and they should have been able to extrapolate from that to realize that having a female president will not necessarily do anything for women in America either. We did not hear even the Trump campaign pointing out this fact, but perhaps most women intuitively realized this which is why Hillary did not win despite plugging the woman card for all she was worth.

One person who did say that having a black President in the USA has done nothing for the blacks  is the black Muslim leader Loius Farrakhan who at one of his prayer meetings asked some members of his audience whether they voted for the democrats and on getting affirmative replies, he asked them “And what did you get? You got a President.” (meaning that they got a black president) and then he launched into a blistering tirade about what Barack Obama had not done for the black people. After eight years of Obama, the blacks of America are exactly where they were when Obama was first elected to power – perhaps worse off now for having had their bubble about what a black president could do for them, having been pricked.

What was an eye opener for all of us in the US elections was the real nature of these supposed do-gooders and liberal thinkers in the world. This was revealed to us far more sharply at the US elections than in the Brexit campaign. The stakes of course were higher in the USA which is why we saw the fight being fought to the bitter end. What the US elections showed was that if you don’t accept what the liberal mafia says, however daft it may be, they seek to drown you out by calling you names and labeling you as a racist, a bigot, an idiot and what not. The liberal mafia had a whole infrastructure in place to be able to do that – articulate spokespersons paid and maintained by liberal NGOs, a liberal underclass of paid demonstrators who could be used like extras in the film industry to mount demonstrations, plants in the media to push the liberal cause through their comments and opinions.

This entire mechanism was sent in overdrive against Donald Trump. Perhaps more than ever before the bias of the mainline media in the US was revealed to the entire world at this election. In fact those of us who observed the behavior of the American media could not but feel proud of our own media establishment. Our state media may have reached new lows during the Mahinda, Premadasa and CBK governments and certain private media and websites may be operating at the level of the American media or even lower, but this is balanced out by other media organizations so that overall, one would not see in Sri Lanka the blatant bias that the American media showed against Trump.

One of the main forms of entertainment on Youtube these days are the compilations of shocked and incredulous reactions of the liberal media mafia and other commentators on the day after the election as they realized that Trump was winning even in states thought to be solidly democratic. Indeed this was a grand moment for all the victims of the global liberal mafia – one of whom is Sri Lanka. The Obama administration is squarely responsible for the dysfunctional government that we have at present. Until the Americans started interfering, Sri Lanka was a successful two party democracy which had seen many peaceful changes of government between the two main political parties. It was the former American Ambassador Michelle Sison who insisted that the candidate to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa had to be a common candidate and not Ranil Wickremsinghe – which brings us to our own right royal mess.

Maithripala Sirisena’s political options in 2017

The political pot is on the boil. The marriage between the UNP and the SLFP (Sirisena faction) has become like a conflict- ridden cohabitation between spouses who both desperately want the house they live in. They defend the house against all outsiders but fight over it between themselves. Not a day goes by without the the two yahapalana partners exchanging un-pleasantries with one another, making for the most bizarre governmental spectacle that our generation has ever seen. The UNP says that it is they who made Maithripala Sirisena President. The Sirisena loyalists say that the UNP made Sirisena the common candidate because they didn’t have a candidate who could win and so the exchange continues. Even as we write this we see Mano Ganesan saying on TV that they can if they so wish form a government without the SLFP.

Then there is Mujibur Rahaman once again telling the SLFP (Sirsena faction) to leave if they think the UNP is not good enough for them and S.M. Marikkar complaining about the conduct of the SLFP ministers in the government and asking whether this was what they made Maithripala Sirisena the President for. All this in just one day’s TV bulletins. While the UNP parliamentarians were expressing their views in that manner, the other news highlighted in the same bulletins was the rejection of the UNP’s Development Special Provisions Bill by the SLFP controlled provincial councils in Uva and the North Central Province. How long can a government work at cross purposes like this and hope to survive?

The SLFP chief minister of the Western Province is being shown on TV as we write this, saying that he went to the prison to see someone and that the whole prison is full of SLFP/UPFA members. The previous day he was shown telling an audience that the UNP is displaying Maithripala Sirisena’s  photograph at their functions deliberately in order to poison the minds of the SLFP rank and file and drive a wedge between the President and the vote base of the SLFP. So now the UNP is not supposed to even display the photograph of the man they got elected as President. According to this writer’s calculations, over two thirds of the votes that Sirisena got at the 2015 presidential elections was 100% UNP with the votes of Mano Ganesan, P Digambaram and the other Muslim political parties, the TNA and the JVP together making up the remaining one third. Yet now the UNP is being berated in public for even displaying Sirisena’s photograph!

We are now reaching new heights in governmental dysfunctionality. Some members of the SLFP serving in the government see this running battle with the UNP as their God given opportunity to survive the local government election. They have visions of leaving the government and contesting the local government elections together with the Joint Opposition as the reunited UPFA and then once again joining the government again as a rejuvenated SLFP. This would in effect be a replay of what happened at the August 2015 parliamentary elections when members of the Sirisena faction contested together with the Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists and after the election, a whole lot of MPs who had got themselves re-elected by displaying Mahinda Rajapaksa’s photograph joined the yahapalana government and became ministers.

The SLFP (Sirisena faction) knows that if they try to contest alone, against both the UNP and the Joint Opposition, they may come a poor third which would be disastrous for them. However if they join up with the Joint Opposition, the UNP may well be defeated in most local government areas. The prospect of being able to revive their fortunes with the help of Mahinda Rajapaksa no doubt presents a tantalizing option for most members of the Sirisena faction who are in fear of their political futures as the lifespan of this government slowly ebbs away. But the implementation of this plan that seems to have fired the imagination of many members of the SLFP (Sirisena faction) will be problematic for several reasons.

If the SLFP (Sirisena faction) is to contest together with the Joint Opposition as the reunited UPFA, they will have to leave the government. Once they vacate their ministries, those positions will have to be filled with UNP ministers in order to convince the voting public that the SLFP has really left the government. If the President keeps those vacancies unfilled, then the public will know that this is another political sleight of hand that Sirisena is trying to pull off. But if UNP members fill those vacancies, they will never vacate them again for the SLFP members to rejoin the government. That is the main obstacle to the plan that some members of the SLFP (Sirisena faction) seem to be having. In fact it is clear that if the Sirisena faction decides to leave the government to contest the local government elections, some members of the SLFP will not leave their ministries at all.

Will the SLFP leave the govt.?

The apparent non-opposition to the Development Special Provisions Bill by people like S.B.Dissanayake seem to indicate that he would rather hitich himself to the UNP bandwagon and preserve what he has rather than lose his ministry (which is far more powerful than the truncated ministries that most members of the UNP have) in various schemes to resurrect the fortunes of the Sirisena faction. That too is another problem – as to how many members of the SLFP will leave the government if the party decides to do so is in doubt.

Even if the whole or a part of the SLFP leaves the government with a view to contesting the local government elections as a reunited UPFA, there is the distinct possibility that the candidates of the Sirisena faction will get wiped out at the elections as we saw happening at the parliamentary election last year.

Furthermore, the next local government election will be held on the new hybrid first past the post and proportional representation system which means that each political party will have to nominate their candidates to contest each ward and whoever gets the highest number of votes in that ward will get elected. Those who get in through the proportional representation quota in each local government institution will be the best losers in the wards. So competition for nomination to the wards will be fierce.

Practically speaking, it will not be possible to divide the wards in a manner acceptable to both sides between Sirisena loyalists and Mahinda loyalists if they are to contest together and this practical matter will put an end to any dreams the Sirisena faction has of ensuring their political survival by reuniting with the Joint Opposition. Apart from all that there is the fundamental fact that the grassroots activists and voters of the Mahinda faction will at this election have even less tolerance for the Sirisena faction that at the last parliamentary elections.

The Sirisena faction is no doubt acutely aware of this situation which is why there is now talk of making Chamal Rajapaksa the general secretary of the SLFP to bring about ‘true rapprochement’. However it is doubtful whether even a measure like that will bring about the desired result as the manipulation that occurred at the last parliamentary elections is still fresh in everybody’s minds. From pronouncements being made by SLFP Spokesman Dilan Perera, who is now even talking of making Chamal Rajapaksa the prime minister in 2020, one gathers that Sirisena is obviously thinking of contesting the 2020 presidential elections as well. This shows that once you get into power, it is very difficult to think of getting out unless you are thrown out by the people. After heading a government the way he has been for the past two years, to have any hopes of getting re-elected after three or four more years of this, is really stretching things to the limit.

Both the President and Prime Minister obviously don’t know what their next step is going to be which is why we can see both of them making frequent visits to Kovils in India to importune the Gods for an answer to their predicament.

Even though some members of the SLFP (Sirisena faction) may be toying with the idea of leaving the government to contest the local government elections, it is unlikely that the SLFP cabinet ministers would like to leave their positions because it is the SLFP cabinet ministers who have got the best positions.

Those who talk of leaving the government are people like Dilan Perera who are State Ministers or Deputy Ministers – some of whom have to play second fiddle to UNP cabinet ministers and therefore may not be as satisfied as their colleagues in the cabinet.

In addition to the internal bickering within the government that is obviously seriously hampering its day to day work, there are other less visible dangers lurking in the shadows as we go into 2017. Oil prices today are higher than they have ever been since this government came into power nearly two years ago and are projected to keep rising through out the next year. The rupee depreciated further last week hitting a new low of Rs. 152 to the dollar. The IMF has asked the government not to expend foreign currency reserves trying to defend the rupee but instead shore up the reserves by doing exactly the opposite, buying dollars in the foreign exchange market. The sharp depreciation in the rupee last week would have been due to seasonal demand. But within the next year if the government does what the IMF has said it should do, the rupee is set to depreciate further with everything that entails.