Daily Archives: February 7, 2007

LTTE might take battle to the political front

The LTTE says it is preparing for the final war. We thought Prabhakaran had already launched it by throwing down the gauntlet at Mavilaru in keeping with his pledge in his heroes’ day speech in November, 2005 to plunge the country back into war. The outfit has reportedly stepped up conscription and fund raising for that purpose. (‘Final war’ has apparently become a tag with which the LTTE tries to market all its offensives.) However, it is evident that the LTTE is getting ready for something big.

Having lost ignominiously in the East and unable to recapture Jaffna, the LTTE may want to go the whole hog in its effort to turn the tables on the government militarily. However, left with only a few thousand battle-hardened cadres, it cannot be oblivious to the fact that the chances of its scoring a decisive battlefield victory are remote.

Whenever the LTTE fights its way into a cul-de-sac on the military front, it finds an escape route via the political front. Having manipulated India to force parrippu down the late President J. R. Jayewardene’s throat and to make him abandon Operation Liberation, which almost finished the LTTE in the North in 1987, Prabhakaran later managed to survive the Indian army by getting the late President Premadasa to send the IPKF back home. Thereafter, he made several moves on the political front, which resulted in a spate of assassinations including those of President Premadasa and Gamini Dissanayake, who would have acted like President D. B. Wijetunga, who had cleared the Eastern Province and held Local Government elections there in 1993. With Gamini’s assassination, Prabhakaran cleared the way for Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga to become President, as he was certain that she would opt for appeasement rather than war. She had already offered him the North for a period of ten years without elections albeit in vain. It was a miscalculation on his part. When he scuttled the peace talks and pushed her to war in 1995, she wrested control of Jaffna. However, he managed to consolidate his power back in the East.

When he realised he had met his match in President Kumaratunga, he tried to remove her physically in 1999 so as to help the UNP capture state power. His plan went awry, as she survived the assassination bid. Before he could make another move to engineer her downfall, President Kumaratunga, true to form, ruined things for herself. A group of her party heavyweights defected to the UNP and Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister, in 2001. Prabhakaran hurriedly declared an ‘unconditional’ ceasefire and Ranil readily reciprocated.

Having obtained everything necessary for resuming the so-called Eelam War III during the truce, the LTTE ensured Ranil’s defeat by calling a polls boycott in the North and the East. For, it is believed that Prabharkan didn’t want a darling of the international community to become President. Prabhakaran wanted nothing but war and in Mahinda he saw a hawk, who, he thought, would antagonise the international community and make things easy for him. Hence, his declaration of war within days of President Rajapakse’s induction!

Hoist with his own petard, bloodied and humiliated, the LTTE is helpless as never before. Unlike in the past, its true face has been laid bare. The EU ban has come along and several other international bans are staring it in the face. The UN has placed it on its List of Shame for child conscription. The breakaway of Karuna has debilitated its military muscle. It has become too embarrassing for even its closest international allies. The naval blockade off the eastern coast and international cooperation that Sri Lanka has secured to bust arms smuggling rackets, besides successful forays and air raids by the military have rendered the LTTE weak. Help from South India is not forthcoming for the outfit and the Rajiv assassination has cost it assistance from the Centre.

For the first time, the Tigers have lost both the East and Jaffna and are without anyone to take them off the hook. Although they remain a formidable guerrilla force, they don’t appear to be in a position to reverse the military gains of the government in so spectacular a manner as to boost the sagging morale of its cadres and sympathizers, at least immediately. Therefore, Prabhakran is likely to try to take his next battle to the political front the way he has done in the past in times of crises to bring about a seismic change in the southern politics and thereby a radical shift in the state policy towards the LTTE. It won’t baulk at anything to achieve its objective.

Hence, the pressing need for those leaders whom the LTTE is zeroing in on is to be wary flirting with danger! The LTTE has to be lucky only once.

It has been lucky more than once in the past!

-The Island Editorial

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Rebels 2007: The fallout of political pole-vaulting

by Gomin Dayasri

Who benefits from the crossing of the opposition MPs to the Government? Obviously, themselves, but the political ramifications it has set in motion will reverberate in the coming years. They have disarranged and disturbed the political scene to an extent that the added numerical strength to the government could turn to straw if events overtake the mathematical calculations

Impact on the UNP

The desertions from the UNP has an immediate psychological impact on the electorate portraying it as a defeated party still bickering to defeat itself more, distanced from the people, unlikely to be on the comeback trail. For the floating and detached voter to rally around the UNP may be considered an exercise in futility. The growth of the party would be stunted. The lack of confidence in the leadership by the party; the lack of confidence in the party by the electorate would result in further erosion.

Many of the rebels were so positioned in the party that they could not remain; yet the party is so convoluted that it is still prepared to reclaim them. Incredible, but the trumpet call is for the rouge elephants to return to the fold- so extinct is the tribe.

Their departure makes Ranil Wickremesinghe more secure in his position as the leader, the remaining rump are his own faithful whose prominence in the party hierarchy is dependent on his survival. It is a reciprocal arrangement bringing contentment to Wickremesinghe and his cohorts- while reconfirming him as the leader to lead to another defeat.

This will bring joy to President Rajapakse, as Ranil Wickremesinghe is a dream opponent who is unable to take off from his starting block in a Presidential race. President will forever manipulate to retain Ranil Wickremasinghe as the Leader of the Opposition to face friendly fire, which often ricochets in the face of the firer. Both the PA and the UNP has a common denominator, to calculate that the mantle does not fall on the JVP.

Previously, when party stalwarts like Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali left the UNP, they had the courage and the strength to form a formidable third force (DUNF) to present a credible alternative to President Premadasa as a more elegant refined rational UNP outfit. The difference was that unlike the rebels of today, they had skill, capacity and age ahead of them to face the country on their own steam and bide their time. The present rebels are more in search of instant power and easy perquisites and therefore walked into the arms of the enemy to enjoy a better tomorrow for themselves. They are likely to make the Sri Lanka Freedom Party their permanent comfort home for the aged, in fact, leaving many SLFP loyalists homeless—genesis for a fresh crisis.

If the LTTE voted for Ranil Wickremasinghe to make him the President with the rebels securely entrenched as Cabinet Ministers would they have defected from the UNP?

Unlike the previous deserters their return to the UNP fold is less probable, with their places usurped by the remaining faithful and probably being of sparse value (except maybe for Karu Jayasuriya, Hemakumar Nanayakkara and Mano Wijeratne) the UNP may have involuntarily cleansed themselves of driftwood while the SLFP attracted a plenty of garbage. The created vacancies may be a lifeline to the UNP to attract more presentable and untainted candidates. However, with Ranil Wickremasinghe most probably, candidates more like himself will be selected.

To many of its core supporters, the UNP is a way of life notwithstanding the leader being a captive of an entrenched Colombo based Montessori grade professional/business Mafia. Unlike the rebels, they will not desert a sinking ship for silver. The exodus does not percolate to the grassroots but to the coterie around the departing beneficiaries. In fact, some are frequent fliers between parties.

It is an oversimplification to place the blame totally on the leader; it is more the policies that led the UNP astray; for which the rebels are equally culpable. The electoral alliances with the SLMC and the CWC, with a strong tilt to the LTTE and inputs from business community, determined UNP policies to lead to serial defeats. The SLMC and the CWC are floating minorities ready to swing with a change of fortunes, which the UNP neglected to consider. It was a counter to SLFP links with the JVP and JHU which is a bonus at election time. For the UNP, to revamp its policies is a possible engineering feat rather than jettisoning the leader, in the absence of another. New leader as well as a new policy is a forerunner for a change in fortune. Ranil and his Rat Pack with their tiny tot minds are incapable of altering policies.

The UNP bases are the best funded and it has the potential to attract fresh young talent more than any other party due the prevailing hiatus with the rebels departing. Chances are that more mini- Ranils will enter. An opportunity has dawned on a party with a history of lost opportunities.

The minority parties moving to the government after the election is a greater loss than the defection of the rebels.

Impact on the SLFP

President Rajapakse, unlike his counterpart, is streets ahead of his Party. His conduct of the war has made his popularity soar and he can win without the JVP and the JHU at a Presidential election. Yet, the SLFP could be under a severe threat at a Parliamentary election which could occur before a Presidential election. President’s own popularity can get fatally dented if the political slut is not contained.

In search of numbers in Parliament, he opted to co-opt the rebels from the UNP in a high risk gamble that has triggered a chain of events. The intake drove away the JVP from any future alliance which guarantees a triangular contest at future elections to which the SLFP is vulnerable in a difficult economy. To replace the JVP with the UNP dissidents in making the parliamentary election nomination list is possible but with an appreciable loss in the vote bank. The rebels will be a liability as they will endanger the floating detached vote rather than substantial UNP votes and unlike the JVP does not possess a streamlined campaign machine. The rebels are in no condition to face an early election unlike the President and at an election most will have to be hidden than displayed. Fewer aggregate votes mean fewer numbers in parliament for the SLFP, which will lead to a Parliament still more hung.

Accommodation of any post election crossovers will be at the expense of the reigning party faithful and disenchantment is sure to set in. Trend has been set with ministerial rewards in crossing the divide, and if, more from the provinces make the voyage the disenchantment will be infectious after each ‘prize giving’. Sharing the spoils with the enemy at the ground level can have disastrous effects as gravy train cannot run endlessly.

With its inherent inferiority complex, the SLFP has always treated comings from the UNP as divine gifts. Internal party dissension of the SLFP normally accrues to the benefit of the UNP with the movement in that direction but no more; swing would be more towards the JVP with voters of the SLFP/JVP at the past two elections aligning together to oust the UNP and the bondage so established is easily renewable. More so JVP will become the main demolition squad in the Opposition. The swing to the UNP from the SLFP-the historic foe-did take place in times of despair but with the UNP in disarray, the float is more probable to the JVP with its patriotic soundings. Yet, the President has a plank none can match for the moment—success in the War.

If the elements of good governance is not operational and the cost of living keeps soaring much of the blame will be placed on the rebels in the jumbo cabinet, especially as their previous performance in ministerial posts has been dismal. With the rebels competing for patronage in alien SLFP territory, there could be internal strife. The SLFP is likely gang up to unfairly slant much of their own lapses on the rebels who are orphaned without a patron. Unfortunately for the rebels they entered after the honeymoon period is over. They form a minuscule enclave in the SLFP

The SLFP MPs without the JVP in their district lists can obtain the top slots in the results list by organizing the voters so that its parliamentarians are elected. Unlike to the JVP, SLFP supporters will not give their extra vote to the UNP rebels (maybe except for Karu Jayasuriya provided he performs well as a Minister!) and the UNP and the SLFP voters in collusion may eliminate parliamentary careers of many as it happened to those who crossed from the UNP previously. A switch back to the UNP may become possible if they realize the risks they run, after enjoying the perks.

Time will tell whether the President beheaded the UNP or both the UNP and SLFP by taking the rebels. For the moment he is poised pretty on the top of a tsunami wave but will it crash on the beach? Rebels have successfully disoriented the UNP and can do the same to the SLFP by their conduct.

Impact on the JVP

The JVP defeats itself being dogmatic and alienates the aspirations of the people by being rigidly over principled without a degree of flexibility; placing emphasis more on slogan than on substance. The JVP with its hereditary immaturity cannot presently focus on governing but is targeting to lead the Opposition unofficially in spirit and is within striking distance with a difference of five parliamentarians.

Next round of defections from the UNP can place the JVP in the saddle. Mahinda Rajapakse is more likely to save the UNP from the embarrassment than Ranil Wickremesinghe. The JVP can emerge stronger from the Opposition benches than from the government ranks. Still, it is capable of blowing it all with their stupidity. The JVP’s present strength lies in being workaholic, rooted to the ground and clean; with no greed for ministries like the rebels.

The JVP is smarter in demolishing the UNP than in bashing the SLFP. It can do still better against a joint SLFP-UNP government, as it emerges as an alternative. Have the rebels given the JVP an opportunity of a lifetime? Yet, it is not capable of taking office with its sordid past record, unless it gives a masterly performance as a skilled and responsible Opposition. The impetus would be greater, if there is a rift within the government.

Without having the SLFP as an ally it cannot command a high aggregate of votes and could lose parliamentary seats that it has at present. Drift of votes would be from the UNP to the SLFP, from the SLFP to the JVP and from the JVP to the SLFP and from the JHU to JVP. It is too early to predict the density of the varied drifts which will finally reflect the result.

If the contest is on a dual carriage and not triangular the JVP will be the casualty—the third party is often considered irrelevant on the eve of the election. The ultimate test is who performs effectively as the Opposition? The main issue at the next election could be who leads the opposition rather than who forms the government.

The SLFP won the last two elections primarily due to the JVP campaign. It has a band of motivated young campaigners who can control the field and talk their way effectively on TV.

The JVP can be shot down by an unfriendly media.

Impact on the JHU:

The JHU being in the government is a check on the rebels and to keep the government rooted in the concept of unitary state. The SLFP’s assignment for the JHU would be to negative the JVP’s onslaught on the government on the national question and to destabilize the JVP. A layman, instead of a monk has been selected craftily but he could be cast more in blue than saffron. The JHU will be the infantrymen of the SLFP against the JVP. The votes the JHU obtains next time will depend on how effectively it carries out the functions designated.

In the process, it can go the way the LSSP did—be dependent on the SLFP to have a parliamentarian on the National List.

The JHU has already lost its bulk vote to the UNP and the SLFP. It will fade away, if the monks resign making way for laymen. It is the saffron robes that took them to Parliament and nothing else!

via … The Island

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