Is it time to write Pohottuwa Obituary?



by Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

Reading “From heyday to ‘hay day’”, the hard-hitting editorial laced with sarcasm (The Island, 18 December) and “Declining power and challenges before SLPP” by Shamindra Ferdinando in the Midweek Review of 20th December, I began wondering whether the recently concluded SLPP convention was the final flicker before the flame was extinguished and the time has come to write an obituary for Pohottuwa! Having been fortunate enough to outlive them, I have written about many friends and relatives of mine but that was an easy task as they had taken the path of no return. However, I fear caution is needed in doing so for political parties as, unlike humans, they seem to have mysterious powers of resurrection.

In fact, I am reminded of the multitude of obituaries written about the UNP after the abysmal defeat at the last general election. Who would have thought Ranil W, who got the largest number of preferential votes for any candidate at the previous general election, would poll such a tiny amount, not worth a count even? But miraculously he is the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, fast becoming a dictator and may rule over us for a dozen years to come, if we go by the predictions of his acolytes!

Much has been written about the economic calamity foisted on by Pohottuwa and many, not without reason, consider it deserves to die. Unfortunately, some use the unprecedented recent Supreme Court judgement to justify this but there is cause for concern as the learned judges looked at only the period referred to in the petition, not over the long term. Further, their judgement of ‘contributed to’ has been widely misinterpreted as causation. The other party responsible for the economic catastrophe is well referred to in the highlighted paragraph accompanying Shamindra’s piece which states: “In actual fact the foundation for the current economic chaos was laid under the Yahapalana rule when they borrowed as much as USD 12 billion from the international bond market, at high interest rates, with them not even undertaking any developmental works, like the Rajapaksas, or, for that matter, any worthwhile economic activity. We certainly like to see at least a single project that the Yahapalana regime built with that USD 12 bn. Of course, it ensured the country was bled of valuable foreign currency by doing away with time tested exchange controls that were in place since 1953. Then can we forget the record Central Bank heists staged twice during that regime? And virtually all culprits are yet free.”

Hard to disagree with Shamindra Ferdinando! In fact, there is hardly any doubt that the twin-evils that ruined Sri Lankan economy areYahapalnaya and Pohottuwa. By implication, this lays the blame on all the parties and their breakaway groups represented in parliament, as all of them were supporters of one or other of this twin-evil; in fact, some supporting both! None without blemish it seems and, ideally, all should be sent home. But then, there will be a vacuum and that is the conundrum facing the country at the moment!

The emerging new force is the NPP/JJB, darlings of the West as seen by the visits of their dignitaries to the head office to shake hands with AKD. One wonders whether he has signed a secret agreement with the West and given up the Marxist ideologies on which his organisation was founded!

On the other hand, sceptics view all these advances as a means of making use of the emerging force by the West to achieve sinister ends. However, Shamindra casts doubts and states: “Regardless of big boasts, the JVP-led Jathika Jana Balawegaya lacks the anticipated support to win at the next presidential election.”

In spite of the projections from published opinion polls, we need to take Shamindra’s views seriously for good reasons. Their attempts to dissociate themselves from the economic disaster does not hold water as the JVP propped up the Yahapalanaya. Further, they have stubbornly refused to apologise for the atrocities committed in the past. It cannot be forgotten that they were responsible for the demise of a generation of Sinhala youth. They and their comrades continue to ruin university education. However, the most important is that their policies are still undeclared!

It is a great shame that Sajith has failed as the Leader of the Opposition and refused to take over the reins of government when requested to do so. Even those who do not agree with some of the things his father did, acknowledge that RP was a man of action and does not seem to have passed on that gene to SP!

One of the biggest critics of Sajith is the chairman of his own party, FM Fonseka, whose presidential ambitions have not gone away! Sajith demonstrates very poor leadership by not taking action against Fonseka.

Although Rajapaksa bashing is the order of the day, it is naive to disregard the core of village voters who regard Mahinda Mahattaya as the saviour of the nation and their votes count too! There were concerns expressed about Mahinda’s health but his performance at the SLPP rally showed a good degree of rejuvenation which must have reassured the hardcore Pohottuwa supporters.

Sajith’s shying away from responsibility is likely to put off the voters as much as Ranil’s dictatorial tendencies. AKD’s false sense of security may well be his undoing. Pohottuwa is said to be considering fielding a businessman as the presidential candidate but the voters disenchanted by the failures of a non-politician president are not likely to warm to the prospect of another non-politician president. It looks as if the field for the next presidential election is widely open and anything can happen.

In this scenario, though Pohottuwa is most unlikely to be the force it once was, it is difficult to write it off completely. Therefore, it is still premature to write the obituary for Pohottuwa!