Campaigned for the ‘lesser evil’ unconditionally and paying the price

To All Democratic Political Parties,
Civil Societies and Socio-political activists,
Media,
Sri Lanka 31.10.2019

Defeating the emerging authoritarian, militarist and ultra-nationalist political dynasty is the historical obligation for all parties and patriots.
The sovereignty of all Sri Lankans is in peril
In the presidential election Rajapaksa’s proxy, Gotabaya should be defeated through a principled and robust united front against Bonapartism and brazen nepotism.

Defeating the emerging authoritarian, militarist and ultra-nationalist political dynasty is the historical obligation for all parties and patriots.
 
The last battle for the protection of democracy When Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa tried to enter parliament unconstitutionally through the attempted Coup de grace against the incumbent government, the disorder he instigated in parliament is self-evident. Now he is seeking a
mandate from the people to crown him as an unchallengeable King, positioning his eldest son Namal as prince and heir apparent to a new emerging authoritarian and intolerant dynasty. This presidential election is not going to be a contest between Gota and other candidates, but it would be the last battle for the protection of democracy. 
 
Sri Lankans are people of selective political amnesia Mr Rajapaksa was seen as a national hero by a large section of Sinhalese for defeating the LTTE in the brutal civil war in 2009 while a large number of Tamils people silently mourning. Some adulated him as their king despite allegations of war crimes against him and earned condemnation world over.
 
After winning the 2010 presidential election, Mahinda believed he had the mandate to secure political and economic might for his family. His large family members, numbering around 269, had burrowed into the very
bedrock of Sri Lankan politics, putting down roots into all spheres of power. All four Rajapakse brothers controlled many government ministries and about 80% of the total public spending and treated the government
of Sri Lanka as a private limited company which brought them insurmountable wealth.
 
Rajapaksa rule was increasingly authoritarian, racist, aggressive, nepotistic and corrupt Mahinda, through his kangaroo court, imprisoned the war-winning army commander, SarathFonseka, and stripped him of his rank and medals after a failed attempt to unseat him at the 2010 presidential election. He sacked Chief Justice ShiraniBandaranayake unceremoniously in a dubious manner, for giving a verdict of a single case to his disliking, replaced her with his former attorney-general and personal legal confidant Mohan Peiris and created a subservient Judiciary. Under his rule, the oppositions were undermined, and all democratic institutions were paralysed or abolished. Unconstitutional and coercive practices became norms. 
 
The unholy alliance of all terror outfits converged on usurping power 
Under Gotabaya’s authority abduction squads known as “white van” squads whisked away rebel suspects, dissidents, members of parliament and journalists deemed critical of him. Most of the abductees were never
seen again. Having failed to intimidate Tamils, by creating a Grease Yakka phenomenon, he radicalised Buddhist
militancy through BoduBalaSena to create a new foe, this time Muslims. He financed, protected and promoted
Islamist extremism and Tamil paramilitary. He even conspired with the underground world and killed some of
them in a staged shoot out after a riot in Welikade. All these belligerent forces are brought together to stand
with Gotabaya for Presidential campaign.

 
The so-called bloodless revolution of civil society
The simmering discontents of the silenced people were ably mobilised by the civil society groups and
oppositions, who formed a united front for the 2015 presidential election to unseat the formidable President
Mahinda. The unexpected defeat of the Rajapaksa regime in the January 2015 election was hailed as a bloodless
revolution. The alliance of Sirisena with Ranil, whose party Sirisena had worked against throughout his political
career, was seen as an innovative political culture of democracy and something that other countries could
emulate. 
 
However, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe were unable to work together and none of their key promises was met.
The much expected “Yahapalana” or ‘good governance’, soon turned out to be an inept governance. It has let
down all sections of the people and proved to be as corrupt as its predecessor. The failures of the coalition
government have made it even easier for Rajapaksa to make his case to the public.
 
The injured political animal and his diversionary plots
The defeated Mahinda’s primary concern was seeking support from the Buddhist temples to protect himself and
his family members from being prosecuted for the heinous crimes they have committed during their rule. In this
process, he re-established contact with grass-roots, created an illusion that the country was facing the threat of
a resurgence of the LTTE and attempted to re-emerge as the self-styled protector of the nation. He also
patronaged anti-Muslim elements that propagated false stories of Vanda Pethi (tablets used for birth control)
and orchestrated violence against Muslims and repeat of his hatred campaign. 
 
The power grab through backdoor fiasco resulted in the diminution of his political stature 
Power-hungry Mahinda became complacent again. His attempt to seize power through the backdoor through
nothing less than an unconstitutional coup with the support of President Sirisena has been roundly defeated by
a courageous display of united resistance by concerned citizens in combination with decisive votes in the
legislature and unanimous rulings by the Judiciary. After clinging on stubbornly from October 26, 2018 for 52
days, PM Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned at his residence on December 15. 
 
The evildoers in the parliament in the presence of coup leader
These were the most degrading days in the history of Lanka’s Parliament. Mahinda’s men wreaked havoc,
usurped the Speaker’s chair and caused damage to public property by smashing chairs and destroying electronic
equipment. They sprayed chillies powder, assailed the police invited by the Speaker to provide him protection,
threw books containing the sacrosanct constitution and the Holy Bible as weapons to assault and batter the UNF
MPs. It all happened while their leader Mahinda was watching the spectacle; doing nothing to restore normalcy
in parliament. The mindset of the power-greedy Mahinda was well demonstrated.
 
The terrorist Zahran groomed by Gota
People identified extremism of Zahran and demanded action from state and arrest him. Nevertheless, he was
still financed and protected by state security until he absconded. The conspiracy came to pass on the Easter
Sunday, April 21, 2019 terrorist attack lead by Zahran. The Easter Sunday terrorist attacks marked a shift from
the sectarian tensions that had primarily been against Tamils to orchestrate violence against Muslims, who
already faced threats from radical Buddhists. Gota lost no time in exploiting the situation to boost his image as
‘the saviour of Sinhalese nation’ riding the wings of Islamophobia. Gota declared his interest in the Presidency
openly. The country began to drift back towards its old authoritarian rule.
 
Two faces of Gota
Gota who is contesting as a proxy of his brother Mahinda, whose dream to remain as the President for a lifetime
was thwarted by the 19th amendment, cashes in on the “anti-incumbency” feelings of the people with the
support of two Media. He promises strong national security measures if he wins the November 16 election in the
island nation. 

 
Ironically, he also promises the restoration of democracy and the creation of a corruption-free country. Sadly,
some people believe this story too. The real Gota is a ruthless, intolerant person who will resort to controversial
stringent measures to get things done, disregarding any moral, legal or professional obligations, as his track
record demonstrates. A man who presided over mass torture and enforced disappearances is desperate again to
hold the reins of power. 
 
In the eyes of a rat, the cat is the most dangerous enemy
The short-sighted masses view their problems through the lens of their day to day problem. They forget the past
and seek quick remedies. Thereby they fall into the fire from the frying pan. This mood of the people is
overwhelmingly anti-incumbency, rightly so. However, the solution is not voting Gota and bringing the
authoritarian Mahinda dynasty back to power. In the eyes of a rat cat is the most dangerous enemy.
 
This presidential election is not going to be a contest between Gota and other candidates, but it would be the
last battle for the protection of democracy and last chance to stop Mahinda, who is seeking the people’s
mandate to crown like a King to create his dynasty. 
 
Can we STOP Mahinda – Gota’s?
Yes, still we can, only if we will form a strong and principles united Front. The return of Mahinda – Gota rule
should be stopped at any cost for the sake of democracy and the country. But how? 
 
There are 35 presidential candidates in the fray, and among them, Gota is presently at the lead followed far
behind by Sajith Premadasa. Both candidates have empty promises, not vision. The NPP led
by AnuraKumaraDissanayaka, with all its shortcomings, put forward people’s friendly policies. The other
candidate to be reckoned with is Mahesh Senanayake. There are a few other progressive candidates also
contesting the presidential election. 
 
Contested separately, none of the candidates is capable of defeating Gota. Look at the 2015 presidential election
results. Mahinda, the single-most popular mass-figure, despite all his unlimited power and money, could poll
only 47.58 % of popular vote whereas Sirisena, who defeated him, received 51.28%. The difference is only
449,072. The Sinhalese electorates overwhelmingly voted for Mahinda, and the non-Sinhalese electorates voted
en-block for Sirisena. Civil societies and the JVP supported the latter.
 
We can assume that Mahinda’s votes will remain intact, while the floating votes and new votes will be divided. A
sizable Tamil and Muslim votes would go to NPP and a fraction to Gota. Under these circumstances, the NPP’s
vote bank will be the decisive factor. The votes cast to the NPP and other candidates will help Gota’s victory.
 
What should be done?
Last time we, civil society groups, campaigned for the ‘lesser evil’ unconditionally and paying the price. The
question is how to defeat Gotabaya without making the same mistake again.
 
We must learn the lesson from the broad united front formed to defeat Hitler and Fascism during the Second
World War. All the democratic forces formed a formidable united front cutting across the state, race, religion,
class or creed against Fascism. This united front was eventually expanded to include their enemies – the
imperialists, Britain and the US too. Without adopting the united front strategy, people could not have
defeated Fascism.
 
Along this line, we suggest and urge:
 

 The NPP, Mahesh, other candidates, all civil societies, TNA and other parties should formulate common
minimum demands incorporating concerns of every section of the people.
 Based on the common demands, a United Front (UF) should be formed.

 The UF should select a candidate who is capable of defeating Gotawith the backing of the UF.
 The UF should negotiate the demands with that candidate and enter into an electoral agreement
without sacrificing its identity and independence.

 Other candidates coming under the umbrella of the UF may either withdraw their nomination and
support that candidate or contest separately and urge their voters and supporters to cast their second
vote to that candidate.
 If that candidate wins or not, this UF should function independently, undertake checks and balances and
operate as a third force to protect the people’s democracy.
 
We, as an organisation formed of a section of Lankans living in the UK, are willing to participate in the discussion
to formulate common minimum demands and assure that we will campaign for the UF if formed.

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