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The Uncommon Candidate

| by Maduranga Rathnayake
Views expressed in this article are author own

( June 30, 2014, Melbourne , Sri Lanka Guardian ) An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come; now who said that, Victor Hugo? Well, whoever who said that that is an interesting point.

Turning to present Sri Lanka (SL), it is humanly impossible to find a person who doesn’t wish a regime change. Superficially, of course, there are still so many who defend the regime. There is a reason for that. That is everyone is born honest but we become dishonest later mostly by choice and sometimes under compulsion. So, if you ask anyone in SL for his honest view, he would want a regime change. The problem is it is difficult to defeat the regime at an election even if it is free and fair for a change. You blame Ranil for that. You don’t blame the voters. Why, because the voters, unmistakably the Sinhala-Buddhist peasants, semi-urban and urban middle class, have been cast under a spell by the regime’s propaganda machinery. You blame Ranil for not being able to break the spell for so many years. So, there is the need for a common candidate to defeat the regime at a future presidential election. This is where SL is at this hour. Is that correct?

The SL society over the years has shown an extraordinary amount of servility in the face of deceit and corruption, and like as they say love is in the air, in SL deceit and corruption is in the air and everyone of us breathes it like a happy child would breathe fresh morning air; it is what we are and we love it. This social touchstone of corrupt-is-bliss did not come into use overnight, there had been a steady build-up in the last couple of decades through the failed south-youth armed uprising and the Tamils’ military revolt both being generously contributory, which only saw an intensified and a robust fully regime-backed phase in the years that came under the present regime, the chief characteristic being the emergence of an exclusive class immersed in a new sensation seeking decadence and peasants and a semi-urban and urban class satiated with simple pleasures deceit and corruption would bring them. As a result the SL society ceased to criticise, rationalise or at least theorise anything and had blissfully chosen to be self anaesthetised; it has been as good as death. Do we want to wake up? Yes, nevertheless are we prepared to wake up? The answer unfortunately is unclear.

The common presidential candidate concept as it were, is irreparably flawed. It is clear that the theoretical need for a common candidate had stemmed from the very need of a force, as opposed to Ranil yet including him as well, that can stand up to the almighty regime, and a common presidential candidate out of that force to fight the regime at a future election. The main flaw of this reasonably old strategy lies in the very foundation of the common platform, laughably being constitutional reforms. Of course, at an election the voters answer only the question put to them and getting the voters in the next presidential election campaign engrossed in a constitutional reform debate along with the usual economic hardship slogan may sound doable and perhaps even winnable, but it once again misses the point. Further, by bringing the main opposition in parliament being one of the two largest political forces in the country practically under a collective of small parties and small time political players certainly is strategically taking too much of a risk too. It must be stressed that what SL really needs at this hour is a total shift both in its outlook as well as substance in that a leadership that is a clear alternative to the present regime and certainly not a so-called force which may come out stronger than the present regime yet which won’t be able to deliver anything if voted into power as such a common force would inevitably be as fragile and totally messy as and would not be different at all to numerous standard coalitions we have seen in politics. It should never be forgotten that while a regime change is a must it is equally indispensable that SL shall have a leadership that can deliver and deliver without delay in terms of restoring the economy, public institutions, the judiciary, the international image and the multi-ethnic basis of the country. 

The several elections lost in the reason times by the main opposition in parliament should be viewed as significant opportunities the SL society missed rather than Ranil loosing elections. If one objectively evaluated the policies and the electoral eminence of the several potential common candidates whose names are being discussed ubiquitously one would, it is hoped, come to the realisation that Ranil in fact is the most uncommon candidate of the lot with his strong liberal views. If the so-called third, fourth etc. forces want to genuinely push for a regime change and bring about new culture in which freedom and democracy rules then they have little choice but to openly work out a common agenda based on freedom and democracy with the main opposition, as opposed to promoting a mere common candidate. What needs to be promoted is the idea that it’s time the SL society woke up and was liberated itself from the shackles of deceit and corruption. If what the opposition parties are searching for in the form of a common presidential candidate is a person who would speak to the gallery better than the Rajapasas then let us get ready for another disaster.

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