Two-Thirds Majority Sweeps the Polls: Sri Lanka Reverses the ‘Regime Change’

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe | Published: 2:00 AM Aug 10 2020
Columns Two-Thirds Majority Sweeps the Polls: Sri Lanka Reverses the ‘Regime Change’

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe

The just concluded General Election has exceptional significance. As Parliamentary Elections generally do, this did not merely usher in a new Parliament. With this Election, Sri Lanka became the first country to completely reverse ‘the regime change’ executed in 2015. The greatest irony is in doing so it obtained a two-thirds majority. A task deemed near impossible, yet, this is exactly what the Sri Lankan voter delivered.

Regime Change

A Regime change is generally engineered in the guise of importing democracy. In reality, this is a form of occupation without the usual costs and gory involved in an invasion. The actual enemy lies hidden and is unleashed in the form of a people’s movement. Thus, those with vested interests can continue to act in the pretext of being a friend while creating more chaos and confusion. This is a much more effective and subtle means of achieving the end objectives that would otherwise require a military invasion with its associated resistance from the country subjects as well as condemnation from others.  

Any Government seen not complying with the dominant West’s agenda is thus toppled by weaving a web of falsehood and misinformation. People are made to feel an intense anger and a wave of jealousy against their own Government. It is they who then either protest and riot until the Government falls, or use the ballot to send the Government home. In Sri Lanka, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa was removed through Elections. The ousted Administration is then replaced with a very weak Government that is subservient to the West. In Sri Lanka, all Opposition political parties were brought under one umbrella with the sole objective of defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa. The then US State Secretary John Kerry subsequently revealed that this cost the American taxpayer around USD 300 million. 

Best kept secret

The contender for President opposing Mahinda Rajapaksa was selected from his own camp. Thus, it was not only the collective Opposition that was galvanised against him his closest and most trusted associates were also convinced to betray him. This was an exercise that started almost immediately after the war against terrorism was successfully concluded in 2009. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s opponent in the 2010 presidential Election was none other than the then Army Commander. 

General Sarath Fonseka as a political rookie however, failed to pull the stunt. Maithripala Sirisena on the other hand, as a veteran politician was successful. He was perhaps the best kept secret for his identity as the presidential contestant was not revealed until the last possible moment. 

After Sirisena became the new president, he took control of the SLFP, even though he contested against the Party. This confused the UNP. Traditionally, as the two main parties the UNP and the SLFP were rivals. It took a great leap of faith for the UNP to support an SLFP pillar to become the president. Yet, they did as the implicit understanding was that Sirisena would be apolitical and as such that Sirisena was no longer with the SLFP. The UNP supporters thought this meant that Sirisena would be ‘their’ President.  

Grabbing the SLFP

Having come to power on that ‘apolitical’ platform, the UNP never expected their new darling to grab the leadership of its arch rival. However, Sirisena knew that he had to have his own base or he would be just a UNP puppet. Though the UNP was uncomfortable from the beginning by this unexpected precipitation of events, they at first were not overly alarmed. This is because Sirisena managed to convince the SLFP to comply with the new Government. Therefore, at the beginning it appeared the newly formed Yahapalana Government was being further strengthened. Indeed, at the time the UNP with Sirisena and its few seats in Parliament could only form a minority Government. Yet, because of the power Sirisena could now yield over the SLFP, which technically was the new Opposition, the Yahapalana Government was able to pass the contentious 19th Amendment with only Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera opposing it. 

It was a very bizarre situation where the President was able to exert direct influence over his Opposition. He as the President and also the Head of the SLFP was hence, both the leader of the Government as well as the Government’s main Opposition party. This allowed even the Constitution to be amended without due democratic process. The consequences of this perversion were devastating. Almost four years later, the events that led to the Easter Sunday massacres and thereafter were directly because of these root causes. 

Though it appeared initially that Sirisena taking over the SLFP reigns was a progressive move, in reality it was for self preservation. This created serious fissions within the newly formed Yahapalana Government. With more SLFP in the Government strengthening Sirisena’s arm, the Government started pulling in different directions. This was apparent even before the 2015 General Elections. Thus, even though the Mahinda Rajapaksa led General Election campaign did not win the Parliamentary Elections, they gained enough seats to qualify to be the Opposition. 

Forming the 2/3

The SLFP contested as an alliance under the UPFA banner. However, after the General Elections Sirisena managed to convince most of the SLFP members to be part of the National Government. It is most unfortunate that these opportunistic politicians willingly conceded, even though the explicit mandate they received from their voter was against the Yahapalana Government. 

Furthermore, he refused to acknowledge those UPFA members, who did not join the Yahapalana Government, as the Opposition. Even though the UPFA held 55 seats in Parliament, and represented eight provinces, the post of Opposition Leader was given to the one time LTTE political proxy, the TNA. This was most undemocratic as TNA had only 16 seats in Parliament and represented just two provinces. It was through these manipulations that Sirisena was able to form a two-thirds majority in Parliament. 

The West applauded these moves and congratulated the Yahapalana Government for strengthening democracy. Mangala Samaraweera, who is perhaps the closest partner to the sponsors of regime change, revealed that once Kerry whispered into his ear that Sri Lanka has found their own Nelson Mandela in the form of Sirisena. There was even talk of a possible Noble Prize for Sirisena. 

Over the next four years, a meticulously planned strategy began to be executed very methodically. By the time the Yahapalana Government fell in 2019, Sri Lanka was laid bare vulnerable in terms of economy and security. This effectively discredited our political leadership. Though the campaign started by targeting Mahinda Rajapaksa, it soon included the partners of regime change. 

No credible Opposition

Today, both Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa are leaders without merit. This is not only confined to the UNP leadership, but also to that of the JVP and the TNA. Arguably, it is because of their own doing that these political leaders stand without credit. The bottom line however is that the people have lost trust in these leaders and as a result Sri Lanka is today without a credible Opposition. A democracy cannot function without an Opposition. It needs an Opposition to debate its decisions before putting it into action. This is vital as even the best of policies are with opportunity costs. Therefore, a Government must work with a clear understanding of the overall situation. To help this process is the responsibility of the Opposition. 

Hence, a country needs a patriotic Opposition just as much it needs a patriotic Government. It is the vital role of the Opposition to protect the country from external forces, who may actively seek to exploit these opportunity costs. We did not have such an Opposition in 2009 and we are still without one. 

Cat’s paw to the hidden hand

This will leave the new Government vulnerable to a ceaseless wave of criticism and misinterpretation. The JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka’s body language, as he delivered a statement after suffering the ignominious Election defeat was not one of reflection as to the cause of their defeat. Instead, it was a gleeful anticipation on how the new Government will deliver its promises. It is obvious that he will continue to be the cat’s paws to the hidden hand still determined to destabilise Sri Lanka. 

Other victimised countries of ‘Regime Change’ were reduced to rubble with completely collapsed economies and warring factions for leadership. The biggest refugee crisis since World War II was its direct result. However, it was not possible to drag Sri Lanka down this path because of the unique qualities of its people. This despite the many provocations that included both loss of life and livelihood. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa just before Elections said, “do you duty and I will do mine”. Accordingly, people have delivered. Sri Lankans have irrefutably reversed regime change. Today, the regime change sponsors can only tweet their best wishes to the new Government. However, Sri Lanka is not yet out of danger. The objectives wished from regime change remains unfulfilled. Therefore, our duty to our country is not yet complete. The two thirds majority delivered to the new Administration is only the first step. We have a long battle ahead! 

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By Shivanthi Ranasinghe | Published: 2:00 AM Aug 10 2020

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