As the self-appointed “yahapalanaya” movement rejoices at Sambandan’s selection as Leader of the Opposition, we cannot forget that we’ve been here once before — with disastrous consequences.
What happened in parliament on September 3, 2015 was a complete disgrace — though it was legally and procedurally correct. The TNA is the largest party outside of the government, and therefore must be the Official Opposition of the country. This has led to a situation that is analagous to the 1970s when Amirthalingam occupied the post that Sambandan has been gifted. Sambandan’s recent installation is however wrong, in the moral sense and also in the democractic context.
The TNA is a regional, chauvinistic, Tamil secessionist front. From 1948 to 2009 and beyond, the TNA in its various mutations were loyal mouthpieces of Tamil superiority, Tamil privilege, Tamil militancy and barbaric Tamil terrorism. Sambandan has consistently praised Prabhakaran, himself a product of the TNA’s hateful mono-ethnic anti-Sinhala, anti-Buddhist chauvinism. Most recently, at the TNA’s first election rally in July 2015, Sambandan and the entire TNA leadership proclaimed that even in death Prabhakaran is still their undisputed leader.
The TNA is therefore neither able nor willing to function as a real democractic Opposition. The TNA, by definition, by its very nature, can only be an “opposition” to the Sinhalese Buddhist core of the country, and not a counter-balance to a UNP-SLFP coalition government (NB. It is a coalition government, and not a national government by any stretch of the imagination!). The very existence of this “government” is anathema to democracy and a flagrant violation of the peoples’ will as expressed on August 17, 2015.
Though technically in the current UNP-SLFP coalition setup the third largest party should be the Opposition, it is wrong for the Opposition to be a narrow-based, mono-ethnic party, from far-flung barren lands, which draws its votes from less than 10% of the population. If the TNA was really a responsible, pluralistic, democratic party, they would have done the decent thing and said “thanks, but no thanks” to the Opposition post. Of course, their appointment to this post is part of a plan to tarnish, vilify and eventually reverse the victory over Tamil terrorism in 2009, and only a fool would give up such a chance.
The disaster of the war period can be traced back to the oppressive and anti-people policies followed by JR Jayawardane in his dictatorial quest to gain revenge for a life of missed opportunities. He was so desperate to be leader, but had to wait till he was in his 70s (how ironic that the same history repeated for his equally ambitious but electorally unpopular nephew, Ranil). It is highly likely that JRJ held a grudge against the Sinhalese masses for delaying his ascension to power by favoring others over him for so many years. And so he began a process of suppression, censorship, and vulture capitalism, enforced by bands of thugs and a Gestapo-style internal police regime — Ranil’s FCID is no doubt modeled on the latter — to fundamentally transform Sri Lanka. The socialist pro-people force was disenfranchised and a rabid right-wing agenda was imposed. He succeeded in transforming the country into a war zone.
A Tamil was leader of the Opposition back then too, again, just as today, for the wrong reasons. The presence of a Tamil from a regional party in that post in the 70s was a bad sign because it meant a complete lack of a broad-based, nation-wide, all-inclusive opposition movement. Amirthalingam’s only interest was more power devolution to Tamil-dominated regions as a precursor to eventual Tamil independence. He did not care about the police state that was terrorizing the Sinhala masses. The Sinhalese Buddhists had no voice in the political space and ended up idiotically and stupidly resorting to the JVP’s marxist terrorism. The presence of a Tamil in the Opposition Leader post today, even coming from essentially the same party that Amirthalingam once led, is a symptom of a complete breakdown of the democratic system of the country. Bad omens indeed.
The current conditions are worse than what happened during JRJ’s era because in that earlier time, JRJ had the legitimacy of a 5/6 majority. That is, the majority of the Sinhalese Buddhists also voted for him. The socialist or left-wing forces were rejected outright. Of course, they came to regret their choice later. But initially, JRJ had a mandate to start his crazy nonsense. Ranil and Sirisena are doing something far worse than JRJ. They are now not only suppressing but actively suffocating the Sinhalese Buddhist polity and their will by preventing their representatives from speaking for them in parliament.
Once again, the political space is closed to the Sinhalese Buddhists. Despite them having done their civic duty by voting for and successfully electing those who would speak for them and represent them. This time however, unlike in the 1970s and 1980s, these voters are mature enough to know that their enemy is not Sambandan or the TNA or the Tamil extremists. It is not even Ranil the traitor. Their enemy is the UPFA in its Sirisena the Madman incarnation: the current president, those UPFA MPs who took ministerial posts, and also those who play a game of being in the opposition but refuse to leave the UPFA.