By: Swadesh Roy
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka People’s Freedom Front has taken absolute control by the overwhelming majority in the parliament election. It was Gotabaya’s another big shot after winning the president election nine months ago. Probably, it is the first general election in any country in this pandemic situation. That election had already been postponed twice because of coronavirus. However, when election was held in Sri Lanka then the corona situation of Sri Lanka was under control. Besides, government maintained perfect hygienic measuresat the time of election. So, it is the first example in the world how election can be held following this new normal era.
Why Gotabaya won the election?
On the Election Day, when people were going to cast their vote seemed very happy that their government (Gotabaya’s Government) successfully controlled the coronavirus. In Sri Lanka, only 11 people died from covid-19 and total corona infected cases are below 3,000. One of the senior journalists of Sri Lanka, Gemini Sharad expressed his view in this issue that people of Sri Lanka have taken the issue of Covid-19 control as a success of Gotabaya. Their opinion is, as a military person Gotabaya imposed and maintained the first 14 days lockdown very seriously. He imposed curfew and deployed Army to ensure strict lockdown. That’s why, coronavirus couldn’t spread in Sri Lankan community. This successful management of pandemic by Gotabaya also made many Sri Lankan citizensenthusiastic to cast their vote in favor of Gotabaya. This is one of the accidental causes that helped to get a number of votes to Gotabaya and his front. In spite of that, the political and social causes were the main factors for winning. The first political and social cause is Sinhalese Nationalism with Buddhist religious sentiment. At least one decade ago, Sri Lanka was a multi ethnic, diverse and liberal society. But now it has turned into a Buddhist religious based Sinhalese nationalism dominated society like the present Indian society which has been turned from multi religious, multi ethnic and diverse society to Hindu religion based nationalism. Even that, like PM Narendra Modi of India, Gotabaya has been successful to rise a hype in favor of Buddhist religion based Sinhalese nationalism for turning this and two landmark incident helped Gotabayato reach here. Sri Lanka had been suffering for Tamil crisis at least three decades. It has a long history and from the beginning all the Sri Lankan government tried to solve the minority Tamil people’s crisis politically. They always avoid any kind of brutality against minority Tamil people. But in 2009, when Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of Gotabaya Rajapaksa was president, then, he took the decision for ending the Tamil crisis holding iron hand. He drove military action against the Tamil insurgents even the common Tamil people. As military personnel, Gotabaya was the then Defense Minister of Sri Lanka. As an in-charge of military operation against Tamil people, Gotabaya did it ruthlessly and highest brutally. Thousand hundreds of Tamil people, women and child were killed by the Sri Lankan Military. Even a good number of Tamil women were raped by the Sri Lankan soldiers. That killing and rape was admitted all over the world; the first genocide on 21st century. On the contrast, a huge number of Sinhalese people took it as an end of a long term conflict and disturbancein Sri Lanka. Their attitude was totally that it is the first government who became successful to end Tamil conflict. More contrast, liberal world and human rights organization of the world portrayed the brutal operation leader Gotabaya as a war criminal. On the other hand, huge number of Sinhalese peopletook him as a hero of their country who had been successful to end a long term conflict. Simultaneously, Gotabaya successfully portraits himself as a hero of the Sinhalese people. And it was a turning point of Sri Lankan society and Sri Lankan politics which reflections are last November’s president election that made Gotabaya president with a landslide support and parliamentary election on 5th August, 2020.
Not only had the Jingoism against Tamil People but also it arisen against the Muslims of Sri Lanka. Its landmark incident is Easter Sunday suicide attack by the Islamic militant on 21st April in 2019. In that attack, 260 people were killed by the heavy suicidal bomb attack. That incident also helped to heat the iron of the Buddhist religious based Sinhalese nationalism. So, like the November’s president election the result of this parliamentary election is the result of a hype of Buddhist religious based Sinhalese nationalism. That’s why, the Tamil and Muslim leaders also lose huge authority in their areas. Tamil National Alliance also faced a setback and ended up with just 10 seats. Similarly, Muslims won only one seat. This scenario also not sounds good for the Tamil and Muslims. An afraid may be worked in these two community. That’s why; I talked to Sachin, one of the young central leaders of the power party of Sri Lanka. His opinion is, Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa will try to show same attitude to all the citizen of Sri Lanka. So, there is no reason that Tamil and Muslims will be discriminated. He also added that many Tamil and Muslim people are with Gotabaya and his front.
What will be the scenario after election?
Now it is clear that two brothers Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa will be the center of the power of Sri Lanka. It has already become crystal clear the former president and the elder brother of Gotabaya, Mahinda Rajapaksa will be the Prime Minister of this government. In total 225 seats in the Sri Lanka parliament, two brothers front secured 150 seats. But two brothers party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna itself secured 145 seats. So, this government will be a strong and stable government. But from the beginning, government has to face two main aspects; one, Economy another Foreign Relation. Like the surrounded vast ocean of the country Sri Lanka is also floating on huge external debt. By the end of this year, they have to pay three billion US dollar external debt and it will increase day by day. But last conjugal two years Sri Lankan economy was not running well. Besides, following the coronavirus crisis export have plummeted. Thousands of Sri Lankan expatriate workers like those in the gulf countries have lost their jobs. The tourism industry of Sri Lanka is facing a difficult time ahead due to the pandemic. So, it is more difficult for the new government reviving the economy. Even it may be said that it is more challenging than winning the election.
Besides, economy, foreign policy will be challenging for the two brothers’ government. The former President and present Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is known as inclinedto China. The president Gotabaya is also leaned on China. But he wants to make a balance with India and USA. China is trying to win Sri Lanka by their ‘debt economy policy’. Not only that there are some rumors in Sri Lanka that in the last elections huge Chinese money had played a vital role. However, it has no documents and proof. But the reality is that to secure the sole authority in the Sri Lanka, China has to play against India, America, Japan and Australia. Sri Lanka has no way to ignore India completelyas an Indian Ocean country. Despite, China’s recent military activities in land and sea concerned India, America, Japan and Australia more regarding indo-pacific ocean. So, as an Indian Ocean country Sri Lanka is obviously in their keen eyes. Given this context, the countries like India, America and Japan will not take easily that the Chinese ‘drive others invest from Sri Lanka’ policy. Rather, they will try to make their stakes strong in Sri Lanka. In this circumstances, Sri Lankan government has no way to walk only with China. Though, two brothers leaned on China but they have to share their balance with all the stakeholders like a good compound. (The writer is a Senior Journalist, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a highest state award winning journalist and can be reached at [email protected])