Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was officially nominated as the SLPP candidate for the upcoming presidential election last weekend. With this nomination, the entire discussion in the political landscape is completely focused on the upcoming presidential election. Though the UNP is yet to officially announce who it will be nominated as the candidate to contest in the presidential election, we see a situation where several party members are self-nominating themselves.
Gotabhaya's speech in accepting the official nomination proposes a new dimension in the country's political discourse. It is very important to note that his speech was only focused about policy matters and development goals that are expected to be delivered if he is elected as the president but not about the opponent or the shortcomings of the opposition political parties.
In the recent past all the political campaigns in our country have always focused on criticism on the opponents but not on what they are going to deliver to the country. The 2015 Presidential Election campaign is a classic example of this
What happened during that presidential election was to attack the Rajapaksa government with various political rhetoric and baseless allegations without developing a substantial policy debate in the campaign discourse. There is nothing wrong with saying that there was nothing new in 2015 presidential election campaign beyond the rhetorical criticism and mere name dropping such as good governance. The importance of Gotabhaya's speech could be more highlighted in that context
Mr Basil Rajapaksa, the staunch strength behind the rise of SLPP, has stated at a press conference that the party's policy manifesto is due to be released in the coming weeks and that the country's development strategies which are to be followed if SLPP candidate bags the victory in the next presidential election, will be presented there in detail. Gotabhaya's speech in that sense was a summary of country's development path in the aftermath of a political change. His speech is an attempt to change the dimensions of politics in our country, from talker’s project to a doer’s project.
An election in a democratic society is building up social consensus with the people on governing the state. Thus, it is not enough to have only political parties and leaders to build up this consensus but it is necessary to present the development strategies that each of these leaders intends to implement during their tenure. The election campaigning platform should be used to establish a substantial discussion on such policies with the voters. The content of the speech indicated that it was focused on a range of areas from economic development to upholding cultural values to national security and environmental protection. In that sense he undoubtedly demonstrated the role of a mature administrator
If explained in academic terms, there is nothing wrong in saying that his speech was inclusive of a project mentality.
Project thinking is the process of realizing the responsibilities that one undertakes and identifying the objectives of the project and utilizing its resources to achieve its objectives. By 2005, the process of defeating terrorism in this country had dragged on to a point where no one could predict the end of it and it was with this managerial capability that then government could eradicate terrorism.
With that note I wish to present few ideas which I think should be taken into consideration when formulating the party policy mandate of SLPP.
In other words, facing contemporary challenges as a country could be strategically addressed through three major points: Those three main challenges are how to make our country a strong country, how to make our country a free country and how to make our country a prosperous country. The three central words here are "strong, free and prosperous."
The word 'strong' here should be understood as how to make this country strong in order to gain recognition at the international arena. To bring the country in to such a strong position a serious change in the governance structure of the country should be made from top to bottom and our perceptions need to be changed as well. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the country's strength is linked to securing the internal peace and security of the country. Another area which is linked with this is improving the education system and strengthening the level of professionalism.
Secondly, making our country a free country is a serious challenge. We can very well recall that the slogans used in the regime change of 2015 was mainly about freedom and democracy. During the previous Rajapaksa regime, the idea of independence was understood as liberating the country from terrorism and liberating the people from economic oppression.
But the civil society of January 2015 showed that democracy in this country is not limited to such ground realities but could be expanded more in to “living-room” type of a democracy linked with concepts like “good-governance” and “equal- society”.
The majority of our society accepted at that election such rhetorical babbles on democracy rather than the workable realistic form of democracy. By now this “fairy-tale” form of intangible democracy has brought in serious contradictions in our governing structure. It is because of this contradiction that laws are put in place to postpone every election while preaching about high standards of democracy. Therefore, it is my understanding that the main force of the next political transformation in our country should be focused on formulating a new definition of democratic governance and strengthening the rule of law.
The third biggest challenge we face is how to strengthen the country economically
A new policy which focuses on the economic model which suits this country needs to be formulated for the betterment of the country. The new dimension proposed by Gotabhaya's speech will create a whole new chapter in domestic politics, as SLPP policies can contribute to this discussion in a substantial manner.
Dr. Charitha Herath
Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy,
University of Peradeniya