The JO roadshow | Daily News


The JO roadshow

The Joint Opposition is all set for yet another ‘roadshow’ tomorrow. The JO is planning to bring one million supporters to Colombo tomorrow (or at least that is what MP Sisira Jayakody has told a newspaper), to protest against the postponement of elections, sale of public assets, political victimization and the rise in the cost of living among other things. In other words one in every 20 members of the Sri Lankan public will join the protest tomorrow. Through this the JO hopes to bring the government to its knees. The latest circus is seen by many as a springboard for the JO to launch its campaign for the major elections that are round the corner. However, cracks have already appeared among JO ranks, particularly in the choice of the next Presidential candidate, with Mahinda Rajapaksa already out of the reckoning. How these fissures will play out at tomorrow’s do, no doubt, would be keenly observed by political observers.

Being a working day, the protest demonstration certainly is going to cause chaos in the city by way of traffic snarls, disruption of transport and public life in general. There is also the likelihood of damage caused to public property by the thugs and hooligans who will descend on the city from the outstations. Hence it is appropriate that IGP Pujith Jayasundera has issued a dire warning to would be trouble makers. Security has been beefed up with additional units, including the STF, deployed to doubly ensure no untoward incidents take place. This is because there will be those hell-bent on creating mayhem to cause the maximum damage to the government. Special protection has also been given to Parliament and other vital institutions, according to the IGP.

While political protests are a democratic right which this government has ensured to the optimum, on no account should this be at the expense of law and order, and the riffraff to run amok. We say this because the calibre of supporters in the ranks of the JO are inclined to turn violent and cause damage in their wake, as has been demonstrated time and again. One recalls an incident in Anuradhapura where JO supporters blocked an ambulance transporting a patient in serious condition during a similar protest rally. On that occasion TV also showed some of the participants lying on the ground in various poses of inebriation. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that at tomorrow’s do also liquor will be in free supply and the likelihood of unruly scenes could not be ruled out.

No doubt, a massive financial layout is involved in the whole campaign. Like Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said, the huge war chest accumulated by the Rajapaksas during their 10 year rule is being put to good by the siblings for making a comeback. There are big stakes involved, including the corruption cases pending against the former first family that are being accelerated by the special courts already set up. By showing the numbers the Rajapaksas also hope to intimidate the investigators probing these misdeeds. There is no other reason for a futile exercise as that which is planned for tomorrow.

Elections will not be held until the due dates and the cost of living will not be brought down through demonstrations. Similar circuses were held in the past too, with Wimal Weerawansa threatening to surround Colombo api kolomba watalanawa. Nothing came out of these except giving an opportunity for the denizens to get their fill of Colombo. Like Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said, the protest will only serve to loosen the limbs of the participants (kakulwala hiri eraganda hondai) and would have no impact on the government.

Be that as it may, whatever the numbers the JO could muster for tomorrow’s s demonstration the fact remains that its vote bank would remain at 40%, the maximum it could attain, at the local government poll, at a time the government’s popularity had hit the nadir. With President Sirisena all but announcing he would run for a second time, the coveted 50%+1 would only be a distant dream for whoever contests from the Pohottuwa. Things can only get worse, what with stalwarts such as Kumara Welgama and Vasudeva Nanayakkara openly opposing the candidature of Gota. Besides, the same dynamics would not apply in the case of a Presidential election as with a LG poll where voters are bound to consider the larger picture.

Also the government has taken concrete measures to redress the issues that confronted the people at the time the LG poll was held. The Samurdhi benefit which was withdrawn from a large number of villagers has been restored and the prices of a variety of essential drugs slashed. The high charges levied by private hospitals too has been reduced. Farmer subsidies have also been increased. The Udagam programme of Minister Sajith Premadasa too is continuing apace while the development programmes, which were hitherto not visible to the public are presently receiving full publicity. Perhaps the positives that are evident and appreciated by the public may have prompted the JO to divert their attention through such a circus as the one planned for tomorrow. 

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