The Opposition has cobbled together an electoral alliance aimed at dislodging the Rajapaksa government. There are no new faces in it and all its allies have been co-habiting for years. The formation of the United National Alliance (UNA) is, therefore, tantamount to tying the nuptial knot after a protracted living together.
The inauguration of the UNA may have boosted the sagging morale of the UNP to some extent but whether it can reach out to the people to the point of being able to topple the present government depends on its approach to the national issues in the post war period. If the UNA tries to make issues out of non-issues and offer solutions to them, it will be extending its stay in political wilderness by a few more years.
The Executive Presidency is not the biggest problem the country is faced with. It has been there for a long time and everybody knows the UNP has suddenly become averse to it because it is not confident of securing it. Else, it could have abolished the presidency a long time ago during the tenures of Presidents JRJ, Premadasa and Wijetunga.
The waste of public funds, the abuse of power, the high cost of living etc. are, no doubt, problems that the Opposition could have exploited to the fullest to win an election but for a situation its friends in the international community have created, where Sri Lanka has had to defend her victory over terrorism. That certain foreign governments swayed by the Diasporic Tigers are trying to effect a regime change here and install a puppet government is only too well known. In so doing, they have unwittingly strengthened the hands of the Rajapaksa government, which now has another patriotic cause to champion putting the Opposition on the defensive once again.
The UNA does not have the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as a coalition partner. If the TNA chooses to go it alone at a future election, the UNA`s plan to tap the Tamil vote through the TNA will go awry. If the UNA manages to secure the former LTTE proxies` backing, it will drive away a large number of southern voters whose memories of terrorism and the role the TNA played in safeguarding LTTE`s interests are still fresh.
The JVP is also not part of the UNA. The UNP may have sought to win over the JVP with the help of its call for the abolition of the executive presidency but the two parties are poles apart ideologically and their coming together is pie in the sky. The JVP may try to make a contribution to the UNA`s presidential election campaign by fielding a candidate and eating into President Rajapaksa`s vote base to some extent. However, such a strategy is likely to be seen through by the voting public.
At a time there is a human rights witch hunt against Sri Lanka, the biggest challenge before the UNA will be assuring the people that, if it forms the next government, it will not succumb to foreign pressure and betray the political and military leaders whom the West is gunning for as they were instrumental in wiping out the LTTE`s military muscle in defiance of western diktats. The abortive US move the other day to use Chief of Defence Staff and former Amy Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka to frame Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa over war crime allegations has demonstrated that Sri Lanka`s fears of persecution are not unfounded.
How can the UNA consisting of coalition partners responsible for the worst ever betrayal of the Sri Lanka Army convince the public that it will take steps to protect the political and military leaders against the on-going western moves to press war crime charges against them? The UNP-led UNF government raided the Millennium City safe house of the army deep penetration unit in 2002 in spite of the then Army Commander Gen. Lionel Balagalle`s assurance that the place belonged to the army and was being run by the military intelligence. The commandoes who had operated from there were arrested and their identities exposed to the LTTE, which eliminated almost all intelligence operatives by taking advantage of a CFA in force.
In this post-war period when some foreign governments are acting as though they were Prabhakaran`s clones, the main issue at the next election presidential or parliamentary will be how to protect the country`s national security interests. The UNA`s electoral success will hinge on its ability to tackle it.