17 August 2020

‘Colombo’ and its alleged ‘advanced consciousness’

The yellow segment is supposed to be where voters of 'advanced consciousness' live

Consolation prizes there will always be. All it takes is a poker face, ability to cherry-pick and a veneer of analytical sophistication. Well, sometimes even less than that. The United National Party (UNP) has the ‘plus’ of starting from scratch. The Jonathan Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which led the Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB) has the ‘plus’ of the coalition obtaining 27,405 more votes than Anura Kumara Dissanayake polled at the 2019 Presidential Election (an ‘up’ from 3.16% to 3.84%).

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) having come second obviously has a greater field to pick positives from. It’s a brand new party, barely six months old, some have pointed out, carefully leaving aside the fact that the SJB is essentially a re-branded UNP; the UNP voter simply migrating to the SJB. SJB spokespersons frequently portrayed the August 5 election as ‘a battle for Sirikotha.’ That subplot does give bragging rights, the UNP having secured just a single slot (courtesy the national list) and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa’s rival Ranil Wickremesinghe failing to make it to Parliament for the first time in 43 years.

Among the strangest clutch-at-straw consolations is one expressed by staunch Sajith Premadasa backer Dayan Jayathilake. Check out how the intelligentsia voted, he urges in an analysis titled ‘The election result and the intelligentsia’ (in the website www.colombotelegraph.com).

Now ascribing qualities is not hard when you play the pick-n-choose game. Use some heavy theoretical words and you might even sound half-way intelligent. There are many ways to read the results and confusion of the intelligentsia (the section that’s painted as being the more positive of the two classes) is but one. Dayan, having backed  Sajith Premadasa (Presidential Election 2019) and the SJB, throws shade at the SLPP and the 6.9 million who voted for the pohottuwa. No surprises there. Then he maps out ‘resistance’ against the winners/villains as per his theorizing. No surprises there either. All in a day’s work for a party loyalist.

That’s all very interesting and even a tad amusing, but what takes the cake is his reading of the ‘Colombo Result.’  Check this out.

‘Perhaps the most striking datum is that in Colombo city (not the district), the metropolis with the most advanced consciousness and pluralist composition, neither the UNP nor the JVP survived, but the SJB swept through, defeating the mighty Pohottuwa.’

The SJB did win handsomely in the said areas. Consider the numbers: Colombo North 41,059 (64.9%), Colombo Central 64,692 (73.39%). Borella 20,450 (48.31%), Colombo East 20,538 (46.58%) and Colombo West 16,521 (64.82%). One could add Dehiwala too, the only other electorate in the Colombo District that the SJB won: 18,611 (44.92%) over the 18,244 (44.03%) that the SLPP polled.

There is plurality in composition in these areas, correct. How does one conclude ‘advanced consciousness’ though? The previous avatars of the ‘mighty pohottuwa’ (United People’s Freedom Alliance and People’s Alliance and before that it’s major party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party) were roundly defeated in these electorates in all elections, local government, provincial councils, parliamentary elections and presidential elections.  The results-maps of the relevant elections tell the story. Colombo city electorates are green. Almost permanently.

Dayan Jayatilleka’s political loyalties weren’t always with the winners of the respective elections. Was his ‘consciousness’ in decline at such moments when he stood against the majority decision of the respective voters? Is it that there was a conspicuous rise in the consciousness among voters in these electorates after the SJB was formed, the voters having been of low-consciousness when they voted for the Ranil Wickremesinghe led UNP? Dayan has been highly critical (mild term) of Ranil Wickremesinghe for years, his ire traceable I believe to the time Wickremesinghe was made leader of the UNP.

Dayan at different times backed President Chandrika Kumaratunga and President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I can’t remember him ever applauding Ranil Wickremesinghe. The UNP, obviously, went against parties/coalitions led by Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa during such periods and whatever their fortunes were island-wide, they lost to Ranil’s UNP by margins similar or even greater than notched by the SJB in the Colombo city electorates. Was Dayan’s consciousness less than that of the ‘advanced consciousness’ of the voter in these electorates on such occasions? Was the relevant voter less conscious then than he/she is now?  Has the UNP always been endowed with a consciousness more advanced than other political parties? How does one measure consciousness, anyway? Is agreement with Dayan Jayatilleka the deciding factor?  Is Dayan doing this consciously or unconsciously?

Yes, the UNP was unceremoniously defeated in the said electorates, but as mentioned at the beginning, it is simplistic to think that the voters of Colombo East, Colombo West, Borella, Colombo North and Colombo Central saw Sajith and the SJB as entities without even a blush of green. The UNP split. That’s a fact. There was the formal UNP and there was the SJB. Just like the UNP and DUNF (led by Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake). Just like the SLFP-S (Sirimavo’s faction) and SLFP-M (Maithripala Senanayake’s faction) in the eighties. Just like the SLFP (led by Maithripala Sirisena) and the SLPP (led by Mahinda Rajapaksa) not too long ago. The voters didn’t migrate to the enemy camp; they merely picked one faction over the other.

A few years ago, Rosy Senanayake came out with an interesting observation. She said ‘Colombo is the heart of the United National Party.’  When that’s all you’ve got, you have to say nice things about it. ‘Heart’ sounds nicer than toenails, for example. ‘Advanced Consciousness’ gives some respectability. I won’t grudge that considering the pickings for Dayan’s (current) friends on August 5 were particularly poor. On the other hand, he is essentially saying that the consciousness levels of the voters in all electorates outside Colombo are not advanced. Low? Abysmal? Non-existent?

Here’s a poser. Will Sajith Premadasa or any other spokesperson for the SJB affirm Dayan’s thesis? Will Sajith (or anyone else) say ‘The voters of Colombo North, Colombo Central, Colombo East, Colombo West and Borella are endowed with a consciousness more advanced than voters in any other electorate’?