Saturday, December 27, 2014

1994 Sri Lankan Presidential Election

The third presidential election in Sri Lanka was held in unique circumstances. The United National Party government, which had come to power in 1977, had fallen in the General Election of August 1994. It had been defeated by the People’s Alliance, an alliance of opposition parties led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Soon afterwards, the country was preparing for a presidential election.

The changing political currents had been evident for a few years during the tenure of President Ranasinghe Premadasa. After his election victory in late 1988, Premadasa appointed D.B. Wjietunga, a less prominent figure in the UNP, as his Prime Minister, perhaps hoping to neutralize his more formidable rivals within the party. He ruled the country in a populist which was ruthlessly slammed by his opponents as a personality cult. There was considerable gravity to certain accusations leveled by the opponents.

It was at this juncture that certain rivals within the UNP and some opposition leaders joined in a scheme to oust the president. Their plan was to impeach the president. However, the plan did not work and Premadasa rivals in the UNP, including Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake, left the party. They formed a new political party, the Democratic National United Front (DUNF) with the eagle as its symbol. This party was to become a thorn on the side of the UNP in general and on Premadasa in particular. Its effect was somewhat similar to the effect of Sri Lanka Mahajana Party on the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in the 1980s.

By 1993, opposition forces were growing in strength against the UNP regime. This was in a way strengthened by two tragic assassinations which happened a week apart. On April 23, 1993, Lalith Athulathmudali was assassinated at an election rally, during the Provincial Council Elections. Many fingers were pointed at President Premadasa, who was seemingly disturbed by the amount of criticism leveled at him. He publicly made a mind boggling statement, stating, “Kill me if you want, but do not assassinate my character.” Days later, on May 1, he was killed by a suicide bomber in broad daylight.

Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, the sitting Prime Minister, became the president without being elected. His was a totally different character to the former president and perhaps also felt the tide turning. Therefore, he decided to call for a general election months before term of the parliament was to expire.

Gamini Dissanayake had rejoined the UNP after the death of president Premadasa. Meanwhile Anura Bandaranaike defected to the UNP when his sister Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s entry to the SLFP sidelined him. The opposition saw a fresh political leader in the form of Chandrika, who could defeat the UNP regime. In the August 1994 election, this is precisely what she did, thereby becoming the Prime Minister.

President DB Wijetunga decided to call for a presidential election immediately after the general election. Nominations were accepted on October 7 and the election was held on November 9. Six candidates came forward as prospective contestants and they included Prime Minister Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Gamini Dissanayake from the UNP.

Chandrika and the People’s Alliance (PA) were riding high in popularity. She had initiated a peace process with the separatist rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This decision, while viewed by some with suspicion due to the prior conduct of the LTTE, was a popular decision. Kumaratunga increased her popularity among the Tamil community as well.

Meanwhile, the UNP came out of the general election in an internal crisis. There were two camps in the party, supporting Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was the Prime Minister from May 1993 to August 18994, and Gamini Dissanayake. President Wijetunga decided to ask the 91 members of parliament elected in August 1994 to decide on whom to be the presidential candidate. With a slim majority, Dissanayake was selected.

The other candidates included four interesting faces. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), or the People’s Liberation Front, was returning to politics after the insurrection of 1987-1989. Their party was not still registered, and therefore the JVP came to politics under the banner of Sri Lanka Progressive Front. Nihal Galappaththi had surprisingly won a parliamentary seat from Hambantota District in August 1994. He was selected as the party’s candidate for presidency.

Meanwhile, a Sinhalese Nationalist party came to the presidential election for the first time, in the form of Sinhale Mahasammatha Bhoomiputhra Party. Its leader Dr. Harischandra Wijayatunga contested the election. Meanwhile Hudson Samarasinghe and former Cabinet Minister AJ Ranasinghe contested as the first ever independent candidates in a presidential election in Sri Lanka.

The campaigning started in earnest after nominations were accepted on October 7. There was considerable interest in the general public on the election. Clearly the underdog, Gamini Dissanayake launched a strong campaign. However, on the night of October 24, tragedy struck as a suicide bomber blasted herself at an election rally in Colombo. Fifty people died, including Dissanayake and several other leaders of the UNP. Ossie Abeygunasekera, the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party candidate from the 1988 presidential election was also on the stage and succumbed to his injuries two weeks later.

The bomb had exploded the day before the next round of talks with the LTTE. All fingers were pointing at the LTTE but Prime Minister Kumaratunga was reluctant to put the blame on it for fear of jeopardizing the peace talks. It was a delicate issue. Meanwhile, the UNP itself was in another crisis as it was forced to find a replacement candidate. Srimathi Dissanayake, wife of the late Gamini Dissanayake, was chosen by the party to contest the election. Thereby, it became a race between two women candidates.

Meanwhile the JVP created a political discourse unlike never before when it offered to support Kumaratunga on the condition that she abolishes the executive presidency. Kumaratunga gave a written assurance that she would do so by June 15, 1995, and Galappatti asked his supporters to vote for her. This was seen by some critics as an opportunist move by the JVP. The argument was based on the assumption that the JVP would have done poorly in the election. According to the critics, what the JVP did was finding an excuse to hide their inability to get a considerable amount of votes.

The PA’s presidential campaign was focused on several important aspects, namely the peace process, executive presidency and the unanswered questions on several assassinations which had happened during the UNP regime’s tenure. People wanted answers and people wanted their hopes to be realized. In this backdrop, and after the assassination of Dissanayake, there was no meaningful race for the presidency. Despite the sympathy factor, Srimathi Dissanayake could not attract enough votes to be a challenge, as she was a political novice.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga became the first female president of Sri Lanka, pollind 4,709,205 votes at a record 62.28 percent. Srimathi Dissanayake polled only 2,715,283 percent votes at 35.91 percent. The electoral map was all PA, with Kumaratunga winning the race in 159 constituencies out of the 160. The sole constituency carried by Srimathi Dissanayake was Mahiyangana, where she polled 24,842 votes at 56.3 percent while Kumaratunga polled 18,218 votes.

One important aspect of the election was the hope for peace, which drew the Tamil and Muslim communities towards Kumaratunga. While the election could not take place in a meaningful way in the North, it was held in the Eastern Province, and Kumaratunga won in almost all constituencies with thumping leads. In Padirippu constituency in the Batticaloa District she polled 40,489 votes at 94.2 percent and also won in several other constituencies with more than three fourths of the vote. She received all 56 postal votes casted in Jaffna District. There were several other seats where she received a 100 percent vote but only a handful of the votes were casted in those seats.

Unfortunately, Kumaratunga could not keep most of the promises she gave. The peace process ended with a treacherous LTTE attack on two Navy gunboats in April 1995. The fortunes of the war swayed from side to side but fighting continued for almost seven years before another peace process was attempted. Meanwhile, the deadline given to the JVP to abolish executive presidency expired, and nothing was done. Inquiries were held on several high profile political assassinations which took place during the UNP regime period. However, speculation and conspiracy theories are still abundant on almost all the assassinations investigated.

Kumaratunga’s presidency during her first term had mixed fortunes, but she could perhaps sense her popularity fading. She decided to call for an early presidential election in 1999, with one more year still left in her presidency.

First published on 'The Nation' on December 14, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

1988 Sri Lankan Presidential Election

Sri Lanka’s political climate deteriorated dramatically after the 1982 Presidential Election. In 1983, after the Black July events, the separatist war in the north and east escalated. Meanwhile, the JR Jayawardene government blamed the Black July on three leftist political parties, imposing a ban on them. Thereby, Sri Lanka Communist Party, Nava Sama Samaja Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna were proscribed. While the bans on the other two parties were subsequently lifted, the JVP remained banned for years.

The separatist war, which was waged by a number of militant groups to carve out Tamil Eelam, a separate state for the Tamil people, opened a new path for India to intervene in the affairs of Sri Lanka. It is known that the central government in India under Indira Gandhi wanted to apply pressure on the West-leaning United National Party (UNP) government of JR Jayawardene. It is known that India supplied weapons and training to the nascent Tamil militant groups.

A new chapter in Sri Lanka’s war separatist war and the Indo-Lanka relations opened with the sighning of Rajiv Gandhi-Jayawardene Indo-Lanka Accord of July 29, 1987. This created a huge uproar of protest by many opposition parties, including the main opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) arrived in Sri Lanka to oversee the peace process in the north and east. However, the JVP launched an armed insurrection in the Sinhalese majority areas and by October 1987, the peace process has broken down in the north and east. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were engaged in a full-fledged war against the IPKF in the north and east while the south was burning due to the JVP insurrection.

It was in this backdrop that the presidential election of 1988 had to be held. JR Jayawardene was barred from seeking a third term due to constitutional restraints. He actually had a 5/6 majority in the parliament and could have amended the constitution. There were also calls for him to do so since some people thought he was the best person to face the multiple crises the country was facing. However, he was now an octogenarian and was perhaps unwilling to go through this. Therefore, Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa was selected as the UNP candidate in the presidential election.

There were to be only two other candidates in the election, making it the presidential election with the lowest number of candidates. The SLFP leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who had not been able to stand in the 1982 election due to the seven year ban on her civic rights, came forward as its candidate. Her seven year ban from public life had ended in 1987. Meanwhile, Oswin (Ossie) Abeygunasekera came forward as the candidate of the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP).

The Sri Lanka Mahajana Party was a breakaway group from the SLFP, led by the actor turned politician Vijaya Kumaranatunga. On February 16, 1988, he was assassinated by unknown gunmen, making him one of high profile political killings in that dark era. Inaugurated on January 22, 1984, the SLMP has been viewed for a few years as an alternative to the docile SLFP as the main opposition party. However, it remained a relatively small party and was one of the few political parties which had supported the Provincial Councils introduced as a solution to the separatist war.

Nominations were accepted on November 10, 1988, and the election date was set to December 19. The election took place at a time where being a member of a political party or engage in politics was a reason enough to have someone killed. The LTTE in the north and east, and the JVP in the rest of the country, were opposed to the elections. People did not turn up on election rallies in fear of being killed afterwards. There was also a death threat to anyone who voted in the areas where the JVP had influence. In much of the north and east, even holding the election was out of the question.

Both Ranasinghe Premadasa and Sirimavo Bandaranaike promised ask the Indian troops to leave the country, one reason for the JVP insurrection as well. The sentiments were high against the presence of these troops in the country. However, by this time, the JVP was not limiting their demands from this. It was seeking political power and therefore was aiming to disrupt the democratic elections.

With this environment of fear and intimidation, the voter turnout was 55.32 percent, a record low for a presidential election in Sri Lanka to-date. There were allegations of election fraud and therefore, there is no way in which one can declare if this turnout was authentic, especially in the areas under the JVP and LTTE threat.

According to the final official results, Ranasinghe Premadasa won the election with 50.43 percent of the votes. Sirimavo Bandaranaike polled 44.95 percent and Ossie Abeygunasekera polled 4.63 percent. Interestingly, this is the highest percentage of votes received by a third candidate in a Sri Lankan Presidential Election to-date.

According to official results, the Vanni Electoral District, comprising of the three Administrative Districts of Mannar, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya, saw the lowest turnout at 13.79 percent. Moneragala, Hambantota and Matara Districts also saw low turnout due to the JVP threat. Only 17 percent of the votes in Moneragala District were casted. Voter turnout was highest at 80 percent in Nuwara Eliya District where JVP threat was relatively minimal.

In electorate level, the lowest percentage of votes was polled in Hakmana Electorate in Matara District. It was just 4.45 percent. In the same district, only 7.45 percent voted in Kamburupitiya. In the Moneragala Electorate, the turnout was 6.51 percent and the turnout was lower than 10 percent in Minneriya Electorate in Polonnaruwa District also.

The election victory of Ranasinghe Premadasa could not be accepted as a true mandate of the people as most people were unable to vote due to threats. The threat on the election affected all candidates. However, since the JVP had more influence in areas where the political left had more popularity, one could argue that Sirimavo Bandaranaike was affected more than Premadasa. She won the highest number of votes in five Districts, namely Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Jaffna. Out of them, voter turnout was especially low in Galle, Matara and Jaffna. However, in constituency level, even some UNP strongholds showed lower voter turnouts than district averages. There is no credible manner in which one could calculate the effect on each of the candidates.

However it is clear that the third candidate had little impact on the final outcome, as Premadasa had won more than 50 percent of the votes. It is said that Ossie Abeygunasekera broke votes from the SLFP camp. It could be assumed that had he not been a contester and it had been a matter between the two main candidates, Sirimavo Bandaranaike could have done better. But still, it could not have been enough to defeat Premadasa.

Under the circumstances, even if the election was completely free of threats and intimidation, Ranasinghe Premadasa might have won it. He was a populist leader and a man who rose in politics starting from the common man’s level. Therefore, he was a champion of the poor people and he had given a clear pledge to ask India to withdraw the IPKF. At 64, he was relatively younger than his main challenger, who was almost a decade older. Abeygunasekera was relatively much younger at 38 years. He was perhaps too young in the eyes of the population to be the president of the country.

Ranasinghe Premadasa carried out one major promise of and successfully negotiated the withdrawal of the IPKF. Meanwhile the JVP was also destroyed. However, the peace process Premadasa started with the LTTE became a controversial matter and ultimately collapsed. He was both deeply hated and deeply loved by different sections of the population. Premadasa died on May 1, 1993, in a suicide attack attributed to the LTTE.

First published in 'The Nation' on Dec. 07, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

1982 Sri Lankan Presidential Election

Contrary to common belief, executive presidency was not introduced to Sri Lanka by the 1978 Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The constitution came to force on August 31, 1978. But executive presidency was introduced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of Sri Lanka, or the 1972 Constitution. The amendment was passed by parliament on October 4, 1977 and the then Prime Minister Junius Richard Jayawardene became the first executive president on February 4, 1978.

Although the executive president was to hold office for six years and give oaths on February 4 after the election, JR Jayawardene saw the political currents starting to go the other way in early 1980s. The leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), former Prime Minister Sirimavo RD Bandaranaike, had been deprived of her civic rights. The SLFP was on one side licking its wounds while on the other side adding more wounds by engaging in internal power struggles. The 1980 July Trade Union Action had been a watershed moment in Sri Lanka’s political and trade union history. It had destroyed the backbone of the trade union movement.

Deprived of any meaningful voice within the parliament, the opposition took the battle against the government to the streets. This new opposition was represented on one side by the youthful members of the SLFP spearheaded by young leaders of the likes of Vijaya Kumaratunga, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Ossie Abeygunasekera. On the other side there were the new forces on the left, such as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) led by its charismatic leader Rohana Wijeweera and the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) which had broken off from the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). Meanwhile a more militant alternative force was showing its first signs of emergence in the north.

President JR Jayawardene perhaps sensed that the currents were turning in an irreversible manner and decided to take control of the situation. On August 27, 1982, the Parliament passed the Third Amendment to the Constitution allowing the president to seek re-election after four years in power. Soon after, the president called for a presidential election, the first ever in Sri Lanka.

The presidential election was a new phenomenon for the island nation. It was the first time the whole country was becoming a single constituency. It was going to be an all island contest between individuals. JR Jayawardene had an advantage on the outset as the president and the leader of a unified party. Other opposition parties were either too small or too divided to challenge the UNP.

The SLFP was in a crisis as to who should be the candidate of the party. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who could not contest, wanted her son Anura Bandaranaike to be the party’s candidate. Meanwhile, there was a sizeable group within the party against the idea of him contesting. These, mostly the younger members of the party, wanted Hector Kobbekaduwa to be the SLFP candidate.

Kobbekaduwa was an exemplary politician, so much so that he had lost almost all that he owned due to politics. The Minister of Agriculture in the 1970-77 government, he was 66 years old, a decade younger than JR Jayawardene. He had attracted a lot of criticism from his family as the land reforms had lost them considerable amounts of land. His brother had divided even the ancestral home to two to claim his half after land reforms. When Vijaya Kumaratunga and a few others went to meet him, they had a hard time convincing Kobbekaduwa to contest.

“My house has been divided. My shirts are all patched up. I am broke despite being a Cabinet Minister once. How am I supposed to lead a campaign? Please find another person,” he had reportedly said. But Kumaratunga had been adamant and said that they will somehow fund the campaign. After fending off various underhand acts against Kobbekaduwa’s candidacy, the young blood of the SLFP managed to get the approval of the party.

Nominations were accepted on September 17, 1982 and six candidates came forward for the first ever presidential election of Sri Lanka. Apart from the UNP and SLFP, four other parties put forward candidates and there were no independents. The LSSP leader Dr. Colvin R de Silva represented the old guard of the left. There were two more left parties, the NSSP put forward Vasudeva Nanayakkara and the JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera also contested. Meanwhile, arguing that Tamil votes should go to a Tamil candidate, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) leader Kumar Ponnambalam also contested the election. Meanwhile, the main Tamil political party, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) did not contest.

Dr. Colvin R de Silva had his own argument of the election. He reportedly said that Hector Kobbekaduwa represents a party which has a leader with no civic rights. As such, he said a vote for Kobbekaduwa was a vote wasted. Meanwhile, JR Jayawardene once said that “if I am not elected, the next best candidate is Dr. Colvin R de Silva.”

Nevertheless, the LSSP was being challenged by the two left forces which represented a new radicalization of the left. The JVP had led a rural based violent revolution to overthrow the government in 1971. The insurrection was ruthlessly crushed and its leaders imprisoned. But after his electoral victory, JR Jayawardene pardoned the JVP leadership and allowed them to enter the mainstream politics. The JVP made clear that it was rejecting armed struggle and embracing electoral politics. In certain areas, especially in the southern province, it made a considerable impact on the political arena. For example, in the Galle by-election in December 1979, Lionel Bopage of the JVP polled almost 10 percent of the votes, far exceeding Victor Ivan, a former JVP leader, who contested from the LSSP ticket.

Meanwhile, the NSSP also represented a younger but small force which had broken off from the LSSP old guard.

The election date of the 1982 Presidential Election was set for October 20. While the UNP campaign moved forward, the SLFP campaign had to face two threats, namely the state intimidation and internal challenges. Many of the speeches of the SLFP campaign rallies had been recorded and some of them were used as evidence to arrest Vijaya Kumaratunga and several others on trumped-up ‘Naxalism’ charges by the government. Many years later when he was in the UNP, Anura Bandaranaike said on a TV interview that ‘Vijaya and his friends might have not known what the word Naxalite really meant.’

However, at the time of the election, Anura Bandaranaike and a few others had distanced themselves from the SLFP, reportedly mocking the candidate, Kobbekaduwa. “Our candidate even does not have money to buy petrol to his car” Bandaranaike reportedly said.

Nevertheless the campaign went on. Kobbekaduwa was given a hearty reception by the people in Jaffna. Given that a Tamil politician was also contesting this was something extraordinary. Kobbekaduwa, as the agriculture minister of a government which had promoted self sufficiency may have had respect in the eyes of the Jaffna people. They had been hit really hard by the open market policy of the UNP. For them, Kobbekaduwa might have been a hero. Since he was the only likely candidate to defeat JR Jayawardene, a sizable section of the people in Jaffna saw him as the best alternative to the president.

One major ‘political coup’ by the SLFP stalwarts was printing a replica of the ‘ration book’ which had been discontinued under the UNP government which was elected in 1977. It was Ossie Abeygunasekera who masterminded the ‘coup.’ It was a political manifesto, with a catchy line “Janathavagen uduraagath bath patha navatha janathava athata” (The rice ration deprived from the people, back to the people).

However the election was done in a background of intimidation by the government. JR Jayawardene had a considerable popularity and political thuggery and election fraud complemented any shortcoming in his popularity. He carried all but one of the electoral districts, and won in many of the constituencies. However, JR received a rude shock when Ponnambalam and Kobbekaduwa pushed him to a distant third in Jaffna District.

Nevertheless the election had ended with a resounding victory for Jayawardene. But the ominous signs of the need for change were glaringly evident and could not be hidden by fraud and intimidation. Jayawardene received only 20 percent of the votes in Jaffna when Kobbekaduwa polled 35 percent and Ponnambalam polled 40 percent. Meanwhile JVP leader Wijeweera received 15 percent of the vote in Hambantota District and passed the 5 percent mark in a few other districts as well. This was a rude shock to Dr. Colvin R de Silva as well. The LSSP leader only received 58,531 votes (0.90 percent) while Wijeweera polled 273,428 (4.19 percent) of the vote. The eclipse of the old left was on the cards from the 1982 Presidential Election, if not before.

First published in 'The Nation' on Nov 30, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

We are building up an alternative - KD Lalkantha

Western Provincial Council Member KD Lalkantha is a key leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and is active in the labor movement. In an exclusive interview with ‘The Nation’, he discussed the stance of the JVP on the presidential election, and the changes needed to be done to the political system. Excerpts:

Q: The Front Line Socialist Party (FLSP) has made its entry into the election and is making its presence felt in the election as a movement in the left. But the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is absent from the contest. Don’t you think that the FLSP has obtained a chance to voice their opinion while the JVP has not?

A: The JVP has represented people’s rights as a left wing movement, whether there are elections or not. In this election we are conducting a unique campaign as a left movement. We have already conducted several meetings. We will continue to conduct the campaign until January 5. We have planned a comprehensive and large scale campaign. For example, we will have a program of distributing leaflets in places island-wide and the leaders of the party will be involved in this campaign in Colombo. We have also planned a program of going to house to house to talk to people. There will also be grass root level meetings in a village level.

Those who do not have a political organizational strength think that politics cannot be done through not contesting elections. Some groups pop-up during election times since they do not have political organizational strength at other times. We have the strength to mobilize people whether there is an election or not.

Q: Are you afraid that you cannot get more votes than certain groups?

A: We do not have such fears. We can either choose to compete or not. Or else we can form alliances and compete. It all depends on our assessment of the political situation of the country and our strategy.

At this moment, if we decide to compete separately, the anti-government votes will be split. It will be advantageous to Mahinda Rajapaksa. At this point, we have to focus on defeating the president. Therefore, anyone who is acting in an advantageous manner towards Rajapaksa, even indirectly, can be considered as his pawns. In some cases, they are actually nurtured and aided by Rajapaksa government. They might appear as opponents of Rajapaksa but actually they are helping him.

Q: There is considerable discussion on various aspects like good governance. However, there seems to be a little discourse on the capitalist system and its inequalities. In your absence in the campaign can the JVP voice the concern on the system?

A: As a movement of the proletariat, our ultimate objective is to overthrow the capitalist system. However, the social, political, economic and cultural conditions should mature to a certain level for that to happen. Also, there should be an organization based on the working class to take advantage of these conditions and lead the process of toppling the capitalist system. Once these conditions are satisfied, whether elections are held or not, the system will collapse. Capitalist systems were not overthrown through elections in other places in the world. But it needs the correct conditions.

However, we believe that the conditions and also the organization are still in the process of maturing. Therefore, until then, our objective is to win certain social reforms which will ultimately help the overthrow of the capitalist system. For example, if we can get the 17th Amendment implemented, it is an advantage.

Today, government service is politicized. Recruitment, transfers and promotions are all politicized. If there can be a more just system in it, it will help our struggle. If the police, elections process, and judicial system can be wrested out of the control of the bourgeoisie rulers, and if media freedom can be assured, they will all be advantageous for a movement of the proletariat to grow, organize and promote their ideology.

These freedoms will not be granted by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. Therefore, once this government is toppled, we can get a relatively free environment for a certain period of time. Of course, it will not be permanent. If the Maithripala Sirisena government stays in power for a long time, it will also become a part of the capitalist ruling class and develop the structures that will help it consolidate its power. But, for a certain period of time we can have a relatively free period.

However, we are not asking the people to vote for anyone in particular. Since we do not contest, we cannot ask people to vote for a particular candidate who is not a member of our party. We do not have a right to do it either. We have been criticized by both the government and opposition for this stance. But what we say is that there are things to be done after January 8 and people should organize for that.

Q: But you said at this juncture, Mahinda Rajapaksa must be defeated. The JVP does not want anti-government vote to split. You also mentioned that all those other candidates are in a way helping Rajapaksa by splitting the vote. So, isn’t this stance indirectly helping Maithripala Sirisena?

A: Yes. It helps the presidential election candidate Maithripala Sirisena. But we cannot take responsibility for that. We cannot take the responsibility for what Maithripala Sirisena will do after he comes to power. But what we want is to organize the people in order to win their rights. We cannot forget that people have won their rights mainly through organized struggles.

Q: According to the Marxists view, the system is more important that the person. In that sense, by focusing on one person in the form of Mahinda Rajapaksa, aren’t you forgetting the system and changes that needed to be done?

A: Marxists believe that the fundamental basis of the capitalist system should be changed. But in Sri Lanka, one person has become supreme by the constitution that is in place now. Executive Presidency has made this happen. So, we have to abolish executive presidency and replace it with a parliamentary system. Today, even though there is a parliament, it does not have meaningful powers. One should not be mistaken by the notion that a parliamentary system will solve the problems of the people. It will not. It will not change the fundamentals of the capitalist system. But it will be a better environment than having executive presidency.

Q: It means that this moment is not the right time for a third force?

A: The word “third force” is wrong. Then one can ask, ‘so who are the first two?’ This is a term introduced by the capitalist system itself. The word itself has a meaning that it is a lesser force. What we think is that we need an alternative force against the capitalist system. This will rise through the labor movement of Sri Lanka. The JVP has now established itself in the working class movement better than any other party. Therefore, we are in a position to build the alternative force.

Q: But Sri Lanka has a relatively small labor movement. Some people criticize traditional left movements for not being able to reach to other sectors. Where did the left movement go wrong?

A: All sectors such as farmers, students, women and others are important. The JVP is building up its strength in these sectors as well. But they are not vital when it comes to putting pressure on the rulers. They are required but not vital. The vital sector driving a left movement is the working class even if it is small.

The mistake the JVP made initially was to base its struggle on the students’ movement. The rulers can close universities and schools for several months or even years. It will not affect the ruling class. But what if they close down a factory for five days? What if the service sector such as health and electricity supply is interrupted for a few days? The capitalist system will end up in a serious crisis. That is why the labor movement is important. The JVP had to replace the reactionary old left movement from the labor movement but now we have become the main driving force there.

Q: But why does not it transfer to votes. The JVP had 39 members in the parliament at a time. But its representation has shrunk dramatically.

A: A left movement cannot be judged by the number of parliamentary or other elected seats. We have fought for the rights of the people in the last few years even better than when we had so many members of parliament. In the recent years, we were able to stop government’s plans to rob the EPF and ETF funds. We managed to stop the government from increasing the electricity prices from Unit 1 itself. We managed to restore the farmers’ pension scheme. All these came about as a result of a struggle, even when we have only a few parliamentarians. The only advantage in having elected members is that we can voice our opinion there as well. But that is just one part.

Q: But a poor electoral performance can affect the perception of the public. They might think the JVP is weak.

A: There are certain drawbacks in not focusing only on elections. But once elections are over, people will come back to us to ask for help to win their rights.

Q: Coming back to the presidential election, the Jathika Hela Urumaya signed a separate agreement with Maithripala Sirisena, not entering the Memorandum of Understanding which the others signed. Why didn’t the JVP take a similar measure?

A: The JHU is a separate entity and is not based on the working class. It is more of a Sinhalese nationalist organization. Their agreement is based on their strategies and ideology. For them former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremeseinghe are reactionary. The JHU wanted to have an agreement separate from those people. The JVP is a working class movement. We plan our strategies according to our goals. That is the difference.

First published in 'The Nation' on December 7, 2014.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

FLSP aims to make the Presidential Election a platform

Frontline Socialist Party (FLSP) Propaganda Secretary Pubudu Jayagoda stated that his party aims to promote an ideology different from the two main camps involved in the presidential election campaign. It is in this backdrop that Duminda Nagamuwa intends to contest in the presidential election as a candidate of the left.
Duminda Nagamuwa

He said that both Mahinda Rajapaksa camp and Maithripala Sirisena camp have been engaged in a discourse dominated by liberal intellectuals. While there has been a considerable discussion on the constitutional matters and on large projects, not much attention has been given to the economy in the people’s level. The FSP believes that Sri Lanka needs a leftist alternative to empower people and raise the need for a policy change.

Jayagoda added that by now a section of the Nava Sama Samaja Party and also the Socialist Party has extended the support to Duminda Nagamuwa. The FSP was also in discussion with several other parties and groups and hopes that they will also support it, Jayagoda further mentioned.

Speaking on the campaign, Jayagoda said that the FSP has planned a rally in Colombo immediately after the nominations are handed over. However, its campaign will be a community based one, he added.

Originally published in 'The Nation' on Nov 30, 2014.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 32: Football World Cup 2006-2010

After the first ever football world cup final tournament in Asia, the event moved to Germany. It was the first time Germany was hosting the World Cup after reunification of East and West Germany. Franz Beckenbauer, who captained the winning 1974 side and coached the winning 1990 side, spearheaded the organizing committee. The matches were held in 12 stadia around the country. Although many thought the home side will have a good chance of winning the cup, they were defeated in the semifinals by Italy and had to contend with the third place. The 2006 final between Italy and France remains one of the most uninspiring finals, which was marred by a rare act of indiscipline by Zinedine Zidane, who head butted Marco Materazzi.

In 2010, the World Cup moved to South Africa for the first time. This tournament also proved to be a disappointment, because of low scoring matches and defensive play. South Africa became the first host country ever to be eliminated in the first round. Meanwhile both the champions and the runners up of the 2006 Football World Cup were also eliminated in the first round. Spain, a country also known for its disappointing performances in World Cup over the years won the world cup after defeating The Netherlands in the final.
The famous Czech Republic vs Ghana match (Wikimedia Commons)

1. The 2006 Football World Cup saw Ghana qualifying for its first tournament. Although a traditional African ‘football power’ it was the first world cup final tournament for the Black Stars. They did not disappoint. They came second in the preliminary round and had the misfortune of having to contest the in-form Brazilians in the Round of 16. In the preliminary round, Ghana shocked Czech Republic (which was ranked World No 2) by defeating that team 2-0. Czech Republic, a tournament hopeful, bowed out in the first round. Who was the unfortunate captain of the Czech team?

2. The 2006 tournament saw the Golden Boot being awarded to a player with just 5 goals. This was a record low after 1962. Also, no other player scored more than 3 goals. This player currently holds the record for the highest number of World Cup goals overall. Who is this German striker?

3. Football World cup tournaments are famous for the occasional “battles” where the matches turn out to be simply a fight. There have been the “Battle of Berne” of 1954 between Hungary and Brazil and the “Battle of Santiago” of 1962 between Chile and Italy. In 2006, there was a “Battle of Nuremberg” between two European sides. The Russian referee Valentine Ivanov handed over 16 yellow cards and 4 red cards in this game. Which two countries “fought” this battle?

4. One positive story from the 2010 World Cup was the return of Uruguay as a potential contender for the World Cup after being on the sidelines of the world cup football scene for about four decades. This year, the South American former world champions came fourth of the tournament. One of their strikers, who at the time played for the Spanish club Atletico Madrid, played a crucial role in this success. He is the most capped (played most matches) for Uruguay and was the leading all time goal scorer until Luis Suarez overtook him. Who is this?

5. This final of the 2010 World Cup was between Spain and The Netherlands. It was the first final for Spain but the third for the Dutch. However, Spain won the game 1-0 at extra time. The only goal of the match came in the 116th minute when a Spanish midfielder scored. He has been playing for the Spanish club Barcelona from 2002 and has scored 11 goals for the Spanish national team which he represented from 2006. Who is he?

Answers to Quiz 31: Isabel Peron

1. Evita
2. The Sorcerer (Spanish: El Brujo)
3. Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla
4. Spain
5. Christina Fernandez de Kirchner

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 31: Isabel Peron, 'La Presidente'

Isabel Peron, the third wife of the former Argentine President Juan Peron, became the President of Argentina forty years ago, on July 1, 1974. She had been sworn in as acting president on June 29 when the health of President Juan Peron, her husband, was failing. By becoming the President of her country, she became the first ever female president in the world.

Born in a lower middle class family in La Rioja in Argentina, Isabel Martinez Cartas did not complete school. She later became a dancer and met the exiled former Argentine President Juan Peron in Panama. They moved to Spain and got married there in 1961, despite the fact that he was much older than her.

In October 1973, Peron returned to the presidency in Argentina. He appointed his wife as his Vice President. She served as acting president during ill health of her husband on several occasions.

Isabel Peron remained as president until March 1976, when the military removed her from power.

1. Both the first and second wives of Juan Peron died of cancer. Although Isabel became the president of the country, she was never popular as the second wife of Juan Peron, Eva. She was extremely popular especially among the poor of the country. Eva Peron died at 33 years of age in 1952, but had taken a leading role in the country’s politics. What was the name by which she became famous?

2. After getting married to Juan Peron, Isabel became the main contact between Argentina and her husband, since her husband was banned from visiting the country. Isabel met José López Rega, who was a former policeman with an interest in occultism and fortune-telling, during a visit to Argentina in 1964. This started a long association and Isabel fell under the influence of astrology. Even during her presidency, she was said to be relying on astrological predictions to determine national policy. Rega was the Minister of Social Welfare under the presidency of Isabel Peron and had a large influence upon her even then. It was his policies and inexperience of Isabel Peron which earned her many enemies. Ultimately, protests forced him out of office in late 1975. Bu which name he was known among the public? This name reminds of his association with occult beliefs.

3. The military coup of March 1976 was led by the General Commander of the Army. His rule ended in 1981, when he relinquished power. His period as President of Argentina was known for widespread human rights violations. In the last years of his life he spent in prison, after being convicted of kidnappings and deaths. He died in 2012. Who was he?

4. Isabel Peron was living under house arrest after being removed from power. In 1981, she was exiled and still lives in the country. After the fall of the military regime in 1982, she did visit Argentina but never settled there. However, she remained the titular head of the Justicialist Party created by her husband. In which country did she settle down in Europe?

5. Isabel Peron was not the first elected female president, as she came to the position after her husband died. The first democratically elected female president (or head of state) was Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland. She was president of that country from 1980 to 1996. The current President of Argentina is the first democratically elected female president of the country. Incidentally, she is from the Justicialist Party and she came to politics in place of her husband, who could not run for presidency. In effect, she is also a successor of her husband, like Isabel Peron was. Who is the current President of Argentina?

Answers to Quiz 30: Football World Cup 2002

1. Bruno Metsu
2. Byron Moreno
3. Hakan Sukur
4. Oliver Kahn
5. Yokohama

Thursday, November 20, 2014

UNP Needs to have a Primary Election

The United National party has been accused by its opponents of blindly following the American line of thought in many of its policies. In retrospect, it can be said that the UNP has had a strong western-tilt in most of its history. However, the UNP leadership has found it convenient to use the western ideals to its advantage, while discarding them when necessary.

The last time the UNP held power between late 2001 to April 2004, the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe showed a strongly pro-western outlook. President Chandrika Kumaratunga took control of three Cabinet Ministries in late 2003 while Wickremesinghe was in the US. Upon his return, Wickremesinghe maintained that he is ready to face the challenge, stating that he has “the support of President Bush.” While he might have intended something else, the meaning was obvious and he was torn to pieces by the opposition parties for his slavishness to the White House.

However, while he has been an admirer of the west, Wickremesinghe has been unable to institute the values of democracy within his political party. Wickremesinghe’s rivals in the party have long accused him of ruling the party through handpicked higher organs and democracy is lacking within the party.

The announcement of the presidential election has given a new twist to the leadership saga of the UNP. The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) started a campaign against the executive presidency and then made it clear that it will be seeking to put forward a common candidate against President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The common candidate project then hit a challenge when UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe indicated that he will contest the election.
Who will the UNP choose and will he have the support to be the common candidate

While Wickremesinghe has a sizeable backing in his party, his leadership is not totally unchallenged even now, after the apparent reconciliation between him and Sajith Premadasa. Meanwhile his leadership is questioned outside the UNP within the opposition with virtually all other parties reluctant to accept him as the ‘common candidate.’

His candidacy was termed as a step to jeopardize the common candidate project, with the NMSJ Chairman Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera and the Janatha Vimukthi Permauna (JVP) vocally against the Wickremesinghe candidacy. While Wickremesinghe has not officially stopped (he did not officially announce in the first place) his campaign, he has not been stridently insisting on his candidacy in public.

Meanwhile other names like Karu Jayasuriya and Sajith Premadasa have emerged, even names of government ministers are cited as possible common candidates. While Jayasuriya is likely to attract groups outside the party, his support within the party is a matter of contention. The same could be said about Sajith Premadasa. The opposition still has not been clear as to who will become the common candidate.

One thing is clear. Any common candidate without the support of the UNP will not be able to win the next presidential election. Also, if Wickremesinghe is the candidate, he will not be a common candidate of the opposition as many outside his party and even some of those within his party are reluctant to support him.

The UNP should take up the case boldly and select their candidate in a democratic manner. If all the party members, rather than the Executive Committee or the Working Committee, decides on a candidate, then the party can make a case to the ‘common opposition.’ The UNP should be competent to carry a national level primary election to decide on the candidate. Any party member should be able to propose his or her name so that party members could vote for their preference.

If the majority of the party decides to support Ranil Wickremesinghe, the opposition will have to acknowledge his popularity within the UNP. Whoever emerges victorious in such an American style primary within the UNP shall be in a stronger position to make a claim as the common candidate and challenge President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Any candidate who is elected by a less transparent mechanism will be less powerful to make a case for the party and for the common opposition as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 30: Football World Cup 2002

The Football World Cup was hosted in Asia for the first time in 2002 when South Korea and Japan co-hosted the tournament. It was the first and only time that two countries have co-hosted the tournament. This world cup created a number of surprises, the most important one of them being Turkey and South Korea reaching the semi finals. Both were defeated in the semis and competed for the third place, which Turkey won. Brazil won the final against Germany 2-0, thereby regaining the world cup.

The games were held in 10 venues across South Korea and 10 venues in Japan. South Korean capital Seoul hosted the opening match and Japan hosted the final.
South Korea, after the quarterfinal victory

1. The opening game in the 2002 Football World Cup saw a shocking defeat of reigning world champions France by the Western African country of Senegal, which was playing in its first FIFA World Cup. The only goal in the match was scored by a relatively less known Senegal mid fielder Papa Bouba Diop in the 30th minute of the game. Playing in Group A, the French would end up the last of the group, without scoring a single goal. The victory of the African side was significant since France had been the colonial rulers of Senegal and had introduced football to the country. Furthermore, it was a Frenchman who coached the Senegal team at the time. He converted to Islam and married a woman from Senegal but left his job after the world cup due to differences with the country’s football governing body. Who was he?

2. South Korea football team is hugely popular at home and some other parts of Asia. But South Korea would probably not have reached the semi finals if not for some controversial refereeing in both the Round of 16 (Second Round) game against Italy and the quarter final against Spain. In the game with Spain, two goals scored by Spain were controversially disallowed, causing the match to end goalless. South Korea won by penalties. While Spain was angry at the outcome, Italy was even more disappointed by the quality of refereeing. Some Italian players alleged that there was a deliberate ploy to remove Italy out of the tournament. The main referee in this game later was engulfed in some controversies at his home country of Ecuador and had to retire from the job at a relatively young age. He is considered to be one of the worst referees ever in a FIFA World cup. Who is he?

3. In the semi finals however, South Korea’s luck expired. They were defeated 1-0 by Germany. Turkey, also a surprise entry, were undone by Brazil, also 1-0. The third place match at Daegu, South Korea, saw some entertaining football where the Turkish team overcame a spirited South Korean side at a home ground to win 3-2. In this match at Daegu, a Turkish striker scored the first goal just 10.8 seconds after kick off despite the fact that South Korea kicked off the ball. This is the fastest goal in FIFA World Cup history. Born in 1971, he is the most famous striker produced by Turkey. In an international career spanning 15 years from 1992 to 2007, he scored 51 goals in 112 matches. Who is he?

4. Except for the 8-0 thumping of Saudi Arabia, German team did not score a lot of goals in FIFA World Cup 2002. Their full tally was 14 goals in 6 matches, with 6 coming in the other five games. They gave away only 3 goals in the whole tournament, 2 of them to Brazil in the final. The goal keeper of the team made some dramatic saves in the preceding games but found it too much against the Brazilians. At times, he was the only one who prevented better attacking teams from scoring. Therefore, one could argue that if not for the goal keeper, Germany would never have reached the final. He was adjudged the best player of the tournament, despite Germany losing the final. He was the only goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball for the Best Player in a FIFA World cup. Who was he?

5. The final of the tournament was played in the international football stadium in Japan’s second most populated city. This is the football stadium with the highest capacity in the country, accommodating 70,000 spectators. The city in which it is located was once Japan’s main harbor and is still the main harbor in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Today, the city has a population of almost 3.7 million. What is this city?

Answers to Quiz No 30: Football World Cup 1998-2002

1. Cameroon
2. Andres Escobar
3. Gheorghe Hagi
4. Davor Suker
5. Berber people

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 29: Football World Cup 1994-98

The Football World Cup was held for the first time in the United States in 1994. This tournament provided large crowds and enthusiasm even in the home country was evident. This showed the heights of popularity football (Americans call it Soccer) in the United States. Just a few decades ago, the game had been a much less popular game. Actually, in 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, the organizers had removed the game from the Olympics, which led to the start of a separate World Cup.

A lot of political changes had also occurred. Yugoslavia had fractured into several states and still was in a midst of civil war. Germany was reunited after Berlin Wall collapsed in November 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia took part in the tournament and so did the now reunited Germany.

This tournament also provided the first final to be decided on penalties. Brazil won 3-2, defeating Italy, thereby winning their fourth title.

In 1998, France hosted the World Cup after 60 years. It saw the hosts emphatically defeat the favorites Brazil in the final 3-0. Thereby, France won their first ever title. This tournament also saw two countries of former Yugoslavia also taking part. They were Yugoslavia (what remained of the original country) and Croatia. Croatia surprised the football world by coming in the 3rd place.
Zidane with the World Cup in 1998

1. The 1994 World Cup Golden Boot for the best scorer was won by a Russian, Oleg Salenko. He scored six goals and tied with Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria. But Salenko had played a lesser number of matches. By winning the golden boot, Salenko became the only player to have won the title in an open World Cup and also a U-20 World Cup. In 1989, in the U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia he had scored six goals. Against which African team did Salenko score five of his six goals in the 1994 World Cup, thereby establishing an unbeaten record for the highest number of goals by a player in a World Cup match?

2. When a player awards a goal to the other team by mistake, it is called an own goal. These are always costly. But the most costly own goal in a World Cup match was that of Andres Escobar’s. His own goal meant that Colombia lost that particular game on June 22, 1994. But when he returned home, he was shot dead. No one knows the exact reason, but it is believed that someone who lost a huge debt may have caused this. Many in Colombia never believed that they will lose to the country against which they played this game. Against which country was this match?

3. Another game which produced an unbelievable result in 1994 World Cup was the game between Argentina and Romania. Star-studded Argentina was completely undone, defeated by a score of 3-2, by a Romanian side led by a footballer ironically nicknamed “Maradona of the Carpathians.” Who is this player?

4. Croatia reached the third place in the 1998 World Cup, taking part in the first ever world cup as an independent country. A major factor which helped the team was their main striker. In this world cup he scored six goals. Overall, in an international career spanning a decade from 1992, he played 69 matches and has scored 45 goals, becoming the highest goal scorer in independent Croatia’s football history. Born on January 1, 1968, he started his international career in the Yugoslav U-20 team in 1987. Who is he?

5. The hero of French victory in 1998 world cup was Zinedine Zidane, also known as Zizou, his nickname. He is considered to be one of the best ever footballers. In 2013, the UEFA selected him as the best ever footballer in Europe in the last 50 years. Known for his elegant style of play, he was discredited after an unsavory incident in the 2006 Football World Cup final, after which he retired from international games. Zidane is the child of immigrants to France. His parents were from Algeria and belong to a community which lives in North Africa west of the Nile. They have a distinct language different from Arabic and were historically nomads. There are over 30 million people belonging to this community worldwide, mainly in North Africa. What are these people called?

Answers to Quiz No 28: King Juan Carlos of Spain

1. House of Bourbon
2. Francisco Franco
3. Antonio Tejero
4. Santiago Carrillo
5. Botswana

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 28: King Juan Carlos of Spain

King Juan Carlos I, the King of Spain from 1975, decided to abdicate in favor of his son, Prince Felipe, on June 2, 2014. Therefore, Felipe became the new King of Spain. Juan Carlos was one of the longest reigning monarchs in the history of Spain after the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile were united in 1479 to form the Kingdom of Spain.

Spain is a Constitutional Monarchy, which means that the king’s powers are nominal and not absolute. Kings of early history had absolute powers where the king was the ruler, law giver, judge and enforcer. Kings or Queens in constitutional monarchies have a lot of power, in name. For example, they are the Commander in Chiefs of armed forces. However, in practice, the Prime Minister rules the country. This is the case in all remaining European monarchies and also in Malaysia, Japan and some other places.

However, Kingdoms and Sultanates in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and others) and some other countries have absolute monarchies.
Coronation of King Juan Carlos I of Spain (Teresa Avellanosa @Flickr) Shared under CC By 2.0

1. King Juan Carlos belongs to the Royal House which provided rulers to the Kingdoms of France, Spain and Two Sicilies. King Charles X was the last ruler of France from this Royal House. He was deposed in 1830. Francesco II was the last King of The Two Sicilies who lost his crown when the kingdom was overthrown by Garibaldi in the service of Sardinia. Spain has been ruled by this family from 1700. However, this rule has not been continuous as its kings have been deposed on several occasions. Spain remains the only country still ruled by this family. What is this Royal House?

2. King Juan Carlos came to power after the death of a dictator who ruled Spain for 36 years. Coming to power through the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) he was officially neutral during the World War II. In the latter stages of his rule, he officially declared Prince Juan Carlos as his successor and gave him a new title, Prince of Spain. Juan Carlos remained a loyal supporter of the regime in public. In November 1975, he became the King after the death of the former ruler. Who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975?

3. Although Prince Juan Carlos expressed his support for the old regime, after coming to power, the king supported democratic government. However, the supporters of the former regime resented this. On February 23, 1981, the Guarda Civil (Civil Guard) seized the Cortes, the Spanish Parliament, and attempted to overthrow the government. The king intervened and addressed the nation on television in military uniform, thus helping the defeat of the coup. Who was the most visible figure in this February 23 (also known as 23-F) coup attempt?

4. When Juan Carlos became the Spanish king, the country’s longtime communist leader nicknamed him “Juan Carlos the brief” predicting the imminent fall of the monarchy. However, after the 23-F coup, the communist leader acknowledged the role played by the king in defeating the coup. In an emotional statement he stated that “we are all monarchists today.” This leader died in 2012, aged 97. Who was he?

5. King Juan Carlos’s popularity had gone down due to several scandals in the royal family. In 2012, during the European financial crisis, the king’s personal popularity suffered after he undertook an elephant hunting trip to an African country. To which country did he go on this trip?

Answers to Quiz No 27: Football World Cup 1982-90

1. Paolo Rossi
2. Norman Whiteside
3.  England
4. Franz Beckenbauer
5. Roger Milla

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 27: Football World Cup 1982-90

Spain hosted the Football World Cup for the first and only time in 1982. This tournament was remembered for both the good and bad aspects. For example, one game between Austria and West Germany was remembered for the unsportsmanlike behavior of the two teams. Spain gave a lackluster performance despite being at home. Meanwhile, one bright spot was the performance of the debutants such as Cameroon and Algeria. Also, Italy shined in the latter part of the tournament, eventually winning the trophy, defeating the West Germans in the finals.

The 1986 World Cup was once again held in Mexico after the original host Colombia backed down. This was a successful tournament overall. Argentina, captained by the legendary Diego Maradona won the World Cup, thus winning its second title, beating West Germany in the final.

In 1990, the World Cup was held in Italy. Like the 1982 tournament, this proved to be a below par world cup, with major teams coming up with lackluster performances. The Final, which was between the opponents of the 1986 final. However, the West Germans won the title after an uneventful game. Except for the performances by Cameroon and some other teams, this tournament proved to be a disappointment.

Maradona's moment of glory
1. One player who shined in the 1982 World Cup was a 26 year old Italian striker, who single-handedly demolished the formidable Brazilian team in the second round of the tournament with a hat-trick. He ended up the top scorer of the tournament with six goals in total. Thereby, he became a national hero in Italy. Who is he?

2. In the 1982 World Cup, a young player from Northern Ireland broke a record set by Pele in 1958, becoming the youngest player in the Football World Cup finals tournaments. He played his first game of the tournament against Yugoslavia when he was 17 years and 41 days old. Pele had played his first game of a world cup against USSR when he was 17 years and 235 days old. However, Pele still remains the youngest goal scorer and the youngest to play the final in a World Cup. When Northern Ireland qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, this player scored the only goal in a 1-1 draw against Algeria. He ended his international career in 1989. Who is he?

3. The 1986 World Cup tournament saw two goals by Argentine captain Diego Maradona scored within 5 minutes of each other. This took place in the quarterfinal which the Argentines won 2-1. In the 51st minute, Maradona pushed the ball to the goal with his left hand with no one noticing. Later he dubbed the goal as “hand of God” goal. However, there was no dispute about second goal scored in the 55th minute. This spectacular goal was named as the “goal of the century.” Against which team did the Argentine team play this game?

4. The 1990 Football World Cup winning West German team was coached by the captain who led the country to its success in the 1974 World Cup. Thereby, he became the only person to date to win the world cup both as captain and as coach. Later, he was the chief organizer of the 2006 World Cup when it was held in Germany. He is named “der Kaiser” or “the Kaiser” in the football world. Who is he?

5. The Cameroonian captain who led the 1990 World Cup team also played for his team in 1982 and 1994 World Cups. He achieved international stardom at 38 years old, an age at which most forward-playing footballers have retired, by scoring four goals at the 1990 World Cup. The most memorable of these goals came in the match against Colombia when he dispossessed the showboating Colombian goalkeeper René Higuita 35 yards from goal, going on to score in the empty net with Higuita stranded. Cameroon reached the quarter-finals, when they were defeated by England. At 38 years of age, he was the oldest player to participate, and score, in a Football World Cup. Four years later, he renewed these records when he took part and scored in the 1994 World Cup. Who was he?

Answers to Quiz No 26: Ukraine Crisis

1. Viktor Yanukovych
2. Simferopol
3. Orange Revolution
4. Odessa
5. Petro Poroshenko

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 26: Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine is in political turmoil from late last year. The pro-Russian president of the country was ousted from power by pro-Western opposition groups early this year. A new government was established in Kiev. However, Russian speaking people in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine protested. Later Ukraine held a referendum to separate from Ukraine. After 95 percent of Ukrainian people voted to separate from Ukraine, Crimea did so and joined Russia shortly afterwards. There is an active pro-Russian movement in Eastern Ukraine, especially in Donetsk and Luhansk, and some of its leaders want those regions to join Russia as well.
The new Ukrainian President (4-L) met Russian President Vladimir Putin (2-L) in Minsk, Belarus, in August (kremlin.ru)

1. The President of Ukraine until early 2014 was a member of Party of Regions. He became the President of the country in 2010 after defeating Yulia Tymoshenko in the Presidential Election. He had earlier been the Prime Minister of the country twice. Born in 1950 in Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine, which was a part of the Soviet Union at that time, he spent some time in prison after a robbery and assault in 1967. Later, he would describe this as “mistakes of youth.” In late 1990s, he served as the Governor of Donetsk Oblast for a short while. In 2004, he was claimed to be the winner of the Presidential Election, but the election results were later annulled. Who is he?

2. Crimea was conquered by Russia from Turkey in 1783. In the Soviet era, Crimea was granted regional autonomy. Crimea was a part of Russia until 1954, when both Russia and Ukraine were constituent republics of the Soviet Union, officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In that year, Crimea was handed over to Ukraine to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Ukraine joining the Russian Empire. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Crimea still had regional autonomy as an Autonomous Republic. What was the capital of the Crimean Autonomous Republic?

3. The present day crisis comes a decade after an anti-government protest movement in 2004 following the Second Round of the Presidential Election of 2004 which the protestors claimed to be rigged. In late December 2004, the Ukrainian Supreme Court ordered a re-vote. Once it was held, the election was claimed “free and fair” and the opposition leader was claimed winner. What term is given to the protest movement of 2004?

4. Recently, a group of pro-Russian protestors were attacked in a Southern Ukrainian city by an opposing mob. They set fire to a building which some of the protestors had occupied. The fire killed 40 people. This city is one of the largest ports in Ukraine and is the third largest city of the country. What is this city?

5. After the Ukrainian Government was toppled in February 2014, a new administration was established in Kiev. Some countries including that of Russia do not recognize this change of government. The interim Ukrainian Government held elections on May 25. A new president was elected in this election. Who is he?

Answers to Quiz 25: Football World Cup 1974-78

1. Dino Zoff
2. Hamburg
3. Johan Cruyff
4. Diego Maradona
5. Antonio Cabrini

Monday, November 10, 2014

Germany is united, accept it!

Yesterday, Germany marked the 25th anniversary of one of the defining moments in European history, the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Berliner Mauer, as it was known in German, was a symbol of a contest between capitalism and communism. On that dramatic date, November 9, 1989, the barriers in the wall opened, effectively putting an end to the contest giving absolute victory to capitalism. Within another year, East Germany and West Germany reunited.

On each anniversary of the fall of the wall, a repeated topic resurfaces. Germany, although reunited, is apparently still divided. Each year, it is possible to find various commentators describing the differences between the West Germans, or the Wessis and the East Germans or the Ossis. This year, since it is the landmark 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall, the volume of the number of articles may have increased.

Rick Noack wrote a particularly interesting article dated October 31, 2014, on Washington Post. Several graphs and photographs accompanied the article emphasizing key factors in the division between the East and the West. Unemployment is particularly higher in the former East Germany than in the former West Germany. Many young East Germany have moved to the West in search of better jobs, making companies in the former East German regions look to Poland and Czech Republic to find workers.
The East Side Gallery. Pic by Katya Kuznetsova

In some aspects, the legacy of East Germany has remained. The former East German areas have better flu vaccination, better child care, larger farms and East German people produce less trash. On the other hand, the legacy of industrial pollution also remains.

It is true that there are gaps in the two regions which were two countries under drastically contrasting systems just 25 years ago. It is not realistic to expect a miracle overnight. Assimilation into one system can take long and should be a natural process. For 45 years, West German economy thrived while the East German economy slumped. Although living standards in East Germany was far better than in many other Eastern European countries, they could never be compared with the West German conditions. People in West Germany lived with many personal liberties while in the east, liberty was defined by the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) and the dreaded secret police, the Stasi. Although it learned some of its tricks from the Soviet KGB, the Stasi was sometimes far more methodical, brutal and paranoid than its Soviet counterpart.

One major mistake of the Western analysts was to assume that a miracle could occur overnight after the fall of communism. They were repeatedly harping about a uni-polar world in the wake of the end of the Cold War. However, most of the Eastern European countries could not face the changes in the initial years and sometimes elected the former communists back to government. Even in Russia, the communists gave a scare to the west by threatening to win the 1996 Presidential Election.

Electoral patterns in Germany have also shown the legacy of the former divisions. As Noack has pointed out in his article, the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) has more supporters in former East German regions. “The explanation is complex, but scientists often attribute it to a mixture of anti-leftist worldviews after the wall fell and the economic downturn in the east. Many people were disillusioned by Western capitalism, but few wanted a return to communism. Right-wing politicians were quick to fill the void” Noack says.

On the other hand, the East German regions are also the strongholds of the Left Party, composed partly of the successors to the communist era Socialist Unity Party. The Left Party has now become the strongest voice on the political left in Germany with nearly 10 percent of the vote nationally. In the Eastern regions it enjoys about one fourth of the popular vote.

This perhaps shows the nostalgia towards the former socialist regime, perhaps based on the humane aspects of it. In July 2012, Stuart Jeffries wrote an article “Why Marxism is on the rise again” in The Guardian, where he cited a 2008 Reuters report, which said 52% East Germans believed the free-market economy was "unsuitable" and 43% said they wanted socialism back. Job security is an important aspect of lives of the people and the more affluent West Germany is still dominating much of the economic opportunity. The West Germans are still not ready to pay the bills of reviving the East.

The west is disappointed at the apparent divisions in Germany, which has shown that the economic miracle has not reached East Germany. However, on the other hand, the divisions have been prominently seen due to several factors. First of all, Germany is a special case where a country united in language and culture was separated by an artificial political scenario. In any country, there are places of relatively high unemployment. Political parties also have their strongholds and areas where they have less of a presence. The case of the Left Party and the NPD are also such a case which has gained extra limelight due to the presence of extraordinary cases.

Most importantly, Germany is still in transition. The older generations still remember life under the specter of a dividing wall and fear of a nuclear war. The younger generation, it must be said, is less informed and cares less about this past. Assimilation is a natural process and it takes time.

In the 1860s USA was divided into two and fought a bloody war. For several decades after the war, the South voted Democratic, and the North, Republican. But afterwards those conditions changed. One can say, with a certain amount of truth that the relics of those divisions still remain. Perhaps they will never completely die out. But the basic factors have altered. The same applies for Germany. It is a united country in transition.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 25: Football World Cup 1974-78

The 1970s saw the rise of Dutch football. After taking part in the 1938 edition, Netherlands had never been selected for a FIFA World Cup. However, in the 1970s, the Netherlands re-emerged in the World Cup, largely thanks to Total Football, where players did the role of attacking or defending as per circumstances rather than being limited to one position. This was first developed by the Dutch football club Ajax, which dominated football in the country and in European Club Football during the 1970s.

In 1974, the World Cup came to West Germany (Germany was divided as East Germany and West Germany during that time). Sixteen countries took part, with several debutants including East Germany. In the final, West Germany won the game against the powerful Dutch team.

In 1978, the World Cup returned to Latin America, when Argentina hosted the tournament. It was held under controversial circumstances as the country was under a military regime. The home side won the world cup, once again defeating The Netherlands.

The captain of The Netherlands in 1974 World Cup (Dutch National Archives)
1. Haiti made its World Cup final tournament debut in 1974 World Cup. They lost all three games including a crushing 7-0 defeat at the hands of Poland. However, in the game against Italy, Emmanuel Sanon of Haiti scored a goal, thus ending the Italian goal keeper’s run of 1142 minutes without conceding a goal in an international game. This is a record which still holds. He is ranked as the third best goal keeper in international football, behind Soviet Union’s Lev Yashin and England’s Gordon Banks. Who was this Italian goal keeper?

2. In 1974 World Cup, the only international football match between East Germany and West Germany was held. West Germany had already qualified for the next round. But the game was important due to its political nature. A group of 2000 East German fans came to West Germany especially for the game. Jürgen Sparwasser of East Germany scored the only goal of the match in the 77th minute, giving his team a memorable victory. This game forced West Germany to change its game plan, ultimately helping them to win the tournament. In which German city was this game played?

3. The cornerstone of the 1974 Dutch team was its captain. Born in 1947 to a poor family, he joined the club Ajax when he was just 10. Total Football staterd in Ajax and later was adopted by the national team. Specialized positions were virtually abolished for the outfield players, and individual players became defenders, midfielders or strikers as the situation required. The 1974 Dutch captain was perhaps the best proponent of Total Football and his team revolved around him. In a survey carried out by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) in 1999, he was voted the best European player of the 20 th century. Who was he?

4. When naming the 1978 Argentine squad for the World Cup, the coach Cesar Luis Menotti refused to include a 17 year old upcoming star. Menotti reportedly said that the increased media attention at such a young age may ruin him. This youngster became a star player later. Who was he?

5. In 1978 World Cup, a 21 year old Italian won the award for the Best Young Player. Playing at left-back position, he has played 73 games for Italy scoring 9 goals. He mainly played for Juventus club in Italy. Later he turned a coach, and managed several Italian club teams. Currently he is the coach of the Italian National Women’s Football team. Who is this player?

Answers to Quiz 24: Jupiter and its Moons

1. Juno
2. Great Red Spot
3. Ganymede
4. Pioneer 10
5. Shoemaker-Levy 9

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Toppling Soviet Statues

Buryatia is a constituent republic in the Russian Federation. Located in Asia, its southern neighbor is Mongolia. It is home to both Russians and Buryats and is a center of Buddhism in Russia. Its capital, Ulan Ude, is a city of 400,000 people, mainly Russians and Buryats. It is known for a landmark statue of a Lenin Head. At 7.7 meters, this is easily the world’s biggest Lenin Head and is a primary attraction of Ulan Ude.
The Lenin Head in Ulan Ude. Different people treat Soviet statues differently. But the Russians treat them as part of their history and have no intention of toppling them.

Statues of Lenin and other Soviet era monuments have created a mixed legacy in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, similar to the mixed legacy the Soviet Union itself left the peoples of these countries. The feelings towards the Soviet Union vary from country to country, and individual to individual. However, generally the Russians have a different outlook than people of other countries concerned. One clear indication of this difference was seen recently in Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine.

For most Russians, statues of Lenin are part of history. Some people, especially the older generation, have nostalgic feelings of the Soviet Union. As one Ukrainian friend told this writer, many older people compare the life under the Soviet rule with life during the Great War. Compared to the horrors of the war, Soviet Union was paradise, despite all the lack of freedom and censorship it entailed. “I think people were raised to hard work, silence and slavery,” she said. The slavery was not to the regime but also to an ideology. On the other hand, one should never forget that during the Soviet era, its leadership always referred to the war years as a benchmark to cover-up for their incompetence.

Nevertheless, during the times of the Soviet Union, there was a certain job security and at least somewhere to live. After the fall of the Soviet Union, many of the emerging states could not assure job security under the capitalist system which replaced the old socialist order. Russia, the biggest member of the former Soviet Republics, could not even pay its soldiers during the 1990s, resulting in many suicides among them. There were certain instances cited as success stories, especially in the Baltic States. However, many other states took longer to adjust to the new system. Therefore, it is no wonder that the older generation recalls the Soviet Union with some nostalgia. For the people of Russia, young and old, it was part of history which they recall with varying degrees of respect or indifference.

Many statues that still stand are those celebrating the Red Army. Lenin is the most celebrated individual in Soviet era statues. However, unlike Stalin, Lenin cannot be blamed for seeking personal prestige through monuments. His statues were erected after he died. Places named for him, including Leningrad (St. Petersburg) were given those names after his death. The monuments and statues were a legacy of the Stalinist idol-worship, and was not part of the Leninist Soviet Union. This Stalinist idol-worship was copied by many other egocentric leaders such as Saddam Hussein, and can still be seen in a gigantic scale in North Korea.

Iraqis jubilantly toppled Saddam’s statues in 2003 when his regime crumbled. However, Russians did not destroy Lenin’s statues when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Some former members of the Soviet Union and the former Eastern Bloc see the Soviet rule differently. There is no love lost between the Russians and some Eastern European countries. For many of them, Soviet era was an era of “Russification.” It was an era when Russian culture was forcibly imposed hidden behind a façade of equality of a socialist system. During the Soviet era, Red Army monuments were targeted on occasional attacks in Eastern Europe. During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which ended with the Soviet invasion in early November that year, cheering crowds toppled giant statues of Stalin and danced on them.

Anti-Russian feelings have been running high in Ukraine from late last year. There were moves by the Ukrainian Parliament to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine, which opponents say is pro-Moscow than pro-Kiev. According to the results of the recently held parliamentary elections, the Communist Party will not be represented in the next Ukrainian Parliament (The Verkhovna Rada). The party in turn accuses that the “oligarcy” which now runs the country has treated it with repression.

In this backdrop, it is not strange to see Ukrainian nationalists toppling the Lenin statue in Kharkiv. This was not a singular act and was not especially directed at Lenin, although his statues throughout Ukraine have been toppling throughout this year. Destruction of monuments started with the fall of the Viktor Yanukovych government. One of the most striking examples was reported in late February this year when the monument to Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov was demolished in the city of Brody in Western Ukraine. Kutuzov is praised in Russia as one of the best military commanders in the country’s history, and was instrumental in the defeat of Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812. But for the Ukrainian nationalists, he was just another military leader who furthered the Russian imperial repression.

However, the majority of Russians are angry at the way the Lenin monument was removed, by unceremoniously toppling it. Despite the fact that many Ukrainians feel it to be a sign of repression, this act only angers the Russian populace even more. Russians and even some Ukrainians agree that this could have been done in a better manner. One could learn from perhaps the authorities of Kazakhstan, who have relocated statues of Lenin from roadsides to less prominent locations like public parks. Whatever said and done, the action of the Ukrainians could only be said as a publicity gimmick and an act which was perhaps done to deliberately hurt the Russian people.

Meanwhile, Lenin statues still proudly stand in Eastern Ukraine where the rebels hold sway and also in Crimea. They are all over Russia and in some other former Soviet Republics. As the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution approaches, the people of Russia once again remember their leaders from the Soviet era. Their statues, like that in Ulan Ude, will remain for a long time to come. Meanwhile, to their anger, the Ukrainians across the border have been destroying the same monuments.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 24: Jupiter and its Moons

Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System. It is one of the brightest objects in the night sky as well. Its mass is only one thousandth times that of the Sun. However, it is much massive than all other planets combined. However, it is composed of gases, mainly hydrogen and helium. Jupiter does not have a hard surface like the earth. Nevertheless, due to its mass, it has a much larger gravitational force than earth. Therefore it has 67 moons orbiting around it. Much of them are small in size and have been discovered only recently. The first moons to be discovered were observed by Galileo in around January 1610. These are the largest moons of Jupiter and are collectively known as Galilean Moons.

1. The Romans named the planet after their god Jupiter. This god is the king of gods in Roman mythology. He is also the god of sky and god of lightening. According to Roman mythology, he is the father of Mars and Vulcan. The symbols of Jupiter are the lightning bolt and the eagle. Jupiter’s consort, the Queen of Gods, was the Goddess of marriage and childbirth. Who was Jupiter’s consort in Roman mythology?

2. Jupiter has a large characteristic spot which was spotted in the 17th century by astronomers. This is actually a giant storm which appears as a spot. Astronomers have named it to signify its size and color. What is the name given to this characteristic feature on Jupiter?

3. The largest moon of Jupiter is larger than the smallest planet of the Solar System, Mercury. It has been named after a divine hero in Greek mythology. This moon completes an orbit around Jupiter in seven days. It is composed of satellite rock and ice. Recently scientists found evidence that its interior may contain layers of oceans of liquid water and ice. They speculate that these oceans may support life. What is the largest moon of Jupiter?

4. The first mission by a space probe to Jupiter was made in the 1970s when an American space probe undertook the journey. It was launched on March 3, 1972. Four months later, the probe entered the asteroid belt, thereby becoming the first space probe to do so. By November 1973 it had started photographing Jupiter. After its study of Jupiter, the space probe continued its journey to the far reaches of the Solar System. Radio communications were lost with the probe in 2003. What is this space probe?

5. In July 1994, a comet broke up and collided with Jupiter, giving scientists an opportunity to observe an extra terrestrial collision of Solar System objects. This collision gave new information about Jupiter. The collision also highlighted Jupiter’s role in reducing space debris in the Inner Solar System. Since Jupiter has a large gravitational force, it has the ability to attract many objects which arrive from outer space. The comet which collided was named after the astronomers who discovered it. What was the name of the comet?

Answers to Quiz 23: Football World Cup 1966-70

1. Pickles
2. The Game of their Lives
3. Mozambique
4. West Germany
5. Teofilo Cubillas