What Maithri has forgotten
Posted on November 28th, 2014

By Rohana R. Wasala

The Maithripala Sirisena affair reminded me of a silly character in a Sinhalese teledrama I watched some years ago. It was a good-natured simpleton who was being looked after by his  brother. In one episode this man is shown husking coconuts in a well-to-do neighbour’s compound, and he is heard saying to an inmate of that house standing nearby: If you have any more coconuts to husk, bring them to me. Today I came here to escape from my brother. If I stayed at home he’d make me work”.

Something that seems to have slipped the mind of many who talk about the Maithripala defection drama is the fact that had it not been for Mr Mahinda Rajapakse he would have been more of a nonentity than he is today vis-à-vis both those whom he has betrayed and those whom he has buddied up with. In fact, the government’s staying power is mostly due to the popularity of the president. Even Mr Sirisena has forgotten that he didn’t have an independent existence without his leader who defined or determined his identity. Mr Rajapakse had to fashion him as a useful colleague not out of any autocratic inclination on his part, but out of necessity given Mr Sirisena’s mediocrity. His unimportance is now being confirmed by the increasing hopelessness of his new situation. Of course, there could be some cats on the fence at the moment biding their time treacherously before jumping on the bandwagon; after smelling the wind for a prey they may take the plunge or, just remain in Mahinda’s camp as if nothing had troubled them. The second option looks more likely now.

Mr Sirisena may be staking too much on his country bumpkin image. But our people are smarter than he probably thinks they are. Sri Lankan voters are no longer ready to be swayed by the caste or class background of politicians as they were supposed to be in the past. That the Lankan electorate is predominantly village based does not mean that a  politician’s country origin is an adequate qualification. Mr Rajapakse’s functional use of his inherited association with a village background is a different matter: Mahinda’s political savvy gained through more than forty years of rough and tumble in the field and personal charisma supported by the unique leadership skills of his brothers, particularly Gotabhaya and Basil, constitute a national asset with which the rural majority of the country can identify, and that is good for the country. Mr Sirisena is not known for such abilities or personal magnetism.

Through the visceral hatred and abject meanness of the prominent opposition elements towards the Rajapakses they are displaying their antinational disposition, and their contempt for those they would like to call godayas (rustics). It is obvious that Ranil and Chandrika, former enemies but now feigned soul mates in a diabolical enterprise to wreck the normalcy that the Rajapakses played a lead role in restoring, are trying to turn the tables on them. Given their temperaments the present union between them is a shotgun marriage; it won’t last long enough to matter. When the insignificant Maithri is factored into the tripartite equation, it won’t be a surprise if in the end Ranil shook hands with Mahinda over their heads!

Ven Sobhita Thera, whatever his political (in)significance, may not be sharing their anti-Rajapakse malevolence, though he may be opposed to the president on certain principles however unsound at this moment. But he revealed that he is a player in a long-term plan to bring about a government change when he boasted that ‘the first stage’ has been successful (with the defection of Maithripala); he must mean the first step of a project or conspiracy to topple the Rajapakse government. The venerable monk’s concern in terms of his political beliefs with the welfare of the country and all its communities (based on untenable grounds though it is) may be genuine, but his alliance with characters who share no sympathy with Buddhist cultural values is ill advised. Ordinary people know that the president is an exemplary Buddhist. He never says anything bad about those who bear malice towards him and revile him constantly; he never speaks ill of monks, but instead advises others not to criticize them even if they are seen to do the wrong things (obviously, leaving the correction of monks’ conduct to themselves); he regularly participates in traditional Buddhist practices. Isn’t a person who properly guards his or her actions, thoughts and words a real Buddhist? It is difficult to believe that he does these things merely as a political strategy, because he knows that even if he didn’t do so people would still vote for him.

9 Responses to “What Maithri has forgotten”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Not true. MS won since 1989 on his OWN ACCORD.

    He didn’t harp on war victory to win the election in 2010.

    MS is not working for anyone else. He is another POWER HUNGRY politician (NO difference to MR or ALL MPs). He will retain the executive presidency if parliament does not support him to scrap it.

    MS always had a VERY GOOD RELATIONSHIP the GR (defence secretary). I don’t think it will be lost. Even in MS’s victory, GR will remain the defence secretary.

    We should also not forget GR has an extremely close relationship with JHU leaders particularly Gammanpila. GR even went in support of his election campaign.

  2. AnuD Says:

    What this article says is that Mahinda Rajapakse’s Senior ministers were useless.

  3. Jan Chandra Says:

    Lorenzo please note Rajapaksa brothers are not traitors and not back stab their own at any cost.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    Jan Chandra,

    I never said so.

  5. Vimutti Says:

    Lorenzo – you are forgetting that Maithripala has no natural national voter base (most Sri Lankan voters have never heard of him before this common candidate announcement) and therefore must rely on Ranil (and to a lessor extent, Chandrika) and his network to have any chance in the January elections. And to get known in a hurry, Maithripala will be forced to rely on FOREIGN MONEY, as neither the UNP, Ranil, or Maithripala has anywhere near the amount of money required to get the necessary exposure to win.

    At least Fonseka was well known as a popular Army General when he ran in 2010, and even he had to rely on Ranil and foreigners in a losing effort.

  6. Independent Says:

    Vimutti,

    You must be relatively young. Maithripala has a voter base. I don’t think anyone can beat him if he contest just to be the MP of Polonnaruwa even as a independent ( like me).
    I don’t believe this “foreign money” is behind this but it could be UNP who asked him and as he is frustrated being unable to get important bills passed and president was ignoring him for long, he fell for it.
    But if you have seen my calculations , generally a 10% shift of votes on top of 2010 election results will make him win.
    Personally I like him but I simply couldn’t bear him sitting between Chandrika and Rajitha as I dislike both of them. If he had sat between two other defectors , it could have been more appealing.

    Maithripala is well known.

    Sorry for jumping ahead of Lorenzo, may be he has more to add.

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    Vimutti,

    That was the SAME case with CBK in 1994. NO ONE had heard of her. I didn’t.

    Same with MR in 2005 against RW who was WELL KNOWN. MR came from a VERY REMOTE district and very few knew him. RW by then had contested SO MANY elections including a presidential election.

    But they WON. Sometimes people naturally like the NEW to the OLD.

    Fonseka managed to win 40% of the vote without any political experience and without any organizers.

    MR managed o win in 2005 without ANY party organizers (they were doing nothing because CBK told them to). But he won.

    MS is a SEASONED politician. He knows the game.

    As at now ONLY Sinhala Buddhists will vote for MR. That is 70% of the population. He needs 72% of that 70% to win. That means the opposition should NOT take anything more than 26% of Sinhala vote (small clowns take about 2%). OBVIOUSLY MS is more popular than that among Sinhalese. In 1989 when SLFP was ROUTED by Premathasa, it had NO Tamil or Muslim votes but won 27% of the NATIONAL vote which is about 37% of the Sinhala vote.

    Now BBS is officially with MR (WITHOUT ANY CONDITIONS which is hilarious!!), all minority votes are lost. IF Hack-him and Thonda don’t leave MR, their political careers will also end.

    I pray MR will get his lost brains soon and come back to the fold and win 75% of the Sinhala vote. Just scrap 13 amendment. Don’t play this ROPE PULLING CONTEST WITH US. We will NOT give up. MR should give up resisting us.

  8. Lorenzo Says:

    Vimutti is much more logical than MOST MR supporters.

    SL people are VERY INTELLIGENT on elections. They have been voting since 1931. That is 83 years of voting experience.

    Apart from FEW elections they have NOT given an outright majority to ANY politician. This way they force politicians to serve them or lose power.

    This time it will be a RAZOR thin margin for anyone who wins. POSSIBLY a second preference count too. IF not a second round of elections.

    By the end of 2015, people will be FED UP of elections.

    I always prefer a CORRECTED MR over ANYONE else. But if MR is stubborn, he is on a losing path like Sirima in 1977. NO ONE expected her defeat to be SO bad.

  9. Daya Says:

    No, Mr Rohana Wasala, this inverted logic of yours will not work. Humility a-la-Maithri is always a virtue, although I wish he would stop calling Ranil W. “Sir”! The problem with that is that the practice carries with it a suggestion of deference to a superior. Maithri has to lead; however, he must do so in accordance with his own personality.

    In many respects, I myself have always been a bit of a country bumpkin, sometimes consciously projected that image, and even, on occasion, so described myself. Usually, in this country, the perception that a guy is such a person is coupled with an inability to use the language of our erstwhile Colonial Masters. I leave it to you to assess my familiarity with the foreign language in which all this is being discussed. However, villager though I am, there is sufficient sophistication of outlook in me not to lay much store by the ability of a person to express himself in a multitude of languages, useful as it is.

    To refocus on Maithri, he expresses himself in chaste and clear Sinhalese, and he speaks sense. That is enough. Obviously, somebody from his team must start addressing the North and East in Tamil – the “Upcountry Tamils” although woefully lacking in “Higher Education” understand our spoken lingo well enough. I hadn’t spent hours listening to Maithri earlier, but he wasn’t a non-entity. I knew that he was a quiet, unassuming Senior Minister for a long time, and I knew, when Jayaratne was appointed Prime Minister, that a man with better credentials was being passed over. On the other hand, it is crude to suggest that the raison d’être for his present challenge is frustration. I take him at his word: he, like many of us, has tolerated as much corruption as is possible. War Crimes? That’s a different subject and quite rightly should not be allowed to be an issue in these elections. None of us Sinhalese is anything other than very grateful that the War is over – and the Rajapaksas must always be credited with that. My own eternal gratitude. And many Tamils are happy that the LTTE are no more. Excesses are a factual matter, which we all find embarrassing.

    Also factual matters are the uninvestigated files in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s possession and “Disaster Minister” Mahinda Amaraweera’s claim that it would be in our interest to vote back in to office corrupt politicians since they are now so affluent that they needn’t go in search of more bribes! If a voter has understood the choices facing him, there is only one way he could vote! Oh! the inadequacies of the English language – applies to females of the species as well!!

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