EXCLUSIVE: Ceylon Today visits Mahinda’s Kingdom’
Posted on April 6th, 2015

By Gagani Weerakoon in Tangalle, Courtesy Ceylontoday, 05 April 2015

The time was 6:30 in the morning. There were already at least 50 people gathered outside the Carlton House, Tangalle. Only two policemen stood guard near the gate but none of the staff of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was to be seen anywhere. We had no option but to stand in queue with the people till the gate was opened. One by one we were ushered into the house.

It was the morning of Bak Full Moon Poya day and we were certain that the former President would be at the Carlton House as his assistants told us that it was his habit to organize a bana (Buddhist sermon) on every poya day since he became Prime Minister in 2004.

Although the former President had responded in brief to questions raised by journalists at various functions he had attended since his defeat at the 8 January Presidential Election, he kept on refusing to give interviews to the local media, even though he had given short interviews to a few international media organizations. Therefore, the Ceylon Today team did not expect to get an interview, but we were hopeful that he would agree to talk to us at least for a few minutes. We also wanted to know whether the stories about bus loads of people visiting the former President were true.

As we were waiting patiently with the rest of the crowd, the line behind us started filling up with several bus loads of people arriving there from faraway places of the country. Around 7:00 a.m. the gate was finally opened and a man wearing a pair of black trousers and a short-sleeved white shirt started scanning the crowd with keen eyes. We approached him and after introductions were made, asked him whether it was possible to meet the former President.
“Of course I can let you in. But, I can’t promise you anything other than informing the President that you have come all the way from Colombo and want to speak to him,” he said.

Once inside, we were informed that Rajapaksa had not arrived there yet and we were asked to be seated. The walls were covered with framed photographs depicting the highlights of the former President’s life and there was a cupboard cramming with souvenirs he had received when he was a minister, Prime Minister and then the President of the country.
While we were waiting, those who came to see ‘their president’ were inquiring each bodyguard, assistant and staff member whether they would get a chance at least to speak one word with Rajapaksa.
“All of you will get a chance but only after bana…” an assistant said. Then we realized that it meant waiting for another three full hours because the sermon was scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m. and was to continue for one hour.

The arrival
Around 8 a.m. a black jeep came speeding up the driveway and stopped near the car porch and all those in close proximity surrounded the jeep. The former President had finally arrived. There were those who had come to invite him for weddings, alms giving events, opening ceremonies, etc. While waiting for our chance to speak to him, our team witnessed how people were paying homage to the former President by prostrating before his photographs. On a table there was a pile of CR Books, placed there by the staff on the request of those who visit him, to scribble their thoughts and messages. Then there were also paintings and sketches of President Rajapaksa gifted by various people who came to see him.

As soon as Rajapaksa settled down in his office room, still clad in his jogging suit, his personal assistant/chief bodyguard approached him and informed that a team of journalists had arrived from Colombo and were seeking an audience with him.
We were called in and after exchanging greetings the former President asked; “So, what brought you here all the way from Colombo?” After we informed him that we were there to write an article about his life after the election defeat, he said “that’s ok but please don’t ask for an interview because I am not prepared to give an interview to any local newspaper as yet.”

We tried to convince him that we only wanted to know about his life after 8 January election, but he outright refused to talk about it. However, we were reluctant to give up. We knew that we would only be given five minutes to speak to him and I was already in a panic because time was running out fast. It was then that we caught the sight of people impatiently waiting near the entrance to his office room and quickly questioned him “What do you feel when people come to see you even after your defeat?” and a reply came promptly “I don’t feel I have been defeated. I am still loved by the people, especially these ordinary people. It’s been almost three months since I left office but they still come in buses from faraway places.”
We asked him how life had been for him after 8 January, and he replied “I don’t see or feel any difference because people come to me with their problems and I have to attend various functions, mostly religious ones. Actually, other than not having presidential powers, I do not feel any difference in my life before and after 8 January 2015.”

Evoking sympathy

Rajapaksa was heavily criticized by his opponents – those in opposition as well as some in his own party – for trying to evoke people’s sympathy by making public appearances.

“Is it my fault that people and venerable Theras invite me for these events? Is it my fault that journalists are still coming after me? Do you think it is fair to decline when people approach me out of love to invite me for ceremonies and functions? Why should I hurt and let down those who genuinely care about me just because some people criticize me? I am used to these types of below the belt criticism. They said the same when I was contesting in 2005 as well. They said mal watti ussan pansal gaane giyata dinanna beha… – that, I would not win just because I go to temples and offer flowers. But, did I not emerge victorious despite their criticism? Those are mere mudslinging by people who fear me,” he remarked casually.

“Does that mean you are on the same path you took 10 years ago? Are you going to make a comeback?” He said “It is up to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to decide. They should decide whether they are going to listen to the public demand and what the general public is asking for. And, also keep in mind that I have never said that I have retired or planning to retire.”
When pointed out that the majority of the people in the country voted to defeat him and made someone else the president, he said “A conspiracy is a conspiracy no matter how hard you try to project it as a victory. They themselves have admitted that they plotted for almost two years to oust me. When two or three powerful foreign embassies in Colombo and some other international organizations come together to scheme against you, it is not easy to compete with them.”

Rajapaksa had earlier accused India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and CIA of being responsible for his defeat.
“But, don’t you think it is your ignorance about the issues faced by the ethnic minorities that led to your defeat?” we asked. “It is wrong to say that I took those votes lightly. What I was really worried about was losing the votes of the Muslims in the East and in other parts the country as a whole because I already knew I would not get the votes of the Tamils,” he said.

Asked as to why he could not do anything about losing the Muslim votes Rajapaksa said “due to the actions of certain organizations such as the Bodu Bala Sena, Muslim people had a wrong impression about the government and especially about me. The opposition identified this and took the maximum advantage of it.”
Then we asked “If you were aware that what was happening was not correct, why did you fail to take any action to nip it in the bud?”
“Well, when we discussed this at the beginning in the Cabinet it was Champika (Ranawake) who went berserk and demanded not to lay a hand on the BBS or any such organizations that were mushrooming at the time. It was too late to do anything about it when I realized that Champika too was part of the conspiracy,” Rajapaksa asserted.
He added that he knew all along that he would not win the Tamil votes because a particular Tamil leader swore to his face that he would not get a single vote even if he built roads in gold or settle people in houses made of gold. (umba raththaranin mehe parawal heduwath gewal heduwath umbata eka chandayak denne neha).
“Did you ever think why Tamil people hate you so much?” we asked. “What can you expect from them when you destroy a person whom they grew up believing to be their leader, their hero and their saviour for almost 30 years? Do you think they will want to see the continuity of a person who crushed an organization that they believed would liberate them? After all, at least one person in each of their families is abroad and as a result they are controlled by the Tamil diaspora,” he added.

Corruption allegations

When pointed out that it was not only the minority vote that led his to defeat Rajapaksa said that one of the biggest allegations levelled against him by his opponents was that he was extremely corrupt when carrying out development projects.
“Even yesterday I saw them claiming that the amount spent on constructing the expressway was exorbitant as the deals were corrupt. They showed some statistics and said those same roads could be built at a lesser cost. All I have to say is, ‘go ahead and show the people that you can build it at that rate’. You cannot say the amount that is going to cost simply by dividing the length of the road by the cost per kilometre. It is not like you can tell the price of a kilo of sugar in the grocery shop. The amount you have to spend per kilometre when there are no bridges is different to that of a kilometre that has three bridges and culverts. It is again different when you have to build the road above or under the ground. All these must be taken into account before they come out screaming that I am corrupt,” he said while challenging the government to reveal details in the report done by a team of experts attached to the Moratuwa University on the cost of expressways.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that a picture was painted so that people would believe Rajapaksas were the only demons in the country.

“Now none in the Cabinet for nine years were corrupt. They all are flawless and accuse that only my brothers and I, and others attached to my family, are corrupt,” he stressed while asking what was preventing those who were vociferous about corruption and other wrong deeds purportedly done by him and his regime from filing charges.
“Well, they say they did not open their mouths because there wasn’t an environment to do so and there was no point in doing so,” we pointed out.

“If that is the case, then what made them open their mouths in the final months of my government? Because they were certain that the conspiracy they had hatched was becoming successful. All they did was singing songs of praises without attempting to correct even if they believed I was taking a wrong step. They thought showering me with praises even when those were not due was the only way to survive, even though it was not the reality,” he added while stressing that he was not shaken by the criticism levelled against him by those who once treated him as a hero.

“I have been in politics for long enough to know better. That’s the nature of politics. You continue to praise someone until you find there is no use of that one and you leave him to seek another. Don’t be surprised if these very same people, who are now admiring someone else, will start praising another and criticize the person they now adore. They will definitely do so from the moment that person seems less powerful or less beneficial,” Rajapaksa stressed.
“Isn’t there any decision that you regret, that you think it would have been better if you did not take that move at that time?” we asked.
“I don’t regret any of the decisions I have taken. However, I must say that I regret not taking action against some in my Cabinet at the right time. When people complained about some who were near me and when I got to know about their corrupt deals I did not act promptly, which I now admit as a fault. I have now realized that and am determined not to repeat such in future. More than anything else, this provided me to recognize who is genuine and who is not,” he said.

Missing vehicles

Responding to allegations about vehicles and other items belonging to the Presidential Secretariat going missing after his exit from Temple Trees, the former President said “I had two houses, one here and one in Colombo. As soon as results were out they told me to vacate Temple Trees immediately within 24 hours. I was not a single man who could pack everything in a hand luggage and leave whenever I wanted. We were living there as a family. Yet, in keeping with the order we grabbed what was essential and came to Tangalle while other things were loaded into a container by the relevant officials. The staff acted as was told by their superiors and even I don’t have a clue what went where. All they said was they acted in haste to clear Temple Trees. It is good that the police are trying to find what went where and putting them back in correct places than me going to look for those,” he added.

Asked how he feels about allegations against his children, Rajapaksa paused as he became emotional but recovered quickly as he said “It is completely unfair that they target my children. I am another person who feels for my children and my siblings.” (Mata daru kekkuma thiyenawa… mata sahodara kekkuma thiyenawa…)
Talking about his siblings prompted another question. “It is said that misdeeds by your brother, former Minister Basil Rajapaksa, largely contributed to your defeat. Do you share the same sentiments? Was he the reason you lost the election?”
“I don’t think so. It is not yesterday or day before that I came to politics, but some 40 years ago. I have seen people blaming their own when they were defeated. This happened to Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Anura Bandaranaike and even mathini (Sirima Bandaranaike) was not spared. I do not think Basil should be blamed. People are free to hold their opinion. Some say it was Basil and some others say it was someone else. Like I said before, it’s a Rajapaksa who is always blamed as according to them no one else in the Cabinet had any fault. If that is the case I have the strength to admit it and face it.”

Rajapaksa also brushed away allegations that he put his Cabinet members under surveillance of the intelligence services.
“If I put them under surveillance like they do to me now how did they manage to leave their houses at midnight and conspire against me. Don’t you think if they were followed by intelligence officers like they follow me now I wouldn’t have known where they were going and whom they met? Even now as we speak I can tell you there are members of intelligence outside my door and are seated among those who came to listen to the bana sermon,” he said.

Asked whether he would move to Peacock Palace offered by A.S.P. Liyanage, he smiled and said he was yet to take a decision.
“I don’t know and have not taken a decision. I read in a newspaper that some renovations are taking place and they are even filling the swimming pool because astrologers have said it is inauspicious. I haven’t seen it yet. Not only that I have not been offered some other places as well. Well, if I am offered one free what is wrong in accepting?” he quipped.
“Are you waiting to find an auspicious time and a place determined by astrologers to move?”
“No way! Even though I have not completely lost faith in astrology, but now I don’t take predictions seriously. I will trust my instincts and act accordingly. I will do things when I feel it is the right time and not based on the time astrologers tell me is auspicious,” he stressed.
(Pix by Ranga S. Udugama

5 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE: Ceylon Today visits Mahinda’s Kingdom’”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    ““Did you ever think why Tamil people hate you so much?” we asked.

    “What can you expect from them when you destroy a person whom they grew up believing to be their leader, their hero and their saviour for almost 30 years? Do you think they will want to see the continuity of a person who crushed an organization that they believed would liberate them? After all, at least one person in each of their families is abroad and as a result they are controlled by the Tamil diaspora,” he added.”

    At last MR has come to learn the BITTER TRUTH.

    Tamils are RACISTS and they didn’t vote for MODI either. What chance MR has!!

    Had he realized this TRUTH and worked accordingly, he would have won more Singhala votes and won the election.

    “Asked as to why he could not do anything about losing the Muslim votes Rajapaksa said “due to the actions of certain organizations such as the Bodu Bala Sena, Muslim people had a wrong impression about the government and especially about me. The opposition identified this and took the maximum advantage of it.”

    Then we asked “If you were aware that what was happening was not correct, why did you fail to take any action to nip it in the bud?”

    “Well, when we discussed this at the beginning in the Cabinet it was Champika (Ranawake) who went berserk and demanded not to lay a hand on the BBS or any such organizations that were mushrooming at the time. It was too late to do anything about it when I realized that Champika too was part of the conspiracy,” Rajapaksa asserted.”

  2. Leela Says:

    Lorenzo is right. Tamils in general are not just racists but they have always ganged up against the nationalists.

  3. ranjit Says:

    My hero has spoken and I am thrilled to hear what he says. Nobody is going there to see him for a packet of rice or a for a glass of liquor as Choura Regina says. People go there because for the true love they have for the man who saved our Motherland from brutal barbarian VELUPILLAI PRBAKARAN.

    We told MR that Tamils and Muslims should not be trusted at all.How much we give them they are not satisfied or happy. Just look at the North now and how was it before and who killed most Tamils during the war? was it Sinhala Soldiers or the LTTE killers? Who kidnapped young Tamil children from their schools and from their homes? Was it war heroes or LTTE killers? Why they blame Sinhalese for all the suffering we had for thirty long years? I hope MR realized his mistakes and will correct all and come back alone to finish the job he started.

    MR was defeated by a coup and who were the coup leaders we all know by now so we must work secretly with a plan on the comeback trail of this great son of Motherlanka. No force can stop him because the majority of the people in this country are behind him. Choura Regina has to pack her bags and go back to her uncle’s Sam very soon.No one will be there to believe her lies except her Tamil friends. Let’s say good bye to most of these traitors and prepare to welcome our most popular and workaholic leader of all time back to politics.

  4. vyasan Says:

    I am a Tamil, born and grew up in Jaffna. While I agree fully with the answers of the former president, and respect him very much ( in my opinion, he is the best leader Sri Lanka ever had after independence!, and all his actions were focused on the development of the country for the benefits of all the people!!), I do not agree with some of the comments made here. I have even wrote one or two articles in support of him during the election time here on this site under the name Ganapathy Moorthy,. Not all Tamils are racists, but most of them are selfish and live under self-illusion that they cannot or refuse to look beyond their own circle. It was unfortunate that he was defeated at the elections, but I believe that it was a blessing in disguise. He would be able to differentiate the trustworthy from the traitors, and act accordingly. I hope fervently that he would come back to power in some form or other and lead the country sooner or later.

  5. Siri Says:

    Most of the Tamils hate the Sinhalese and would kill them all if they can. This is something I knew for a long time. The Muslims cannot be trusted. There is an old saying that ” when the muslim dances he goes the way the tassel goes”. They are a funny breed and never can be trusted. The 911 was sponsored by the Saudis. President Bush should have attacked Saudi Arabia and not Iraq. That was because he trusted then. that was a very big mistake. They can be currupted by money very easily as they have no national values. They are a bunch of Normads and traders. Our sinhalese traitors knew this and exploited it.

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