Mahinda: Still the hope of the country
Posted on April 13th, 2015

By Rohana R. Wasala Courtesy The Island

 Then the liars and swearers are fools,

For there are liars and swearers  enow to beat

The honest men and hang up them

  • Son to Lady Macduff in Shakespeare’s Macbeth Act IV Scene II

With the January presidential election, we have been pushed, for good or bad, to the most decisive moment in the political history of this country since 1948. The end of British colonial rule in that year, the ‘revolution’ of 1956, the promulgation of the republican constitution of 1972, the establishment of the executive presidency and the introduction of the open market economic system in 1978,  the unavoidable suppression of two armed attempts at a Marxist revolution (which did not enjoy popular support) in 1971 and 1987-89, and the defeat of separatist terrorism in 2009 were also critical moments. These earlier important watershed moments were arrived at by the people of Sri Lanka through the assertion of their national sovereignty. Today, we are being led by the nose towards an uncertain future by the powers that be.

This is not a normal time for Sri Lanka. It is, in fact, a ‘nonagathe’ (non-auspicious) period. Blooded by initial success the enemies of the nation are stalking their quarry further ever so confidently. Some among us, willingly or unwillingly, are more amenable to their encroachment on the sovereign rights of the people of this country than others. In this background, it was confidently claimed by Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, former secretary to the Ministry of Defence, that foreign intelligence agencies were behind the ouster of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa (The Island/March 18), and Gotabhaya’s pronouncements should not be taken lightly, for he is known to speak frankly and he never minces his words. Though this is true about how democratic the regime change was, both the president and the prime minister have so far apparently maintained a generally non-compliant attitude towards attempted foreign pressures on domestic policy making. Constitutional and electoral reforms have been mooted. Of these, the latter is more immediately feasible. There is no proper parliamentary representation for any serious or worthwhile constitutional amendments to be passed, and they should not be attempted before a new parliament is elected.

It is in this situation that the SLFP (which still enjoys the support of the majority of the majority and substantial sections of the minorities) has a historic role to play. Those who worked for the defeat of Mahinda desire the implosion of the SLFP because it is the only strong national party that honestly works to promote the interests of the majority community, while doing the same for the minorities. Only the SLFP with Mahinda in it can save the country now. Whoever leads it must understand this and act accordingly. Mr Rajapaksa has achieved a great deal for the country as president. During his first term, he rid the country of terrorism. The second term he devoted for restoring communal harmony through equitably distributed development, but with extra attention for the north and the east. Given another chance he is likely to continue the development programmes he initiated with necessary course corrections in the policy sphere and in his immediate circle of ‘courtiers’.

Whether Mr Rajapaksa is elected to executive office or not hereafter, he is still a powerful presence in Sri Lankan politics and will remain such for many years to come if he manages his present situation with his customary political skills and his praiseworthy personal and professional qualities which are well known. The SLFP needs him because the country needs the SLFP with the signature of Mahinda in it. The SLFP should be grateful to Mahinda for saving it from dissolution after Mrs Bandaranaike was unjustly deprived of her civic rights by the UNP. Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa need not contest elections for premiership or any other post. It is enough if he remains an active member of an undivided SLFP, and if the masses recognize his unassailable position in it. However, if the majority members of the SLFP decide that he be nominated as its prime ministerial candidate, no one will stand in their way.

The leaders of four of minor partners of the UPFA (Vasu, Dinesh,Wimal, and Gammanpila)  are carrying on a campaign urging a return of Mahinda as prime minister under Mr Sirisena’s presidency. Among them they are committed to different political ideologies, though they are united in their choice of Mahinda as the only leader at the moment who is capable of preserving Sri Lanka as one country through dispensing justice to all the communities. But this Return Mahinda project, if it leads to a split in the SLFP, can backfire to the disadvantage of  Mahinda, the SLFP, the UPFA and ultimately, the country. That movement must be immediately turned into one for the promotion of SLFP unity through Mahinda despite his very real vulnerability, with or without justice, to be regarded as hors de combat, ‘outside the fight’, (through loss of civic rights, imprisonment,  or engineered loss of public trust by false allegations, etc). If the allegations raised against  Mr Rajapaksa are properly investigated and upheld by the courts, let the law take its course. Whoever the wrong doer, corruption and transgression of the law must be punished. Yet, Mr Rajapaksa must be respected for the enormous services he has already performed for the country at great personal risk shared by his family, and the SLFP he led must do everything to remain whole and strong at any cost. While it is urgent that justice be done if wrongs have been committed, the continuation of the progressive changes that he initiated amidst much opposition should be prioritized. But I personally feel that Mr Rajapaksa has not done anything unpardonably wrong, considering his dedication to his onerous duties and his indefatigable industry, both of which he clearly displayed while in office. I often personally wondered whether it was humanly possible for him to handle such an enormous load of work, and also to be behind every one of his errant minions. He must at least now publicly disown those ingrates and he must have nothing to do with them in the future.

The Return Mahinda campaigners dwell on the slogan that justice must be done to the nearly 5.8 million voters that cast their vote in favour of Mr Rajapaksa. His opponent’s marginal victory over him is often attributed to the minority vote going against him en bloc. Both claims are antithetical to the inclusive politics that Mr Rajapaksa has always championed. To speak as if  the 5.8 million consisted only of Sinhalese Buddhist votes or to argue that he was defeated only because minority votes went against him is not right. While it is true that the southern electorate was divided more in favour of Mr Rajapaksa and that the minority vote was divided more in favour of his rival, this does not mean that in future elections this trend will not change. The most influential national politician in the country today (that is, de facto rather than de jure), must not voluntarily relinquish that position by seeming to subscribe to such damaging notions, because they can cost him votes both among the majority and the minority communities in a future election in case he decides to run for office again.

The Nugegoda, Kandy and Ratnapura rallies were well attended; he is being visited at Medamulana, and wherever he goes, be it Anuradhapura, Mihintale or Yapahuwa, he is mobbed by emotional crowds; he is retaining his personal charm among them and reciprocates the still undiminished public goodwill towards him that he has always enjoyed for services done in the past, by adroitly going through his accustomed but unique public relations exercises. But all these shows don’t indicate whether his popularity has begun to wax or wane. The apparent pro-Rajapaksa groundswell of public acclamation seems to reflect as much a rising awareness among the public of the true nature of the new regime’s promised ‘change’ as perceived by the common people, as a growing enthusiasm for a Mahinda return. However, the two factors may have only a tenuous relation in reality. For democracy to work as it should, those in power and those seeking it must act on more solid grounds than the mere criticism of the wrongdoings of their opponents. The time we had asses for masses is gone. We have instead thinking human beings as voters. Massive congregations at rallies do not necessarily reflect actual or even probable electoral support for those they seem to like. So Mr Rajapaksa should be careful not to be deceived by appearances, because he still has responsibilities to fulfill, foremost among which is true ‘reconciliation’. No one else can handle them. Those responsibilities apart, the greatest immediate responsibility that changing circumstances have imposed on Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the unique leader that history has produced for the country at this critical time of its history, is to prevent his re-emergent popularity among the pan-Sri Lankan electorate from being only the last flicker of a flame that is going out or the more spectacular supernova explosion of a dying star.

3 Responses to “Mahinda: Still the hope of the country”

  1. Christie Says:

    Namaste: Indian Empire has corrected its mistake of 2005 and Mahinda fell in to the trap. We do not know whether the Astrologer Sumanadasa was influenced by Indian Imperialists. whatever Indian Empire has sealed the politics of the Island for 6 years. As far as I see the only solution is two thirds Sinhala Agenda majority. Indian Imperialists are at work dividing the Sinhala majority further. You can see if you look at the political situation in the Island at the moment. No one talks about the Sinhala Unity and the Indian Empire. Jai Hind

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    MR should have promised to SCRAP 13 amendment BEFORE the January election. Then he is STILL the president!

    Now it is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to win back power.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    MR & GR are tried, tested, and have proved true to the Nation. Keep them. They are hard to find gems in the political world.


    The 13-A will have to go when it has outlived its usefulness to Lanka. As it is, the 19-A must be ‘dead on arrival’.

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