The former President ends a highly successful visit to Japan
Posted on June 21st, 2016

By : A.A.M.Nizam – MATARA

Former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa has returned to the motherland after a ten days highly successful visit to Japan, his third overseas visit since losing the Presidency on 8th January 2015.

During these 10 days Mr. Rajapaksa participated at several Buddhist and social events in several Japanese cities attended by large crowds of Sri Lankans.

The Japanese media gave wide coverage and prominence to Mr. Rajapakse’s visit and the leading Japanese daily Japan Times even carried an Editorial about him on Sunday, 19th June.  The editorial commenced with saying that Sri Lanka went to the polls on Jan. 8th 2015 to select their president and the incumbent, Mahinda Rajapaksa, lost to the surprise of virtually every poll watcher and perhaps even more surprising was that Rajapaksa handed over power when the results became clear, rather than clinging to office.

The Editorial asserted that Mr. Rajapaksa still holds considerable power in Parliament and he is likely to use that as a base to battle the new president and whatever government he selects, and moreover, there is keen outside interest in Sri Lanka, and foreign governments may try to meddle in its domestic politics to protect their investments.

Outlining a brief history of his political life, the editorial pointed out he was head of state since 2005 and was the architect of the victory over the Tamil Tigers in the civil war that raged from 1983 to 2009 and claimed as many as 100,000 lives.

Speaking about his economic achievements, the Japan Times editorial said that under Mr. Rajapakse’s tenure the island economy has grown an average of 7 percent annually since 2009 — the fastest-growing GDP in the region — to reach $67 billion. It said that confident of the outcome, the president called an election two years early, expecting to coast to a third term but he apparently did not count on Sirisena, a former friend and political ally, breaking with him to lead an opposition alliance in the presidential ballot. It added that the relatively small margin of victory — 450,000 votes out of 12.26 million cast — a high turnout among Tamils, who have not participated much in previous elections, was an important factor in Sirisena’s win.

The Editorial further stated a challenge for the new president will be his promise to investigate the huge infrastructure projects that have driven Sri Lanka’s growth and many of those deals, were supported by China, which was a major backer of the former administration. It said that China accounted for 20.7 percent of Sri Lanka’s foreign loans and grants in 2013, up from 2.8 percent in 2003 and Sirisena’s promise of equal relations” with other major countries —India, Japan and Pakistan — risks offending Beijing. It also pointed out that China’s support for Rajapaksa has also helped him fend off international calls to investigate charges that war crimes were committed during the 26 years of fighting.

Meanwhile, during his whole stay in Japanese media published many news reports and special feature articles about the former President’s visit, his achievements, and his vision.

In a special article written to Japan Times by Jeff Kingston titled Culture of fear lingers in war-traumatized Sri Lanka”, based on an interview with the former President, Jeff Kingston said that Civil war engulfed Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009, with a death toll estimated by the U.N. at up to 100,000 and the war was fought between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, aka Tamil Tigers, and the Sri Lankan state. He stated that civilians paid the highest price, in the form of assassinations, terrorist suicide bombings, abductions by the Tamil Tigers, extrajudicial beatings, abductions and torture. He said that families of those caught up in the dragnet faced harassment and worse if they took their complaints public, and many were shaken down for money to buy the freedom of their loved ones.  He added that Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tigers’ leader, offered the dream of a Tamil state that turned into a nightmare for his people as their monumental sacrifices were for naught.

Jeff Kingston states the former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was commander-in-chief during the finale of the war told him that it was war and thus victory was essential, an outcome that was widely desired and welcomed by the public and he argued that his goal was peace.

Mr. Rajapaksa has told the writer that the Tiger leader Prabhakaran misjudged the situation, hoping that international pressure would force the State to back off, and Prabhakaran, in Mr. Rajapaksa’s view, was too full of himself,” failing to understand that this time the State had no intention of allowing the Tigers to regroup.

The writer points out that although Mr. Rajapaksa eradicated terrorism and raised living standards, he lost the 2015 elections. He says that Mr. Rajapaksa attributes his defeat to resentment against him from Muslims (9.7 percent of the population, and Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils (15.2 percent), and to the Sinhalese harboring unrealistic expectations who took what he delivered for granted.

Asked if he had any regrets, Mr. Rajapaksa has said that he trusted people too much. Regarding the scars of war in this traumatized nation, he has said that he has promoted reconciliation by returning land to the Tamils and investing heavily in infrastructure and development projects in the northeast, helping them to begin restoring their lives after three decades of war.

Jeff Kingston also states that according to Mr. Rajapaksa’s view, there is no need for an international tribunal because Sri Lanka has the judicial expertise to conduct its own reckoning and President Maithripala Sirisena has yet to follow through on his pledge to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, since the starting of this process was his idea, having sent a mission to learn lessons from South Africa’s experience, but the international community opposed this initiative. Pressed to explain what he would do to promote future reconciliation, Mr. Rajapaksa has offered no vision for healing the wounds other than stressing that the priority should be on promoting economic development and raising living standards.

Speaking about Sri Lanka’s militant monks and extremist Buddhist organizations for advocating and engaging in violence targeting Muslims, the former President has said that it is not consistent with public sentiments.

Responding to a query whether press freedom improved under his successor? Mr. Rajapaksa has said that he doesn’t think so, and has pointed out that the media is controlled by the government and is subject to various threats. He has also brushed aside accusations about the murder and disappearance of journalists on his watch. When asked about a journalist whose posthumous final column implicated Rajapaksa in his anticipated murder, he points out that in parliament Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, his political rival, accused a prominent ex-general of ordering that hit.

Mr. Rajapaksa has also pointed out that there are no more political prisoners in Sri Lanka except for him and his family, who are subject to harassment by the media and government. He has bitterly complained about his son’s arrest, and that he has not been allocated an official bungalow — a privilege extended to other ex-presidents.

Responding to corruption allegations?  He has said that they say that he has stolen $18 billion, but if they find evidence of even $1, that he will cut his throat.

Asked about future plans, Mr. Rajapaksa has pointed out that now he is barred from seeking a third term as president, but it did not rule out running for prime minister. He has said that Politicians never retire.

In another interview published by Japan Times on 16th June, Mr. Rajapaksa has said that his country and Japan could work on more projects together, including hospitals and highways. He has said that the infrastructure projects are very important for Sri Lanka after the war.

According to the Sri Lankan foreign ministry, China now has the most ODA (Official Development Assistance) projects in Sri Lanka. Yet under the standard set by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Japan is the largest ODA sponsor in Sri Lanka. China is not a member of the OECD.

5 Responses to “The former President ends a highly successful visit to Japan”

  1. vyasan Says:

    I am a diaspora Sri Lankan Tamil, originally from Jaffna, agree with the views of Mr. Rajapakse, and consider him as the best leader ever happened to be in Sri Lanka after independence. Had he been given another term in the high office, Sri Lanka would have been in the front in terms of developments among the South Asian nations. And, had he had the support of the majority of the minority voters, i.e. Tamils and Muslims, I believe that he would have tried his best to solve the ethnic problems more vigorously as then he would have had the support of the majority and the minority population of the country. Unfortunately, the outside forces did not let it happen and now Sri Lanka seems to be falling into the influence of foreign powers again, willingly or unwillingly.

    May my Lord Ganapathi bless him with good health and longer years of life so that he would be able to lead the country again with the same vigour and dedication for the country.

  2. Hiranthe Says:

    Thank you Vyasan for thinking as a Sri Lankan.

    The only problem in SL is an economic problem.. If the economy improved and everyone has access to basic facilities, SL is the heaven on earth.. there is no other country like this. Basic facilities includes own transport, own home with a back yard and the guarantee that no one touches you.. I mean security..

    MR can still do it. In my view there is no other politician around, who can do it.

    If we consider the previous similar sons of mother Lanka who could do it, firstly comes to my mind are:

    1.0 Gamini Dissanayaka
    2.0 Laksman Kadiragamar

    In parallel to Economic development, MR should dissolve this white elephant PC’s and establish Grama Sabha so that a poor villager even has a say within his village level, without leaving any room for opportunistic and racist politicians at top level to exploit the people.

    Can that day come to a reality??

    Mother Lanka is waiting!!!

  3. ranjit Says:

    Nizam people who know him knows who he was and what he did to the country we all love. He showed his will power and his vision to the world with strength and wisdom. He was loved by all. After he lost the election people in all walks of life flocked to see him to his home town and wept openly, that much people loved him and still it’s the same. I hate these new politicians who blames him and calling “hora, hora” without any respect for this great leader of all time. A new day will dawn soon where we can see this great leader’s comeback to lead us our great nation. Nobody can stop it even the big SATAN or INDIAN PARASITES.

    I HOPE he will not repeat the same mistakes instead will rule as a true democrat serving all alike whether friend or foe and make our country proud and happy. He should be strict on corruption, drugs, money laundering, terrorism etc. Repeal 13 and give priority to Buddhism and Sinhala race. We need to safeguard our religion Buddhism from these evil people who tries to erase our history. Japaneese and Chineese people always supported us and we should appreciate them from the bottom of our hearts. Long live SRI LANKA!!!!

  4. plumblossom Says:

    It is very cruel and despotic of this mad government to detain two extremely patriotic citizens of Sri Lanka, Udaya Gammanpila and Mohammed Muzammil. These two Sri Lankan patriots always stood for a unitary state and are the biggest opponents of the separatists and the federalists and the like. This is why they are detained today. It is particularly harrowing that during this Ramazan period Mohammed Muzammil is detained since he then cannot fast even. The only crime these two extremely patriotic citizens have committed is standing up against any kind of partition of their motherland which all patriotic citizens should do on behalf of future generations. Both these patriotic citizens have two small children each and it must be particularly harrowing for them to go through such a harrowing experience. Let us commence a petition to release these two patriotic citizens as soon as possible. Mad Sirisena and Ranil should apologize to Udaya Gammanpila and Mohammel Muzammil for detaining these two patriotic citizens for no reason whatsoever like this.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Will the negative situation change for Lanka with the Brexit results and PM Cameron resigning ?

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