Is Gotabaya taking an unnecessary security risk?
Posted on December 1st, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

It has been two weeks since Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected to Office. As hoped by those who voted for him, steps could be seen to be taken to change the prevailing political culture. 

One of GR’s first directives to State institutions was to replace the usual gallery of photos that consist of the Head of State and the subject Minister with only the State emblem. 

Road signs are to include only the name of the road and not any names of the politicians. He went on to appoint the smallest Cabinet since 1956. 

His entire government is a 51% reduction from the previous Yahapalana Government.

 That is, from 108 ministers, deputy and state ministers, the number has come down to 53. His words to his ministers were to treat the appointment as a responsibility and not a privilege.

Appointing Board members to State Institutions is no longer the prerogative of the minister, for the names need to be approved by a central committee. His entourage on his first visit to India consisted less than 10 members and not a single family member accompanied him.

 Colombo is visibly getting cleaner. These are obviously very simple tweaks, but the perception created has been very positive.

However, not everyone is impressed with his decision to reduce his vehicle convoy from over ten plus an ambulance to just two vehicles. For so long, VIP transfers, where the escorts push fellow travellers out of the way, even in heavy traffic, had annoyed commuters to no end. 

Yet, when GR chose to sit in traffic with the rest of his citizens, people were not amused. Most feel he is taking an unnecessary risk.

Many feel that persons like the former President Maithripala Sirisena or Ranil Wickremesinghe did not have a security threat to warrant the kind of security detail or vehicle convoy that the VIP transfers of the previous governments did. 

Had Sajith Premadasa become the President, he too would not have had a security threat is the opinion of many. The reason being, these politicians are much in alignment with the Western agenda – wittingly or otherwise.

GR on the other hand is expected to go against the very grain of this Western agenda. He has proven himself to be a man of iron clad will and not one who could be browbeaten into agreeing to anything out of line.

 US State Secretary Mike Pompeo expressly stated that US expects any future Government of Sri Lanka in power too to honour all agreements entered into with the US.

Despite this statement, GR has unequivocally pronounced that he will review all agreements entered by the Yahapalana Government, including the controversial MCCC. He went to the extent of giving a written assurance that he will not proceed with the MCCC in its current standing.

In that context, his decision to reduce his security detail has not been well taken. Unlike any other Presidential Election, this one garnered a lot of attention from voters as many felt the sovereignty of the country was about to be compromised. 

Sri Lankan expatriates came in large numbers, as never before, to cast their vote. 

Even monks in meditation monestries came out to vote. GR’s supporters thus do not see him as just the President of the country, but the man who had come to save the country. 

It has been repeatedly said during the presidential campaign that if he failed to secure the presidency, the country would not get another opportunity to stand up for itself.

The Easter Sunday Massacres were a cruel emphasis of a country that was fast peddling backwards. Yet, it was not the point that people decided that GR would be the better alternative to the Yahapalana Government.

 People’s discontent was visible as far back as in early 2018. It was then, when the much delayed Local Government elections were finally held that all partners of the Yahapalana Government got its warning that marching orders are not far behind.

Apparently, the UNP had had a review as to analyse reasons for their failure. However, for reasons best known to them, they decided not to heed the facts and take the necessary corrective measures. 

Mangala Samaraweera, who was an absolutely heartless Finance Minister, particularly seemed hell-bent on continuing to humiliate the Sinhalese and especially the Buddhists.

 On the whole, he seemed to have placed a very low value on human life for he thought USD 480 million that was promised with the MCCC justified the tragedy.

Taken as a package, the Yahapalana Government strives to create a weak centralised government whilst making the provinces very powerful entities.

 In effect, they were trying to discount the years of misery and terror people put up with to safeguard the unitary status of the country. 

It became apparent to people that the Yahapalana Government was trying to give the separatists what was not possible through terrorism by tweaking the Constitution.

The fact that the Yahapalana Government could not prove any of their allegations against the Rajapaksa Administration also proved that the allegations did not have any basis.

 Instead, these were fabrications designed to splinter the trust people had in that political leadership became clear. The Yahapalana Government also could not prove the allegations against the military – especially against the military intelligence.

It was in such a background that Professor Thenuwara promised to deal with the ‘ranawirugaaya’ after the Yahapalana presidential candidate secures the presidency. This sinister promise vaporised any doubt one may have had of the stand the Yahapalana Government had of our war heroes and of our National Security.

 Before, people were uncomfortable with the countless arrests and detentions of our military, not to mention the summing of military leaders to be questioned for hours by the CID. Afterwards, people became positively angry. Fear of losing our country was the root of that fear.

Therefore, to those who voted for GR, he is not just the holder of a position, but the hero who had once more come to save the country from extremists and separatists. 

In his hands people have placed the future of their children. The stakes he is thus holding are too great for him to take a chance.

In that sense, whether GR should worry his citizens is questionable. Being a pragmatic man, he may not identify a justification to warrant a large vehicle convoy or to zoom past through the traffic. Yet, people are worried and it might be a good idea for him to assuage that worry.

On the other hand, his clear message is that Colombo is safe. This may be just the message that people really need to believe for the country is yet to fully recover from the Easter Sunday Massacres. People are still not sure whether the coast is really clear of extremists.

 His confidence will help people get their lives back on track, which is essential if to attract investors and kick-start the economy.
This however, must be really pushing the intelligence units to the limit.

 Especially after five years of being treated as Cinderella, whether the intelligence units overnight can outperform any mischief maker is the question. Therefore as citizens, we could also try to do our part.

 One thing we should avoid is taking pictures of him in traffic and posting in social media. The other thing would be to keep our own eyes and ears sharp and help the authorities to protect our President.

One Response to “Is Gotabaya taking an unnecessary security risk?”

  1. Cerberus Says:

    Thank you Shivanthi for this timely warning. We cannot afford to lose him. Too many of our able leaders, Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali, Ranjan Wijeratna, Janaka Perera, Lakshman Kadiragmar, R. Premadasa, were all lost due, likely due to their notion in feeling that if they wore the “Pirith Nool” nothing would harm them. These able people were killed during the Cold War times (1947-1991). Now some ‘trade wars’ and some Tamil demands for a ‘separate state’ still go on.  Also, some cannot get rid of outdated mindsets and are still in the ‘Cold War’ type of mode, even though that finished in 1991.  Why is that?  
    I hope Pres GR will not take this kind of chance. He should always take a helicopter where possible to travel even though the Opposition will try to make out that he is being extravagant. Lankans have a ruthless enemy who may not give up, judging from the talk of people like Vaiko, some of the Tamils want a separate state for themselves which they think is in Sri Lanka.
    The best defense for Lanka is to be as neutral as possible in international affairs and be a peacemaker where possible.
    Some foreign countries assume that they have lost their earlier ‘puppet’ and a chance to break up the country and collect the spoils. No one knows what the plans of these countries have for regime change which they have done in many countries in the past, where there is a leader who is popular among the people but not subservient to those foreign countries and their wishes. May the Triple Gem and all the Devas guide and protect Pres GR.

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