Who is the Real Mahinda?
Posted on December 3rd, 2011

Written by Malinda Seneviratne

[This article first appeared in the ‘Sunday Lakbima News’ of November 7, 2010]

Mahinda Rajapaksa is a dictator. The Rajapaksas are running the country as a family business. They are a clan. They are into dynasty-building. They are robbing the treasury. They are ruining the economy. They’ve turned Sri Lanka into a “ƒ”¹…”failed state’. The Rajapaksas, led by Mahinda, are the worst news that Sri Lanka has heard post-Independence. He is a disaster when it comes to foreign relations and has angered the big players in the international community, the USA, Britain and the rest of the European Union. He is vindictive; incarcerating his political opponent and one time Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka while befriending those who are guilty of massacring hundreds of people (Karuna, Pilliyan) or else creating conditions for such blood-letting (KP) as well as known racketeers preying on people’s helplessness (Devananda). He’s a racist, anti-Tamil and is not interested in resettling the IDPs, who by the way he’s treated very shabbily. He stole an election. There is wide-spread discontent. He will be ousted soon.

That’s one school of thought.

Mahinda Rajapaksa is the best thing that happened to Sri Lanka post-Independence. He ended a 30 year war and vanquished terrorism without conceding one square inch of territory, ideological or otherwise, to Eelamists, tiger-striped or otherwise including the devolution-fixated slaves of the worst elements of Indian hegemony. He has given Sri Lankans back their dignity, a sense of purpose and created the conditions for people to better themselves in spite of the machinations of politicians.

He has a close-knit set of advisors, chief among whom are his brothers Basil and Gotabhaya, this is true, but given history of betrayal and pursuing of self-interest to the detriment of national-interest, it was imperative that he surrounds himself with people he could trust in order to fight the war to a finish. Moreover, they are competent.

The economy is on a sound footing. There’s development, mega and otherwise. Infrastructure is coming up. Inflation is under control. State enterprises have not been sold, asset bases have expanded and those who make wild claims about sell-outs are hard pressed to substantiate allegation. As for foreign relations, he seems to have unshackled himself from the myth that the Long American Century is not yet done. He understands that the balance of global power has shifted and his thinking on international affairs has taken this into account.

During his tenure, he saved hundreds of thousands of Tamils from the grip of a terrorist, oversaw the greatest ever hostage rescuing operation in history and although not keeping to self-set deadlines, has treated the IDPs in ways that no other nation or leader has treated people in similar situation and has ensured that resettlement is as swift and as smooth as is humanly possible. He won an election, fair and square. He is secure in power.

That’s another school of thought.

I believe that Mahinda is no saint. I don’t believe he’s a devil either. He’s just a politician being political, doing what is necessary to retain power, twisting the rules when he has to using what powers are at his disposal. He is not subtle and he’s not crass. He’s a middle-ground player. He can unite polar-opposites. He is a pragmatist. He knows there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics and knows that the edifice of national prosperity cannot be constructed on quicksand called political instability. For this reason he puts his arm around despicable people, forgiving and forgetting as convenient to his political stability as well as to the nation’s wellbeing.

The Rajapaksas are having a good time, of this there’s no doubt. Are they making money? Well, considering what people in power usually do, one would be persuaded to say “ƒ”¹…”yes’ or at least “ƒ”¹…”probably’. Are they dynasty-fixated? Yes and let’s add here that so too are the other “ƒ”¹…”political’ families, the Senanayakes, Bandaranaikes and Wijewardenas; all Colomboan in mind-set and acculturation whereas the Rajapaksas are distinctly village-born and rural.

I doubt the figures trotted out by Ajith Nivard Cabraal but don’t subscribe to the horror-scenarios articulated by his detractors in the UNP. I don’t think the UNP’s traditional power-base, the business community, is unhappy with him because no regime has been this friendly to the private sector. He is not poor-friendly but neither is he their sworn enemy. He’s a consolation prize. For instance, I have no doubt that if Ranil Wickremesinghe were in Rajapaksa’s shoes, we would have lost the People’s Bank, Bank of Ceylon and the National Savings Bank. As things stand, we still have these entities, got back the Insurance Corporation, Sri Lankan Airlines and control of gas. Could be better run, yes, but we are now less susceptible to being screwed. I am thankful.

I don’t think he’s anti-Tamil, but I think decent as his treatment of IDPs has been, he could have done better. He’s not a democrat in spirit and neither is he a statesman; he’s just a politician who is using to good effect to further his interests a constitution made for someone else. He didn’t steal any elections but neither did he win fair and square. The outcome, however, was not changed by the unfairness.

Is he about to be kicked out of power or is this impossible? Neither. I don’t believe in “ƒ”¹…”forever’ and neither do I believe, given realities, in “ƒ”¹…”imminent’. There is dissent, some discontent, but there is also huge popularity, a distinctive and disturbing absence of credible opposition and a bunch of objectors so despicable on so many counts that make the man look positively benign.

The West is down but not out and even if it were, it is silly to annoy people, especially the ill-willed and ill-intentioned. Some might say you can’t have the cake and eat it, but there’s balance to be struck and this is something which Mahinda Rajapaksa has time and again tripped over.

As for those who are salivating about the story that Mahinda didn’t go to London because he was scared he would be arrested for war-crimes, they should do a re-think. That’s the kind of thing that helps boost the man’s popularity at home and helps him consolidate power-hold. It takes something from Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans, sure, but that’s “ƒ”¹…”besides-the-point’ when it comes to politics and political longevity. A seasoned politician knows this and there’s no one more seasoned than him around these days.

14 Responses to “Who is the Real Mahinda?”

  1. AnuD Says:

    Have you told anything new or fresh ?

    JRJ and RP screwed up Sri Lanka and….

  2. gunarat Says:

    Rajapaksha is a pragmatic politician. Despite all the criticisms, he is the best Mahasammatha we have had since independence. I wish he would turn into true statesman over his second term.

    Seneviratne has become a more pragmatic journalist since he stopped writing his Daily News column. But he has to go beyond asserting generalities with no specifics to back up.

    His sudden disappearance from the Daily News needs a public explanation.

  3. cassandra Says:

    Why are we resurrecting an article from more than a year ago?

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Excellent write up, Malinda. We agree with most of what you say here. Frankly, we think the last ltte war was perhaps the most difficult war ever fought in SE Asia. No war was fought with such odds against the country, with Lanka’s leaders minutely scrutinized on every move.
    Re the IDPs : we have no idea how many illegal migrants crossed over to Lanka from Tamil Nadu during the ltte hold of the N&E. So, are all these IDPs truly Sri Lankans ? The Army at the time of the war reckoned that there were around 100,000 held in the ‘human shield’ used by the ltte, but the numbers turned out to be over 300,000. All these people were housed, fed and their other basic needs looked after by GoSL, irrespective of whether they were Lankans or not.
    Currently, all IDPs hold plastic ID cards from UNHRC, as do Tamil Refugees in Tamil Nadu camps. How do we know who is truly Sri Lankan ?

  5. Andare Says:

    People have such short memories and Sri Lankans have even shorter memories. Have we all forgotten what the LTTE was doing with CBK/Ranil giving them a complete free hand? They were virtually everywhere on the island while the Sri Lanka army was confined to the barracks. If Ranil had continued by now thanks to him and the Norwegians a separate state would have been established and the the Dalits (untouchables) would have been pouring in from Tamil Nadu to the areas taken over. In a couple of years the LTTE would have become so powerful that they would have taken over the entire island with Ranil’s blessings and the Norwegians. The corporation sector would have been given free access to the few resources we have; Singharaja forest would have been raped. We saw what happened to East Timor. Same thing or worse would have happened to Sri Lanka. If the Sinhalese cannot remember what Mahinda has achieved and have some gratitude for the sacrifice he has made by putting himself and his entire family at risk, then we deserve another Ranil to come into power.

  6. dhane Says:

    What did DS Sananayaka did with his first cabinet. Son, Nephew and many relations.
    JRJ brother legal adviser, relation over night promoted as Army commander, Son Ravi security adviser. Sirima & CK also
    had their favorites. I believe its only SWRD who did not trusted any relations.
    In India Gandhi dynasty still in power. Kennedys did in US. Whatever it is all Rajapaksa members were elected by voters
    non of them were elected by Mahinda to Parliament. We have to accept brothers Basil and Gotabhaya do their job well & good. Why criticized Rajapaksa and Company?. If any corruption have to be proved. There are no Saints any more.
    Also can anybody name a single politician either in Sri Lanka, USA, Britain and the rest of the European Union or any another country 100% clean?.

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    MR, GR and BR are leaders in their own right.

    GR is the BEST defence secretary we ever had without 0% doubt.

    BR is above average in his organisation skills.

    Steve Waugh and Mark Waugh both played for Australia at the same time on merit. It’s the same thing.

    In SL people value family connections. That how things were always done.

  8. Lorenzo Says:

    “It is believed that after the war there were number of LTTE senior figures left the IDP camps after paying lump sums to the top politicians.”

    Tamil Tiger Sarath is right on this.

    Many terrorists escaped due to corruption including that channel 4 b*tch. We should have eliminated them in the first place.

  9. nilwala Says:

    Malinda is right about the 2 extreme viewpoints on President Rajapakse, and I belong to the 2nd group

    Without President MR and his trusted brothers who have kept his Presidency from being sabotaged, the country would be still at war with the LTTE, and perhaps losing out to the terror group which would have gone ahead with the CFA and occupied all of the territory it had envisioned for Eelam. Without MR, Sri Lankans would have been completely terrorized into submission to a fascist group that may have placed a puppet Sinhalese as President while it called all the shots.

    Would we the Sinhalese have wanted that? I doubt that even the Tamils would in the end have been happy even if they would have ridden high for a while.
    We have to be grateful for the events that revealed the LTTE’s hand in time to take action and go through with it determinedly. The people too cooperated, by tightening their belts as the country experienced economic difficulties with the tanking of the world economy.
    The people have not forgotten although much is being made of the shortcomings, especially by Colomboans.
    Any of the available alternatives would be MUCH, MUCH, WORSE!!

  10. Ariya Says:

    Most of the guys, who comment here live away from Sri Lanka and don’t have any right to comment on the Sri Lankan president. How do you find your own leaders? Is Obama a Oreo? Is Gillard a homo? Is Harper a pllacid fool? Is the whole British parliament run by bloody xenophobists? Who the heel are the other leaders of the country you live in? Can anyone come near Mahinda Rajapaksha? Had anyone ever eliminated a ruthless terrosits to free his/her people?

    By the way, if you are living Down Under, how is your “First Bloke” doing?

  11. Christie Says:

    It saddens me to read the comments and parts of the article.

    The Sinhalese have to unite and resurrect their freedom from the Indians (include Tamils) in the country.

    These Indians were priviledged during the british reign, in fact they wrer partners in the British In dian empire. British are gone and the Indians go, if they want to stay be part of the locals.

    Unite and stand firm, it doesnt matter who the leadre is.

  12. ranjit Says:

    I feel sad when I hear people talking against this great son of Mother Lanka. We never had a leader of his calibre in our history. Just listen to his noble words when he talks or address the nation? Can those villians like Ranil,Tilvin,Somawansa,Sarath Ponnaseka,Kiriella,Sajith even talk? They talk nuts every time they open their foul mouths. Can you compare any of those lousy idiots to this great patriot? Mahinda,Basil,Gota,Namal, Chamal they didnt come just to politics. They came to this positions through the vote of the mases. They won the hearts of the people of this nation. They sacrificed their time and enegy to win the war of thirty years by standing tall in front of the International and local stooges. Instead of criticising be part of this great team and do something to our beloved homeland you satans. Dont listen to gossips walk around and see for yourselves what progress we have achieved after the bloody war. If Ranil the gay was there our innocents would be still dying in our great land. We all must thank and owe our lives to this great politician not do things against him or his Government.

  13. Lorenzo Says:

    Tamil Tiger Sarath,

    The lesson is next time we should eliminate Tamil Tigers without letting corruption allow them to escape.

    If you are a real Sri Lanka you will agree with this noble plan!

  14. Lorenzo Says:

    First lets punish current Tamil Elamists FULLY. Separatists including peaceful separatists should be punished with death.

    Thereafter lets move to punish the corrupt.

    Isn’t it good!

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