Winning Three Consecutive Elections For SLPP : Basil: The Force That Tuned Lankan Politics Topsy-Turvy
Posted on August 14th, 2020

By Buddhisiri Dharmapriya Courtesy Ceylon Today

History is known to change constantly. And, history is written depending on the changes that tend to take place during certain periods. Even Karl Marx has written that history is made up of various struggles and fights that had taken place among various social classes.

Winning Three Consecutive Elections For SLPP : Basil: The Force That Tuned Lankan Politics Topsy-Turvy

Hence, Sri Lanka’s political history has also been written containing various setbacks and triumphs. The victory that was gained by the SLPP in 2020 has already created a significant mark in the local political sphere. The reason for that is, people booting out the country’s oldest political party from the Parliament and then voting into office with an overwhelming majority the SLPP which is only two years old.  

How did this political turnaround take place which the people would not have anticipated? Some may even not know as to who was behind this remarkable political transformation of the SLPP. He is none other than former SLFP stalwart D.A. Rajapaksa’s youngest son, Basil Rohana Rajapaksa, hailing from the Rajapaksa political clan of Giruwappattuwa in the Southern Province. 

Basil, it is said has never sought publicity for the work he had done. Hence, many are unaware of his talents. However, Basil Rajapaksa had played a pivotal role in the local political firmament since the 1970s. He is a very shrewd and knowledgeable political strategist. He is also a workaholic. Basil had always stood behind the oppressed masses during his political career. Basil also has taken up challenges whenever they had been entrusted to him and had never shirked responsibility placed on his shoulders. He is also a dedicated servant and strives to fulfil whatever task entrusted to him 100 per cent. 

D.A. Rajapaksa and Dandina Samarasinha Dissanayaka were blessed with nine children. They are Chamal, Jayanthi, Mahinda, Chandra, Dudley, Gotabaya, Basil, Preethi and Gandhini. Of the boys, the youngest is Basil and there was a noticeable feature in him. That feature was he had performed his duties to the letter and he was also known to complete his work right on time. As he grew older, Basil was able to sustain these traits. Even the rest of his family members were also aware of these gifts of Basil. 

Staging an annual alms-giving event at the Medamulana ancestral home was a tradition. Even from his young days Basil was in charge of organising the alms-giving ceremony. His sister Preethi had even once remarked what great pains had been taken by Basil in carrying out the organisational work of this religious event annually at their ancestral house. Also, Basil had maintained documents regarding the harvest gained from the coconut trees at their Medamunlana house in those days. 

For most of the remarkable political feats that took place in this country in the recent past what paved the way for it was Basil Rajapaksa’s skill at organisational work. He first broke into local party politics through the 1977 General Election. In that Poll where the UNP obtained a 5/6 majority Basil who contested the Mulkirigala seat was defeated. Basil was also the youngest politician that had contested the 1977 Poll. The SLFP was only able to get eight MPs elected at that election. 

Providing political impetus

Minister of Mahaweli Development Gamini Dissanayaka who was part of the 1977 UNP regime of J.R. Jayewardene was a friend of Basil. Gamini had known about the talents of Basil. Basil had also worked for a period, attached to the said Ministry. During this period Basil had organised most of the internal activities at all elections when his elder brother Mahinda contested the Beliatta seat from the SLFP ticket. In 1989 as well as in 1994 when the SLFP regained political power, Basil was busy providing the political impetus to his elder sibling Mahinda’s political journey. 

Several people have aired their views regarding the dual citizenship of Basil. Especially concerning his US citizenship. After his spouse Pushpa Rajapaksa had won the US Green Card lottery in 1997, his family members left to reside in the US. The 2005 Presidential Poll was decisive not only to Mahinda, but to Basil as well. 

As at the time Basil was not a livewire of the SLFP, he was asked to provide the political boost to Mahinda from outside the party. The main issue was getting the Presidential nomination. In order to get the nomination for the Poll from the UPFA ticket, Basil fought for Mahinda’s seniority. 

Basil was also the behind-the-scene collaborator in bringing the PM post to Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2004 Chandrika Bandaranaike regime. An issue that emerged before the election was whether the Presidential Poll should be staged in either 2005 or 2006. At this time, Chandrika attempted to hold the Poll in 2006. 

The Poll that was due in 2005, Chandrika sought to delay it by 12 months. In order to thwart her moves, Basil filed a petition with the Supreme Court (SC). The SC deemed that the Presidential tenure of Chandrika would end in 2005. Hence, it paved the way for the conduct of the Presidential Poll as it was originally scheduled, in 2005. 

Basil reviewed how people had voted at the 2004 General Election. He monitored how the people had voted in the LTTE controlled areas in the North-East. He noticed that on the polling day the casting of ballots had increased from 20 per cent to 85 per cent from 3 to 4 p.m. If Mahinda were to win the Poll the conducting of the polling in the LTTE held areas had to be stopped. Basil decided to seek an order from the Court to this effect. 

Actually speaking, the LTTE did not boycott the 2005 Presidential Poll. If the Tamil people cast their ballots they had to head to areas under the control of the Government. Through that, casting of rogue votes was overcome. Through the tactic used by Basil, Mahinda Rajapaksa was able to win through a certain percentage of the vote. Though most of those close to Mahinda had expressed the fear that the latter would lose, Basil had known for a certainty that Mahinda would triumph in the end. 

Though Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as the President, the UPFA Government only had 105 seats in Parliament. If the UNP, JVP and TNA were to strike agreements there was the threat of the Government being toppled? Hence, Basil began talks with the JVP and the SLMC. Basil’s goal was to do the necessary work and prevent the new Government from collapsing. At this time, the UNP General Secretary had said that at the coming Sinhala New Year period a UNP regime would be installed. 

Basil decides to enter House

An incident that most were aware at the time was Karu Jayasuriya talking with him 17 MPs and joining the Government. Karu left the UNP due to him being overlooked for the post of Deputy Leader. The Government which had only 105 seats was ultimately able to command two-thirds majority due to the groundwork laid by Basil. 

Basil never had any intention of heading to Parliament. But, due to the constant requests made to him by his elder brother Mahinda, Basil decided to enter the House in 2007. However, he did not enter Parliament from the SLFP ticket but from the National Congress.  

Basil was adept and adroit at noticing the political changes that were taking place at the time. He was also able to study the strategies of the Opposition and defeat them. At one time during a vote on the Budget President Mahinda was not in the country. The JVP had said they will vote against the Budget. Basil having been joined by Minister Fernandopulle began individual talks with all Government MPs. At the end he was able to get the JVP on board as well. 

At the height of the war in the North, politicians in Tamil Nadu began to feel the pinch. They were forced to adopt whatever tactics in order to please their voters. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister went on a death fast. 

That had an impact on Sri Lanka. The Indian Envoy briefed the President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Basil regarding the crisis situation faced by his country. He informed them that if Karunanidhi were to die it will impact India seriously. The Envoy suggested that Basil should meet the Indian Prime Minister as a special rep in order to bring about the crisis situation between the two countries to a close. 

On the same night, based on advice from the President, Basil flew to New Delhi. Afterwards he signed an agreement with then Indian Foreign Minister Pranarb Mukherji, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and pacified the situation. The Indian Government stated that they will never support terrorism. 

During the war Sri Lanka also received support from China and several nations in Europe. All those Envoys coordinated with Basil. Having met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a decisive moment Basil managed to gain the trust of the UN official. The UN official assured Basil that he will never act to destabilise the Government of President Mahinda. 

Basil’s intervention also went a long way towards getting the support of all nations in the UN Security Council towards Sri Lanka. During the latter stages of the war, Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves had declined rapidly. In order to increase those reserves, the help of the IMF had to be sought. But, the IMF had mooted several proposals to which the Government was unable to agree. 

In order to hold talks on debt, Basil flew to Washington. He met top officials from the IMF and said, You have your own policies, and we have our own. If we could reach a pact then we should try to work together. If not Sri Lanka will be forced to look elsewhere.” Sri Lanka then sought aid from countries such as Libya and loans from China and Iran. IMF realised that suspending the foreign reserves would not impact Sri Lanka. 

Supplying fuel to Jaffna

After the closure of the A-9 route, supplying fuel to Jaffna was an issue. The problem was entrusted to Basil. He then got hold of a report containing details of fuel stores in the Jaffna Peninsula. The fuel that was needed was then supplied through a ship with protection supplied from the Forces. The issues that had stumped the Security Forces personnel were resolved by Basil. 

It was Basil who gave leadership to the programmes such as ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ and ‘Negenahira Udanaya’. He was able to complete the infrastructure development of the Northern and Eastern Provinces in less than a five-year period. The resettling of those displaced, the removal of landmines, the construction of large bridges were some of the work supervised by him. When he initiated the ‘Gama Neguma’ programme, some ridiculed the venture initially. But, Basil was able to redevelop scores of villages through his novel concept. 

The UNF-led regime, when it was installed on 9 January 2015, proved to be decisive for Basil. Some who had contributed to the ousting of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government began to level baseless criticism against Basil. They charged it was all Basil’s work. They even gave political connotations to a photo taken of Basil at the BIA, saying that after the defeat Basil had fled the country. 

However, Basil knew who was behind the mudslinging campaign that had been orchestrated against him. He then decided to bide his time at his residence in California. He also saw how some of the frontline SLFP MPs were receiving ministerial posts from the new UNF Government. Several of those MPs had gone behind then President Maithripala Sirisena seeking such posts in the new regime. 

Basil also knew well that the Maithri-Ranil marriage would be short-lived. The new Government, instead of working for the country and its people, began to go on a witch-hunt against those in the previous Rajapaksa regime. Most of the cases were filed against Basil by the FCID. Having been informed of the situation, Basil decided to return to the country. 

After arriving home, Basil was forced to spend most of his time fighting a spate of legal cases that were filed against him. Each day was spent in courtroom. If there were any free days in between attending Courts in Hulftsdorp, Kaduwela or Pugoda, on such days he was summoned to the FCID. 

Once, after being questioned by the CID throughout the day, he was taken to the Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court around 11 at night. Surprisingly, by the time he was taken there, the Magistrate was still present in Court, and even more surprisingly, a prison bus was already there, ready to take Basil to prison.  

In the meantime, with the CBSL Treasury Bonds scams taking place in 2015, the anti-Government sentiments began to rise. Those UPFA MPs who had obtained posts from the new Government were forced to feel ashamed of their act as the new regime began to hound their political rivals most brazenly. 

Joint Opposition

It was at this time that those opposed the views of the UPFA, began to function as the Joint Opposition (JO) in Parliament. They even sought the Opposition Leader post but then Speaker Karu Jayasuriya did not heed their request. At this time the real Opposition’s work was done in the House by the JO. At this time Basil had put in place plans for the defeat of the political rivals of the JO. He did this work during the time that he was imprisoned. 

Another boost he received was the massive number of people who had converged at the Medamulana residence to welcome Mahinda upon his defeat at the Presidential Poll. Afterwards the ‘Mahinda Wind’ began to seep through country, having begun at Nugegoda. 

In November four years ago, Basil decided to register the SLPP. He created a programme for the SLPP to encompass the 14,032 Grama Niladhari Divisions of the country. Basil also had the computer data at his disposal to know beforehand those who had expressed their allegiance to his party from every area here and those who were not so. He also saw how the political landscape began to change towards the SLPP. The future measures were initiated by him accordingly. 

The LG Poll staged on 10 February two years ago was the maiden Poll contested by the SLPP. Fulfilling Basil’s aspirations, the SLPP received a total of 5,006,837 votes and obtained 3,436 seats at LG bodies from the Poll and became the country’s new political force. 

It was through the shrewd political strategy implemented by Basil that Gotabaya Rajapaksa was able to triumph at last year’s Presidential Poll with 6.9 million votes. Basil is also equipped with a Digital APP that covers all electorates here politically. Therefore, he is able to predict how the people would vote at Polls as he has gathered data from 10 houses from each electorate. 

We will certainly receive over 130 seats at the Poll. Our hope is that during the final stage of this election, the people will grant us over 150 seats. Some of the parties that support us will probably receive four or five seats. The TNA will win the Districts of Vanni, Batticaloa and Jaffna. From the total vote that is received by us our closest rival will not even receive half of it. I also would like if the JVP will also receive at least some seats. 

This could be a controversial remark. Why I say this is when you look at the Opposition in the last Parliament, they were reduced to a bunch of jokers. Some even uttered foolish remarks. Some made jealous and hateful comments. I also would like to predict that one of the country’s oldest political parties would be reduced to the fourth place at this Poll.” The readers only need to look at the 5 August General Election results to decide for themselves as to the veracity of Basil’s prediction. 

Basil Rajapaksa is no doubt at the forefront of the local political firmament as a master political strategist. He has proved his skill to all and sundry. Despite these achievements Basil continues to lead the life of an ordinary person with simple and a charming demeanour. Though he continues to engage in politics that is not his true love. He is a farmer at heart. A land in Hambantota that was bequeathed to him by his late father D.A. Rajapaksa is now being cultivated by him. Even when he resides in California, he derives much satisfaction through the growing of local vegetables. Basil Rajapaksa is a political heavyweight which this country is badly in need of presently. 

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