By Harim Peiris
President Sirisena was scathing in his criticism of defeated President Rajapaksa and his misguided attempt at an electoral comeback. He correctly observed that Rajapaksa had removed term limits on the presidency so he could rule for life and fortunately, the people of Sri Lanka had other ideas.
Now Rajapaksa refuses to hand over the baton to the next level of SLFP leadership and is instead trying the equivalent of a rematch, hoping for a different result to what was achieved in January.
In a widely viewed televised address to the nation after the close of nominations for the parliamentary elections, President Maithripala Sirisena, repudiated any political rapprochement or partnership with defeated President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom he probably correctly predicted would lead the UPFA to a second ignoble defeat in six months, having been defeated by President Sirisena, at the start of the year and accordingly needs to be recognized as defeated President Rajapaksa, to differentiate from retired President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Mahinda Rajapaksa has the ignominy of being the only executive president of Sri Lanka, who was shown the door, by the sovereign people of Sri Lanka.
The SLFP parliamentary leadership, like puppets on a string, in the hands of the UPFA political lightweight, small party, gang of four, namely Dinesh, Wimal, Vasu and Udaya, whose politically orphaned state and barely concealed racism required, hanging on the scarlet shawl of Rajapakasa, misled the SLFP to refuse the opportunity of beginning a new journey with President Sirisena and leaving behind its discredited past.
President Sirisena was scathing in his criticism of defeated President Rajapaksa and his misguided attempt at an electoral comeback. He correctly observed that Rajapaksa had removed term limits on the presidency so he could rule for life and fortunately, the people of Sri Lanka had other ideas. Now Rajapaksa refuses to hand over the baton to the next level of SLFP leadership and is instead trying the equivalent of a rematch, hoping for a different result to what was achieved in January.
That fantasy of reversing the January election loss will not happen, as none other than President Sirisena predicted. In January, besides the abuse of the entire state machinery at his disposal, Rajapaksa and the UPFA lost. This time around there will be no state resources to abuse, though a portion of alleged ill gotten gains would have to be used for the campaign. Funding the campaign is the least of the Rajapaksa worries. But in January a significant part of the floating voters supported Rajapaksa, based on the local level propensity to support the likely winner. This time around, not even the Rajapaksa’s astrologers, that discredited bunch of magic diviners, are likely to be predicting his victory.
Voter will not elect a PM hostile to Prez
Sri Lanka is a highly politicized society. With our high literacy rate, we have also a highly politically literate citizenry, which can and does deal with political issues. It is to the credit of the Sri Lankan voter, in January this year that they opted for a democratic state over a Chinese style developmental state, sans real democracy. The white vans, the judicial impeachments, the corruption, the nepotism and dynastic project were all rejected by the people, in a quiet, poster less campaign by the National Democratic Front (NDF). Now the political mantle and much of the NDF rainbow coalition is within the UNP led UNFGG or United National Front for Good Governance. The UNFGG is also really an amazing rainbow coalition with the JHU on the one side and the Muslim and other minority parties on the other end with the UNP at the political centre. It would have to be a particular glutton for punishment, even in the Sinhala rural electorates, where the UPFA is placing its entire hope on, who would want a return of Rajapaksa rule. Actually, what one would have if the UPFA won a majority, would be gross political instability, with a Prime Minster hostile to President Sirisena and indeed trying to get rid of him.
President’s vision for future
President Sirisena, in his address to the nation, frequently referred to his manifesto, its attendant mandate and his compact with the people. As the President quite correctly observed the reform programme in his manifesto was not one limited to one hundred days, but a reform programme for five years. This includes the Right to Information Act, which really should begin by televising parliamentary proceedings, another progressive step, stopped by the reactionary UPFA and a complete overhaul of government procurement and the tender system through a proposed National Audit Act. The president promised to be neutral in the parliamentary election and basically requested the country to give him a Parliament that would support his vision and manifesto which had been mandated by the people.
The electorate once again has a stark choice. Does it turn back the clock and revert to a corrupt and authoritarian past with a Rajapaksa-led UPFA or does it travel on the journey of state reform and good governance under President Sirisena as advocated and promised by the UNP led United National Front?
(The writer is the Chairman of the Resettlement Authority. The views expressed are personal)