What Can Mahinda Rajapaksa Offer?

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has finally declared in the open his burning obsession: He wants to be the president again.

Addressing an opposition rally in Hyde Park Colombo, the defeated president had said that he would show the UNP led government how to run the country.

“If you can’t run the country, give it to me. I will show you how to run the country”.

Of course most people were aware of Rajapaksa’s burning desire although since his defeat he did not lay it down in such clear terms. However, in fairness to the people, he should tell the people why a third term in office should be given to him since he had been rejected twice – at the presidential as well as the parliamentary elections after two consecutive terms as president running into nine years.

Even more important are clear and precise pronouncements what he proposes to do if his dream comes true.

Rajapaksa may claim the huge crowd at Hyde Park as evidence of the public demand for his return. It would be recalled that he has drawn massive crowds before even in the two election campaigns he lost. How exactly he was able to attract the crowds is not known although those not well disposed towards him point out to huge unpaid bills for hiring SLCTB buses for election rallies and also unpaid bills for election campaigns on TV channels.

It is also obligatory for the former president to state the form of governance he proposes in the Independent Sovereign Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. We stress on the word ‘Republic’ for it means that Sri Lanka should have a government of the people by the people, not one of a family with a shadow royal couple and fake crown princes.

08_srilanka2_540 (1)The Rajapaksa form of governance has been correctly described as a Pavul palanaya – governance by a family. Well over 60 per cent of the national budget in the time of the ‘Paksas’ came under three brothers while another presided over parliamentary proceedings. Young brats muscled into public ceremonies and government institutions conveying the impression that they had a birthright to do so.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who described himself as a ‘servant of the people’ when he first took oaths as president, should firmly declare whether he intends to continue with his ‘pavul palanaya’ or adopt a democratic system of governance.

Addressing big crowds are heady moments when intoxicated power makes speakers say many things such as Adolf Hitler did: Ein Volk, Ein Riech, Ein Fuhrer – One people, one Nation, one leader. At times some of our nationalists are not far off this mark. Shouldn’t Rajapaksa consider another senior party member as his successor rather than offer himself as the next leader? To say the least, it’s not democratic after nine consecutive years of absolute presidential rule even to dream of another term.

There are many other explanations required such as his account of the super colossal losses incurred by state enterprises under his family members and relations. And most important of all: would he refuse to go along with the UNHRC resolutions moved by the United States together with Sri Lanka? If so what is he to do? Tell the UN and the rest of the world to go fly a kite and for the people to face international sanctions?

After one year of the Yahapalanaya (Good Governance) it cannot be said that the government has been all that good. True, officially it commenced three months ago but it has provided some opportunities for their critics to take pot shots at them. Changes made in the fertilizer subsidy scheme, distribution of cloth for school uniforms, and rice harvest purchase systems have given room for criticisms that could have been avoided. Locking horns with university dons, some of whom relish confrontations, would have been best avoided. The government has enough and more leaders with ability and experience to have avoided those pitfalls. There are solid challenges before the government such as Debt Crisis which the Rajapaksa regime left behind and are now nonchalantly denying responsibility. The total outstanding debt by December 2015 was a whopping Rs. 8,475 billion amounting to 74.9 per cent of our GDP.

sri lanka 2The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government with Ravi Karunanayake as Finance Minister has been deftly steering a course in foreign policy and an international financial strategy to take us out of the woods. It’s a stupendous task but the moves are correct. Initially, although it appeared to be heading towards a clash with China on the Colombo Port City, matters appear to have been resolved and Sino-Sri Lanka relations are on the mend much to the dismay of the government’s foes. Indo-Lanka relations too are progressing well commencing from rock bottom during the last stages of the Rajapaksa government. With improved relations with the Western powers as well as Russia and Iran, Sri Lanka can hope for all round international support to come out of the current financial mess much to the disappointment of self-proclaimed international affairs pundits who postulated Sri Lanka playing the outdated Cold War game of the ‘India Card’ and pronounced Sri Lanka as being doomed.

Sri Lanka sees its way out of the woods but is still not out of it. A sustained effort is required, particularly to draw in foreign investments. Minor squabbles with the Joint Opposition, comprising mostly of a few experienced and inexperienced eccentrics best be ignored and the sights focused on the way out of the woods.