Mahinda Rajapaksa said this in India, when asked by the Hindu whether a member of his family or an outsider would be considered a candidate for the presidency in the coming presidential election. He left no room for doubts about the family way in politics. His response was: “My son can’t be a presidential candidate since they have now raised the minimum age to 35 years, instead of 30, so he can’t be considered in 2019. My brother is certainly a contender, but the party and the coalition will have to decide who the people want.”
What party and what coalition will decide who the people want, other than who he wants nominated?
The Rajapaksa Pavula must be enraged at the 19th Amendment. It is not the stuff of politics the way they look at it. Under his own 18th Amendment, which could be called the ‘Daha Ata Sanniya’ in politics, it was all set out the family way. He would contest a third term, as he did in January 2015, win as the pavula expected, serve five or six years or even much less, and then hand the reins of government to his political and pavul successor – Namal Rajapaksa.
The Constitution had worked it out the Family Way. Namal was born on 10 April 1986. He would complete 30 years in April 2016, reaching the age to be the next president.
This damn 19A. It is a Pavul Vinashaya – a Family Disaster. MR is unable to run for a fourth term, which his own 18A allowed. It knocked off his plan to induct his son Namal to the office of family power and glory after even two years of the father’s third term. Yes, we know he was defeated in that.
This is certainly not the stuff of politics in Sri Lanka, the way the Rajapaksas look at it. Let’s not forget that father-to-son power and politics did not begin with the Rajapaksas. It all began with Senanayakes. It was the ‘Father of the Nation’ DS Senanayake, who arranged for his son to succeed him as Prime Minister, in the first change of leadership in the country. This was supported by the British Governor Soulbury, who must have liked the monarchic succession, although this is a democracy.
The next big change came from the Bandaranaikes. To be fair SWRD Bandaranaike did not show any signs of family favouritism. He was assassinated, and the succession went first on caste, and then to his wife. Then the family trend took on again. It went from mother to daughter, the son could not catch up.
And then came Rajapaksa – the political family from the South, which has transcended every aspect of Pavul Balaya.
The first step was to push out of memory the first Rajapaksa, who made a dramatic entry into politics. It was DM – Don Mathew Rajapaksa, who began his politics, supporting the Communist Party leader Dr. SA Wickremesinghe in the first State Council election in 1931. He next contested the State Council in 1936 and was elected for the Hambantota District.
DM Rajapaksa was the political leader who began wearing the earth brown – Sataka – shawl, the colour of kurakkan grown by the cultivators in Hambantota. His support for the people saw him being called – Ruhuney Sinhaya or the Lion of Ruhuna. He had an early death, and was succeeded in politics by his younger brother Don Alvin – DA Rajapaksa, the father of Mahinda.
In the matter of family politics, it is good to remember that his two sons –Lakshman and George Rajapaksa were both elected to parliament, and held ministerial office. His grand-daughter, Nirupama Rajapaksa also served in parliament. But that is now the largely forgotten and pushed aside past.
The brown satakaya was turned red and worn by Mahinda. His father DA did cross over to the opposition with SWRD. But was no big political figure. He was briefly Minister of Agriculture for one year in W. Dahanayake’s government and later Deputy Speaker.
Let’s get to the realm of Maha Pavula, with that hugely costly Memorial and Museum to Don Alvin Rajapaksa (associated with a legal case today). DA Rajapaksa gave us the real family of power, as no other politician has done in this country. His son Mahinda – Minister, Opposition Leader, Prime Minister and then President. He won and lost elections, but saw his power grow.
His brother Chamal moved to politics from the Police, was a Minister and the Speaker. Another brother Basil, contested from the UNP and lost, and after acquiring US citizenship, moved in as an Advisor to the President brother Mahinda. Later won an election from Gampaha and was a Minister too. The other brother, Gotabaya, served in the Army, was associated in the fight with the LTTE as an officer, left the country during the war, obtained US citizenship, and came here to serve as the Defence Secretary of his brother Mahinda. The family extends with Namal Putha – Member of Parliament and the family successor to the Presidency.
This is certainly a Family of Power and Politics. Mahinda Rajapaksa sees the need for the family to wield power. Not just be a voice in the Joint Opposition. The Deshapala Puthraya – Political Son – must have his day on the seat of power. There must be a way for the son to move in to the office that was so well planned with the 18A. Damn this 19A.
Can he trust a brother who is in the wings for the next presidency, to pave the way for his son? That is part of a family conundrum. The politics in families can certainly move in twists and turns. An uncle may not be the best hope for a politically ambitious but not so capable son. This is certainly a paternal problem for one who wishes to see a dynastic succession from father to son.
Forget the JVP’s 20th Amendment. Will there be a Rajapaksa 20th A – to get back to 18A and the glory of family succession in a democracy of corrupt power?
You may chew over this on nuts that were not good enough for our President. But keep in mind that we are being lined up for a Piya-Puthu Bala Keliya – and not a Kadju Keliya.