By Mass l. Usuf
As I sit to write this column, I am reminded of an article that I wrote to a website titled, ‘Pre-And Post-2015 Rajapaksa And The Road To 2020’ dated 15 February.
His post-war victory speech in May 2009 still reverberates in our ears. The then President Mahinda Rajapaksa went on to say, “There are no minorities… We are one nation… We must live like children of one mother…All people in this country must live without fear and suspicion…To protect the Tamil speaking people is my responsibility.”
Unfortunately, this euphoria did not last long. Seemingly, the noble expressions turned out to be despicable political rhetoric. In contrast to the humbleness of winning the hearts and minds of the people, what became manifest was an oversized Maha Rajanano ego. Those around the Maha Rajanano were massaging his ego to ecstasy. His priorities shifted to self -consolidation and enrichment of his family, while the cohorts around him were salivating to pick up the crumbs that fell from his plate.
Either misled by his advisors or emboldened by the victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Rajapaksa chose a strategic ultra-nationalistic racist path. The constitutionally fixed two-term limitation for Presidency and the independent commissions put in place as a check on the Executive were unceremoniously thrown out. The dreaded 18th Amendment was introduced as an urgent Bill and was whizzed through Parliament. An unintended consequential fascist regime was in the making.
Sri Lankans were beginning to see a fast mutating Mahinda Rajapaksa.’
One has to admit that the era prior to January 2015 was a period that no civic- minded, decent and respectable Sri Lankan would ever like to go back to. Corruption, nepotism, thuggery, disappearances and such evils ruled the roost. The people at the 2015 Presidential election unequivocally expressed their disgust and abhorrence to the system that prevailed and opted for change. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the demigod was shown the door.
The downfall did not end there. Then came the General Elections where he was defeated again. The double whammy – setback at the Presidential and General Elections – in the year 2015 was an extremely depressing period I believe, in his entire political life. The battered oversized ego was psychologically distressed and at its nadir.
Learning from mistakes
As the initial shock that impacted Mahinda Rajapaksa was waning off, he began to realize his stupidities. He is known to be a shrewd schemer and would bide time with lots of patience. As a person, he very well knew that he had to mend fences with the Muslim community while not distancing his populist vote bank, the Sinhala Buddhist voters. In his list of confidence restructuring were the Buddhist monks. He pampered them with Sinhala Buddhist nationalistic rhetoric. A fortnight hardly passed without the media televising Mahinda at some Temple. He was gradually and effectively rebuilding his tarnished image. One has to give credit to him for carefully orchestrating with success the process of regaining his lost self-glory. The Pohottuwa victory at the Local Government Elections provides ample evidence.
Who was behind it or who planned it, does not matter; Mahinda Rajapaksa pressed the self-destruct button on 26 October – the day he accepted the appointment as Prime Minister in the most unorthodox fashion in the political history of this island. The slimy patriots, vituperative scumbags, opportunistic nationalists, pretentious economic pundits, the indicted, the convicted et al, who were taking refuge under him, were naturally jubilant.
The nation was shocked to witness the idiosyncratic behaviour of President Sirisena. He literally threw the country into the path of chaos. This decision reveals the lack of foresight on the part of the President.
The ousted PM challenged his dismissal as unconstitutional. The alliance of the dismissed Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was fully geared up to meet in Parliament; the institution where the floor test can take place to ascertain as to who commanded the majority in Parliament, according to the Constitution. Mahinda knew very well that he did not have the required numbers but yet was holding on to the position of Prime Minister, thereby, proving to the public that he was power hungry and would try to get it by any means. His ratings in the minds of the people took a hit downwards.
Blunder after blunder
To add salt to injury and of course, most unethically, President Sirisena committed another act of impudence by proroguing Parliament on 27 October, thereby, depriving the democratically facilitated floor test to ascertain a majority in Parliament. Political analysts viewed the act of prorogation as a means of buying time to garner support for the new Prime Minister. The illegal horse-trading that took place following the appointment and the prorogation were all the direct consequential effect of the initial cause of dismissal of the sitting Prime Minister. Everyone is aware of the hundreds of millions of Rupees that were being offered to shamelessly buy over MPs. Power-brokering for self-survival took precedence over the country’s survival. Let the country be damned! No one says so but their behaviour clearly demonstrates this.
Adding to the list of blunders is another one of President Sirisena announcing that he will not appoint Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as the PM. “This is clear personal vendetta for which the peace, stability and economy of the country are at stake”, observed a commentator. President Sirisena must be told that the Head of State does not manage a country like managing his backyard. There is a Constitution and that has to be religiously followed. The public is at present totally dismayed and greatly offended. They refuse to acknowledge the conduct of Mahinda Rajapaksa who wants to hold on to power even by allegedly resorting to unethical means of bribing MPs.
Moreover, the absolutely unacceptable and despicable behaviour of those in the Mahinda camp in the well of the Parliament on the past two occasions (14 and 16 November) has very badly spoilt the image that he was so beautifully rebuilding. The people are saying that Mahinda the veteran politician knows what is happening is wrong but yet chooses to turn the other side. The public has now convincingly started to speculate that Mahinda Rajapaksa is a power-hungry politician. His image is now worse than what it was before January 2015.
It must be mentioned Kumara Welgama was the only person from Mahinda’s camp who was honest and forthright in his views. He obviously did not endorse the series of events.
Today, every other person in the street is speaking about the instability in the country. There is a growing sense of apprehension given the uncertain political climate that is prevailing. ‘Monawa Weida’ (what will happen) is a question to which answers are not coming forth that easily. Earlier citizen Perera was not so much bothered about what was taking place within the confines of Diyawanna Oya or in the air-conditioned offices and residences of the ‘elite’ lot, who call themselves politicians. Citizen Perera was burdened with enough worries of his own thinking of how to make ends meet. This poor fellow is now additionally burdened and is in mortal fear wondering what is in store for him when he wakes up the next morning.
The directors of the drama are directing it and redirecting it and re-redirecting the scenes too very often that Citizen Perera’s mind is befuddled; hence, the question from the petit bourgeois ‘Monawa Weida’.
Having accepted the PM’s post and unable to show a Parliamentary majority, Rajapaksa is now calling for fresh General Elections. Citizen Perera is asking, “If he is keen on fresh General Elections, why did he accept the post of PM ” Now the common refrain in the lips of the public is, “munta aayith chande denne nehe” meaning, “we will not vote for them again”.