he acolytes of Mahinda Rajapaksa say the ex-President’s opponents are preventing him from running as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), because he can win.
Mr. Rajapaksa also repeated those claims at a meeting in Ratgama, saying that the two term limit of the Presidency had been restored by the 19th Amendment in order to deprive him from running for another term. These claims are too simplistic. Of course, millions of people who voted out Mr. Rajapaksa do not want to see him back in the office (Or running for it). However, it is not because he will win, but because they fear what he would do after winning (if ever).
Rajapaksa has a proven penchant to abuse power that was vested with him. Like many dozens of his predecessors in Asia and Africa, Rajapaksa preached democracy till he get elected, only to suppress those very democratic rights and dismantle very democratic institutions.
There is no guarantee that he would be different, if he ever gets another opportunity. To usher his absolute rule, he would begin with dismantling the very institutions that were recently empowered by the 19th Amendment. Incipient independent institutions would not survive a yet another onslaught by the Rajapaksas.
"The conditions that he and his coterie laid out at the meeting they had with President Sirisena vindicate the divisive and self-serving campaign Rajapaksa has led, from behind the scene, since his election defeat"
Simply put, Rajapaksa is bad news for democracy in the country. His conduct during the second term is testimonial to that.
Second, he is bad news for the integrity of his own party (SLFP), which, the new president who is also the Chairman of the SLFP is trying to regroup and resurrect.
In the same way, he turned the country into his personal fiefdom, Mr. Rajapaksa turned the party apparatus of the SLFP into a rubber stamp of his familial autocracy. He crushed the internal dissent, sidelined party seniors and dragged the party towards ultra-nationalism, providing space for ruble-rousing Wimal Weerawansa and et al at the expense of the party seniors.
He alienated the minority voters, and had no qualm to incite veiled racism in the South, which he expected would translate into votes. He described Maithripala Sirisena as an agent of the diaspora and that the latter was elected by the minority. Ven. Sobitha Thera, a founder of the people’s movement that ushered the political change says, it is a paradox that Mr. Rajapaksa now wants to be the Prime Minister of a future government headed by President Sirisena.
Rajapaksa’s policies resulted in an ethnic polarization in the country, which is manifest in the results of the January 8th election. He himself admitted relying solely on the Sinhalese voters and expecting a lesser voter turnout in the North.
That polarization is something he as the President of the country could easily have avoided especially since the end of the war, had he considered himself as the President of all Sri Lankans. Instead, he thrived in ultra nationalism in the post war Sri Lanka and utilised that to build his personality cult and to legitimise an increasingly authoritarian regime.
However, now, in the changing public perception towards a more pluralistic Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa is more likely to be a liability than an asset to the SLFP.
His Prime Ministerial candidacy would drive away minority voters in the South from the SLFP. Allegations of massive corruption that haunt the Rajapaksa and his coterie would, in turn, haunt the election campaign of the party, further denting the popular support in the South.
And Rajapaksa would not care about any of the above.
The conditions that he and his coterie laid out at the meeting they had with President Sirisena vindicate the divisive and self-serving campaign Rajapaksa has led, from behind the scene, since his election defeat.
He wanted himself to be the Prime Ministerial candidate (Neither Rajapaksa nor did any of his predecessors dating back to R. Premadasa nominate a Prime Ministerial candidate prior to the election, preferring to keep the party seniors guessing).
Rajapaksa wanted to head the SLFP nomination committee at the next general election. That is interesting, since Rajapaksa in his second term, brought into national level politics under the thinly veiled disguise of infusing young blood into politics, a group of youthful Parliamentarians of questionable integrity in order to prop up the dynastic ambitions of Presidential scion Namal.
Granted that young blood and new faces are needed to maintain the vitality of politics. To achieve that end, J.R. Jayewardene introduced into politics Lalith, Gamini and Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Rajapaksa brought in and patronised Lohan Ratwatte, Duminda Silva and many others of the same ilk. Such self serving acts are bound to have grave repercussions at the national level, more so in the long term than in the short term. Since politics is a continuity, it would be those like Duminda Silva, who is now being investigated for alleged links with drug kingpin Welle Suda, we will have as future ministers.
The strategy of Rajapaksa was clear. It was to surround himself and his son (Whose dynastic succession, he feared would be undermined by an ambitious Basil) with a group of hand-picked servile young Parliamentarians, who lacked ingenuity, initiative and integrity and relied solely on their blind loyalty to the Rajapaksas.
The members of that bunch and their discarded seniors have now thrust themselves to ‘defend’ the ex-president. That is really a strategy to ensure their political survival. Some of them were seen at a rally held in Kurunegala to support Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Prime Minister bid.
Third, the ex-President wants the government to disband the Police Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID) and to rescind a Gazette notification, which enabled a Cabinet Sub- Committee headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to forward complaints directly to the FCID (In addition to complaints which are forwarded by the anti- corruption secretariat to the IGP.)
Rajapaksa says FCID is involved in a ‘witch- hunt’. And true to his form, Wimal Weerawansa has described the FCID as a ‘Western conspiracy’.
A sane observer would see such an outburst as hypocritical cants. Sri Lankans have seen more than their share of witch hunts, and many of them were at the receiving end of them, in the past. Things have changed since then. State media now engage in a civilized discourse. Police and military excesses have been brought under control. The Judiciary is acting independent and last week, the court ruled as invalid the sacking of Tissa Attanayake, former UNP General Secretary from the party.
Rajapaksas and their coterie fear the FCID for the obvious reasons. This special unit of the Police has proved it really means business, unlike the Bribery Commission which is still being handicapped by the dearth of expertise and the commissioners who were hand-picked by Rajapaksa.
"They have skeletons in the closets. Mangala Samaraweera, the foreign minister says Rajapaksas have siphoned $18 billion of public funds. Those figures could well be too farfetched to believe. But, the ex-president and his coterie have reasons to loath the FCID."
FCID has quizzed a long list of Rajapaksa coterie, many of whom have been implicated in massive fraud and corruption. And Rajapaksa says they were unfairly targeted.
For an outsider, it sounds like, “They may be corrupt … but, why only my people have been arrested?” The bottom line is that their corruption thrived under the Rajapaksa Presidency. The ex-President is on record as saying he has stopped authorities from taking action against some of the former ministers.
However, an impartial observer is right to find procedural errors in the handling of the FCID, which until now is investigating cases that have been forwarded to it by the Cabinet Sub-Committee headed by the Prime Minister.
Ranil Wickremesinghe may have good intentions, but they have the opposite effect, and give the public the perception that FCID is a political tool.
The recent decision -that was taken after the President’s meeting with Rajapaksa- to allow the public to lodge complaints directly with the anti-corruption secretariat and the FCID should rectify those loop-holes.
However, whether those measures would address the concerns of Rajapaksa and his coterie is not clear.
They have skeletons in the closets. Mangala Samaraweera, the foreign minister says Rajapaksas have siphoned US$ 18 billion of public funds. Those figures could well be too far-fetched to believe. But, the ex-President and his coterie have reasons to loath the FCID.
They would not be content unless the new government scrapes the FCID for once and all. That President Sirisena stood his ground and refused to do so has now turned them into an angry and unhappy lot. We will see many more rallies in the coming weeks.
Rajapaksa as a Prime Minister would mean the end of the on-going investigations into his coterie. And a new era of crony capitalism would begin.
Should Rajapaksa ever become the Prime Minister, the democratic revolution that unfolded since January 8 would become a non-event. International goodwill and political capital that we garnered since the election of the new President would end up in the drains.
Democratic reforms that were ushered in and independent institutions built since then would be dismantled. We would gradually slide into a familial autocracy. Those are all good reasons for one to worry about the ex-President’s bid for the Prime Ministership.
Follow Ranga Jayasuriya @RangaJayasuriay on twitter.
Comments - 1
punchinilame Tuesday, 12 May 2015 04:47 PM
The 19th amend. has NOT been signed yet by the speakerand therefore is not valid.
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