India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sri Lanka’s former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, and Maldives’ former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Mohamed Nasheed and Mohamed Waheed attend the Maldives’ President-elect Ibrahim Solih’s swearing in ceremony in Maldives (Reuter)
Political analysts see her playing a bigger role in politics
But today she sees her blood boil for Sirisena has been accused of destroying the SLFP
She is still a sort-after speaker at many forums
Many of her critics must be reminded of how J.R.J described Chandrika, in politics
Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga is very much in the news these days and even received an invitation to attend the swearing in ceremony of Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in Male, Maldives.
Like former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Chandrika is another Sri Lankan politician who has earned the respect of the international community. It is reported that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chandrika in the sidelines of the big event in Male and even inquired into the political situation in Sri Lanka.
Political analysts see her playing a bigger role in politics, largely because she is the SLFP’s organiser for Attanagalla and also due to the fact that the blue party has been weakened due to losing of many of its high profile members to the newly formed ‘Pohottuwa party’.
Chandrika took a backseat in Sri Lanka politics after she was forced to leave office in 2004 because the Constitution barred her from running for presidency a third time. She had constant arguments with her successor Mahinda Rajapaksa, who she accused of working against her interests in politics. Chandrika even accused Rajapaksa of isolating her from politics and also for prohibiting parliamentarians from meeting her. It seems the time has come for her to give the return to Rajapaksa which she did by refusing the present premier an audience with her despite calls being made thrice to set up a meeting between the two. Some see her as stubborn, but Chandrika’s official explanation for snubbing Rajapaksa was that she would not meet the man who destroyed the very political party which gave him a shoulder to rise.
Chandrika’s appearances at political platforms here and abroad give hope to many and also raises speculation as to whether she would return to active politics. Many years ago when there was a debate on whether Rajapaksa could contest the presidency for the third time, she announced that she was interested in becoming the prime minister; not necessarily under Rajapaksa, in case he won.
In 2015 she was in the limelight throwing her weight behind the National Movement for Social Justice in the run-up to the presidential elections. She worked along with Ranil Wickremesinghe and others in a group marshalled by the late Ven.Sobith Thera, shelving the differences she had with the UNP stalwart, Wickremesinghe. She was one key figure behind bringing President Sirisena to the hot seat of the presidency.
Do these signs indicate that Modi’s vision has caught the sight of a new ally which would help forge India’s interests in Sri Lanka?
But today she sees her blood boil for Sirisena has been accused of destroying the SLFP by teaming up with Rajapaksa, who left the blue party to strengthen the newly formed Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Chandrika belongs to the era of politics where law makers backed the cause of the common man. She continued in the lines of what her father introduced to local politics; ushering in the era of the common man.
She couldn’t have had a better start to politics and worked behind the shadows of her late husband Vijaya Kumaratunga who was slowly working towards becoming the president of Sri Lanka. She was critisised for forming an alliance with several leftists after Vijaya’s death. But once she assumed power in 1994 she showed that she had a mind of her own to pursue politics in a country which was already severely affected by a civil war.
Ability to promise change
Even when assuming duties, there was hope in the north for peace. She has that ability even now to promise change during periods of distress. At a time when Sirisena is fast losing appeal, analysts believe that Chandrika has the makings to rally the blue party together if given an opportunity.
Recently she released a statement to the media regarding the chaotic political situation in the country. Her statement says, “The scenes being played out in the past in parliament destroy the people’s confidence in democracy. The time has come like never before for Sri Lankans to stand up for freedom and good governance. The country has reached a dangerous precipice of chaos, anarchy and breakdown of the law”.
She is still a sort-after speaker at many forums and received an invitation to speak at the 29th LAWASIA Conference (Golden Jubilee conference in 2016) in Colombo. There she said, ‘The state must have the political will to engage in a honest process with regard to reconciliation”. She had also said that her country had won a war, but still there was no peace.
Very recently we came to know that Indian Premier Modi was dissatisfied with Sri Lanka’s efforts in carrying out many Indian funded projects in the island. History reveals that Indian has played a role over the years in making inputs to the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka. This could be one reason why Modi was so eager to meet Chandrika in Male. Do these signs indicate that Modi’s vision has caught the sight of a new ally which would help forge India’s interests in Sri Lanka?
Chandrika has a role to play in the SLFP as the organiser for Attanagalla. Many believe that she can take on bigger roles and strengthen the party, which was a force to be reckoned with in the 1950s and the early 1990s. She has said that she regrets some party members joining hands with a political group which is destroying fundamental rights, democracy, democratic institutions and are building disruptive networks of graft and corruption. Her voice has never been heard so loud in the political scenes like now.
In September she declared open the Gonagala Bridge, which falls across the Attanagalla Oya, amidst protests by SLPP supporters who claimed the project was commenced during the Rajapaksa regime. Chandrika showing the willingness to accept the post of Organiser of Attanagalla underscores that she has more years in her to serve the public.
We mustn’t forget the fact that she is one of those rare politicians who is armed with a degree in political science. She has also shown through her actions that she stands for fair play and democracy and honours the rule of the law. For the record she is one who believed in a political solution when Tiger rebels were staging war for a separate state. She paid the price for her thinking when she lost an eye when terrorists exploded a bomb at a rally she was attending. Her actor turned politician husband was gunned down near his residence in 1988, a time when the country was feeling the heat of conflicts in the north and south both. But despite all these disturbances in her life she has chosen to return to politics.
Many of her critics who don’t take her seriously must be reminded of how former President J.R Jayewardene-terned the Old Fox- described Chandrika, in politics. He had said, “Don’t take her seriously when she speaks, but watch her closely when she starts working”.