Mahinda’s 50 years in politics A battle-hardened politician who’s still indispensable

18 June 2020 12:53 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The UNP at that time never sensed that the defeated Rajapaksa would be making a comeback


Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa is a patient man. Fifty years of politics has taught him to learn that trait; something which he has showcased both in victory and defeat. 


His half century in politics came to be reviewed, mostly by the media. This man, nearing his 75th birthday, seemingly allowed this milestone to pass sans much pomp and pageantry. Of course there were blessings from well-wishers and attention from the media. But lawmakers like Mangala Samaraweera (30 years), Wimal Weerawansa (20 years), Dilan Perera (25 years) and John Amaratunga (40 years) hogged the limelight with celebrations in the field of politics; contrary to how Rajapaksa mindfully watched the reaching of a milestone as a lawmaker. 


Men who have something working in their heads are silent most of the time. History shows that this Rajapaksa when silent can be a dangerous opponent. One can remember following the crushing defeat at the 2015 presidential elections how he went back to Madamulana and started visiting temples. The victorious president Maithripala Sirisena started globe trotting at that time and even took his eyes off his political opponents. Those with an acute sense for pick up political developments observed the large crowds that flocked around Rajapaksa at these places of worship. The UNP at that time never sensed that the defeated Rajapaksa would be making a comeback. Political analysts state that by 2017-18 Rajapaksa had worked himself up to become the unofficial president of this country. The response he made during a newspaper interview to the question ‘is it justifiable for a lawmaker to secure power by entering through the backdoor’ was ‘a politician must grab power the first instance he sees an opportunity. Whether he does it by entering through the backdoor is irrelevant”. Rajapaksa fits the description of being a seasoned politician. 

 

His ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’ offered the platform to establish democracy in politics, writes Alahakoon. The writer adds that Rajapaksa’s thinking went beyond the teachings of socialism


Hector Alahakoon in his book ‘Janasammathawadaya’-the title of the book when translated into English reads as democracy- states that Mahinda Rajapaksa was successful as president because he addressed the island’s issues by seeing through a pair of spectacles which had the two words ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ inscribed on it. His ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’ offered the platform to establish democracy in politics, writes Alahakoon. The writer adds that Rajapaksa’s thinking went beyond the teachings of socialism. 


Rajapaksa’s strong point, as many believe, is his capacity to manage time and maintain his rapport with people. This was mentioned recently by none other than Vasudeva Nanayakkara who also celebrated 50 years in politics alongside Rajapaksa. 


Rajapaksa qualified as a lawyer, but his dad’s political career had a strong influence on him; resulting in Rajapaksa taking to politics at a rather young age of 25. He entered parliament along side his friend Nanayakkara on June 7, 1970. At that time he was the youngest ever lawmaker from Sri Lanka to do so. 


He was a people’s person and soon encountered much trouble. This was because of his nature to get involved people’s struggles; without looking into the backgrounds of who he was backing. This resulted in Rajapaksa learning some painful lessons. He was once arrested for breaching the law when engaging in political work and had to come in handcuffs to pay his last respects to his mother who had died. 


His mother Dona Dandinna Samarasinghe Dissanayake produced four male siblings-Mahinda, Basil, Chamal and Gotabaya- who are all engaged in active politics. From the four Mahinda came up the hard way and reached the top in politics before the rest of his brothers. Much credit goes to their father D.A Rajapaksa for the successes of these Rajapaksa brothers in politics. Their mother had once said that her children had learned more than what their schools had taught them just by being with her husband. 


His early years were spent in strengthening his vote base and building his profile. Rajapaksa ventured into the field of Human Rights and was an activist. It was he who proposed that Sri Lanka should have an institute set up for the purpose of protecting human rights in the island. He even dared to go to Geneva and spoke against the Premadasa regime;highlighting the human rights violations caused during the 1988-89 period where many youth went missing due to a rebel uprising championed by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Rajapaksa was not part of a government deligation and protested on the sidelines of the event; his efforts being a succes because he was able to gain the attention of the international media. 


But the irony of all that is that he turned his back, years later, on the policies that molded him, when political power made him  ruthless. He gave leadership to militarily destroying the LTTE tiger terrorists, but how the war was fought during its last stages saw him being accused of committing war crimes. Rajapkasa however denies this claim of war charges being levelled against him. 


Another factor that made him propel to the top was the generous media attention he received throughout his career in politics. Even in the field of media, like with human rights, Rajapaksa turned his back on them. In this sphere of mainstream media scribes found it hard to practice their profession because of attacks on journalists. The worst attacks on the media took place during the first year of Rajapaksa’s presidency. As with how lawmakers view the efforts of the media this much can be said; a journalist is showed with praise by a lawmaker when the scribe supports the latter’s vision or attacks his or her enemy. Those who practise trash journalism however maintain that Rajapaksa remains a loyal friend of the media. 


It was difficult to fathom how Rajapaksa moved away from the people’s perspective and became unpopular before his second term ended. Defeated and thrown out of power, it were people like Wimal Weerawansa who initiated Rajapaksa’s comeback to power thought the campaign ‘Mahinda Sulanga’. As mentioned earlier he soon regained clout in the political scene and was considered a community leader who had to be brought back to save this country’s assets from being sold out to foreign nations. 


Rajapaksa gave the nod to his brother Gotabaya to come forward as the elections candidate from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). But there are those who are not very pleased with how President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is making appointments to state institutes by selecting retired military officers. 


Regardless of whether Gotabaya fails or succeeds as president, Rajapaksa (Mahinda) is seen nurturing Gampaha District organiser Prasanna Ranatunga; who is considered as a capable organsier and an upcoming politician who has the potential to lead a political party. 


Right now the date for the parliamentary elections has been declared and the SLPP marshalled by Rajapkasa is hard at work. According to media reports Ranatunga has set two goals for SLPP supporters; one is to send as many as 13 MPs who’ll never desert Mahinda Rajapaksa to parliament and the other is for supporters to get the Pohottuwa Party 10 lakhs votes at the upcoming elections. 


Mahinda Rajapaksa has the penchant to nurture such goals because he has the political background to back such tasks. His son Namal is yet too young and at times naive in handling political matters. Nurturing Prasanna Ranatunga till Namal matures might be a wise thing to do. Even at present the hot seat in politics is secured for the family with Gotabaya functioning as president. 


When the British handed back the country to the island’s representatives opinion was formed that Sri Lankans weren’t ready to take over governance. A similar situation exists in the political camp of the SLPP. The party is not ready yet to survive without Mahinda Rajapaksa. This makes him indispensable; even for a 
little longer. 

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  • Danny Thursday, 18 June 2020 07:53 AM

    Does he really think so?

    RP Saturday, 20 June 2020 09:46 AM

    Mahinda could have been the building block between the Tamils and Sinhalese by implementing the 13 solution he promised India. After the war unfortunately, everyone "forgot" the intelligence rendered by India and the US to defeat the LTTE. Mahinda and the country missed a golden opportunity.


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