It appears that the previous president’s shoes are too big to fill. Mahinda Rajapaksa had set some benchmarks -- some are blatantly bad -- which the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena finds difficult to ignore. The best example of this is the Avurudu text message President Sirisena sent to all Sri Lankans using mobile telephone networks. Mahinda Rajapaksa started it when he was president by opening up a channel of direct communication between him and the people, sending New Year and Avurudu messages, though we as citizens could not wish him in return.
It suited Rajapaksa when he did it. He was a larger than life leader who vanquished Prabhakaran, once thought invincible. Rajapaksa portrayed himself as a people’s leader, which he was, though in his second term in office, he and his cronies usurped his popularity to their advantage especially among the village people. For most Sri Lankans getting a direct text message from the president, wishing them for the New Year was something they regarded very highly. However, the Colombo elite and the so called intellectuals made a hue and cry over this, which they have a right to do.
They were keen to know who bore the spectrum charges for the text messages sent by the president. Was it his personal money or the public had wished themselves at their own cost? They also questioned Rajapaksa’s right to send messages to people’s private mobile phones without their consent, which is an argument many Sri Lankans fail to fathom, as not only their mobile phones, but their entire private lives are bombarded by all sorts of intruders and spammers, without their prior consent. In fact, many Sri Lankans find this normal and amusing.
The then Opposition also created an uproar over this and charged Rajapaksa of wasting public funds to build his image. They were right, as there were no clues that Rajapaksa had paid the bill. May be that the Telecom companies had swallowed up the cost themselves to please the then regime, which for all private businesses is a must.
Then, on April 14, 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena who overthrew Rajapaksa on promises of good governance sends text messages wishing us a “Suba Aluth Avuruddak” in all three languages. The message was identical to the one Rajapksa sent on January 1, 2015. Only the president’s name was different. Instead of President Mahinda Rajapaksa it read President Maithripala Sirisena.
Now the same questions have to be asked from President Sirisena. Who paid the spectrum charges? Since he came to power promising good governance, we hope President Sirisena paid the charges using his personal money. Besides, such populist tactics are not befitting a president who seems extremely austere in his conduct. Could be that President Sirisena should have a chat with his publicists and strategists! Maybe the decision to send the text message was forced upon President Sirisena. Despite him not being the president anymore, Rajapaksa held a grand Avurudu ceremony at his Cartlon residence in Tangalle and some media channels provided live coverage of the event. Meanwhile, pushing messages without our consent to our private mobile phones is definitely not good governance!
All in all, it seems the legacy of Rajapaksa -- which includes many positives and a lot more negatives -- still haunts the present regime and its leaders. While it seems awfully ironic, it is also saddening to realise how a leader with great potential failed halfway through, consumed by his own flaws.
Comments - 3
Lali Friday, 17 April 2015 06:57 PM
Very good article. However, public money shoud not be spent for personal gains. We still could not understand how a great leader like Mahinda got it wrong. Hope he may overcome these faults and direct the country to success again.
chamila pothupitiya Saturday, 18 April 2015 07:20 AM
It is not a crime to send a public message wishing new year by president even at cost of public funds but have to be declared. Receiving such a txt from president motivates public create a sense of togetherness whoever the presodent in power.
Piyal Friday, 17 April 2015 08:59 PM
Mahinda did certain things that should not be done.So we expected yahapalanaya MR. Sirisena would not do those things. But see what in happening. He appoints his brother as head of Telecom, his son-in-law to the Defense ministry etc. Now he is sending Aurudu greeting SMS at whode expense?
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