President Mahinda Rajapaksa needs to transform himself from an incomparable public relations (PR) strategist to a great leader. It is no doubt good PR skills are essential for a ruler. But an excess of it, for a period too long, could largely prove inefficient and counter-productive.
In the eye of a PR professional, the recent speech given by President Rajapaksa on the 65th Independence Day would have been a tremendous display of President Rajapaksa’s comprehension of the average human mind. As expected, he on that day, stood tall as a great people’s leader. But, the question is, how beneficial is this display of PR skills to the country in the long run?
Since he became Sri Lanka’s fourth Executive President, Rajapaksa evolved himself as a great leader of the people, principally backed by his victory against the separatist LTTE. However, it is debatable how much he has evolved ideologically.
President Rajapaksa probably possesses the sharpest political mind amongst the list of the local politicians we earlier thought sharp. But it seems political sharpness and great leadership go opposite-ways. While the earlier schemes to maintain and enhance political authority by whatever means available, the latter strives to do the right thing even at the risk of losing political power.
As founder editor of Ravaya, Victor Ivan very rightly said in one of his columns, following the war victory President Rajapaksa was exalted to the state of a god and people expected him to act like one. But, unfortunately it didn’t take too long for one to see that his shoes were too large for him. The small man continued to live within him despite the acquired greatness.
We were able to watch the movie Lincoln by maverick filmmaker Steven Spielberg, recently, where British actor Daniel Day-Lewis gives a brilliant performance as America’s most respected President, Abraham Lincoln. The film which was based on true accounts shows Lincoln’s tireless efforts to pass the 13th Amendment through which he plans to abolish slavery throughout the New World.
The victory in Civil War elevated Lincoln to greatness and he was not the same President that was there before the war. The shoes were not too big for him as Lincoln possessed the required depth and ideological profundity to adapt to the demigod figure that people attributed to him. He was no more the narrow minded politician who he once was.
Lincoln used the victory in the Civil War to abolish slavery and bring emancipation to millions of coloured people in the Americas, almost laying his political future on the line.
Popular politics have always proved to be detrimental to countries and leaders in the long run. President Rajapaksa still has time to get used to the new shoes, the ones he may have thought too large for him once, before the very masses that were attracted to his PR skills get bored of them.