This is in reply to Dr. Nalin de Silva’s interview to Kelum Bandara of Daily Mirror, dated March 6, 2018. Dr. de Silva raises various issues here, but I wish to respond to him only on two counts: Basil Rajapaksa caused Maithripala Sirisena’s defection to the opposition in the run up to the presidential elections in 2015 and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) should have been formed before the general elections in August 2015. These two seem to have a sizeable following in the un-enlightened sections of the society at large as well. Dr de Silva says, “It was Basil Rajapaksa who was behind this. Most ministers were not in favour of Mahinda Rajapaksa because of Basil Rajapaksa. If anybody is responsible for the defection, it is Basil. Ask Maithripala. People do not understand this”.
Dr. de Silva is unfortunately unconvinced in his own conviction, when he says ‘ask Maithripala’. He wants us to ask the plaintiff to verify his charge. But, this is more than that. De Silva, not only limits his reading of so called January 8th political dynamic that resulted in unseating Mahinda Rajapaksa to a triviality, but also gives a tacit legitimacy to the regime change project, which Dr. Silva himself laments naming it a ‘western conspiracy’.
One should not forget that, in the aftermath of President Sirisena’s ascent to office and leadership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, there were attempts by various parties to sugar-coat Maithripala’s defection to the opposition, showing it as a compulsion, not a choice. So, narratives were created to suit this. The learned professor too seem to have ignored those narratives, while making the above charge.
In fact, Basil did nothing to send Maithripala to the Opposition. It was a carefully planned political formation. Leaders in the present government itself have endorsed this view. How does Dr. Silva explain the defection of former army commander to run against his former commander-in-chief Mahinda Rajapaksa. Is it also Basil or some other for that matter? Political twists and turns, taking place from time to time should not be read that cheaply, for such events have their multi-faceted origins.
Anyhow, in this pointing of finger at Mr Basil R for this and many more, Dr. Silva is not alone. It is a shared myth. So that it warrants a careful background reading.
Let me begin. Basil Rajapaksa was the political and economic mastermind of the just passed Rajapaksa administration. Thanks to a lot of hard work of this man, Sri Lanka was able to maintain nearly a 7% economic growth rate in the country, when the entire world was going through a financial crisis and Sri Lanka herself was fighting the most ruthless terror outfit in the universe. Sri Lanka’s GDP grew fourfold during the Rajapaksa administration, i.e. from US$ 22 billion in 2006 to US$ 81 billion in 2015. This kind of unparalleled leap in the economic front, without doubt, reflect the unwavering commitment and dedication of Basil and his team. Had this not been there, the country wouldn’t have witnessed such a boom in development and enormous change in the lives of people within a very short time.
Basil, while managing the overall economy, also helped the other organs of government, including sister ministries, with fast-tracking of their activities,so that they do not lag behind
A careful study into the inner working of Rajapaksa government reveals that Basil, while managing the overall economy, also helped the other organs of government, including sister ministries, with fast-tracking of their activities, so that they do not lag behind. Some ministers in the same cabinet might have misread this and propagated negative stories about Basil in their respective electorates. For some, he was an economic ‘Hit man.’ Some weak-minded people fell victim to these stories. But, the history after the change of government has amply proved that the absence of ‘Basil factor’ in the economy and politics led to total failure of two vital sectors. Being the most misunderstood man of Sri Lanka, what Basil did was only taking no rest until fulfilling what is expected from him and his brother MR. The problem of the present government is miserably missing a Basil.
Finally, I challenge anybody, let alone Dr. Nalin, to come out with tangible evidence to prove that Basil caused Maithripala’s defection.
Having said that, let me move on to the next issue, Dr. de Silva raises in the lengthy interview. He opines there that MR’s new “Party should have been formed before the 2015 General Elections.” In my view, this propositions throws light on another aspect of Dr. Silva’s wrong grasp in political calculation. The time prior to 2015 general elections was not the opportune time for a new party. There are number of reasons to support this perspective. Just six months into the presidential elections, the popularity of so called good-governance government has not still faded and the people were at a loss to decide what is best for the country. And one should not forget the fate of political Parties that mushroomed in the country out of haste. In fact, one cannot float a new party and lead that into the winning mood within just two three months, specially without a countrywide organizational structure in place. What was operational at that time on the grass-root level was Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), its electoral and rural level organizers. With the party’s chairman being President Sirisena, the party hierarchy would have followed his directions during the elections, thereby leaving the Rajapaksa camp isolated and disoriented.
Basil Rajapaksa was the political and economic mastermind of the just passed Rajapaksa administration. Thanks to a lot of hard work of this man, Sri Lanka was able to maintain nearly a 7% economic growth rate in the country, when the entire world was going through a financial crisis and Sri Lanka herself was fighting the LTTE
Such a situation would have led to a 50-50 split of the entire SLFP vote base, resulting in a heavy defeat for the new Party at the hand of UNP. SLFP too would lose. But, the loss for the SLFP would not matter at all, as whatever they gained, is gained without the Mahinda factor. The biggest political player of the country is clearly defeated and cornered. Such a defeat, while gradually diminishing the Mahinda factor, would, at the same time strengthen President Sirisena and his government. Meanwhile, Mahinda contesting separately would also pave the way for the unity government to sort out its own internal crisis, for the mandate Mr Sirisena would receive would easily and indisputably be interpreted to be supportive of the unity government.
Indeed, there are two back to back wrong calculations of Maithripala after his victory in the presidential elections. First one is ‘forcibly’ getting appointed to the position of SLFP leadership. Second is, on being so appointed, contesting together with Mahinda. First one made Mr Sirisena again a party man overnight, disproving his own rhetoric of staying “impartial president” for ever, thereby literally losing almost 90% of the so called 62 lakhs. This is the point where Maithripala Sirisena started his own political decadency. The UNPers doubted him and SLFPers felt betrayed again!
By insisting prematurely on forming a new party, Dr. de Silva is similar to those who wanted MR to rush the war on terror against the LTTE back in 2006. JVPers and Hela Urumaya leaders wanted Mahinda to immediately go to war with the terror outfit. MR wisely chose not to succumb to this ‘urgency.’ He simply could not, for there was a lot to do before going all out for a war. And this is a war that a country could not afford to lose, he knew. He acted there like Russians giving in to Germany’s Hitler to come inside their own territory and then mount a surprise attack on them in the most suitable time. MR allowed the LTTE to show its own brutal violations of the ceasefire agreement and, while responding with a limited aerial bombardment in the Tiger territory so that the South does not lose the patience and push him for a premature war. He knew that the LTTE does not understand his ‘peace’ language. Still he kept this option alive. But, while doing so, MR did not rest. He used this period of ‘neither war nor peace’ to strengthen the army in terms of both human and physical infrastructure and, on the other hand, got his brother Basil to go to India and the West to prepare them for the eventual outbreak of full war. MR also assigned to Basil the responsibility of strengthening the economic front, especially food security and cost of living, for such issues could destabilise the country. Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu (let us cultivate and develop the nation) projects are not in deed accidental. They are the foundations of humanitarian operations. Such is the vision of a true leader! Rajapaksas know when and how to act. The victory of SLPP against all odds at the last local government elections is the glaring example.
One should not forget that, in the aftermath of President Sirisena’s ascent to office and leadership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, there were attempts by various parties to sugar-coat Maithripala’s defection to the opposition, showing it as a compulsion, not a choice
Let me conclude; there is a huge disparity between walking and talking. Rajapaksas walks the talk in their own way and own time. They have the patience to do so. Unfathomable patience! Dr. Nalin de Silva knows this more than any of us!
The writer of this article is a Senior Lecturer, at the Sabaragamuwa University
Mahinda Tuesday, 13 March 2018 09:18
MR is a statesman and a true leader of the Nation.We hope and pray he would get the opportunity to serve our mother land and make our country a prosperous peaceful place for our younger generation.May the triple gem bless you MR.
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