The political scene is hotting up these days with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) expected to name its presidential candidate on August 11.
Given that the UNP is not very organised in finding its next leader, the SLPP must be lauded for working under one leader in its attempts to name an election candidate. The person in charge of this endeavor is former President and Leader of the Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The SLPP has hinted that its elections candidate would be an individual who could raise security in the country and discipline its people. Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa could fit into this role, but President Rajapaksa has delayed naming the party’s election candidate for reasons best known to him.
President Rajapaksa is a shrewd individual. He has tasted both victory and defeat. He has also experienced the thrill of being in power and the agony of being powerless. This is why he once said that ‘it’s essential to grab power the moment one sees the slightest opportunity to do so’. This shows how desperate he is to return to power.
As much as he is desperate to make a change in the political landscape of the country, so are the majority of the people. The people of the country have had nightmares during a four-and-a-half year period where the regime has stood out for taking the people for a ride.
The advantage president Rajapaksa has is that he has a set of politicians who can’t decide for themselves; baring his brother Gotabaya. This was somewhat confirmed by what parliamentarian Shehan Semasinghe is alleged to have said. Semasinghe has said that despite the opposition comprising 96 parliamentarians only 54 are making worthwhile contributions in terms of work. In a situation like this Mahinda Rajapaksa sees himself pulling the strings from behind the scenes. If there is one person who is as ambitious as he is it’s his brother Gotabaya; who has on many forums conveyed the message clearly that he wishes to be the first citizen of the country. But Gotabaya knows that no political move would be successful without the blessings of his brother Mahinda. These blessings for Gotabaya are more important than the blessings of the Buddhist priests.
Mahinda has continued to reach out to the people in the role designated to him as Opposition Leader. Much of the meetings he has had at his official residence at Wijerama showcase himself as a problem solver. Mahinda has his method of putting people becoming a little too big for their boots in their places. Recently at a meeting where fingers were pointed at Semasinghe for stating that only some parliamentarians among the opposition group were working, Rajapaksa had affirmed that no person in the opposition should overestimate himself.
While the Pohottuwa Party tries to maintain the fragrance it possesses after blooming at the last LG Polls, it has competition from the United National Party. Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa is self-promoting himself as a potential leader of the country. Another name that is being floated for the presidency is that of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. The latter was recently awarded with the ‘Sadu Jana Prashasthi Lankaputhra’ title by the Supreme Bikku Council. This was in appreciation of the valuable service Jayasuriya has rendered towards the country and Buddhism. Jayasuriya has not used propaganda, but has made his position as Speaker do the talking.
Mahinda has his method of putting people becoming a little too big for their boots in their places. He had affirmed that no person in the opposition should overestimate himself
Many felt that Jayasuriya knew how to differentiate between the good and the bad and helped the country save face during the 52-day illegal government that was in operation. The advantage Premadasa has over him is that the former has much international contacts: Indian premier Narendra Modi topping the list. Recently we saw former President Chandrika Kumaratunga declare open a model village under the name Ranidugama. These houses were built with the monies presented to Premadasa in the form of a monetary gift by Indian Premier Modi. There is an opinion being aired that when Premadasa is building houses with the monies gifted by foreign Samaritans, the other lawmakers who engage in similar schemes raise the monies needed by obtaining loans at high interest rates.
Insiders say that the tussle between Premadasa and Jayasuriya to be the next UNP election candidate is nothing compared to the one that existed between Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake when J.R Jayewardene was looking for his successor. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the country was gripped by a two-pronged unrest: The LTTE claiming autonomy in the north and the east and the JVP crippling civil activities through an uprising.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa sees himself pulling the strings from behind the political scene
Jayewardene knew that the country was in ‘flames’ and who ever who became his successor wouldn’t last for more than a couple of years. He was glad that Ranasinghe Premadasa was elected as president in 1989; only to be assassinated on May 1, 1993 during a May Day rally. If that was a time when guns and bombs decided the fate of politicians, both Sajith and Jayasuriya live in an era where the fate of politicians are decided on whether they deliver the goods or not.
Rajapaksa was ousted because he didn’t deliver in terms of safeguarding democracy, free speech and law and order in the country. The Wickremesinghe Government is on its way out because it didn’t value patriotism and was engaged in selling of valuable assets. Wickremesinghe has promising plans on paper, but they become impractical in the process of implementation. One classic example is selling off parts of state owned enterprises to other countries because these institutes were making losses.
This is not a good move because India, China and the USA are trying to control Sri Lanka by offering help to develop this island.
Sri Lanka needs a future leader who is not only qualified academically from a recognised university, but one who knows natural sciences; the capacity to understand any subject. This was a quality possessed by most of our successful kings. This is because the island needs a ‘leader’ more than a head of state; someone who is even willing to wear the overall and show any many who is struggling with a task as to how it is done.