It was Karl Marx who said, ‘History repeats itself, first as Tragedy second as Farce’- the Kumarathunga-Rajapaksa confrontation in 2005 was very much similar to today’s crisis in the UNP’s Wickremesinghe—Premadasa Clash.Kumarathunga preceded Sirisena in seeking a SC ruling on ending of term; and the third, Mangala’s ‘acrobatics’.
They say, some senior lawyers burned mid night oil at Darley Rd, the day before Election Commission made its surprise announcement on Presidential election date. The project was initiated by SLFP stalwarts close to President, who convinced him on a last ditch attempt to buy time for a profitable deal with SLPP or UNP. Their argument was based on a flimsy point that though Maithri took oaths as the Executive President on January 9, 2015, the actual date of commencement of his five-year term should be the day on which the Speaker placed his signature on 19A [May 2015].
"The previous Presidential election was held immediately after the bomb attack targeting CBK by the LTTE"
The previous Presidential election was held immediately after the bomb attack targeting CBK by the LTTE, which helped her win the sympathy and a second term of Presidency in 1999. She had her swearing-in which was telecast globally. Subsequently, she had a private swearing-in secret which became public domain a year later. Then she who promised to abolish Executive Presidency on or before July 15, 1995 declared with Presidential authority that she would remain in power as President until 2006, and that there would be no presidential election as scheduled, in 2005. The Supreme Court was deliberating the application, CBK believed she can continue till 2006.
The Jathika Hela Urumaya’s Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera filed a fundamental rights application for a five-bench sitting of SC, Chaired by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and four judges of the Supreme Court to unanimously agree that the presidential elections would have to be held in 2005. It was the biggest blow to CBK’s political career that marked the end of it. There were side-attempts like what is happening now, bringing in amendments through Parliamentary motions to abolish the Executive Presidential system [as she pledged to JVP in writing] before July 15, 1995. In 2005, her Presidency had been abridged to just three more months. Something even a powerful President could not escape. The then Opposition leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is now desperately trying to prevent his deputy from contesting, said, “Feudalism is now on the wane. People’s power is now
Much to her displeasure, most of the seniors were already with one foot in the camp of the next presidential aspirant Rajapaksa. CBK berated her erstwhile loyalistandfaithful Mangala Samaraweera for his dramatic move saying, “Mangala, you said you won’t support Mahinda, but now you are on the top of his list of promoters, can’t you see, it’s incongruous?” Mangala switched loyalties and became chief organizer of MR’s campaign. [a feat he repeated in 2019] Lakshman Kadirgamar, Foreign Minister, a symbol of patriotism and a man who hated terrorism was no more; he was felled by a sniper’s bullet of LTTE a few days before. Like today’s UNP, there was chaos and confusion within the then SLFP. President Kumaratunga and her brother Anura Bandaranaike came under fire by the members of the SLFP and the parties allied with it over what they uttered as, their ‘negative’ speech during the campaign. They said the unwanted remarks by them were harmful to the party their parents took forward. In fact Nirmala Kotalawela, a Senior Vice President of the SLFP, and Deputy Minister wrote to Anura Bandaranaike, saying it was unfortunate that Anura had communicated his personal views to the media.
"In 2005, CBK’s Presidency had been abridged to just three more months"
The SLFP’s Executive Committee was summoned for Sep 4, 2005 as an unscheduled forerunner to the party’s convention to be held on Sept. 6, where MR’s nomination was to be formally sanctioned. There was speculation that CBK was to announce the dissolution of Parliament, and hold general elections to prevent an MR victory. Party seniors call it a canard rumoured by UNP because, even if Parliament is dissolved now, an election has to be held only after the Presidential election.
Mangala Samaraweera, Ports and Shipping Minister tackled an unparalleled political crisis in the SLFP by presenting a formula that contented both factions: one led by CBK and Anura Bandaranaike, and other by Mahinda. The plan worked out by Samaraweera was in consultation with few others. Confidantes of President including two government officials, predicted MR and Anura simultaneously named as the candidates for President and PM respectively. [why cannot he do the same with UNP?]
Samaraweera is believed to have summarized his plan at a high level meeting chaired by CBK at the President’s house on 26th night, where it was decided to introduce an amendment to the party Constitution for CBK who was under fire from all quarters for her P-Toms, to remain as the party leader. Both contenders, MR and Bandaranaike were members of the committee. Bandaranaike, MR, Kadirgamar, Ratwatte, Maithripala and Alavi Moulana were present at the meeting. It was Alavi Moulana and Mangala who averted a likely disagreement and chaos; they expressed delight as they accomplished something in resolving a crisis.
The JVP backed Mangala’s formula. The JVP left the coalition government on June 16 in disagreement with CBK for her decision to sign the controversial P-TOMS accord with Prabhakaran. SLFP Party secretary Maithripala Sirisena along with his senior colleagues and party officials, at Temple Trees held a press conference to announce CBK’s proposal to nominate MR as candidate for Presidency. The Central Committee [more democratic than UNP’s WC] unanimously voted for MR’s candidature on July 28, 2005, well ahead of nomination date, while Anura Bandaranaike, Minister of Tourism and Industrial Development, another aspirant for the high post was selected the Prime Ministerial Candidate. There was speculation in some media that there was opposition to MR, he continued, but everyone in the party from President CBK down to the grass roots was backing him who will prove to be popular, charismatic and a strong candidate to meet Ranil Wickremesinghe.
"JVP left the coalition government on June 16 in disagreement with CBK"
For two weeks or so, the JVP and MR had been having few rounds of talks on entering into a pact. MR was disparate to use the JVP’s mass mobilisation capabilities at village level. Over the years, the strength of SLFP’s organisational machinery had been on the decline. The JVP unlike today, was keen on ensuring that the UNP does not make a comeback. The JVP put forward several demands to SLFP as Maithripala, Nimal Siripala, Susil Premajayanth and Mangala Samaraweera together with the MR participated with a JVP team comprising Tilvin Silva, Nandana Gunathillake, Wimal Weerawansa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
The JVP-MR marriage was registered at ‘Temple Trees ‘ in Colombo on August 31, while Dilan Perera, who became a close confidant of CBK [after Mangala betrayed his mentor CBK] were mapping out a strategy in far away in Beijing to frustrate a JVP-MR marriage.
Results announced by 5.00 am on November 18, confirmed victory for MR. He received a telephone call, a brief congratulatory note from CBK; then she asked the elected President not to take his oaths that day and to wait until after November 23, for she had planned a grandiose ceremony, her own farewell on November 22. That was going to be an event to be telecast live countrywide. MR on astrological advice picked November 19. But CBK was insistent, even after completing two terms [eleven and a half yrs], she should still carry on for a few more days! MR’s rejection annoyed her and a war of words resulted between the two Presidents. Then she asked MR to make Anura the Foreign Minister. “Anura has been maligning me he did not support my campaign, insulted me; he will travel the world insulting me,” MR retorted.
Following the footsteps of the generation of Rajapaksas commencing with D. M. Rajapakse, the ‘Lion of Ruhuna’, who succeeded not lesser than seven members elected to legislators to both the State Council and the House of Representatives from this deep-south electorate, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a son of the nuclear political family of Giruwapattuwa, reached the highest office in Sri Lanka, that of Executive President.
In a couple of days it will be known, who the main contender in 2019, to meet Gotabhaya of Giruwapattuwa, in Hambantota; will it be a Colombo-born young man who fancied Lanka’s backwater, Hambantota or a Colepetty man?