Colombo Telegraph

Common Presidential Candidate & Ethnic Conflict

By S. V. Kirubaharan

S. V. Kirubaharan

Now-a-days when you tune into the radio, turn on the TV, read Sri Lankan newspapers and electronic media or listen to discussions in streets and social gatherings, the talk is about the “Common presidential candidate in Sri Lanka”.

People are tired of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tyranny. The opposition feels that he is a strong Presidential candidate who can only be defeated by a common candidate.

Whether Rajapaksa can contest the Presidential election for the 3rd time is another question. Anyhow, the opposition feels that all the strong forces should co-ordinate and chase away Rajapaksa. Well and good!

I am not a politician, but by following and researching happenings in Sri Lanka, what I have predicted in the past has never been wrong. See below what I wrote about the last Presidential election in Sri Lanka.

On 10 January 2010, I wrote an article in the Sunday Leader, under the headline, “After the Election: What will happen To the President’s Promises?

Before I continue, I would like to salute the courageous Journalist Frederica Jansz, then Editor of the Sunday Leader for publishing the article and then publishing a few more of my articles in the same paper. Now-a-days, are there any courageous journalists like Frederica Jansz highlighting truth, justice and reality, in any English print media in Colombo or Sri Lanka?

Last presidential election

In my article of 10 January 2010, I compared the two leading Presidential candidates Mahinda Rajapaksa and General Sarath Fonseka and I wrote the following:

“Now the question is how would the people benefit from either candidate?  It is well known that these two candidates were good friends at one time. There is no guarantee that they will not unite again – otherwise they could not be good politicians and democrats. If now General Sarath Fonseka says that he is a politician, after winning the election he could say that as Commander in chief of all the forces, he is a politician-cum-Commander. Being the President of the country, he is unlikely to make any statements against the former President and his family.

If the people want to benefit, General Sarath Fonseka should lose this election, which is unlikely. If he wins the election, there is a greater chance that old friends will be united. In the unlikely scenario of Rajapaksa winning the elections, Sarath Fonseka would probably spill more beans and he may be encouraged by his advisors to contest parliamentary elections. In the meantime the Rajapaksas may be preparing their law suit against him with false allegations and evidence.”

In the same article I rejected Mangala Samaraweera’s newest slogan of the time, that Sri Lanka is the “longest democracy in South Asia”. In fact, these days Mangala himself contradicts his slogan. At least now, has he learned what “Democracy” is? It is not only having elections. It also means treating all citizens as equals.

Common Presidential candidate

Now let us discuss the matter of the common Presidential candidate. To be frank, my analysis will be based on information available in English and Tamil media. Being a Tamil, there is no need to explain why I give priority to the ethnic conflict and the question of reconciliation when discussing the common presidential candidate. Everyone knows Mahinda Rajapaksa’s policy on ethnic conflict and reconciliation. He openly says that the 13th amendment is already fully implemented and yet India asks them to implement it. Since J.R. Jeyewardena’s time, Sri Lankan leaders have continued to cheat Indians leaders.

With regard to the ethnic conflict and reconciliation, the names of potential common Presidential candidate already coming up, are neither capable of winning an election against Rajapaksa nor of finding a durable solution to the Ethnic conflict.

For a long time I have been saying in most of my articles that none other than ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga can win in the Presidential election, especially against Mahinda Rajapaksa. When I wrote in the Sunday Leader that, “only a lady will win against Rajapaksa” – an ex-diplomat made a sarcastic comment as to whether it was Frederica Jansz! I hope Chandrika can accommodate him and in years to come give him a Diplomatic post in the UN in New York.

If anyone other than Chandrika contests the future election, then it will be a “walk over” and Mahinda Rajapaksa will remain the Executive President for the 3rd time. No-one can deny the support that Mahinda Rajapaksa enjoys among the people in the South. They see Rajapaksa as a saviour of their mother Lanka.

Chandrika’s victory

Therefore, those who are thinking of a victorious common candidate should think of Chandrika. Considering various factors, she could certainly win and become the Executive President for the third time.

If she is the common candidate in the next presidential election, firstly, there will be a split in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party- SLFP. There is already media coverage on this and we have a list of Ministers who meet Chandrika on a regular basis. Surprisingly, though it has not yet reached the media, one of Rajapksa’s most trusted Cabinet ministers also meets Chandrika!

Secondly, many ministers and some holding important positions are defectors from the United National Party – UNP. Some of them joined Rajapaksa to avoid a corruption investigation by Rajapaksa’s government. Therefore the day Chandrika announces her candidacy, all these defectors of the UNP will jump to support her.

Thirdly, many expect a regime change in Sri Lanka so they can “enjoy democracy again”. But what is democracy? The democracy they describe is about freedom of movement, expression, corruption and nepotism. This is where the definition of democracy fails in Sri Lanka.

Change in thoughts, hearts and minds

It would be an utter mistake for any Tamil to think that a regime change will settle the ethnic conflict. Look at the history of not only Chandrika, but also of both her parents who had formerly held the office of Prime Ministers in Sri Lanka – S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Mrs Srimavo Bandaranaike. What did they do about the ethnic question? Look too at all UNP leaders – Dudley Senanayake, J. R. Jeyewardena, R. Premadasa, and leftist leaders – N.M.Perera, Colvin R de Silva, Peter Keuneman and others.

Therefore change in thoughts, hearts and minds of the rulers in Sri Lanka are more important than thinking of regime change, Presidents change, personalities change. Democracy can be achieved in Sri Lanka only when the bloody ethnic conflict which has existed since independence in 1948, is settled. The hide-and-seek games of Sinhala rulers are not going to work anymore!

Political change in Sri Lanka every four or five years is like “Musical chairs”. It has not brought any change for the people of the North and East. The “development” that Rajapaksa is talking about, is all for the benefit of the Singhalese. This has been mentioned in many articles in length, so I do not have to go into detail here.

Ethnic conflict and reconciliation

Therefore what the common candidate, probably Chandrika, should do first is to announce his or her policy on the ethnic conflict and reconciliation. Secondly their policy on the UN Investigation. This has to be done before her candidacy or the presidential election itself.

If this happens then the people in the South will decide whether to support her position or not. Otherwise it is preferable for Mahinda Rajapaksa to win the President election for the 3rd time and let the international community continue its scrutiny on Sri Lanka. This should be the way forward on the ethnic conflict, reconciliation and the UN investigation.

Chandrika and Ranil should not forget that the UN investigation starts from events in 2002 and so it covers their period in power as well. Also we can’t forget Ranil Wickremesighe’s statement that they did the needful for the war to end in the way it did. Further we can’t forget the behaviour and activities during the war of the present livewire and lieutenant of the UNP, Mangala Samaraweera.

The forthcoming presidential election should not be missed by any Tamils who understand diplomacy and the suffering of innocent people. They should vote for the candidate who is open, frank and transparent. Now the question is how will Tamils benefit from the new President?

In my article published in February 2013, “Mr President, you also will be Impeached”, I said the following : “There are many obstacles for Ranil Wickremesinghe or Sarath Fonseka to stand in the President election. But they will support the Lady and she will also be supported by the majority of the members in the SLFP as well. Always the deciding vote is from the North and East and it will be cast in favour of the Lady. The people in the North and East have already voted for the Military General who ruined their life. This doesn’t mean that Rajapaksa or the Lady is a Saint. They too, have both done horrendous damage to the people in the North and East – politically, economically, socially and culturally.”


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