By Thambu Kanagasabai –
Maithirii’s cliff hanging victory over Mahinda was greeted with relief by lovers of democracy though it looked remote before the entry of Maithiri. Maithiri provided fresh air to breathe for most of the Sri Lankan’s particularly to the minorities who were suffering in silence. Even his party members and cabinet ministers excepting his family members, were boiling with frustration and anger waiting for the opportunity to pay back Mahinda. What was the reason for Mahinda’s defeat?
Mahinda was glowing with confidence to score unlimited terms of victory relying on a never winning Ranil or some else from the opposition to contest him. A wounded Chandrika manouvered to pull out Mahiri to settle her personal score with Mahinda. Ranil’s wise decision to back Maithiri jolted Mahinda who could not find any vote catching slogans to challenge Maithirii who also exposed the skeletons in the Mahinda’s cup board. The credit for the defeat of LTTE, obviously goes to Mahinda and company but he mistakenly relied on this achievement which paled into laess importance due to the passage of time coupled with his bad governance, corruption, nepotism, non-accountability for his violent political groups or persons treating the ministers and members as figure heads and non-entities with family rule by passing the rule by consensus of cabinet and member of parliament. Mahind’s sweeping anti-democratic legislations like replacing the 17th amendment and passing of the 18th amendment which clothed and granted unbridled power to an already executive presidency. This high handed act of President bared his teeth and greed for more power to don the role of a dictator. Power corrupts absolutely . Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mahinda is classic example to vindicate this statement. Mahinda’s attitude towards persons who challenge his acts or failed to toe his line were revenged and it was counter- productive end earned worl wide condemnation. Eg: removing the former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
Mahinda’s arrogant approach, brushing aside local and overseas condemnation was simply crude and insulatory. Adding insult to injury Mahinda dished out pledges, undertakings even written joint statements with Iinternational Community including Ban Ki-moon and TNA with promises of political settlement while the military solution was in progress in the north and east.
Mahinda’s annual victory celebrations over the conquest of LTTE wounded the already traumatised Tamils who were considered as foreigners belonging to a separate nation. No county in the world has conducited celebrations of victory for the massacares of its own citizens in a civil war after winning the war. Mahinda quietly distanced away by not winning the hearts and minds of Tamils. He demeaningly calculated that physical development like building carpet roads and running Yarl Dei and infrastrucre projects are suffeicents to satisfy the political aspiration of Tamils. ho have been clamoring for equality for the last sixty years. As fas as the Sinhalese citizens are concerned they can consider Mahinda as a war hero for defeating the LTTE, who took up arms when non- violent struggles failed. Comparing him with Dutugemunu who was a true Budhist king who never induldged in massacre of Tamils before and after his rule is unworthy when Dutugamunu went to the extent of building a tomb for Elara while Mahinda went on to destroy the already built memorials, a disusting unciviliesed act.
Mahinda continued reliance on war victory was becoming overshadowed by his bad governacne with family rule which expanded to all field with large scale appointments to his extended family. Rule of law and order was given scant respect with fouling party politicians indulging in violent acts and going away scot free. Mahinda was thus slowly moving toward dictatorial rule after bringing the judiciary, public services and police under his control. In furtherance of his design, freedom of the press was his next target with journalists physically mauled and forced to flee. These steps were the body blows to democracy. Undoubtedly with the backing of Gotabaya who controlled the security forces slowly but gradually and steadily, a climate of fear and uncertainty was enveloping Sri Lnaka. Corruption and bribery further disenchanted the ordinary citizens who felt excluded and alienated from the democratic political process.
Maithiri’s win has surely salvaged the battered democracy and traditions and has vindicated the firm belief of Sri Lanka’s citizen in preserving the democracy. By this act, the image of Sri Lanka has been retrieved to the satisfaction of the international community. Furthermore Mahinda’s defeat is a lesson to would be rulers to not to consider any deviation from the path of democratic governing, lest face the wrath of people.
As Mahinda admitted, the minorities’ votes in the north and east and hill country brought about his fall who voted fuelled with and anger and vengeance against Mahinda. They voted for Maithirii not out of love for him but out of their festering wounds and hostility for treating them as second class citizens and degrading their self- respect and dignity. The Sinhalese who voted for Mahinda were his loyal supporters from the south belt but equally divided in the other areas.
Maithiri has now pledged a 100 days program with promise of abolishing or limiting the power of president with promise to restore the independence of judiciary, police and public services. It is hoped that these promises will successfully go through to his credit as soon as possible.
As far as the Tamils problems are concerned, Maithiri is shielding his face and designs. His election manifesto omitted the most important 60 years old ethnic issue while he also failed to spell out his thinking and plans to tackle to this issue during the public meetings.
TNA’s calculated and belated declaration of support to Maithiris contributed and prompted the Tamil voters to go the polling stations in full strength though they already made up their mind to vote against Mahinda even before TNA’s declaration of support to Maithirii. The TNA by this open support is in possession of a good opportunity to press Maithirii for a just reasonable and dignified political settlement. However this process does not appear smooth and easy as Maithirii is a creation of various parties with divergent and contradictory policies and views. Like Jathika Hela Urumaya and United National Party. The role of other extremist groups like Bodu Bala Sena etc is another potential spoiling weapon. A heavy responsibility and duty now lies on TNA to live up to the expectations of Tamils without falling for the Ministerial portfolios, which can carry only marginal benefits to the Tamils while leaving the one core Tamil demands lying delayed and neglected. In this respect India’s role is important. Past experiences show India’s foreign policy priorities are based on geographical and strategic considerations involving Sri lanaka. The problem of Tamils and meaningful solution meeting the legitimate aspirations of Tamils has never been a matter of urgency for India. The cloak of non interference with local problems of Sri lanka as it interferes with Sri Lnaka’s sovereignty and integrity is always conveniently raised as a cover for Sri Lanka. Besides, India plays the crucial role of influencing the world community from Direct interference or exerting pressure on Sri Lanka without its blessings.
It also can be safely said that Mahinda and the war criminals would not be hauled up before International Criminal Courts in the near future even if the Human Rights Council accuses them of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In this matter Security Council holds the key to punish them and with China and Russina backing Sri Lanka the road to prosecution of Mahinda And company before ICC is a long drawn out process beset with obstacles. However Maithiri as he promised will not venture to embark on this risky move. Lest he runs the risk of being branded as a Sinhalese traitor. His promise to shield his security forces is another dampner for the move.
To sum up, Tamils have to live with fingers crossed and looking for any light in the underground channel. However a solution based on self rule in the north east with befitting powers can only to some extent, compensate the immense sacrifices of the Tamils and provide solace to the thousands of departed souls during the last 50 years (1959-2009).
In lies mainly in the hands of TNA and Tamils living in island with the backing of Tamil Nadu and India. Diaspora Tamils who enriched and emboldened LTTE to conduct the fight to the finish are now divided with each other searching for the right direction and choice while jockeying for dominance. It is high time the one million diaspora Tamils get united and function under one umbrella with one voice. In any event for a peaceful Sri Lanka it is imperative for the Sinhalese to nurse the Mahavamsa mindset sensibly and strive for a nation free from suspicion hatred and superior complex, true to the teachings of Lord Buddha.
If the reports about a political plot hatched by Mahinda soliciting the support of Attorney-General Police chief who refused to back him are true, Mahinda would have climbed to the rank of number one, being a dictator who dumped democracy, people’s verdict and the voice of 20 million Sri Lankans to the dustbin purely to save his skin and face.
May GOD save Sri Lanka and Democracy.
*Thambu Kanagasabai – Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo