By Latheef Farook –
Disproving astrological predictions and dismissing fears of violence, the opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena who won the election was sworn in as the country’s sixth executive president by Supreme Court Justice K. Sripavan at 6 PM on Friday 9 January 2015 at a simple ceremony held at the independent square.
Such a dramatic political development was almost unimaginable even two months ago in view of the all powerful executive presidency, government’s two third majority in the parliament, ruthless political manipulations to remain in power , overall control over the island’s media and unleashing violence to silence the people. Added to this was the disarray in the weak opposition camp in putting forward a common presidential candidate.
However the entire political scene changed overnight when the then health minister and Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena left the Rajapaksa government in the most unexpected political development and entered the election campaign as the opposition common presidential candidate.
Since then there erupted waves of support to Maithripala demonstrating the mood of the country taking defeated President Mahinda Rajapaksa by surprise.
This trend continued uninterrupted and Maithripala Sirisena won the presidential elections polling 6,217,162 votes (51.28 per cent) whereas the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa secured 5,768,090 votes (47.58 per cent). Thus in this hard fought presidential elections Maithripala Sirisena won by a majority of 449,072 votes.
There were unconfirmed reports that in defiance of people’s verdict, defeated President Mahinda Rajapaksa tried to annul the election, declare curfew and continue to remain in power. There were many reports that the former president planned to issue emergency regulations and stay in power and former Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa played a key role in this move.
Reiterating these reports Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thera, one of the prime movers to remove former President Mahinda Rajapaksa from power, disclosed that there was a last minute attempt by former president and his family to remain in power with the support of the security forces.
Once these move failed, perhaps due to local and international factors, former president called the opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and made arrangements to hand over power on an assurance that he and his family leave the country safe.
There were reports of former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing the country with his wife in an air force plane to Male on 9 January to Male after Singapore refused to allow a military aircraft to land there. Later former Minister Basil Rajapaksa and his wife left for United States on Sunday 11 January morning.
Now the question is how did this dramatic political development happen? However it has happened and even today many find it difficult to believe.
The island’s Muslim community voted for Maithripala Sirisena in view of the atrocities they were subjected to by Sinhala racist such as Bodu Bala Sena, Ravana Balaya and the like with state patronage.
Muslims were not against Rajapaksa government. There were lot of Muslims who supported the Rajapaksa government. However it was Rajapaksa government’s atrocities unleashed on them forced them to turn to Maithripala who advocated communal harmony in the hope the ongoing racist attacks on them will stop and a new era of peace will dawn.
For example Muslims were not party to the ethnic war between the Tamil militants and the government. However Muslims suffered a great deal during the three decades of ethnic war. In fact it was their fierce opposition to the LTTE call for the division of the country and steadfast support to successive governments to ensure the territorial integrity at great cost prevented the breakup of the country.
Thus after the war ended they were hoping a new era of peace would herald and their sufferings would end.
Instead, dashing all hopes and to the shock of all, they were subjected to immense sufferings with attacks on their religious, social, economic and cultural life and business establishments.
Muslims were helpless and voiceless with their politicians clinging on to the very government which was protecting hooligans attacking them. They suspected these attacks on them as a calculated conspiracy to crush and eliminate them as a community. From kidnapping of Muslim businessmen in white vans to the systematic attacks, burning and looting of their properties of Aluthgama, Dharga Town and Beruwala there were more than 350 attacks.
This short sighted disastrous policy reached such a stage that their very survival as a community was at stake with their lands being arbitrarily acquired and overall attacks continuing unabated. Such blatant racist atrocities were never known in their more than 1000 year history in the island.
However no perpetrator was taken into custody and the Muslims turned to divine intervention for safety and security with special prayers and the recital of kunooth (special prayer during times of difficulties). Men, women and children alike continued to recite kunooth dismissing calls from so called “moulavithumas” who sold their souls and hobnobbed with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa asking not to recite kunooth to please former president.
There was also growing fear among the Muslims with people like Udaya Gammanpila,known for his anti Muslim mindset, stating that an attack on Muslims this year to commemorate the centenary of 1915 Sinhala-Muslim riots is inevitable.
It was in this gloomy atmosphere came the presidential elections which provided an opportunity to express their anger and frustration by voting for the opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena who promised security for all communities.
“This is a miracle. Our prayers were answered and not only the Muslims even the country as a whole is saved from the destructive communal politics which threatened the very fabric of communal harmony badly needed in the country”. This was the general response of Muslims all over.
They pointed out that “there was no reason for the Rajapaksa government to commit such atrocities on them. It was sheer madness, perhaps to please his new Israeli friends who have supposed to have entered the island in a big way and were suspected of training and financing Sinhala racists to attack Muslims as part of their global anti Muslims agenda which virtually destroyed the Middle East. Rajapaksa government paid the price for his racist politics promoting Sinhalese in almost every possible field while openly dismissing the minorities as if they were not citizens of this country.
“We were helpless and there was no one to turn to other than seeking divine intervention to save us .Our prayers were answered today and we continue to pray and hope that there will be communal harmony and peace for the betterment of all in the country.