22 September, 2020

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How Rajapaksa Is Back To Change Sri Lankan Politics Again

By R. Hariharan

 Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

Former Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that he would accept his loyal supporters demand to contest the forthcoming parliamentary election to be held on August 17. According to media reports, thousands of supporters who had gathered at his home ground in Medamulana cheered him when he said “I am not ready to reject the appeal you are all making.” He indicated that he would be rallying his supporters across all parties “for the sake of the country, for the sake of mother land, we must contest the upcoming parliamentary election.

Earlier president Maithripala Sirisena dissolved the parliament and set the date for the election. The announcements of both the incumbent and former presidents were not unexpected. Time was running out for Sirisena after he failed to hammer out a consensus within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on rejecting the loyalists’ demand for nominating Rajapaksa as the party candidate for prime minister. According to Sri Lanka columnists, President Sirisena’s secret talks with the former president also failed to persuade Rajapaksa not to contest the election to avoid a split in the party.

Maithri MahindaThere were other compulsions for President Sirisena to dissolve the parliament. Already, Rajapaksa loyalists’s within the United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) parliamentary party ranks had swelled to 80 plus. Any further delay could have not only eroded President Sirisena’s support within the party while enlarging Rajapaksa’s support base, but it would also help his detractors to push through the no confidence motion against Sirirsena’s political ally ruling alliance partner Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe pending before the parliament. Wickremesinghe leads the United National Party (UNP) traditional opponents of SLFP. With Rajapaksa loyalists bent upon splitting the SLFP votes, President Sirisena needs the UNP as an electoral ally to prevent Rajapaksa from coming back to power.

Though Sirisena-Wickremesinghe combine was able to fulfil some of the important poll promises it still has an unfinished poll agenda that could neutralize all the good things done so far. However, none can deny the national alliance had succeeded in creating a freer political atmosphere without the intelligence and security guys disrupting the activities of Opposition parties, media and the NGOs pampered by stoking the paranoia of foreign conspiracies against the country.

The combine also succeed the 19th Constitutional Amendment, as promised in parliament, which seeks pruning the sweeping powers the executive president enjoyed and increasing the powers of prime minister and parliament to prevent the meddling with the national institutions like the judiciary, election commission and police. Though the 19th Amendment to the constitution helps to restore media freedom and attending to some of the long standing grievances of the minority Tamils, much remains to be done.

A notable failure of the Sirisena government was to get the 20th Constitutional Amendment (20A) for reforming the electoral system passed in parliament. There were fundamental differences between the SLFP and the UNP on the form and structure of the proposed system. Despite Sirisena’s best efforts the differences could not be reconciled. So Sri Lankans will now be electing a new parliament on August 17, a year before it was due, based on the present system. It is a mix of first past the post and proportional representation systems in which the SLFP has been doing better than its rival UNP.

The chances of Sirisena and Wickremesinghe creating the anti-Mahtinda wave among the voters that helped them defeat Rajapaksa once again for the parliamentary election appear bleak. It seems to have lost vigour on two counts: so far investigations into allegations of corruption against the Rajapaksas have failed to unearth actionable evidence and the National Alliance government has accumulated its own baggage of corruption allegations.

In addition to this the massive minority votes – notably Tamil votes – that helped President Sirisena to win by three percent plus margin may not be forthcoming as the leading Tamil political combine Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had been unhappy with the Sirisena government’s slow progress on Tamil issues.

The state owned Daily News quoted SLFP sources to say the talks between Sirisena and “the SLFP stalwarts” over accommodating Rajapaksa in the SLFP nomination list for the next election ended inconclusively on June 29. Though the UPFA General Secretary Premajayantha and SLFP General Secretary Priyadarshana Yapa had insisted on Rajapaksa’s nomination as Prime Ministerial candidate of the party, the UPFA Opposition Leader in parliament Nimal de Silva indicated that he was willing to “sway with the wind.” This actually reflects the shades of differences within the UPFA and SLFP.

With barely six weeks to the election, political arrays are yet to emerge clearly. Sirisena will have a tough job first to mend the SLFP split to enable the SLFP to form a government on its own steam. With sections of SLFP and the minor partners of UPFA backing Rajapaksa, Sirisena will find finalising a list of candidates acceptable to all factions a challenging job.

Comparatively, the UNP is in a better position as the party has delegated the job of candidate selection to Ranil Wickremesinghe. But UNP’s problem is attracting smaller parties to form a winning coalition. Smaller parties like the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) who are opposed to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s return will be watching the coalition contretemps to find a face saving way to handle election uncertainties.

Political horse trading has been developed into a fine art in Sri Lanka and politicians’ loyalties are as tradable as scrips in the stock market. Presumably, the next ten days some clarity will emerge in the political scene when electoral alliances are firmed in.

India would prefer Sirisena-Wickremesinghe to win and form the government as it has established better rapport and understanding with the Sirisena government. It has responded positively to India’s sensitivities about China’s increasing influence in Sri Lanka. It has visibly taken action to be equitable in handling its relations with China and India. Even if Rajapaksa comes back to power, India may not lose all that it has gained so far. Rajapaksa, as a shrewd politician, probably understands the dynamics of Indian government has undergone a makeover under Prime Minister Modi. So he is likely to factor it in his dealings with India, though he would probably prefer to deal with China as he has a better equation with it.

Tail piece added after publication: The UPFA announced on July 3 that it had decided to field former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the general election. Former minister Dinesh Gunawardena announcing the media said the district where Rajapaksa would contest would be announced shortly. Significantly, the trade off of the loyalists for the UPFA decision was that Rajapaksa was not announced as the UPFA’s prime ministerial candidate. Apparently Rajapaksa is one up on Sirisena. As I always maintained Sri Lanka political theatre never fails to thrill. Rajapaksa’s nomination as UPFA candidate is going to trigger a fresh round of political palaver; let us sit back and enjoy the next episode.

*Col R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka as Head of Intelligence. He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-Mail: colhari@yahoo.com Blog: http://col.hariharan.info

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Head of Intelligence ,Indian Peace Keeping Force member:

    You started the mess which we are still suffering from,can you please write an article as to how we can solve our problems?
    Should we invite the IPKF to come again???

  • 2
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    We is noty going to win but loose marginally. You too Hari with greater margin.

  • 5
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    Rajapakse’s tilt towards China has a lot to do with how the Sri Lankans feel about the untrustworthy, backstabbing neighbour to our north. Perhaps, the former Indian Intelligence Officer should give his thoughts to how to restore some trust of his country within the Sri Lankan community prior to indulging in other aspects of Sri Lankan politics. Non a single neighbour of India thinks of India as their friend and, as such there is not much value in the above analysis. Just as much you would like to “sit back and enjoy the next episode” of what happens in Sri Lanka there are many Sri Lankans who would like to sit back and enjoy a repeat of what happened on the Sino- Indian border in 1961.

    • 2
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      lal loo

      ” there are many Sri Lankans who would like to sit back and enjoy a repeat of what happened on the Sino- Indian border in 1961.”

      Exactly this how your Tamil brethren wish Hindians. So there is no difference what you both wish. Of course you both share your stupid gene. A few Tamils of Tamil Nadu also think like you and Tamils of this island.

      However the evidence coming out of South India from their archaeological digging further confirms your shared history.

      Read this article and make up your mind whether to live here in this island or go back to your ancestral land in South India:

      Sri Lankan envoy keen on lessons from Pattanam find
      S. ANANDAN

      Updated: July 4, 2015

      Admittedly ‘thrilled’ to be at the site of KCHR’s Pattanam excavations, in the ninth season now, with a range of artefacts alluding to an ancient port’s wide-ranging links across the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Sudharshan Seneviratne said he would try to facilitate an academic exchange and a possible collaboration between India and Sri Lanka on Pattanam, as excavations at Sri Lankan sites in the past have thrown up similar artefacts, signalling a strong commercial link between both regions in the ancient era.

      “It’s not just bigger sites like Anuradhapura that point to such a link, but smaller sites on the island nation could throw more light on this,” Prof. Seneviratne, himself an archaeologist of international standing, said during an interaction with students and the local people at Pattanam, located about 30 km north of Ernakulam.

      Earlier, he said it was important to distinguish between scientific archaeology, done with diligence and application, and parochial, beatified archaeology conducted to attain political ends.

      “It’s exciting to see that Pattanam, despite its frugal means, has done commendable work to earn a place in the first category,” said Prof. Seneviratne, who was a student of noted historian Romila Thapar.

      An honest, multidisciplinary and unbiased approach is needed to reconstruct a past that tells us about ourselves, he said. “Pattanam is talked with a lot of respect, showcasing their strength in retrieval, interpretation and museum-level presentation skills. It indeed helps us go to the next level.”

      To students, he said it is important to contextualise archaeology and cautioned against hasty collaborations that could throw the purpose of such investigations off track. “For instance, who funds your study itself gains significance from a political perspective.”

      Archaeological studies, he thought, would be easy to conduct if the local populace were co-opted into the scheme as stakeholders.

      Prof. Seneviratne also visited the renovated Paliyam Palace, the Jewish Synagogue at North Paravur and the Cheraman Juma Masjid, near Kodungalloor.

      http://www.thehindu.com/

      lal loo

      Pattanam is a village located in the Periyar delta in Eranakulam district in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It is located 2 km north of North Paravur, 9 km south of Kodungallur and 25 km north of Kochi. – Wiki

      It sounds too good to be true.

      Please visit Pattanam and am sure you will feel at home. Don’t come back.

    • 0
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      @lal, which neighbour of China is happy, Japan? Probably Tibet, I think if not Taiwan (!) is it Vietnam?

      • 1
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        xlntgson

        You missed out others, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Russia, Central Asian Countries, Indonesia, Brunei ………….

  • 3
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    We should take the Rajapakse contesting the election as a blessing in disguise. Losing it will be the signal he has been waiting in order to retire to his mansions in USA and live the life of luxury he thinks he deserves. Let’s be honest, the only reason he wants to become leader again, is the only way the corruption charges he and his clan are now facing, could be put off indefinitely until they are forgotten. This is also the reason his cohorts want him to win because as claimed by the intelligentsia, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, are all in the same leaky boat. The Sri Lankan people are much more astute than he gives them credit for. We have only just begun to earn the respect internationally and they do not want to lose it.

  • 0
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    wow ..broom stick mustache mallayalai is again crying …..

    1 billion poverty Indians have sold their country and politics to italian ex-baby sitter and bar girl but this mustache does`t care….

    Tamils in Sri Lanka will never ever trust poverty India in the future..….note this ..

    Murderpakse has said many times that they fought this war on behalf of India ( with the blessing of italian bar girl cum baby sitter )

    If MR is back China will smile …Indian jokers will loose their sleep …

    Tamil can sit and watch the political circus between poverty India (+ US)….Greater China ..and SL….

    Probably someone will divide this country permanently

    Cheers

  • 2
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    The police is now free of political interference? Mr. Hariharan, I think you better stick to what you know best : Military matters!

  • 1
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    Now we know for sure with the leaked COPE report (Google: “draft-interim-report-on-treasury-bond-issue-leaked”) that it is Ranil and the UNP who are the real criminals. The COPE report which contains interviews from Central Banks staff, clearly shows Mahendren intervening with Central Bank staff to favor the placement of bonds with his nephew at billions of extra dollars in expense to the treasury because of the bloated interest rates. In fact, the COPE report shows Mahendran had specific knowledge of the exact amount of his nephew’s bid (Rs. 20.708 billion) and instructed his staff to accept all bids at this exact amount. This clearly is sufficient evidence to arrest and charge Mahendran with the serious crime of securities fraud and insider trading, which would require his immediate dismissal as the Central Governor.

  • 1
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    Col.Hariharan.

    You all are the guys who put the Sinhalese and the Tamils at each others throat.
    This time around is the RAW supporting MaRa or MS?

  • 0
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    Who wants starving beggars as friends? Hang out with China

  • 1
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    Why are you all afraid about Mahinda? You don’t have to bother about the contestants who are willing to be a Member of Parliament or a Prime minister. Eerybody has right s to contest the election. Let the voters decide on the winners. This is what I have understood about the democracy.

  • 1
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    R. Hariharan

    How Rajapaksa Is Back To Change Sri Lankan Politics Again:

    *** Colonel which planet are you living on.

    I am not going comment on your Article point by point.

    For your information MR is not coming back to rule Sinhala Lanka.

    MR is coming back to Ruin Sinhala Lanka and the 22 Million Racists are determined to see to it.

    There is only one thing that matters to the 22 Million and that is to Complete Colonisation.

    I used to say that MS was part of the Axis of Evil.

    But in the recent past he has turned out to be the Evil himself.

    Frankly what we have is Evil Galore.

  • 0
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    “How Rajapaksa Is Back To Change Sri Lankan Politics Again”

    you mean “How Rajapaksa Is Back To CORRUPT Sri Lankan Politics Again”u mean

  • 0
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    Considering Col. Hariharan is a member of the Indian establishment, it would have been good to know what his views are on what the Modi government will do if MR returns as the PM.
    It is no secret, India wanted MR out because of his closeness to China. MR is already trying to placate India by stating Sri Lanka will never pose a threat to India. That maybe true, but it was China’s influence over SL that was so overbearing that gave SL no independence on some issues that upset India. We should not be surprised if China is secretly financing MR’s return. What then for India?

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