By Thambu Kanagasabai –
The presidential elections scheduled on Jan 08, 2015 have pitted. 17 candidates but the real battle is between Mahinda and Maithiripala Srisena. Mahinda is seeking a third term while Maithiri a rebel from SLFP is challenging him.
Maithiri’s daring cross over and challenge sent shock waves to Mahinda and his family clan who took things for granted until Maithiri decided enough is enough and cleverly pulled out from Mahinda’s grip, thanks to the manipulation and manouvering of Chandrika, who has been spoiling for revenge against Mahinda who treated her shabbily and even expelled her from the party which her father SWRD founded in 1952.
Thanks to Mahinda and his brothers’ dictatorial and arrogant attitude towards the ministers, members of his party and even to those who dare to criticize or challenge them directly or indirectly. With 75% of economy and finance in the hands of Mahinda including the security forces, no doubt there were murmurings and feelings of dissent, anger and frustration among the ministers and members who were simply treated as non-entities and lame ducks in the cabinet and parliament.
Mahinda took the inevitable risky decision to hold the elections two years before due date noting the downward turn of his popularity and growing opposition from the Sinhalese voters who are struggling with high cost of living with rampant corruption, bribery, favouritism and nepotism ruling the day.
Amassing of wealth through corruption and bribery by the Rajapaksa family is no more a secret. Mahinda won the second term elections on the waves of victory over LTTE, the euphoria of which has now dwindled and looks no more a catching slogan and a straw to hang on for victory by Mahinda. Considering the pulse of the people, he is raising the lame bogey of tigers or LTTE who according to him have been eliminated during the 2009 war. In addition, international conspiracy, plot by opposition to divide the country etc have been raised by Mahinda and company in desperation. It appears that Sinhalese voters are no more in a mood to believe these hollow stories. Like the rats who escape from a sinking ship, the exodus ministers, MP’S, regional party officials is continuing following the exit of Maithiri Srisena who sparked the light.
Besides, the exit of Jathika Hela Urumaya, Bodu Bala Sena, which were pampered by Gotabaya Rajapaksa has dealt a big blow to Mahinda’s hopes as past history shows the influence of monks who can make or unmake govts swaying the Sinhalese voters one way or another.
In the above volatile scenario now prevailing in Sri Lanka, the chances of Maithiri Srisena, said to be a good gentleman look brighter for victory spelling collapse for the empire of Rajapakse family.
Maithiri is gathering support like a storm from all sections, from parties whose sole common object is to remove the Rajapakse’s dictatorial family rule. Besides this purpose, the backers also aim at eliminating or removing the powers of the president’s post. Maithiri, a soft going humble person is the right choice to win the hearts and minds of voters though these qualities would not work when the question of running a Sri Lankan govt which is dictated and directed by various religious and or extremist groups. It is understood that Ranil would be the prime minister under a parliamentary system of govt with a ceremonial lame duck president. If this arrangement materializes, it would be a change for a democratic rule with independence of judiciary which Rajapakse has snuffed out for his favour. It also could score a success for Ranil, a never winning presidential candidate. Meanwhile this election is grinding towards a contest of tug-o-war and indications are Maithiri would win putting an end to the misrule of Rajapakses. However, the fact remains that Rajapaksa group won’t easily stomach a defeat lest the consequences he would face are unpredictable but possibly facing charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity, besides charges of corruption etc.
The dark corners lying to spoil the victory of Maithiri are Mahinda’s brothers who could conspire with the armed forces to keep Rajapakse as president with probabilities of plots to create riots employing hooligans and party supporters even communal riots. Sensing these probabilities, the opposition parties even Maithiri including JVP, JHU have given their warnings of encirclement of temple trees with thousands of demonstrators to force him vacate the residence in case he stays put. The situation as it is, looks volatile and unpredictable, though the silver line is that the visit of Pope Paul Francis on Jan 13th who has been given an undertaking of a peaceful situation in the country with the promise of Rajapaksa for a peaceful hand over of the presidency in case of defeat.
All hope that this will not be another undertaking of Rajapaksa meant to be broken later. It is the hope of Sri Lankan’s that sanity will prevail over political thuggery for the democratic existence of Sri Lanka.
As for the Tamils, Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinism will continue to rule the Roost.
*Thambu Kanagasabai LL.M (London) – Former Lecturer in Law,University Of Colombo