Colombo Telegraph

Mahinda Rajapaksa Should Gracefully Withdraw

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Mahinda Rajapaksa should withdraw, gracefully I must say, from the presidential race, not merely because he is losing, but because he has lost all credibility for contesting for a Third Term.

This election is an unwarranted one, an utter waste of money, energy and patience of the people. What was intended in the Constitution (1987) was for the incumbent to go for the full 6 years of the second-term, before he or she gracefully retires. But for some reason, Mahinda became so greedy and wanted a Third-Term and no term limit at all.

Who can say he is indispensable for the country?

Even the previous provisions in the Constitution were extravagant. Sri Lanka is the only country which has 6 years for one term. The norm is 4 years. In addition, JRJ opted to call for premature election after 4 years for the second term. He made provisions for it under the 3rd Amendment. MR already utilized that provision in 2005.

Then MR wanted a premature election for a Third Term as well. That is the whole debacle of this election. The abuse of power and the abuse of constitutional provisions. In effect, what he is asking is another marathon 8 years. If MS wins, his term is limited to 6 years. What a disparity or discrimination. MS has already said that the term of the Head of State should be 4 years.

MR is already 69 years of age. He has already completed 10 years. He is visibly work fatigue. If he goes for another term, that means 18 years. He could easily become a puppet of one of his brothers, most probably the military one. Anything can happen during that time. Sri Lankan voters should be fools to give a blank cheque to such a person under such circumstances.

We all know how he won the 2005 election with a slender margin. That was thanks to (Mr.) Prabhakaran’s boycott generosity. Not that MR was necessarily bad at that time. However, people probably wanted a change after experiencing a UPFA president since 1994. This was prevented by the Tamil voter boycott.

However, he did a good job in defeating terrorism and the LTTE. Also some development. People paid their gratitude by electing him by a big majority in 2010. Then he soon betrayed their trust. He said in his manifesto that he would be a Trustee. But he didn’t keep that trust of the trustee. He didn’t make any indication that he would go for another or a Third Term at that election. People assumed that it would be his last term.

But within six months he changed his mind. Brought the 18th Amendment stealthily.

I was one of the first to say “President Rajapaksa has no People’s Mandate or Moral Right to Contest Again” in April this year. That was the time rumors were abound about a snap election. That was also the time that the 18th Amendment became highly controversial. The CP, LSSP and the SLMC admitted that they had made a mistake.

The SLMC has now corrected the mistake by joining the opposition. But the LSSP and the CP are still sleeping with MR while many militants have broken away in disgust. Then the former Chief Justice, Sarath N. Silva, analyzed and showed that the 18th Amendment itself is flawed and under the provisions, the incumbent cannot contest for a Third Term. However, this was completely disregarded by the present de facto Chief Justice.

It is true. Strictly speaking, this election is illegal. However, the predominant question is moral, ethical and thus political.

Nearly 30 Members of Parliament who had ‘mistakenly’ voted for the 18th Amendment now have crossed over to the opposition. There is no 2/3 for the government in Parliament. The 18th Amendment in retrospect is not legitimate now. It is not a technical issue, but a moral one. Of course the crossover MPs were not babies then or even now. But they have now repented.

People do make mistakes but should be corrected without delay. The whole 18th Amendment was shrouded in mystery and other issues. It is possible that President Rajapaksa has himself made a mistake! PERHAPS. He should not have brought the amendment in the first place, dreaming to remain in power at least for another term.

He is out of touch and out of date. He even didn’t have any sense that his party secretary would be his main challenger, who ate Arppa (hoppers) the previous day with him.

The people in Sri Lanka are no fools. They are not going to elect the person who betrayed their trust by becoming greedy of power and position perhaps for his family’s sake or ill-gotten wealth. There are over 5 million families in the country to care for. Not one family.

Who is going to believe that Rajapaksas are the only ones who love the country? As the name says they may be loyal to the king or the ruler. Patriotism is not anyone’s monopoly. We all love our country wherever we live now.

The honorable thing for Mahinda Rajapaksa to do now is to withdraw from the presidential contest. If he does, he will go into history reasonably, or otherwise, to the dustbin of history.

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