8 August, 2022


Patali Champika’s “Claim”

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Some 5.7 million people voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa. Another 6.2 million elected Maithripala Sirisena to power. The gap is clear. Rajapaksa lost by 500,000 votes. He won in 10 electoral districts, with Sirisena winning 12.

That Sirisena won by a slim percentage-margin (and this with a coalition that had no less than four “major” parties, including the Jathika Hela Urumaya) is true. But that this means Rajapaksa faced a tougher battle than ever before isn’t. And it’s obvious why.

Anyway, what’s done and dusted is done and dusted. Sirisena is President. No reason to complain. We are still seeing early days, so the inevitable power struggle between victor and loser will begin. For now, though, Sirisena has the edge. It’s difficult to imagine Rajapaksa as a Prime Ministerial candidate, but the point is that in Sri Lanka’s political arena anything and everything is possible.

All this is peripheral to what I’m writing about, of course.

Patali Champika Ranawaka is clearly adept at number-crunching. He knows arithmetic and applies it well. In contrast to the more fiery nationalists who spewed rhetoric in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s camp, his was a voice of reason, which calmly yet determinedly revealed the previous regime’s corruption-record. While some of his revelations were not verified (or verifiable), it’s obvious that he was one of the key determinants in Rajapaksa’s defeat.

Which is where I come to another issue: Mahinda Rajapaksa’s comeback.

Mahinda Champika Pic by Nishanka De SilvaIn the first place, the man himself has shrugged off rumours that he’s making a comeback. Until the last moment, we don’t know what will happen. For now, those campaigning for him – Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, and Dinesh Gunawardena – have focused on a magic number: 5.7. That’s the 5.7 million people who voted for MR.

What they claim is interesting. If 5.7 million people voted for Rajapaksa, that means they voted for the SLFP. If a vote for him was a vote against his opponent, then it stands to reason that these SLFP’ers were cheated the minute that same opponent, upon his victory, took control of the party. So if 5.7 million SLFP supporters tried to get Sirisena out, those who want Rajapaksa back argue, then it would be a gross injustice to them if Sirisena continues as that party’s chairman.

The argument is flawed for reasons that are all too obvious. But what caught my attention was how ruling parliamentarians reacted to it. There was M. K. D. S. Gunawardena (a political nobody as far as the SLFP is concerned), who talked self-righteously about keeping losers out of the party. There was Ravi Karunanayake, who eloquently said that the Old Left was leading itself to ruin by their latest campaign (which begs the question: when was the Old Left not in ruin?).

And then there was Ranawaka, who made just about the wildest observation yet. He claimed that while those campaigning for Rajapaksa talk about the 5.7 million voters marginalised by Sirisena’s presidency, billions were spent by MR on his campaign. Which is true enough. But then he added an (unnecessary) observation: that Rajapaksa is spearheading a sympathy campaign among those who support him.

People still visit him at his Medamulana residence. They fall within that 5.7 million. Ranawaka hinted that they all were “bought over” (for money or toffees, he does not specify) to create sympathy for him. I don’t deny that’s possible. But Ranawaka, contrary to what he usually does, has not supported his thesis. He has not shown any irrefutable evidence of what he said. Which is where his argument begins to lose ground.

Mahinda Rajapaksa is President no more. Being a former President is not the same as being an incumbent. There’s a world between the two. A President theoretically has the entire treasury at his disposal. A former President does not. So when Ranawaka says that Rajapaksa is “buying” all those people who continue to visit (and cry over) him, I tend to lose faith in his core argument. Which is strange, considering that Ranawaka is not the kind of politician who claims without facts. Yes, statistics are all fine and well. But adding frenzy to even more frenzy (and hysteria) by dabbling in these sorts of claims is not going to help either him or the government.

First of all, it seems difficult to imagine that Rajapaksa would woo all those who come by the dozen to meet him with his bank account. Ranawaka’s argument collapses the moment you take this into account. It’s not logically possible. No former President, it must also be noted, had this sort of reception when they returned to their hometowns. Mahinda Rajapaksa, clearly, is miles away from his predecessors. No, I am not supporting him, but it doesn’t take a virulent anti-MR critic to figure out that two plus two equals four.

I don’t think he has a chance. The present system does not favour a defeated candidate, even someone like him. To make things worse he is facing a tricky situation here: not only is he the defeated overall candidate, he is also the defeated SLFP candidate. In no other election here was the defeated candidate elbowed out of his own party. While I disagree with the way they kicked him out, I must admit that his time (for retirement) has come.

Still, I don’t buy Ranawaka’s claim. He’s extrapolating here. Wildly. It’s hard to believe that a former President would use his savings to bring sympathisers into his own house. After all, most of those who visit him are people from his own community: the Southerners.

Here’s the ultimatum to all this, then: if Alexander the Great lost Macedonia in a hypothetical election and he returned to his birthplace Pella, people would still have rallied around him: not because he was loved by the country, but because he was loved by his people. His hometown. That’s why Rajapaksa is still loved, and not for the reasons Ranawaka gives.

*Uditha Devapriya is a freelance writer who can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com. His articles can be accessed at fragmenteyes.blogspot.com.

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  • 16

    Just to let the author know, it’s not just southerners who are making the trek out there…people from Colombo and it’s suburbs have been visiting him…families from areas such as Hanwella too. Probably folk from other places are making the trip too (anyone who knows from which other areas could add to this). He’s loved by these people plain and simple…as for why…definitely not because of what he can do for them…just paying their respects to a beloved leader…

  • 5

    Why should believe that you are correct and not what Ranawaka is talking. Any proof ?

  • 9

    Not much surprised there.
    most of the peasants down Benthara River is rice eating cattle who cannot understand the difference between what a dictator and a Yahapalana can bring to them.

    People will visit MR during this time as its pay back time for the millions of black money they have amazed thru Rajapaksas and very soon MR will be history.

    Only SLFP and UNP have a say in Sri Lankan politics in a national level and MR if he goes ahead with this 4 jokers will end up like how the Rajaiya group with Lalith A and Gamini D ended up with the mighty UNP.

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2

    In my view what is of essence is the need for enlightened leadership so that the people begin to think anew. Only political leaders can infuse it, because of the culture bound tendency of many in this country, which makes them “swallow” whatever the leader’s thoughts are, often without thinking.

    This is why I think we are now privileged in that we NOW have a leader who is highly enlightened, utterly common-sensical, and downright sensible. A simple but an enlightened man and these are the characteristics of great men.

    May his tribe increase.

  • 11

    Patcha Champika should try to get a nomination from the UNP Christian Faction.

    No JHU member or follower will vote for him, after Gammanpila complete the circuit.

    May be the TNA or the SLMC give him a National List spot for services rendered.

    I mean the SLMC in particular will be thankful to Champika for ever, more than the TNA.

    Poor Vellalas had to put up the mother of all fights through Praba to get the North.

    Champika gave Hakeem, Bathdeen and Asaath Sally the East on a plate with Stirling Silver cutlery as well, to enjoy the post war boom in once the Back water, Batticoloa…

  • 1

    I’m sorry, but this article is ridiculous. Money is not the only thing with which you can buy people’s support. Sri Lanka has a political patronage system. If I was Mahinda, that’s exactly what I’d promise to give them – patronage. I’d promise them government jobs.

    Secondly, of course there are many people who truly love Mahinda. But there are also those who really have no future without him, and those who really want things from him. Patali is making a political claim, not a factual point, so obviously he wants to highlight that.

  • 3

    I know of a family from Colombo visited the Former President,

    Reason, They love him to the core,
    Why they love him. All of their wedding were held either in Temple Trees or President Palace and MR was a signatory to the wedding.

    Yeah why wouldn’t they love him.

  • 0

    You say that most of what patali says he backs it up with facts. my question is, when he made those corruption allegations, why did he just show it to the public. if he had any real evidence (which he should have, cause he was within the ruling party and had ample opportunity procure them) why didn’t he take legal action against the people who are responsible? he had the means. i’ve seen him hold up photoshoped pictures when he made those claims as well. so i have doubts about the authenticity of his so called facts. IMHO patali is nothing but another politician who is trying to make his way in the political arena in what ever way he can

  • 1

    Political patronage in srilanka is an age old thing. All politicians have a following irrespective of how crookish one might have been. The ones who personally benefitted from him will turn up come hell or high water. Same in India! That is why the politicians openly bribe the voters without any scruples or embarrassment.
    Why go far. Look at the scene yesterday! When Tissa Atthanayake was bailed out there was such a crowd of people waiting to receive him. Som even kissing the hand of this fraudster who produced a forged document almost attempting to create a racist backlash to candidate Sirisena. In a civilised country even the street dogs would avoid being seen with such an individual!
    Anyone remember the case of the Famous Secretary of State Jonathan Aitken and the MP, “Cash for questions” Neil Hamilton? Even their neighbours moved away after they were nabbed!
    In Srilanka life goes on. If Rajapakse gets back to Parliament next these same peasants will fall at his feet and worship him calling him Hamaduruvane! That is the bane of our society. There is no value for honesty integrity and steadfastness!

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