By Mahendra De Silva –
There were some very unfair comments by our readers on former president Chandrika’s article “The move to impeach and remove the Chief Justice must be denounced by all who cherish democracy” appeared in Colombo Telegraph recently.
I admit that with her progressive ideas she could have done much more to the country. But in my view she respected democracy and fair play much more than JR or Premadasa or present day dictator Rajapakse. During her Presidency, she was criticized ruthlessly by Iqbal Athas, Lasantha and Victor Ivan and most of other media organizations. Especially Lasantha and Victor had no mercy for her. But other than few attempts by her supporters to threaten the Journalists, there were no large scale attacks on media. She tolerated all the bad publicity in good spirit. When Iqbal‘s house was once attacked there was a proper enquiry and culprits were convicted. Media was relatively free at that time. True to her article, she respected the Judiciary. Although her appointment of Shiranee Bandaranayake, to Supreme Court was controversial, she had a legal right to do it. There were judicial decisions against her but she never tried to take revenge from Judges compared to JR or Mahinda. Misuse of Power, corruption and interference in the judiciary was less and media was free to expose any corruption openly during her period compared to other former Presidents.
She had been arrogant at times, by having a notorious thug and Police personal under her security division. She was notorious for not keeping appointments and coming late to functions. But overall when we compared with Rajapakse, Premadasa and JR -Chandrika would definitely rank very high compared to others.
I respect Chandrika more than others mainly because she did not play communal politics, just to wing over the majority Sinhalese compared to her father or other Politicians in our country. Her views were very much progressive and she was bold enough to express them openly, although majority of her Sinhalese supporters did not appreciate it. She believed that Tamils have genuine grievances and it has to be addressed. She had a close relationship with Dr. Neelan Thrichelvam who drafted devolution package. But unfortunately she could not implement her devolution package due to the communal politics played by UNP and JVP and some of her party supporters like Mahinda. She brought in Lakshman Kadiragamar the best Foreign Minister and Statesman Sri Lanka produced. Her foreign policy was the best Sri Lanka had after Independence. She managed to get LTTE banned in most of the European countries and America during her period. This was one of the greatest achievements in the fight against LTTE. For the first time SriLankan government managed to get LTTE cornered diplomatically thanks to the great efforts of Chandrika and Lakshman. She thought Lakshman Kadirgamar, being a Tamil would be an ideal to be the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. But she could not do it because of the cheap politics played by Mahinda with the support of other Sinhalese extremists. There was an attempt on her life by Tamil Tigers; she lost her eye as a result. But her fundamental belief that Tamil grievances should be addressed and SriLanka belongs to all communities never changed. I salute her for being a Statesman rather than a shrewd politician in this regard.
Our readers who criticized Chandrika should do a comparative study of all the past and present Presidents before we condemn her. She has lot of shortcomings. But in my view out of all the Presidents we had, democracy was more respected by Chandrika than others. In this comparative scale Mahinda Rajapakse comes to the very bottom, being the most ruthless, undemocratic President we ever had.