By Marlon Dale Ferreira –
The tangible feeling of euphoria and hope that sweeps across the beautiful island of Sri Lanka at present is wonderful. Long shadows of darkness have been lifted, showcasing the beautiful Sri Lankan smile. Perhaps a new era of peace and compassion has dawned and finally after ten long years, Sri Lankans can truly claim the title, ‘Miracle of Asia’, as the smoothest transition of power took place, sweeping this paradise isle with great relief.
A new era of peace and compassion, love, joy and hope amongst all Sri Lankans be they Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Malay or any other ethnic or religious group dawned today, the 9th of January 2015.
But let’s remind ourselves first, that we are all Sri Lankans.
The nation voted and waited patiently for the result that the majority of whom, be it the three wheel driver you travelled with yesterday or the vegetable seller down the street or the elite in Colombo, wished and hoped for.
The night went by with not much comment and the entire country was bracing itself for what many predicted may take place.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa had lost even before the first vote was cast and with that being common knowledge, including to himself deep within, the question lying in every Sri Lankan’s mind was, “Would he really relinquish his power and give the people whom he saved from a treacherous civil war, what they wanted?”
*Ranil, Chandrika, Maithri and Rajitha- Photo courtesy Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Sri Lanka Facebook page
As the results were announced, one thing was imminent: a clear victory to the common candidate Maithripala Sirisena, the man who challenged his very own Sri Lanka Freedom Party and UPFA President, when as the Minister of Health he crossed over barely two months ago.
Maithripala Sirisena, the son of a farmer from Pollonnaruwa, had practically everyone’s support to help him win this election and in the process, won it for them.
However, there was much anxiety in the wee hours of the morning, when the President and those concerned knew the eventual outcome.
Much against popular belief, information was received, alleging that, about 0100 hours of the 9th January, the military was ordered to be positioned around key strategic locations. They were on stand by, awaiting further orders from the Executive. The nation predicted Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Defense Secretary and brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa taking over the country in true military style due to the forthcoming loss.
However, as some slept through the night and many others remained glued to their televisions eagerly anticipating the results, high level local and international talks took place behind closed doors, resulting in a smooth transition of power.
About 0430 hours of the 9th of January, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was summoned to Temple Trees and after an hour of deliberation, even before the final election results were declared, President Mahinda Rajapaksa handed over the reins and departed.
It was well before 12 noon when the Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya, who along with his team had performed splendidly, officially declared Maithripala Sirisena, as President of the Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka, having collated 51.28% of the votes.
The subsequent swearing in ceremony of Sri Lanka’s 6th Executive President was completed at Independence Square the same evening, where Ranil Wickremesinghe was also sworn in as Prime Minister.
All political party leaders who backed Maithripala Srisena were in attendance, signalling unwavering support for an era of change.
In appreciation and grateful thanks to Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, the Founder of Colombo Telegraph, a journalist in exile, who yearns to return home, your passage is safe.