20 May, 2022


‘The Inside Story Of How Maithri Defeated Mahinda’

By Arjuna Seneviratne

 Arjuna Seneviratne

Arjuna Seneviratne

Review of “Revolution of the Era:The Inside story of how Maithri Defeated Mahinda” by Asoka Abeygunarwardana

How David slew Goliath or how the opposition managed the impossible despite of itself

(The translator’s job is to translate. It is up to others to review a work but in this case, my role as translator and my role as an independent citizen of Sri Lanka got admixed. Here therefore, is the strange phenomenon of a translator actually reviewing a work)

I have never voted in an election despite the fact that it was my right and my franchise to do so. I refrained because I was not entirely convinced of the truthfulness of modern representative democracy when the word Demokratia (demos / kratos) meaning “people’s power” and direct democracy said that any citizen of a nation or community or group who wished to engage it, could participate in government.

People in my country, in general, over the last seven or so decades have rarely if ever had a chance to participate. Their only claim to civic glory was “I voted for this or that government” or “I hate this or that government because I didn’t vote for it”. In each of the dozens of elections hidden behind a much touted, oft misunderstood, definitely popular democratic façade, the new government voted itself in, riding on the short term machinations of a few individuals keenly cognizant of an individual’s worth either as a brand (saleable) or as a commodity (essential). I do not vote because history has shown me that regardless of, despite of, because of, the people’s aspirations of heaven after a given election, the politic has failed people’s power and I am not sufficiently dumb to believe that the next election would be any different from those that preceded it.

MaithripalaYet, the civic conscious citizenry of the country, whether they vote or not, primarily, keep their ears to the socio-politic, the political-economic and socio-environment baseline and secondarily, look for extraordinarily ordinary fellows (not as in the derogatory way that term is used in these days but rather in terms of brothers) who are smart enough, brave enough and committed enough to engage in demos-kratos for the social, political and environmental benefit of all. They are at best reviled or at worst snuffed. Such is the madness we call this country of ours.

On the 21st of December 2014, I met such a one. On Polhengoda road. I was buying groceries. His small office and my small home share the same lane so the meet wasn’t entirely happenstance. He rolled down his window and I said “සිරා game එකක් ගහනවා කියල අරන්ච්ච්යි.”. He said “මහින්දගේ කාලේ ඉවරයි” I said, “මෛත්‍රී ගන්න එක ලෙහෙසිත් නැහැ, රනිල් ඉල්ලන එක නවත්තන්න ලෙහෙසිත් නැහැ. කොහොමද වැඩේ කෙරුවේ?” He gave me an enigmatic smile.

That man was Asoka Abeygunarwardana, the key political strategist in the multiplayer, multipart drama that brought down the supposedly invincible incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In his recently published book “Yuga Peraliya” translated into English as “The Revolution of the Era” he gives us an electric commentary of the punch-by-counter punch political chess game that should keep people staring sightless, hours after the last page is read, shaking their head in wonder at how something this far-fetched could actually happen.

With a powerful incumbent with near total control of the political machinery of a country drowning in corruption, a fractured and weakened opposition and the citizenry resigned to “more of the same” subsequent to a “sure-thing” Mahinda victory, this world-shocking transition could only have happened if the key moves were made by someone with great civic aspirations and not political ones.

Asoka seems to have fit the bill to the T and as one reads through the incidents, one starts to understand the self-promotional rationale of politicians regardless of the country and becomes increasingly aware that only a relatively a-political person could have managed to engineer the enabling conditions for an opposition victory. In the immediate aftermath of the opposition victory, there were many claims made by many people as to how important their role was in bringing about the envisaged change but one realizes as one reads through the book that those claims are highly questionable. Asoka sums this up with a cliché that is nevertheless true in these circumstances “Victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan”.

Asoka is at his abrasive and honest best in his portrayal of the battle of our times and he makes no excuse for it. Having known him for a decade and having much respect for similar honesty on the part of his father before him, this came as no surprise at all. In a heady narrative, Asoka takes us back to January 27th 2013 and the determining factor that turned the worm as it were and started the campaign and how Mahinda, riding upon a bucking, over confident bronco, charged forward on a journey towards self-destruction. Describing the aftermath of that decision, he takes us through the launch and public acknowledgement of the Pivithuru Hetak Movement (PHM) and, the simple but brilliant political strategy engineered by Asoka and Shiral Lakthilaka to bring the two nationalist forces under Ven. Ratana and Rev. Maduluwawe Sobhitha who headed up the National Movement for a Just Society (NMJS) together towards the launch of the proposal for the 19th Amendment to the constitution. He states the high regard he has for Rev. Ratana and how he single handedly wrested control of the nationalist forces from the insanity of the Bodu Bala Sena and how he managed to engineer an alliance between Sinhalese and Tamil nationalists towards a common goal.  Reading like a political thriller, the story takes the reader through the political sharpness of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the role of Patali Champika Ranawaka, the betrayal of Udaya Gammanpila, the tragedy of Dayaasiri, the madness of Tissa Attanayake, the doubt of Nimal Siripala, the actions of minority parties, the astigmatism of the JVP. It barrels the reader through a campaign never started, a campaign undone, a campaign floundering, a campaign resurrected literally from the ashes. From the reason why 300 days were cut to 100 days, through manifesto before marketing, past මෛත්‍රී පාලනයක් vs Unite for Change, money vs no money, cutouts vs no cutouts, the book unravels intrigue upon intrigue, outlines failed strategies giving rise to innovative thrusts and pulls, storms before the calm and loud calls of confrontation, manipulation, confusion, conviction and sacrifice as the variously positioned pieces of this nationwide chess game move inexorably towards checkmating the king.

Three facts emerge from this book that cannot be contested. The first is that Maithripala Sirisena, in one of the bravest and most selfless moves in modern politics anywhere in the world, walked out of the SLFP and literally off the political ledge, with only a fleeting glimpse of vague political possibilities as his surety and thereby created by default, the force behind which an opposition could fall in line despite the fact that it was at sixes and sevens with itself. The second is the debunking of the claim that the opposition victory was due to the minority vote. The third is that the floating vote that was created by the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) in 2004 gestated, matured and ripened over a decade and became the key block that swung the election in favor of Maithripala Sirisena.

asokaHanging over all of these political pyrotechnics, Asoka points out this significant determinant: The people were sick of Mahinda, sick of his high handed ways, sick of the misery he was unleashing on everyone through his henchmen, sick of the opposition and its weak, goalless meandering and desperately searching for a political personality that had been largely unscathed and unsullied by personal desire or personal gain and they found that person in Maithripala Sirisena and voted for him.

Yet, despite of all of that, Asoka points out that this is still a work-in-progress and that initial mistakes in the immediate aftermath of the victory have now resulted in relative chaos with respect to the executive and the mandate given to parliament and whether or not that mandate is valid. Such is, when one sees the selfless collide with the selfish.

As Bobby Fisher said “Every checkmate is a stalemate at another level” and as my friend, intellectual critic and fellow debater Kumi Nesiah says “The reason why nations use Democracy as the state religion is not because it prevents revolutions through higher satisfaction but because it channels the energies of dissatisfaction into false revolutions called elections. Like any state religion, it’s just another façade”. I am not able to contest those assertions either as a master chess player then and a civic conscious a-political thinker now.

Still, all is not lost. As long as there are people like Asoka who understands the egos and manipulations of the many and the strategy to create democratic spaces that had been severely compromised in the recent past, others who hid themselves in civil society action for the people when the rulers had reneged on that promise are now capable of involving themselves in government through demos-kratos.

The hidden message of “Revolution of the era” is that selfless individuals can single handedly make massive changes happen if they are malleable, do not cleave to views, are willed to know truthfully not blindly, brave enough to experience directly, are capable of stating the start of such inquiry impartially, are capable of holding its conclusion until the completion of such inquiry, are capable of stating the results of such a conclusion impartially and finally, and most importantly, understand that the best compromise is one that makes nobody happy.

*Other articles by the Author could be found at arjunareflections.blogspot.co.in


The book may be downloaded from the Kindle store through this link.

revolution of the era – Asoka Abeygunawardana.pdf

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 4

    Arjuna Seneviratne –

    RE: ‘The Inside Story Of How Maithri Defeated Mahinda’

    Thanks for the Review ans summary of Asoka Abeygunarwardana’s “Yuga Peraliya”.

    “In his recently published book “Yuga Peraliya” translated into English as “The Revolution of the Era” he gives us an electric commentary of the punch-by-counter punch political chess game that should keep people staring sightless, hours after the last page is read, shaking their head in wonder at how something this far-fetched could actually happen.”

    This is good, but the Book came AFTER the FACT.

    People need a Sri lankan Common Sense Phamplet, to put away for Good, King George, of Lanka, Medamulana Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    Rata Peraliya, Hora Peraliya or Pavul Peraliya?

    Who can be Sri Lanka’s Thomas Painer? You? Anybody Else?

    Common Sense (pamphlet) and the Sri Lanka Crisis.


    Common Sense[1] is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 that inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. The pamphlet explained the advantages of and the need for immediate independence in clear, simple language. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution and became an immediate sensation. It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places.

    Washington had it read to all his troops, which at the time had surrounded the British army in Boston. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history.[2] As of 2006, it remains the all-time best selling American title.[3]

    Common Sense presented the American colonists with an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of whether or not to seek independence was the central issue of the day. Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood. Forgoing the philosophical and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, he structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon, and relied on Biblical references to make his case to the people.[4] He connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity.[5] Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”.[6]

    The American Crisis


    The American Crisis is a pamphlet series by 18th century Enlightenment philosopher and author Thomas Paine, originally published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution. Often known as The American Crisis or simply The Crisis, there are sixteen pamphlets in total. Thirteen numbered pamphlets were published between 1776 and 1777, with three additional pamphlets released between 1777 and 1783.[1] Paine signed the pamphlets with the pseudonym, “Common Sense.”

    The pamphlets were contemporaneous with early parts of the American Revolution, during a time when colonists needed inspiring works. They were written in a language that the common man could understand, and represented Paine’s liberal philosophy. Paine’s writings bolstered the morale of the American colonists, appealed to the English people’s consideration of the war with America, clarified the issues at stake in the war, and denounced the advocates of a negotiated peace. The first volume begins with the famous words “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

  • 7

    I empathise with the reviewer when he laments the lack of true “people’s power” in Sri Lanka’s political environment. However, when people decline to use their franchise, then by default a less popular (often less suitable?) candidate wins and the attendant problems arise soon thereafter…

  • 0

    [Edited out].

  • 4

    ‘Yuga Peraliya’ , as reviewed and presented. Is a successful attempts to see the dynamics of the forest from above, instead of being mired in its myriad details. The political miracle of sorts that happened on January 8th’ 2014, was a convergence of the urge for change that became palpable amongst a large number of people starting 2011, becoming a Tsunami of sorts by the end of 2014 and resonating among many key players in politics. This was a rare instance in our history where the desires of a large number of people was perceived those in poltics. This was also an instance where the voice of the people indeed became the voice of an angry God !

    Since the ‘ Yuga Peraliya’ , the thirst for real change has increased and not decreased. The expectations are high and disappointment can be equally precipitous. I hope those in power understand this dynamic.

    Thanks for the review.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 2

    Now the same masses are waiting for the sequel with bated breath!!

    “The reason why nations use Democracy as the state religion is not because it prevents revolutions through higher satisfaction but because it channels the energies of dissatisfaction into false revolutions called elections. Like any state religion, it’s just another façade”.

    best I’ve read in a long time.

  • 3

    Arjuna Seneviratne

    The Inside Story Of How Maithri Defeated Mahinda’

    *** The answer is simple. It was with the help of Tamil vote which I like to call “The Tamil Tsunami”.

  • 1

    True, victory has many fathers, defeat is an orphan.

    Tamils didn’t have the luxury of an election to do the same for VP, to make him known how much they loved his revolution, particularly the latter part.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.