2 March, 2024


The Presidential Persona

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t have a ‘persona’ problem when it comes to ‘presidentiality’. He’s been doing that job for nine years now. He ended a war. He presided over an ambitious development program and even if one has issues with the development paradigm he subscribes to, there’s stuff to be seen. And if anyone has complaints about the economy it is more about relative disparities than impoverishment. After all this is a country where undergraduates protesting the lack of facilities take selfies and post them on Facebook almost immediately using expensive smart phones.  If one were to compare his track record with that of his immediate predecessor, Chandrika Kumaratunga, he’s way ahead.  She’s got nothing to show by way of presidential footprint.

Presidentiality is not a constant. Things get added to track records and things are subtracted from the same as well. In this respect, Mahinda Rajapaksa has suffered. The entire country knows his face. But it’s as though the President and his backers are not sure that they do, if one were to think of the countless hoardings, cut-outs and posters that carry his face.   The in-your-face nature of it all defaces more than prompt memory about the positives associated with the face. Someone remarked wryly ‘Wherever you look, there’s a picture of Mahinda Rajapaksa – and he’s laughing at you people, do you realize this?’  It has come to a point when people are joking about a new distance-unit: the number of “Mahinda cut-outs” between A and B.

Mahinda LionOverkill is just one kind of defacing. The man is loved. His brothers are not loved, but neither are they hated. By and large, they are viewed as hands-on hard workers. It’s the rajapaksawarun or the larger family of non-related hangers-on that are despised for their high-handedness, thuggery, thieving ways and scant regard for the law. He has suffered them all and that robs from rather than enhances image.

For all this, Mahinda Rajapaksa stands tall. Taller than Maithripala Sirisena. As of now. That’s because this is about picking THE LEADER. Strength (whether used for good or bad) matters. Mahinda’s got that and he’s done a lot that people can be grateful for. Maithripala is relatively untried. Personality counts. Mahinda’s got that too. He’s way ahead of the field among national leaders the common people can identify with. Maithripala, in this respect, is untried.

Mahinda has baggage, sure. He has surrounded himself with individuals who are not exactly saluted by the people.  Maithripala also has baggage.  He’s got brothers too.  They’ve got wealthy during the Mahinda Rajapaksa years.  But that’s still nothing.  His heaviest baggage at this point are those who treat him like a proxy and a serf rather than presidential candidate and would-be king.  If Mahinda’s presidentiality has been dented by his negatives detailed above, Maithripala’s presidential credentials appear stillborn.

It all began with the candidate being overshadowed by his former boss. Chandrika Kumaratunga stole the show not so much with vigor and vitality as with venom.  She was in his face and in his ear as well, prompting the candidate who appeared to have lost his script 10 minutes into the press conference where he announced he would be challenging Mahinda Rajapaksa. He is still to come out of her shadow. A puppet on a string manipulated by The Chaura Regina (Queen of Deceit), as Victor Ivan describes her, doesn’t look presidential at all.  When he genuflects before this discredited politician clearly consumed by hatred and revenge-intent on the one hand and the Leader of the Opposition, another individual who has earned the tag ‘loser’ (for very different reasons), on the other, he looks more pawn than king.

Maithripala states, ‘I will abolish the executive presidency’.  He also says ‘I will make Ranil the Prime Minister with executive powers’. Together, he is essentially leading us to conclude that he’s Ranil’s proxy (when he’s not lip-reading Chandrika).  That’s not presidential.  That’s pawnish.

But Maithripala has shown signs that this state of affairs is temporary.  When he echoed the words of Champika Ranawaka with respect to war crimes investigations and the possible trying of the President in a kangaroo court put together by the USA and its allies, he scored.  He showed humility.  He showed humanity.  He showed generosity.  He showed that he could be everything that Chandrika is not.   He’ll have to do a lot more showing to look as presidential as Mahinda.  He would not only have to ask Chandrika to leave the stage but get her to retire from the campaign as well.  ‘Task done, thanks’ he could tell her.

It must be mentioned that it is Ranil Wickremesinghe and not Maithripala Sirisena that has saved the latter the blushes after the ‘executive premiership’ faux pas.  It is the United National Party and its leader that have spoken of a ‘national government’ and salvaged a campaign that threatened to be about distributing posts in the event of victory.  What this means is that Maithripala is being ill-advised.  And it is dwarfing the man vis-à-vis Mahinda Rajapaksa, self-effaced and defaced though the 2009 image of the man may be.

When will Maithripala come out with a manifesto?  Who will be his key allies?  Who will run his campaign? Answers to these questions will tell us how presidential the man can be.  It will reveal his true political height.  This election will be about two individuals, no disrespect intended to other candidates of course. Mahinda was quite tall to begin with.  He’s lost a few inches. Maithripala has a few inches to grow.  Some can lift him while others are busy bringing him down by getting him to bend over.

There’s only so much one can grow in a matter of four to five weeks.  Shedding inches, on the other hand, is easier than shedding kilos.  Both candidates have backers more than capable of crippling them.  Maybe it will boil down to who gets cut down less.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com 

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Latest comments

  • 11

    you say Mahinda has no persona problem- what about these files he talks about? Has he got a file on you too?
    Is the man loved? yes loved to get rid of terrorism what about the 13th amendment. Did he get rid of it? NO
    What kind of President tolerates terrorist who killed innocent Sinhala Buddhist like KP, Karuna
    What kind of President tolerates rapist and murders like Duminda?
    What kind of President tolerates corrupt and thieves that robs the country?
    What kind of President tolerates Drug dealers selling drugs to your daughters and mine?

    Shame Shame on you malinda

    Hello Malinda, it was not Champika (the coward) who said it first- you got some bad echoes ringing in your ear

    If as you say all hangers-on make use of Mahinda why not CBK, Run-nil,and your friend Champika use Maithri er?

    If you got an ounce of credibility and respectabilty stop bloody lieing

    • 2

      Poor old Malinda – looks like the paranoia is spreading among the apologists.

      He will never answer your questions (rather like his mate, Rajiva W), as they are too close for comfort and it would mean he would have to implicate his idols and himself.

      Let’s see if he has the guts to do so – if not, it would prove he has no credibility, just a ‘way with words’.

    • 2

      Looks like Malinda got his free mouse for his free Laptop…..


  • 9

    Is there a limit to ass kissing…. ? The tide is changing directions. IF ur not with us ur against us…. would be the call by the citizenry of SL… wonder if u’d be the lonely soul standing on deck while the ship is sinking while burning…. Good riddance….

    • 9

      Malinda Seneviratne –

      The Presidential Persona

      “Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t have a ‘persona’ problem when it comes to ‘presidentiality’.:

      1. Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t have a ‘persona’ problem when it comes to Lying.

      2. Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t have a ‘persona’ problem when it comes to taking bribes, called commissions.

      3. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Shiils and Whitewashers doesn’t have a ‘persona’ problem when it comes to sucking up and lying.

      4. Malinda Seneviratna Shill and Whitewasher doesn’t have a ‘persona’ problem when it comes to sucking up and lying for Medamulana MaRa,

      The Answer is blowi’n in the Wind…

  • 9

    Tick, tick, tick, tick……….. the clock is ticking for your Milinda. Wait until the new President is elected, you are going to change your song and dance. Editors like you should be kicked out of the media environment.

  • 7

    Ratana thero has made some very hard hitting remarks about the president. I say had he read Lankaweb, he would not be in this sad situation. Bad people surrounded the good man and ruined him. He didn’t know they were dragging him to DEFEAT.

    “The President is only in posters and cutouts hanging from light posts but he is not in people’s hearts says Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero.

    Speaking at a meeting held at Colombo Town Hall on the 27th Ven. Rathana Thero said, “The President, as a person who won the war and ended terrorism, could have gone to history as a leader. However, the policy he followed in the end blackened everything he did.”

    Even now I hope MR will make a U-TURN on Tamil and Endia appeasing policies and get back to BASICS.

    I have cried long for the plight of Sinhala passengers of the northern train line. It has WORSENED now. Govt. has put ADDITIONAL TRAINS but they too start from Jaffna and packed with Tamils when they reach Sinhala majority areas!!

    It is like Kottanchena or Wellawatta. Like the story of the camel. The owner is now kicked out of the tent!

  • 9

    Malinda, no amount of white washing by you can erase the fact that the persona of MR is one of thuggery.It was known right along but thankfully the end is now in sight.

  • 0

    ” She’s got nothing to show by way of presidential footprint.”

    Then you mention ‘Chaura Ragina’ which is a record of the footprint, even though it may be still an incomplete one. She lacked the spine needed for the job, and the LTTE soon gifted her a false eye to correct her apparent lack of vision. Her behaviour since the 2009 elimination of the terrorist threat does not do her credit either.

    It was the Executive Presidency that saved the nation, and a bunch of malcontents, hooray Henrys, are today determined to get rid of it.

  • 2

    It is not “presidentially”, whatever it means, that matters, but civilized political behavior. Rajapaksa had a chance to shine as a leader, but he failed to take that chance. Why? Because his only interest was to profit from the blood of the poor and fatten himself, his family and cronies, and continue in power by hook or crook, and build a dynasty. He has destroyed the culture of democracy our society had come to base itself on. He has abducted, tortured and killed journalists, using hired criminals in white vans. He has disgraced our judiciary. You can talk bullshit about Rajapaksa’s height, his hypocritical smile and his pretense of the welfare of the people when he taxes every item of food of the meagre meal of the poor while holding feasts for his actual and potential cronies. But the time has come for him to go. And he will.

  • 1

    Hiding behind a pseudonym when you are a pandankaraya to the Jarapassas and have their protection from the law says it all about b..ds like you.
    Even pseudonyms won’t save you and the rest of your tribe after January 8th.

  • 0

    What a sham you are, still licking the presidential nether regions for your mess of pottage.

    Are you completely and utterly dumb, or are you insulting the readers of this space with your shameful praise of King Kong? Why do you choose to ignore every tragedy being heaped on the people of this country as ultimately being the responsibility of King Kong instead of hiding under his lunket?

    Your words: “That’s because this is about picking THE LEADER. Strength (whether used for good or bad) matters.” Did you not know that the ‘leader’ has bullied his way into acquiring more strength and is using it to do nothing but bad things to the people and country.

    Your words: “He’s way ahead of the field among national leaders the common people can identify with. Maithripala, in this respect, is untried.” Maybe untried as President, but not so as a leader of men. Malinda, without wishing to trivialise Maithripala’s efforts to oust King Kong and second guess his ability to govern with a broad coalition of like-minded people, I’d say that even your dog, or (holding my nose) even you with one finger up your bum and the other up King Kong’s can do better than the despicable leadership of today.

    Your words: “Mahinda was quite tall to begin with. He’s lost a few inches.” Ah, I’d blame it on Sajin for having kept him supplied with all that nooky over the years…. indeed he has lost a few inches, because Shirani was heard to quip recently, “Aney, if you lose one more inch, you will be a queen”

  • 0

    Write to your hearts content Malinda. After 8th Jan you wont have a job.

  • 0


    Your hero is as false as the colour of his hair and his hitlache. So are you.

    Have a nice day!

  • 0





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