By Hema Senanayake –
Peace and stability must be the focus of any development agenda. As the president of the country Maithripala Sirisena should have the same focus. Other than analyzing mere economic factors any macroeconomic analyst would concern about the political stability and peace of the country. Hence, with the same focus, I prefer to investigate the impact arising from the provision of nominations to former president Rajapaksa and his clan.
If the president Mathripala Sirisena had consciously decided rather than being succumbed to pressure to give nominations to Mahinda Rajapaksa and his group, in my view it was the best decision available for him to make after the Matara rally conducted by pro-Mahinda activists. But the decision president Sirisena made after the Nugegoda rally, held by the same group, possibly could not have been the best decision the president could have made. Being an economic analyst why do I say so?
As we know it in Sri Lanka racism is a severe threat to peace. All kind of racism is bad for the country. TNA did not give nominations to former LTTE members. Perhaps, TNA wants to deter racism in the North and East. In the South, prior to the nominations, pro-Mahinda activism wanted to be based its activities on Sinhala-Buddhist racism.
For an example, when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was summoned by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, pro-Mahinda activists were there in front of the Bribery Commission to protest against summoning Gotabaya. The activists who went there held a lion only flag instead of the real national flag. It was not an ad-hoc event; instead it symbolizes the true nature of protesters or the sentiment the protesters wanted to exploit. That sentiment was racism nothing else.
Then, the former president Mahinda himself began to use racist rhetoric during his rounds of visiting Buddhist temples. He openly alleged that the “Yahapalana government” was planning to close down critically important army camps in the North and East. He claimed that those camps were important to national security and closing down was a grave mistake. When TV channels went to North and East to report the true situation exist on the ground, finally it came up that in fact all those camps were closed down during his administration and none of the army camp was closed down under the Maithripala regime so far. Former president Mahinda should have known the factual situation but his intension was not talking about facts. Perhaps racism needs distorted facts.
When racism is supported even rhetorically by a fairly large group of parliamentarians and a former president, a group of people with extreme views went to Wilpattu not to find out the true facts but to create racial disharmony between Sinhalese and Muslims. Former president Mahinda did his part on this issue. Asian Tribune reported it as follows:
“Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who raised his voice on Wilpattu for the first time in a public meeting which was telecast by a private TV channel during the weekend, said “We have to preserve our national heritage. Wilpattu is one such heritage and we cannot allow such national assets to be destroyed. This appears also to have taken place even when I was in power but we did not know that such a thing was taking place at that time.” (Asian Tribune, May 11, 2015)
Finally, Matara rally became a place where racial rhetoric was used maximum to discredit the Maithripala Sirisena’s administration. Minorities were really shocked after that event. Country’s peace was a concern about many concerned citizens. President Maithripala Sirisena was cornered. Subsequently, many negotiations might have taken place to prevent Mahinda getting nominations because president Sirisena might knew that giving him nominations would make an irreparable damage to his image and integrity, at least in the short term. Finally, Mahinda got nominations. Racial rhetoric subsided. Peace preserved. As I mentioned above, peace should be the focus of any serious Statesman. Is this what president Maithripala Sirisena wanted to achieve in giving nominations to Mahinda and his clan? If this is the case, then president Maithripala will ensure that no unsubstantiated racial rhetoric uttered in the UPFA platform.
However, I guess, the Nomination Board of UPFA willfully ensured that they would do maximum disrepute to president Sirisena. They never considered the wishes and aspirations of the president. This was amply evident from providing nominations to Tissa Attanayake and Jayantha Ketagoda. Also, it was evident from media briefings that both Susil Premajayantha and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa call all the shots. Immediate prior to nominations, they made it clear that their words would prevail, not president Sirisena’s. In such circumstances president Sirisena might not have had any option other than distancing him from nominations even though he tried to prevent some big shots crossing over to UNP.
Such distancing cannot be without much visionary thinking. It could be a situation to let them do it and own it. It seems he is not going to own any nomination. Perhaps we will see that he would hold accountable all the members of the Nomination Board for the mess they have done for the good image of president. The country might need such signaling of firmness immediately after the election. Immediately after the election the President Sirisena might get a space for such decisive actions. President must ensure that he make things happen and it is not Anura Priyadarshana Yapa or Susil Premajayanth who make things happen. Such signaling is important for political stability.
I hope President Maithripala Sirisena is a man with unprecedented courage. Also I hope that his focus will be to maintain peace and political stability.
I wish to end this brief essay by quoting something known as Leadership Code published in Forbes magazine under the caption “Judging Obama As A Leader.” In this “code” there are five rules. I omit a few lines and words in order to increase readability. Without any comment I submit them as follows:
Rule 1: Shape the future. Obama clearly is a visionary with a new approach to politics. He has proclaimed a strategy for moving the country forward that is vastly different from his predecessor’s, proposing shifts in our relationship with the rest of the world and in our relationships with one another…
Rule 2: Make things happen. It is easier to describe a bright new future than to make one happen. Obama’s task is to turn what he wants into what is done, using his party’s majority status in Congress as well as his bully pulpit as a world leader to cajole, collaborate, persuade and counsel others to deliver…
Rule 3: Engage today’s talent. Leaders who engage the best talent get short-term hard work done while maintaining high esprit de corps. Obama has mastered this skill. He doesn’t do things alone, and he doesn’t pretend to… In office, he took a team-of-rivals approach for selecting his Cabinet, and today he has high levels of support and engagement among his team.
Rule 4: Build the next generation. When leaders build the next generation, they pay attention to building the skills necessary not just for the short term but for the longer future…
Rule 5: Invest in yourself. The core of effectiveness at implementing the first four rules is personal proficiency. Leaders must invest steadily in their intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical improvement to be able to deal with the demands of leadership. Who am I? What do I stand for? Why? How do I get continually better at delivering on my own promises to myself?