26 May, 2022


Until Three Months Ago, I Thought Mahinda Would Understand The Need For Change

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

A Presidency Under Threat – 26

My mother, had she lived, would have been 89 today. Mahinda Rajapaksa is 69, and today is also the 9th anniversary of his election to the Presidency. Given that the Constitution prescribes 6 year terms, it seems absurd that he is thinking of cutting short his Presidency yet again, and submitting himself for election for the third time. Given how exhausted he was during the Uva Campaign, it is worrying that he keeps going on and on with such campaigns, without reflecting on how much time he has spent in the last nine years in electioneering, time that could have been spent better in actually governing the country.

Indeed Sri Lanka now seems to have turned into a sort of Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, with everyone getting up and changing their seats whenever the mood takes them. Such practices reduce considerably the time for reflection, and in the case of politicians the planning and monitoring that is essential if they are to be taken seriously. The last time I spoke to the President about reforms, he told me that it was time now to concentrate on elections. But given the frenetic timetable he sets – or which is set for him by his advisers – it has become clear that there will probably never be time to think about the reforms the country needs.

The Left parties had suggested to him that he should not think of elections now, since he has two years more to go, and Parliament too can go on for over 18 months. They asked the Liberal Party too to support this stand, and we decided at our last Executive Committee meeting that we should urge constitutional and structural reforms. Unfortunately, given domination of government policy by a few confidantes of the President, nothing has been done about many of the good ideas the President had, since they do not relate to the concerns of the dominant minority.

sam-w-plusThus nothing has been done about Local Government Reform, save for reform of the electoral system, a good idea in itself had it not been accompanied by foolish details which meant it had again to be amended – after having been first withdrawn and then hastily reintroduced and passed. Meanwhile the act to give greater responsibility to local authorities languishes, as does the proposed Universities Act. The new Education Act, a draft of which was ready way back in 2010, is also on the back burner, while electoral reform for Parliament and for Provincial Councils, even more urgently needed than for Local Government bodies, seems to have been forgotten.

Indeed the current approach of government seems to be to compound the waste that our electoral system necessarily involves. One amongst many of its principal drawbacks is internal competition. This means candidates have to have limitless resources, given that they are competing against everyone on their party list for preferences – hence the waste and environmental damage caused by millions of posters, with the concomitant alcoholism and violence that the pasting of posters in competition with others gives rise to.

As though to promote waste, government has now devised a method of giving control of massive amounts of money to those who will have to face a Parliamentary election. Given that in recent times, and blatantly so in Uva, handouts have been considered the best way to win elections, we can expect massive expenditure, some of it derived from the two extra decentralized budgets that have been given to some government MPs – extending in some cases to over 600 million rupees.

Does the President not realize the waste that this approach to politics engenders, and the costs that will have to be met by future generations? Does he not realize that development needs to be planned carefully, and comprehensively, instead of being left to the predilections of individuals who are primarily concerned with short term popularity?

The reason I find this particularly depressing is that I had thought of the President as someone who studied his briefs carefully and made informed decisions about his ministerial responsibilities. I had reached this conclusion after my first proper meeting with him, soon after he became a Minister in President Kumaratunga’s first cabinet. Before that I had known him simply as yet another youngster my father had advised and helped, on the basis of his deep affection for his father, whom I remembered fondly from my visits to Parliament as a child.

I had of course known of the difficulties Mahinda Rajapaksa had faced in the South during the Jayewardena years, and in particular of his being arrested in the bye-election at Beliatta in the mid-eighties. I knew too that he had been involved in the Mothers’ Front with the mother of my friend Richard de Zoysa. But I had tended to think of him as a run of the mill politician, without much grasp of policy matters, and so I had been impressed when I found informed understanding of the rather difficult portfolio he had been given, Labour and Vocational Training. In addition, when he was transferred to Fisheries, which I had assumed he knew nothing about, he was imaginative and energetic. He was the first Minister in ages to promote Inland Fisheries, and did a great job before that was stopped, for reasons that were ridiculous, but which were certainly not his fault.

He also chose an excellent Secretary, when he became Prime Minister, which I thought boded well for the future. Presidents Jayewardene and Kumaratunga had gone on with old friends quite unsuited to their new responsibilities, but Lalith Weeratunge seemed on a par with K H J Wijayadasa who had been President Premadasa’s choice. So too, when President Kumaratunga was away when the tsunami struck, he had responded efficiently – which I think is one reason for the turmoil of President Kumaratunga’s last year in office, for she reacted badly, and set up her own teams which took attention away from subjects in which she had initiated much needed reforms.

President Rajapaksa certainly lived up to expectations in his first term in office. Militarily he destroyed the Tigers, internationally he kept opponents at bay and won the support of a majority of countries. He also developed infrastructure swiftly, completing a couple of projects that had been dormant for years, such as the Southern Highway.

What then has gone wrong in the last five years? Why are we not getting as much Foreign Direct Investment as seemed likely when peace was restored? Why has Tiger propaganda succeeded internationally, which was not the case before 2009? Why have we not harnessed the energies and goodwill of the vast majority of the diaspora (over 90% according to military intelligence) who were against terrorism and would have been happy to work in a united Sri Lanka, provided only that there was no discrimination against minorities? Why do the Muslims, who were generally supportive of the fight against the LTTE, now loathe the government?

Until three months ago, I thought that the President would understand the need for change when the unpopularity the government was facing became clear. I was sympathetic when, with his usual decency, he rang to apologize for not being able to attend my father’s funeral, for I knew well the challenge he was facing. He said he had to attend four openings, and I could see that there was no one else with even half his drawing power.

But after the Uva results came in, his immediate reaction seems to have been to go for broke. This was done without consultation of the party and a measure of the worry the SLFP feels is the altercation with Basil Rajapaksa, who had set up an election office without proper consultation. When this was followed by what seemed a gratuitous insult to the Pope, inviting whom had been a master stroke in electoral terms, I realized that a siege mentality had set in.

The President who saved the country from terrorism does not deserve this. But even though the blame must go to the rest who are sitting at the tea table and helping themselves, he must also accept some responsibility for the problems that now beset him and the country.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 13

    He has to bear full responsibility for his own plight and that of this country now. He of course has to pay the price- loss of the throne that he has made bigger than he deserved or needed. He has dissappointed so many in this country to such an extent that whatever good will be interred with the harm he has done to this country. He missed a historical opportunity to turn this country on its head and make it a better place for everyone. This was an unforgivable crime that the people will not forgive. Hell hath no fury as a people scorned and trampled!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 9

    Oh dear what can the matter be
    Poor old Rajiva is up a gum tree.

  • 11

    It seems that Rajiva wijesinghe, the scum of the earth is having sleepless nights over the losing his parliamentary privileges prematurely. The soon-to-be unemployed dim wit seems to have the audacity to talk of reforms in justifying his delaying tactics. I wonder what reform MR could do in the next 24 months, and that which he couldn’t do it in the last 10 years.

    As usual, the conniving author praises the president’s ‘achievements’ with the intention of holding on to his last life line. Pathetic indeed….

    • 7

      Indeed, I asked him what his plans were for the future and whether he expected to be in the national list in the next parliament?

      His party calling itself a “liberal” party is an insult to all things liberalism usually stands for.

      If my memory serves me correctly, if he (Rajiva) fails to serve 5 years as MP, he is NOT entitled to a MP’s pension….hopefully he has stored enough for the future !

      • 7


        “His party calling itself a “liberal” party is an insult to all things liberalism usually stands for.”

        I am proud to call myself a practicing liberal.

        Please note I am not a member of his one member party.

        • 3

          I am glad to note that you are not with such parties, Native !

          Kudos to you !

  • 4

    “Lalith Weeratunge seemed on a par with K H J Wijayadasa.”
    That poor man is still living and do not say this to be heard by him, because he will die of a heart attack! What a comparison Prof? Lalith is not a patch on KHJW which I know very well as I have worked under KHJW when he was Secretary Housing and Construction. Even Dhammika Amarasinghe who is LW’s good buddy will not agree with Rajeeva!

  • 4

    Oh I say; Professori, he say “””handouts have been considered the best way to win elections,””” What a startling revelation! But, come to think of it, it is just a bit of recycling of the largesse that is now enjoyed by the political class of this blessed island.

    • 6


      “””I remembered fondly from my visits to Parliament as a child.”””
      Read, poor papa couln’t afford a baby sitter, and little Rajiva couldn’t be relied on to behave himself at home. No wonder you lost touch with reality.

      “”””when President Kumaratunga was away when the tsunami struck, he had responded efficiently….””””””
      Aaaah, who can forget our grieving Prime Minister at the time and his cack handed Helping Hambantota move. Naughty PM.

      “””….internationally he kept opponents at bay and won the support of a majority of countries…..”””
      YES, he did find the long overdue political will to ‘win’ the war – and that will be to his eternal credit – but afterwards everything went downhill. We cannot defend ourselves in international fora, our squabbling diplomats are the laughing stock of the world, and MR is all but persona non grata in the most countries. As for ‘winning the support of a majority of countries’, how do you account for our failure in Geneva?

      Professori; as for ‘thoughtful’ MR phoning to apologise for not attending pappa’s funeral, have you stopped to consider that MR hastened to the home of Nimal Lansa to show solidarity but couldn’t MAKE the time to pay his respects to someone who reputedly gave him advise and guidance on his way up. That must tell you something about the man. One closing will always trump four openings. Think Professori. Sometimes methinks you live in a fools world.

  • 2

    Prof keep on writing. Don’t get upset with comments coming from persons doesn’t appreciate the policy level ‘ interventions’

  • 7

    Mr Rajiva Weerasinghe, Rajapassa is the dumbest uneducated illeterate leader in the century. Rapajassas does not know hot be decen civilized scientific. The village idiot shouldnt ve been the president for the second term if our sri lankans were smart. I wanted him to be the leader to get rid of LTTE. YOu need dumb suckr like M Rapassas to solve LTTE prolem. If our sri lankans were smart they would have sent him home second time. If he gets elected illegal third time that is end of Sri Lanka.

  • 4

    You thought, because you are stupid.

  • 4

    I agree with Rajiv on one line, the only unique selling point in UPFA was the WAR and the only Hero was MR. No one else.Others were also stealing rats. So when he is now losing the race, no one around will be there to hold him and support him including his brothers.People will have a soft corner for MR, and most will forgive, but for others, its only the wrath of the masses that waits.

  • 5

    The only question to Rajiv is how can a “liberal Party” support a Fascist?

  • 2

    Rajiva Baba
    How sweet your lines are….

    “The President who saved the country from terrorism does not deserve this. But even though the blame must go to the rest who are sitting at the tea table and helping themselves, he must also accept some responsibility for the problems that now beset him and the country.”

    What Rajiva machan, are you aasai/bayai? Why are you so reluctant to point the finger at the devil incarnate? Go tell him that the buck stops with him, will you Baba?

    Oh, by the way, have you seen that fantastic cartoon by Tissahami in theindependent.lk depicting how the third term was legitimised? That must surely count as the cartoon of the year, and the cartoonist is best advised to go into hiding for fear of retribution.

    Also, Rajiva, see below for what the JHU gave the King for a birthday present today:

    Except that serial scum-bag of a financial hit-man may have already started his subterfuge to stymy this act of orchestrated “treachery”:

    Finally, we have the utterly humorous situation where one of your fellow vermin (albeit less soph) has declared his charming hand:

    Better start re-positioning yourself you fraud of a liberal!

  • 3


    If you have any shame left, RESIGN NOW.

    Listen to the masses.

    Last time Liberal Party won 0 votes. This time -10,000 votes.

    • 1

      machang Lorenzo (aka FF)
      can you please explain how one can get – (minus) 10,000 votes

      mara gilmart no?

    • 0

      Two questions to FF. Can black-white professori win a seat contesting an election?Should Mara accept professori’s advice or use his own political acumen to win the Presidential election?

  • 1

    In his desperation to save his bacon this …. says, “The President who saved the country from terrorism does not deserve this. But even though the blame must go to the rest who are sitting at the tea table and helping themselves, he must also accept some responsibility for the problems that now beset him and the country.”
    Are you suggesting that MR is not the person eating the most at that table?
    Rajiva Wijesinha you are truly without any decency but with an excess of slime that puts even your father to shame

  • 2

    Well Rajiva no one really thought you were that bright..the ehadline proves it

  • 0

    Prof.Rajiva’s above headline on Pres. Rajapakse should have read……..
    Me, Myself and I.

    Everything Pres.Rajapakse does is centered on he, himself and his family. He monopolize Media, press and reporters and journalists by forcing them to focus only on him.

    From kissing the tarmac at Airport to jailing Gen.SF while giving Dana to Buddhist preletes upto putting up his own cut outs all over the country while suppressing media,journalists and opposition parties and holding onto 48% of the national budget to himself to achieve his sordid goals shows his character and thinking level.

    Pres.MR also uses all the tricks, drama, material and magic available on earth do deceive public.

    How long he could go on deceiving the masses is the million Dollar question. Not so long with his low education, less honesty, integrity and low IQ level.

    Therefore your above topic should have read…….Me, Myself and I.

    The 21st century Fox.

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.