Friday, December 26, 2014

End is nigh for Maithri and his achcharu coalition | The Sunday Times Sri Lanka


I feel it is my duty to respond to the comments of my unseen friend Viruddha Pakshikaya last week, as he has attempted to paint a bleak-and false-picture of Sri Lanka under President Mahinda Rajapaksa — and is already behaving as if the election has been won by Maithripala Sirisena. I’m told that the joint Opposition is already fighting for portfolios among themselves!
My answer to Viruddha Pakshikaya comes in the form of just two words: Tissa Attanayake. Now, I don’t know Tissa personally but this is the man who looked after the nuts and bolts of the UNP’s election machinery for the last ten years after Gamini Atukorale’s untimely demise. Yes, the UNP did not win many (or indeed any) elections during his tenure but with a leader like Ranil Wickremesinghe, that is hardly Tissa’s fault.
Tissa quit the UNP, joined the UPFA, was appointed Health Minister and is now a star attraction at UPFA rallies, spilling the beans on what it is like to be in a dysfunctional Opposition. Now, if Tissa believed the Opposition could win, he wouldn’t be doing all this, would he? And he should know.
I can almost hear Viruddha Pakshikaya scoffing in response to this, saying that Tissa was only a National List MP who was beholden to the UNP for his seat in Parliament. And my answer to that comes in the form of another two words: Udaya Gammanpila.Now, here is a bright young man with a political future ahead of him. Even though he was from the JHU, he obviously attracted enough SLFP votes to emerge second in the preference votes at the recent Western Provincial Council election. And he too “rejoined” the UPFA campaign last week.
He had left the UPFA a few weeks ago to join the Maithripala Sirisena campaign. What he saw there frightened him so much that he came running back to the UPFA. His explanation was that he couldn’t be part of a Government that included Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunga.
Viruddha Pakshikaya accuses me of not getting ‘good grades for history at school’. Let me enlighten him on a little bit of recent history if he is the pundit in history: let us remember, shall we, the last time when Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga were in the same Government? She was President, he was Prime Minister. It was 2001.
Kumaratunga complained bitterly about how she was treated by the UNP Cabinet. She was accused of bringing a video camera in her handbag by Ravi Karunanayake. Kumaratunga took over three portfolios while Wickremesinghe was gallivanting in Washington. There was chaos all around. That was the cohabitation Government we had.
Tell me, Viruddha Pakshikaya, is that the state of cohabitation to which you want us to return to? And this time around, there are even more people than just Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga pulling Maithripala’s puppet strings: Sarath Fonseka, Champika Ranawaka and maybe even the JVP and the TNA.
Viruddha Pakshikaya has two main complaints about President Rajapaksa continuing in office: the role played by his family and his alleged persecution of so-called ‘opponents’ such as Sarath Fonseka, Mangala Samaraweera, the JVP and Shirani Bandaranayake. It appears as if Viruddha Pakshikaya needs to refresh his memory.
Family politics is part of South Asian politics. That is why, for most of its history, the UNP was led by the Senanayake-Jayewardene-Wickremesinghe clan and why it was known as the Uncle Nephew Party. The Bandaranaikes led the SLFP for fifty years so maybe it is now the Rajapaksas turn.
As for the ‘persecution’ of opponents, Sarath Fonseka is free to say what he wants and campaign for Sirisena only because he was pardoned by the President! About Bandaranayake, the CJ 43 as her supporters like to call her, I do recall the UNP maintaining that Parliament was above the judiciary, when her impeachment came before the House!
And just so that our readers don’t miss the point, let me add that Maithripala Sirisena was a part of all those decisions: he raised his hand to impeach CJ Bandaranayake, to pass the 18th Amendment, to encourage crossovers to maintain a majority in Parliament, so why has he suddenly woken up from slumber now?
The answer is that Sirisena and those pulling his strings believe there is a shortcut to power. They think — incorrectly, of course — that the people would reject President Rajapaksa simply because he has been in office for two terms. The people of this country, Viruddha Pakshikaya, are smarter than that. And they are a grateful people, as well.
The choice before them is, in fact, quite straightforward. One, a leader with a proven track record who won a war that all of his predecessors lost, and jump started the economy which under Chandrika Bandaranaike once got a record zero per cent growth. The other, simply a representative of an array of political forces whose only common ground is their dislike for President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The outlandish things they say are hilarious. For example, Chandrika claims she won 75 per cent of the war. The lady who wanted to bring LTTE representatives into the P-TOMS after the tsunami, and give them ‘Federalism’ through a ‘package’ and an ISGA (Internal Self-Governing Agency) says she won 75 per cent of the war. You don’t win 75 per cent of the war. You need 100 per cent of the war, and that is what our President did.
Take Maithripala Sirisena’s manifesto released this week. Viruddha Pakshikaya, if you can understand the English in which it is written, you will see what a hoax it is. They are nothing about nothing. It’s all wishy-washy stuff. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
So, as Viruddha Pakshikaya himself says, the end is nigh not for the President but for Sirisena and his accomplices. For them, the writing is on the wall, not only metaphorically but literally as well, if one were to assess popular support using the posters for the respective candidates as a barometer!
I do agree with Viruddha Pakshikaya that come the eighth of January, there will be a ‘maithree paalanaya’ but sadly for him, it will not be headed by Maithripala. It will be headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa who will govern with maithree or loving kindness, even to Maithripala and his achcharu coalition.