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The Deconstruction of a


oto via Al Jazeera

by Anura Gunasekera - on 08/27/2015

Notwithstanding his rise to ultimate power as a politician in this country,

Mahinda Rajapaksa retains the mindset of an uneducated peasant , in this
instance from Giruwapattuwa. Despite being one of the most shrewd, and
one of the most successful political manipulators in the short independent
history of this country, he opts to place his faith in necromancy,
soothsaying, the casting of bones and the reading of entrails, rather than in
the intelligence of his political sense. This is absolutely no reflection on the
Giruwapattuwa peasant who, under all normal circumstances, would be a
splendid individual and a decent , honest, law-abiding citizen; that is, until
he becomes the President of Sri Lanka.

Like most politicians in this country, Rajapaksa permitted a pathetic belief

in the black arts to guide his conduct in the most important matters of
state. His decision to hold a presidential election two years before schedule
is said to have been prompted by the palace astrologers predictions on a
favourable configuration of the planets. His trips overseas to Hindu kovils
to undergo cleansing rituals, the extravagantly crafted amulets that
decorate his person, are all testimony to a primitive obsession with the
occult, the unreal and the unproven.
Apart from this abject reliance on heavenly interventions, there was also
the hubris, nurtured through a decade of successful subjugation of
opposition and dissidence. He believed that by eliminating a dissident, one
could also make dissent disappear. Political challengers were incarcerated.
Judicial opposition was dismissed summarily from office. Journalists who
wrote unpleasant truths were assassinated in daylight with perpetrators
never being traced. Some critics simply disappeared in to thin air whilst
political loyalty was purchased, as and when required.
Rajapaksa began to believe his invincibility, his own glib untruths, his own
rhetoric and the lies of the sycophants, the collaborators, the accomplices ,
who fed off his generous table. He believed that continued aggression was
the key to success, even in peacetime. When no more enemies were left, he
invented them because the apprehension of enemy action permitted him to
carry out repressive strategies in peacetime, which would be barely
permissible in war.
He was strong in withstanding foreign interference in the affairs of the
country , but he also lied to the international community and made
promises that he had no intention of honouring. Despite a minimal

comprehension of international diplomacy, he believed that he had the

statesmanship skills to play one regional power against the other. Behaving
exactly as the head of any criminal syndicate would, he permitted his
family and servitors to steal from the nation with total impunity guaranteed,
in return for unquestioning loyalty to him, personally.
This , then, is the man who ruled the country for a decade and, when
thwarted in a third term presidential bid, assayed to return to power
through a different route. Despite the total rejection by the minorities in
successive Presidential Elections and in the North/East Provincial Elections
in 2013 , he continued to fan the flames of ethnic discord to woo the
Sinhala /Buddhist voter. In an inexplicable display of political obtuseness,
he failed to add up the numbers on the wall.
As a preliminary to his last bid for power, Weerawansa, Gammanpila ,
Nanayakkara and Dinesh Gunawardana, together created the myth of
Rajapaksas undiminished allure to the voter, assisted by the pair of
discredited Chief Justices, Silva and Pieris, and the other legal luminary
always lurking in the background, the erudite but unprincipled Professor
Pieris, indefatigable apologist to successive national leaders. This
unscrupulous cabal was supported by occasional visits to the podium by
Dr. Dayan Jayatillaka , who appears to have discarded all concern for
personal credibility. Another scholar, Rajiva Wijesinha, a man who ardently
championed the Maithripala Sirisena defection, has also now found reason
to somersault back in to the arms of the man he castigated a few months
Mahinda Rajapaksa has much more to give the country , confidently
mouthed Dayan Jayatillaka, in one of the numerous TV interviews he
participated in, in support of a Rajapaksa third term. Despite Rajapaksas

defeat in January, DJ continued to reinforce his arguments for a Rajapaksa

revival , describing in ecstatic terms, the Nugegoda Rising and other
theatrically choreographed public assemblies , as incontrovertible proof of
Rajapaksas continuing marketability. He failed to qualify that what
Rajapaksa had to offer was the same old rhetoric, convincingly rejected by
the majority of the voting population for the second time in eight months.
In the January 2015 Presidential Election Rajapaksa polled 5.7 million votes.
In the just concluded General Election ,the UPFA, fighting under the MR
pennant, polled a total of 4.7 mn votes. That deficit ,surely, was entirely
from the Sinhala/Buddhist vote bank which, for more than a decade,
Rajapaksa had manipulated so successfully. This erosion in numbers reflects
the degree of disenchantment of the voter with the divisive sentiments
which was the foundation of the Rajapaksa thrust, echoed and reechoed,
island-wide, by his faithful lackeys, as well as by brother Gota, on the
latters infrequent visits to the podium.
Rajapaksas personal campaign paid scant regard to major socio-economic
dimensions, such as health, education, agriculture, plantations and instead,
concentrated on the alleged threats to National Security through a
revival of the LTTE , combined with the renewed articulation of minority
aspirations. He failed to see, or refused to concede, that the aggression in
the minority approach was a direct response to his hard line and
uncompromising attitude.
Rajapaksa declared from several pulpits , that the youth of this country had
forgotten, or were unaware of the bloodshed that this country had suffered
for three decades. This is absolute fact; the youth of this country, the first
time voters, are not interested in past tragedies. Their focus lies in possible
improvements to the educational system and advances in higher education,

improved job opportunities and the potential for a better quality of life as
adults, thereafter. Even if the UPFA election manifesto did address these
issues, the average voter listens to speeches but does not read such
The UPFA campaign , from the beginning , was grievously flawed in that it
focused on reviving the declining political fortunes of one man, instead of
addressing urgent national issues which had a direct impact on the lives of
ordinary people. It was simply, all about making Mahinda Rajapaksa , Prime
Minister, a project which , clearly, was not a priority to the average voter.
Similarly, unusable airports , minimally used sea-ports and eight lane
highways where the roaming cattle outnumber the vehicles , several fold,
have no appeal to the rural voter. This was clearly reflected in the
Hambantota election result, where Namal Rajapaksa polled 15% less than
he did in 2010, despite a 13% increase in voter turn out as compared with
2010. Notwithstanding Rajapaksas massive presence in Kurunegala, the
UPFA majority in the district over the UNP, declined from 210,000 to 32,849
between 2010 and 2015. In Gampaha, long considered a bastion of the
SLFP, possibly for the first time, the UNP secured a close-run victory.
Whilst the latest win for the UNP over the UPFA is quite narrow, the reality
is that between 2010 and 2015, the UNP has increased the number of seats
from 64 to 106 and the total vote from 29% to 46% of the total polled,
whilst the UPFA has been reduced to 95 seats from 144 , and the total vote
from 60% to 42%.
Mahinda Rajapaksas defeat is due to his reliance on personal charisma,
faith based politics, factionalist rhetoric and the inexplicable failure to read
the mounting evidence of unfavourable numbers in successive elections.
The reality is that the cold, hard , arithmetic of voting patterns was not

etched in the ola leaves of Rajapaksas well thumbed horoscope.

Essentially, as things are at present, Rajapaksa is dead, politically. A two
term presidency, a failed third term attempt, immediately followed by a
thwarted tilt at Premiership, culminating in relegation to a parliamentary
backbench with his son, is not a story of upward political mobility for a man
of seventy one. He has always been rejected by the minorities , with good
reason. This time, the majority of the majority community has turned its
back on him. Pathetically, Rajapaksa is still roaming his fantasy world,
attributing his loss to the Norwegians, USA, unnamed NGOs and
international conspiracies and possibly to unfavourable planetary
configurations, whilst refusing to concede that the spectre of renewed
ethnic strife, a re-awakened LTTE and the possible division of the country,
all of which he declaimed from platform to platform, have failed to excite
the majority.
This refreshing rejection of extremist rhetoric was demonstrated elsewhere,
as well. In the South the abject failure of the Bodu Jana Peramuna, the
electoral incarnation of the despicable Bodu Bala Sena and , in the Tamil
North, the minimal response to the Tamil National Peoples Front which
obtained less votes in Jaffna than the UPFA- are welcome manifestations of
a more mature outlook in the voting community. This suggests the nascent
emergence of a pluralistic mindset, from the ethno religious morass
created by Rajapaksa and allied factions as well as the LTTE and its fellow
That said, the scoundrel, the corrupt, the criminalized and the morally
discredited seem to still hold a fascination for the Sri Lankan voter.
In Colombo, Wimal Weerawansa polled over 300,000 whilst Mohanlal Grero

barely scraped through and Sunil Handunetti in Matara did not even
qualify. Gutter oratory and alleged involvement in illegal practices triumphs
over a decent man with a genuine vision for the improvement of higher
education . Bombastic, divisive rhetoric supersedes reasoned, courteously
and intelligently articulated political truths. Alleged criminal associations
notwithstanding, Nimal Lanza is elected with 94,000 votes. Premalal
Jayasekera, despite languishing in remand custody on a charge of murder
for the entirety of the campaign, receives the highest preferential votes in
the Ratnapura district. Lohan Ratwatte, implicated in murder, first in 1997
and again in 2001, the latter the politically motivated assassination of ten
Muslim Congress supporters, is elected to the Kandy seat with over 120,000
votes. Rosy Senanayake, despite representing principled politics and
promoting serious social issues islandwide, fails to win a seat. In these
distressing anomalies lie a serious moral disequilibrium, which needs to
be remedied.
If the UPFA/SLFP is to become a party worthy of re-election, it must
disentangle itself from the stranglehold of the maroon noose and totally
reconstruct its political platform, which includes establishing confidence
amongst the minorities by creating a space for sincerely addressing
minority grievances. The latter objective will never be achieved in the
shadow of Rajapaksas menacing presence, which means that the
UPFA/SLFP will have to discount a million votes at every election carrying
the Rajapaksa baggage. Until that fault-line is cemented the party will
always be faced with a no-win situation in any close run contest.
Recently, in a gesture that was both symbolic and meaningful, President
Sirisena handed back to its rightful owners in Sampur, over 800 acres of
land expropriated by the Rajapaksa regime on behalf of the BOI,
immediately on conclusion of the war, relegating 825 families to refugee

camps for the entirety of the in-between period. A similar restitution of

about 400 acres took place in Valikamam, a few months ago. In the context
of the totality of the land lost to its original owners these represent only a
small beginning , as Chief Minister Wigneswaran took great pains to point
out but is still a sincere initiative for reparation and compensation. It is
unlikely that such would have taken place under a Rajapaksa regime. For
minorities in the North and the East, with genuine grievances , Rajapksas
departure from the political landscape offers real hope for reconciliation and
restitution .
Personally , for me as a concerned citizen, Mahinda Rajapaksas second
defeat within a year means that I will , apart from seeing other welcome
changes in governance , at least for the next five years, also be spared the
unappetizing sight of a plethora of massive cutouts of Rajapaksa striding
confidently in to the future, fatuous smile wreathed in the kurakkan
satakaya. I am absolutely certain that this is a sentiment shared by a few
million fellow citizens of this country.
Posted by Thavam