MR’s “rest” from politics

Daily News Editorial

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa made an interesting comment on Friday at Nugegoda. Addressing the “pohottuwa” party’s maiden rally as the chief speaker Rajapaksa said, but for President Sirisena he would be today earning for himself a well deserved rest from politics. It was the President who pushed him into the political arena once again by his own doings and that of the government under him. “I never wanted to come back to politics. All I wanted was some rest and peace after the presidential election. But the actions of this government are dragging the country towards disaster. They are trying to divide the country. I could not sit and watch that happening.”

It was the former President’s firm assertion that he reentered the political arena after January 8 due to the government’s attempt to divide the country through a new constitution. This claim is funny if not bizarre. It is difficult to fathom how Rajapaksa divined that a new constitution would be promulgated by the government a full two years in advance on January 8. Equally difficult to gauge is how the former president knew the exact contents of the constitution two years ahead to know well in advance that the country is going to be divided by the proposed constitution. There was no mention of a new constitution during the presidential election campaign of the Common Candidate or about the shape it is going to take. Besides, the creation of the new constitution is a collective effort where the MPs of the Joint Opposition too are partners, being members of the various committees appointed to draft the document.

Be that as it may, Rajapaksa’s claim that President Sirisena forced his reentry into politics due to the latter’s actions, if not for which he would today be earning a well deserved rest, needs to be examined closely. There was heightened speculation that Rajapaksa, on election night, when results were trickling in showing imminent defeat for the former president, was planning a coup of sorts to remain in power despite the verdict of the people. Giving credence to these rumours were the presence of the Army Commander, Chief Justice the IGP, a Senior DIG, very close to Rajapaksa, and a host of close confidants at Temple Trees in the company of the Rajapaksas. This was the scene when Ranil Wickremesinghe arrived at Temple Trees on election night. Later it transpired that military tanks were stationed at specific locations in the city and that the Election Commissioner’s office was to be surrounded to force the cancellation of the results.

This certainly cannot be the conduct of an individual who planned to retire and earn a well deserved rest from politics after the presidential election. On the contrary it a devious machination to remain entrenched in politics, going against the verdict of the people. The thought of a new constitution, or what it would do to the country, would have been furthest from the mind of the former president whose sole aim was to remain in power through foul means.

It was clearly plain to anyone that Rajapaksa, no sooner was he ousted from power, was set on a comeback journey to reclaim, if not his lost crown, at least a position of power from where he could wield authority. He lost no time in trying to mobilize the masses. The former President started doing the temple circuit where supporters greeted him with enthusiasm. He also frequently met the Mahnayakas to obtain their blessings with media in tow to get the maxim mileage out of these occasions. Well attended political rallies were held in major cities, titled Mahinda samaga negitimu (let us rise with Mahinda) or Mahinda sulanga (the Mahinda wind) – a far cry from the actions of a man who now claims he had no intentions to reenter politics after the presidential election.

The icing on the cake was when the former president presented himself as a candidate at the general election, a full eight months after the presidential election, portraying himself as the Prime Ministerial candidate, at a time when no mention of a new constitution had been made nor even an inkling given as to its contents. How can Rajapaksa now claim that he decided to quit politics after January 8 but that the President’s action to divide the country through the new constitution, forced his hand to reconsider his decision?

Cartoon is from Ceylon Today

Assuming that Rajapaksa’s decision was guided by altruistic motives what power or authority could he wield to change the status quo? His Presidential hopes are over and the premiership is a dashed long shot. Rajapaksa can only aspire to be Prime Minister by contesting a general election and winning from a third party, since it is difficult to fathom President Sirisena offering him nominations from the SLFP, let alone making him the Prime Ministerial nominee. Hence MR would do himself a world of good, if he, at least now, seriously consider taking that long overdue rest which he had deprived himself in order put things right in this paradise isle which the Yahapalaya government had fouled up.