Former Minister and Chairman of the ‘pohottuwa’ Prof. G. L. Peiris, known for his double speak in the past, has typically done a volte face once again. Addressing the media on the recent visit of MP Mahinda Rajapaksa to India, Peiris said they, meaning the Pohottuwa led by Rajapaksa, were willing to bury the hatchet with India and renew strained ties. This was after Rajapaksa accompanied by his son Namal met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and posed for a picture together.
When asked by a journalist as to how could they reconcile their new position vis-a-vis India with the unrelenting attacks by JO spokesman against the Yahapalanaya Government for ‘kowtowing’ to India, and, what is more, India’s alleged role in masterminding the regime change in January 15 through RAW, Peiris sheepishly said they should not be trapped in the past but need to improve and enhance ties with India as well as other countries. He also quoted MR as having told the Indian Premier of the need to turn a new chapter in Indo-Lanka relations.
In fact Rajapaksa went one better. Asked by The Hindu about his criticism of the government’s move to hand over Mattala over to India, Rajapaksa looked scandalized and was quick to say that he had no such objections to India acquiring a stake in the loss making ‘world’s emptiest airport’.
Hence, it appears that everything is now hunky dory with India where the Pohottuwa is concerned. All the anti-Indian rhetoric bellowed all this time have been put paid to by Mahinda Rajapaksa who now wants improved ties with Big Brother. One would now expect the likes of Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila to stop raving and ranting about an ‘indhiyanu aakramanaya’ (Indian invasion), ad nauseam.
Not just Mattala. There is also the Trincomalee Oil Tank farm and the Southern terminal of the Colombo Port that has Indian partnership. What will be the stance of the JO stalwarts over these two projects? Are they going to throw in the towel and submit meekly to their leader’s stand that all the anti-Indian rhetoric, hitherto, was just hot air and no ill will was meant against Big Brother. What of the placards carried by some of the protestors in the recent ‘janabalaya’ that castigated the Government for disposing of national assets to India? Or will Rajapaksa plead with Modi “to forgive them for they know not what they do?”
Be that as it may, Peiris’s interpretation of events may or may not be unfounded. It is not as if Rajapaksa was a guest of the Indian Government per se but was on private visit at the invitation of a maverick politician of the ruling BJP. Peiris himself quotes the Indian Premier as telling Rajapaksa that the politics of the duo, read geopolitics, should, by no means, be a barrier to their personal friendship, which puts things in a nutshell. What this means is the status-quo that prevailed pre-January 2015 yet remains valid, vis-a-vis India’s attitude towards the Rajapaksas, notwithstanding the pleasantries and niceties. Perhaps, Modi’s warm welcome extended to Rajapaksa stemmed from a need to quell the fusillade of anti-Indian rhetoric that is being fired by the latter’s supporters in this country.
The UNP, no doubt, will seize on the new development to its advantage. It has being continually at the receiving end of the Dinesh Gunawardenas and Udaya Gammanpilas for the ‘appeasement’ of India. The latest to get on the India bashing bandwagon is the GMOA. Its members even vowed not to treat patients brought to Government hospitals in the Indian ambulances. Today, though, they observe their own edict in the breach. Going along with the JO they also opposed the ETCA with India. Will Mahinda Rajapaksa also tell Modi that a future government under his leadership would not touch this agreement which JO heavyweights vowed to tear up once ensconced in power?
The JO should at least now realize the futility of their rhetoric, not only against India, but also any attempt to connect Sri Lanka with the outside world. Mahinda Rajapaksa has driven this point home in no uncertain terms during his meeting with the Indian Premier. It is now certain that Rajapaksa, if similarly invited to China, would accept the Public-Private Partnership entered into by the Yahapalanaya Government to develop the Hambantota Port without demur despite all the “sell out” slogans chanted by his henchmen. Ditto for all the Chinese projects in this country.
It is appropriate that Prof. Peiris was chosen to set right this flip flop stand of Mahinda Rajapaksa with India. This is because he is already a master at doing somersaults, not just from one political party to another, but also from one position to another. This was clearly observed in his stance towards devolution when he was in the UNP and led the Government delegation to ‘peace talks’ with the LTTE and again when he was a Cabinet Minister in the Rajapaksa Government.