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Sunday, 29 November 2009

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The common candidate

Speculation was rife about a common candidate even before the Presidential elections were announced. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to hold a Presidential Election two years ahead of the end of his official term. The focus on a common candidate has now taken centre stage.

Who is the common candidate? When nominations for the forthcoming Presidential elections close, perhaps, there would be several who would call themselves the common candidate. But eventually, the genuine common candidate would emerge victorious.

The common candidate is none other than President Rajapaksa who gave inspirational leadership to the country's unrelenting battle against terrorism. He alone could be rightly called the saviour of the nation. If not for his courage, inspiration and motivation, the Security Forces would never have liberated the country from the clutches of LTTE terror.

The United National Party (UNP), in a desperate bid, decided not to field its party leader, the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Notwithstanding the strong opposition from some of the senior members of the Working Committee, they have decided to support Retired General Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 Presidential Elections.

Wickremesinghe must have breathed a sigh of relief that he could get away with the task of leading the UNP at the Presidential polls. That too is understandable as he has been a dismal failure at successive Presidential elections against UPFA candidates. He first 'tasted' defeat, when he took on Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 1999 and President Rajapaksa in 2005.

Apart from the two humiliating Presidential election defeats, the UNP has lost two General Elections and 18 other Provincial Council and Local Government elections under the tottering leadership of Wickremesinghe. The UNP, never in its history, had such a weak leader who is now obliged to evade elections.

Wickremesinghe has achieved another 'first' in Sri Lanka's election history as this will be the first time that a UNP leader would not contest a major election. As UNP National Organiser S.B. Dissanayake has pointed out, this will be the first time in 62 years that an election will be held without the Elephant symbol. Though the UNP has been making a big hue and cry about democracy, demanding early elections, its leader is running away, fearing to face elections as a true leader.

On the other hand, the action taken by President Rajapaksa is commendable.

He could have continued until November 2011 as the Executive President.

Nevertheless, he sought to get a fresh mandate from the people, even sacrificing one-third of his six-year term. No other leader in this country has gone for such early elections, foregoing two years in office. President Rajapaksa is a firm believer of democracy and the power of the people. He strongly believes and respects the wishes and aspirations of the common people. Having given dynamic leadership to the world's largest human rescue operation to liberate Mother Lanka, the President has decided to seek a fresh mandate from the people.

One of the main reasons which had prompted President Rajapaksa to call an early Presidential Election is to fulfil the aspirations of the Tamil community living in the North and the East. The LTTE terrorists denied people in uncleared areas the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights at the 2005 Presidential Elections. As a result, President Rajapaksa could not secure the Tamil vote he anticipated from the North and the East.

Now that people in the North and the East have been rescued from LTTE terror and are being resettled, the President has decided to get their consent as well for his next effort to win the 'economic war' as well.

Many people, including some opportunist Opposition politicians and 'peace merchants' are not acknowledging Sri Lanka's success in the battle against terrorism. Opposition politicians worked overtime to support the LTTE terror outfit from the time of the Mavil Aru operation in mid 2006 to the last few decisive hours at Nandikadal Lagoon.

These opportunist politicians have now taken a 'U' turn in embracing war heroes. People still remember how Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera tore the then Army Commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka to shreds, saying that the latter was not good enough even to lead the Salvation Army. But today, Samaraweera is singing hosannas for Fonseka.

The UNP-led Opposition issued a plethora of statements to oppose the Government's move to liberate innocent civilians trapped in the North and the East. They displayed incredible sympathy towards the civilians with a hidden agenda.

The Opposition even attempted to give the last drop of oxygen to revive the LTTE.

President Rajapaksa supported the Security Forces to the hilt, providing them the morale and logistical support at all times. Weren't there heroes in the battlefront such as General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, former Defence and National Security Ministers Lalith Athulathmudali, Ranjan Wijeratne and Anuruddha Ratwatte who attempted to militarily wipe out the LTTE? But undue foreign pressure and lack of a proper political vision 'killed' all such previous operations.

However, the political maturity, leadership qualities and strong international relations of President Rajapaksa helped rewrite Sri Lanka's modern history. Had it not been for the unflinching support from friendly countries during the crucial stages of the battle against terror, the Security Forces would never have achieved this success.

The irresponsible utterances of power-hungry Opposition politicians could enable local and foreign elements to interfere with Sri Lanka's sovereignty and territorial integrity. All loyal and patriotic citizens would undoubtedly rally round the President to defeat such sinister moves.

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