Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 9 June 2013





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Government Gazette

Mahinda Rajapaksa, a leader with natural intuition, fortitude and poise

History has created leaders: As with the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Spartacus, Lenin, Che, Castro, Ho Chi Ming, Mao-Tse Tung, Gandhi and Mandela. The advent of King Maha Sammatha, according to the Anguttara Nikaya, was necessitated by the absence of a leader to ensure good governance. Such a forerunner was the need of the hour. This historic process is in progress even today as in the past.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa congratulates Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva on completing 30 years of service to the nation.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is also a product of the society who has reached the zenith of glory, being crowned as Maha Sammatha.

Being the second son of the former Member of Parliament from Beliatta, D.A. Rajapaksa, Mahinda catapulted himself headlong into the rough and tumble of politics. He filled the gap in the social and political leadership in Giruwa Pattu. His admirable personality and humility of deportment made him the cynosure in the political periphery.

If one is to use Ranasinghe Premadasa's words; one could say “Mahinda is politically well-tempered”.

Barely 19 years old, Mahinda ventured into politics, not because he was close to Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike or because he inherited his father's political legacy, but because history wanted to baptise him as a future leader. A substantial majority of the 40,000 voters in the Beliatta electorate elected him to Parliament on the SLFP ticket, to make him the heir apparent to national leadership. Mahinda's signature, when he took the oath of office at his election as MP for Beliatta on June 7, 1970 could be considered as a sign of his soaring to dizzy heights in the political hierarchy.

He was the youngest Parliamentarian who seconded the vote of thanks at the Speech from the Throne.

Since then, he built up his political life, not by means of his parliamentary speeches, but by dint of political struggles and democratic intervention. The Parliamentarian Mahinda Rajapaksa was the simple, unsophisticated Mahinda Mahattaya to those south of Giruwawa.

He was the saviour to the poor litigants in Tangalle, Embilipitiya, Walasmulla, Hambantota and Matara. Yet, he did not slacken his touch with the masses, particularly the youth in Walasmulla, Weeraketiya, Tangalle and Middeniya.

He inherited humbleness by birth. He defended the cause of the social underdogs, not through academic theories or imported proletarian slogans, but by practical experience.

Stepmotherly treatment

The 1971 youth insurrection had its roots in the South. He explained the insurrection as the vision of the village, and not that of a political party.

“The people of the Ruhuna had always been given stepmotherly treatment,” he said, speaking in Parliament at the votes of the Transport Ministry on December 15, 1971. Despite his defeat in 1977, with fortitude, he revamped his strategy to face future challenges.

If not for the 1982 Referendum, which was a sham, Lawyer Mahinda Rajapaksa would have been elected to Parliament, but he waited hopefully till 1989.

Thwarting the retrogressive elements in the SLFP in 1977, young Rajapaksa committed himself to advance the cause of the party. His militancy, the marked feature of his life, began to mellow during this crisis period. Re-elected to Parliament in 1989, he began to play his role as saviour of the youth who were on the brink of death. He also became the biggest headache to the Premadasa government. It was a time in which trade union activities and people's struggles had been rendered mute. It was the talk of the town that people opened their mouths only to eat and yawn!

History began to repeat itself. Paada Yatra, Jana Gosha and the Human Chain, the weapons of his arsenal, were galvanised to bring back fresh hopes of life to the bullet and tyre pyre-weary society. Mahinda transformed the people's anger into a formidable political force which shattered the foundation of the Premadasa government.

The Left political forces too woke up from their slumber due to the influence of young politician Rajapaksa. He spent days at the gates of the torture chambers of that time and argued many a case in the Courts to save the youth. He provided refuge to many young people at his home or elsewhere and rescued them from imminent death.

Interests of youth

He went to Geneva to represent the interests of the youth and to safeguard their right to life. A new lease of life was infused to the SLFP. Finally, his Janabala Vegaya reached the pinnacle of glory when the UNP, which reigned supreme for 17 years, was defeated and a people-friendly SLFP government was voted to power in 1994.

The beginning of 1994 witnessed his political winter during which he had a fine political training, exercised utmost political restraint and practised tolerance. His appointment as Leader of the Opposition in 2001 was a result of the mass support generated by the people, which even the leadership of the party could not ignore. Mahinda Rajapaksa performed his historic task in installing an SLFP-oriented patriotic government in office in 2004 while the country was teetering under imminent disintegration.Natural intuition, fortitude and poise were the attributes of his character which enabled him to end the 30-year LTTE terror. The Government, Security Forces and the people too stood by him.

I am happy that I could be of some strength to this national leader as early as 1970, which is a source of pride for me. I believe that he is a product of history as I closely witness his epic political odyssey. His name will be enshrined in the halls of fame as a great political leader.

Long live our great leader!

The writer is the Leader of the House and Minister of Irrigation and Water Management.

Translated by K.D. Michael Kittampahuwa

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