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Sunday, 18 May 2014

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President's political acumen incomparable

Sri Lanka was in a state of near collapse or disintegration when President Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed office in 2005. The country was in flames. Many attacks on places of worship, educational institutions and centres of economic significance were being carried out causing severe damage and financial loss in every part of the country.

Several foreign countries such as Norway, the UK, USA called for cessation of hostilities and to resume negotiations as the government was fighting an unwinnable war. They said the LTTE was invincible. Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe had expressed similar views.

At the 2005 elections, the voters were clamouring for peace - peace at any cost. With a dwindling economy and sans strong friends in the international arena, Sri Lanka was in a parlous state. In the North and the South we had to face military setbacks which rendered the country helpless and destitute.

The LTTErs massacred Tamil leaders who fought for democracy and ethnic harmony.

No clear vision

President Rajapaksa said that terror must be met with strong military opposition to bring peace and prosperity to the country. The leaders who preceded him had no clear vision with regard to the battle against terrorism and they thought that negotiating a settlement was the panacea for all ills in the country.

The President always believed that the future generations should inherit a country devoid of strife and turmoil.

He convinced his Cabinet and the Forces and the Police of the need to fight the war to a finish. Money was allocated to ensure the wherewithal to fight the battle on land, in jungles and wherever it raged. With the help of the valiant forces and President Rajapaksa's strong leadership we put an end to LTTE terrorism on May 19, 2009.

The People were jubilant over the victory as it brought peace and tranquillity to the country.

Although we have achieved peace we are on the way to achieve the more difficult goal of economic revival which was in the doldrums due to terrorism which resulted in a severe monetary setback. The cost of living went up while the standard of living came down and the people faced hardships.

At the last meeting with our professional friends we had very interesting discussions on the aftermath of the terrorism and the impending parliamentary or presidential elections. A pertinent question was posed by a legal luminary as to what would have happened by now if the battle against terrorism was not won. Many parents in the North and the East silently suffered over the abduction of their children by the LTTE.

They were killed as they were put to the front as cannon fodder. Since most Tamil leaders had been killed, the only leader, who could not be met, heard or approached, was Prabhakaran.

Of course, he had his children educated in foreign climes, lived in secure places and had the best of both worlds.

What would happen if a situation arises again with the re-emergence of the LTTE which is being helped and supported with massive monetary input by the so-called Tamil diaspora.

The so-called Tamil diaspora does not tell the world that there is peace in the country as they fear that they would be sent back to Sri Lanka and they would lose the cushy and cozy lives they spend in the West.

Common candidate

Since the word elections is looming large, a timely question is, if President Rajapaksa is not there who is going to be the leader of this country to face a situation of that nature and magnitude if any unrest occurs in the country.

Some said why not a common candidate. I asked them to name one. One said Ranil.

I reminded him that his Party has no confidence in him. The Party is broken into pieces.

The internal rivalry in the UNP has riven the Party asunder. Ranil is not in Sri Lanka as he is in MIT Massachusetts, lecturing and being lectured to on politics.

He has not being able to attract a crowd as he has failed to deliver the goods for the Party having lost more than 20 elections in a row.

Anyway, he cannot be dislodged from the Party leadership as long as the present UNP constitution remains unchanged and unamended.

A strong champion of Sinhala Buddhist Balavegaya wanted to know whether Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera would be a candidate suitable even for a short period of time to abrogate the Constitution and do away with the Presidential system.

Chandrika Bandaranaike when she was the President was castigating Ven. Sobhitha as a dubious character. Rev. Sobhitha will never be able to see eye-to-eye with her over this issue and there will not be any getting together of these two.

Also a country which is secular would not like to have a priest of whatever denomination as the leader as it would create religious discord in the country.

As we know today, in politics, there is no place for extremism or sectarianism, but only for secularism. So Ven. Sobhitha is out.

A Tamil professional suggested the name of C.V. Wigneswaran who is currently the Chief Minister of the North-East Provincial Council as common candidate.

Chandrika’s name was reluctantly suggested by a former Chairman of a Statutory Body which became the subject of laughter and it was said that she had not done anything worthwhile in the past for her to ask for Presidency as she woefully failed to fulfill the promises she gave to the constituents at the hustings in 1994.

She said she would do away with the Presidential system, bring terrorism to an end, raise the standard of living of the people, prune the Cabinet to a sizeable number, and give people food, clothing and shelter but we all know she could not deliver any of these things.

She won the second time only due to sympathy votes she received as she lost the sight of her left eye as a result of a bomb blast at a meeting at the Town Hall junction. People in this country will never take her seriously.

Chit orders

When a middle-aged, fire brand of the former LSSP asked what about Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the JVP, a university lecturer inquired whether the crowd could not remember the number of people killed by JVPers, how they destroyed electricity transformers in the country, factories and how the JVP kept the country in darkness in the 1980s.

How people were killed and their bodies were dismembered and thrown to the road as a warning to the people who went against their chit orders is still fresh in the minds of the people.

Karu Jayasuriya was criticised as one man who ruined his own Party by crossing over to the other side with 18 people and coming back to the same Party again minus that 18.

He is like a vegetable which is good to be given to ageing and ailing invalids in hospital, someone said.Ranil, a shrewd politician of Machiavellian style has given Karu a dead rope to send him into political oblivion by making him the president of an organisation which is not stronger than a Mahila Samithiya in a village, toothless, ineffective and powerless.

When Sajith’s name was proposed everybody said that he is inexperienced and immature and that he cannot come forward as long as Ranil is there and the only option available to him is that he should set up a new organisation such as the Puravesi Peramuna of his father with a few friends such as Maithri Gunaratne and Shiral Lakthilaka.

Everybody accepted the fact that a lot of things have been done and achieved by the incumbent President and few things more need to be done in time to come.

Mahinda Chinthana

This is not the time to upset the implementation of programs launched under the Mahinda Chinthana as there is tangible proof that President Rajapaksa is the only person who can unify this country under one banner and bring all communities together to the satisfaction of everybody.

The propaganda machine of the Party and the Government should be accelerated to convince the people of the monumental work done by the President, the Cabinet and the two able Secretaries, Lalith Weeratunga, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There is no reason to reiterate how grateful the people should be to the President for the development work he has launched.We all are beholden to the President for ushering in peace on May 19, 2009, eradicating terrorism from the country. Sri Lanka is one of the safest places in the world to live in. His experience is vast and unparalleled; political acumen is incomparable as he had been an MP, Deputy Minister, Minister, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and the President of the country.

With the emergence of a strong leader in the neighbourhood of Sri Lanka it is very necessary for Sri Lanka to have a strong leader of the stature of President Rajapaksa at least for another 10 years.

The writer is a senior Attorney-at-Law.

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