President Gotabaya Spearheads the Return of Ruhunu Rajapaksas – Part Two
The election of Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the seventh executive president of Sri Lanka has effectively demonstrated that the “Ruhunu Rajapaksas” have come to stay as a dynastic political force in the country. As stated last week in the first of this two – part article the patriarch of this “Medamulana Dynasty” was Don Alvin Rajapaksa (DA Rajapaksa) the father of Chamal, Mahinda, Gotabaya,Basil and five other children.
DA Rajapaksa was initially reluctant to enter active politics. However he was compelled to do so by eminent residents of the then Hambantota constituency in the State Council legislature during British rule. They wanted him to fill the vacancy caused by the death of his elder brother Don Mathew Rajapaksa (DM Rajapaksa) dubbed the “Ruhunu Sinhaya”.
In a bid to exert maximum pressure on the hesitant DA Rajapaksa, a delegation of notables went to meet him with the nomination papers to contest the by-election while the prospective candidate was ploughing his fields. Bowing down to the popular pressure the reluctant DA finally agreed to contest the by election. In a scene reminiscent of Robert Knox’s famous statement about “ washing the mud off the farmer and placing him on the throne” DA Rajapaksa washed the mud off his hands and legs and signed the nomination papers. There was however no by-election. D.A. Rajapaksa was elected unopposed to the State Council representing the Hambantota constituency on 14 July 1945.
Don Alvin Rajapaksa was an old student of Richmond College Galle and was well-versed in English. He captained the Soccer Team and was Vice Captain of the Cricket Team. It is said that the ground record he set up in the match with Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa, still stands. Yet he had no qualms about becoming a full-fledged agriculturist. When he entered the State Council and took his oaths on 8 August 1945, he became a member of the Executive Committee on Agriculture and Lands.
After independence from Britain, D.A. Rajapaksa represented the Beliatta seat in Parliament from 1947 to 1965 with a short break in 1960 March when he lost to D.P. Atapattu of the UNP. D.A. Rajapaksa lost in 1965 to D.P. Attapattu again. D.A. Rajapaksa won Beliatta on the UNP ticket in 1947 and thereafter on the SLFP ticket till ’65.
S.W.R. D. Bandaranaike
Don Alvin Rajapaksa was a faithful deputy of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who crossed over from the UNP to SLFP on 12 July 1951. Five others (A.P. Jayasooriya, George R. de Silva, Jayaweera Kuruppu, D.S. Goonesekera and D.A. Rajapaksa) were supposed to follow suit, but when the moment came, only D.A. Rajapaksa crossed the floor behind Bandaranaike like his faithful shadow. The others got cold feet to cross over in the House but did so later.
On 2 September 1951, the SLFP was formed. D.A. was one of the 44 signatories giving notice of the formation of the SLFP. In the 1952 May elections, the fledgling SLFP won nine seats. D.A. Rajapaksa was one of the nine victors. In spite of these impressive credentials and loyalty, D.A. Rajapaksa was not a cabinet minister in the 1956 Cabinet or 1960 July Cabinet. This was due to D.A. Rajapaksa’s simplicity, lack of ambition, love of his roots and abhorrence for the trappings of power.
In 1956, S.W.R.D. offered D.A. any Cabinet post other than the one to be given to C.P. de Silva, but D.A. declined firmly and only wanted nephew Lakshman (DM Rajapaksa’s son) to be given a deputy minister’s post, so Lakshman was made Deputy to Trade and Commerce Minister R.G. Senanayake. But the people of Hambantota under the leadership of Tangalle lawyer Wickramasuriya protested strongly to S.W.R.D. and D.A. So a reluctant DA Rajapaksa was forced to be Deputy Minister of Land, Irrigation and Agriculture under C.P. de Silva.
During Wijayananda Dahanayake’s short-lived Cabinet after S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike’s assassination on 26 September 1959, D.A. Rajapaksa was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Lands. He resigned in two weeks on 10 October to pre-empt dismissal by the eccentric Dahanayake who was sacking his ministers en masse and appointing fresh ministers. In July 1960 Mrs. Bandaranaike became Premier and offered a Cabinet portfolio to D.A. Rajapaksa, who declined it. Then she offered him the office of speaker. This too was refused. It is said that Rajapaksa said that he preferred his home in Medamulana to “Mumtaz Mahal” the official residence of the speaker in those days.. He continued to remain in a room at Shravasti when in Colombo.
On 6 November 1962, upon the death of Deputy Chairman of Committees Wariyapola MP A.M.A. Adhikari, D.A. Rajapaksa was appointed to fill the vacancy. When the Speaker R.S. Pelpola resigned on 24 January 1964 to accept a ministerial portfolio, the then Deputy Speaker Hugh Fernando became Speaker. D.A. Rajapaksa succeeded Hugh Fernando as the Deputy Speaker, which position he held until the defeat of the Sirima Bandaranaike Government in December 1964. D.A. Rajapaksa lost his seat in 1965 and passed away in 1967.
Six Boys and Three Girls
Don Alvin Rajapaksa married Dona Dandina Samarasinghe Dissanayake of Palatuwa, Matara. They had nine children – six boys and three girls.Their names are Chamal, Jayanthi (deceased), Mahinda, Tudor (deceased), Gotabaya, Basil, Preethi, Dudley and Gandini(Deceased) D.A. Rajapaksa who had lost elections in 1965 passed away on 7 November 1967. Meanwhile eldest son Chamal Rajapaksa joined the Police force as a Sub-Inspector. After DA Rajapaksa’s death Sri Lanka Freedom Party Leader Sirima Bandaranaike offered the post of party organiser for Beliatta to Chamal. Chamal however declined and recommended his malli Mahinda instead.
Mahinda Rajapaksa who studied at Richmond College in Galle and at ,Nalanda and Thurstan Colleges in Colombo was then working as an assistant librarian at the Vidyodaya University later to be made the Vidyodaya campus and now the Sri Jayewardenapura University. It was during this time that Mahinda got enamoured of left-leaning politics. He became a card carrying member of the Ceylon Mercantile Union (CMU).
Initially Mrs. Bandaranaike was hesitant thinking Mahinda was too young and somewhat irresponsible. Later on she relented and appointed Mahinda as Beliatta Organiser in 1968. This brought about a marked change in Mahinda. He buckled down to the task and strove to meet the challenge. He gave up his Assistant Librarian job and relocated to Medamulana. He began working with the people at grass roots level.
The 1970 elections saw the United Front sweeping the polls with the SLFP getting ninety-one seats and the LSSP and CP winning nineteen and six seats respectively. Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa known as Mahinda defeated his rival from the UNP, Dr. Ranjith K.P. Atapattu. Mahinda got 23,103 votes and Ranjith 16,477. In 1977 the roles were reversed with Ranjith Atapattu winning with 24,289 votes while Mahinda Rajapaksa got 17,896. Interestingly Mahinda’s father D.A. Rajapaksa and Ranjith’s father D.P. Atapattu had been rivals contesting Beliatta in each election from 1947. Sadly both fathers were not alive to see their sons become Beliatta MPs.
Those were the days when ministers were proportionately few and the fresher Mahinda remained a backbencher throughout the life of the 1970-’77 Parliament. Some changes made in the admissions criteria to Law College enabled Mahinda to enrol as a law student while being an MP. In July 1977 he lost the election but took his oaths as an Attorney-at-Law in November that year. After becoming a lawyer, Mahinda moved to Tangalle and established a lucrative practice in the south. His politics too continued albeit on a lower scale.
In 1989 Mahinda was elected to Parliament from the Hambantota District under the new election procedures. While in Parliament Mahinda along with Matara District MP Mangala Samaraweera worked tirelessly in opposing the UNP Government of the day and reinvigorating the SLFP.
The 1994 elections saw the People’s Alliance forming a Government. Chandrika Kumaratunga became Prime Minister and later President. Mahinda was first appointed as the Labour Minister and later Fisheries Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle. In 2001 the UNP formed the Government while Chandrika continued to be President. Mahinda Rajapaksa became Leader of the Opposition. In 2004 the UPFA formed the Government and Mahinda became Prime Minister. In 2005 the presidential elections were announced. Despite many intra-party obstacles, Mahinda Rajapaksa secured nomination as the presidential
Candidate in the Nov 2005 elections. The LTTE enforced boycott in the North and the East in 2005 helped Mahinda defeat Ranil in the presidential poll.
What happened thereafter is now history! The Rajapaksa Government pursued the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with ruthless determination. After many deaths and much displacement, destruction and despair, the war ended with the military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. The Rajapaksas cleverly converted the war-victory euphoria into political victories in the 2010 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The Ruhunu Rajapaksas perceived as the first family in Sri Lankan politics began ruling the roost in authoritarian mode. With the 18th Constitutional Amendment being passed, the two-term limit for contesting Presidential elections was removed. It appeared that the politically- invincible Mahinda Rajapaksa was set to rule Sri Lanka for life as President.
“The best laid plans of men and mice and men often go awry,” observed Scottish poet Robert Burns. When presidential elections were called ahead of time, party secretary and senior Cabinet minister Maithripala Sirisena defected and became the common opposition candidate. The January 2015 Presidential poll resulted in Maithripala Sirisena (51.28%) defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa (47.58%). A UNP-led coalition government was formed with Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and Maithripala Sirisena as President. The 19th Constitutional Amendment re-imposing the two-term limit for the Presidency was passed. With Mahinda Rajapaksa being Constitutionally-debarred from contesting the presidency again, it appeared that the political fortunes of Ruhunu Rajapaksas were on the wane. A number of investigations probing the alleged corruption and abuse of power by various Rajapaksa family members were initiated. Cases were filed in court and a few Rajapaksas like Basil and Namal were even imprisoned for short periods. Gotabaya Rajapaksa waged many legal battles to ward off arrest and potential detention.
In such a situation, many political observers felt that the writing was on the wall politically for the Ruhunu Rajapaksas. But that is not what seems to have happened. Despite the adverse setbacks, the political stock of Ruhunu Rajapaksas continued to remain on par with ‘Medamulana Mahinda’ continuing to retain his position as the single-most popular political leader in the seven provinces outside the North and the East. Moreover, the newly-formed Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) which revolves around Mahinda Rajapaksa got the better of both the UNP and SLFP and emerged as the leading victor at the 2018 local authorities’ elections.
However an abortive bid last year to capture power through the backdoor ended in a dismal failure. Mahinda Rajapaksa who was Unconstitutionally appointed as Prime Minister on October 26th 2018 by former President Sirisena was forced to quit as “illegal premier” after 52 days. Despite this setback the Rajapaksas gained another chance to recapture power when the presidential elections drew close. Mahinda Rajapaksa took over formally as leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Party(SLPP) and then announced the candidacy of his brother Gota for the presidential elections.
Gotabaya contested the elections and was elected as President with 52.25% of the vote. President Gotabaya then appointed his elder brother Mahinda as Prime Minister and also as minister in charge of several portfolios including finance. Gota also appointed his eldest brother Chamal as a cabinet minister in charge of Agriculture and as State minister of Defence. With Gotabaya as president, Mahinda as Prime Minister and Chamal as Cabinet minister, it was crystal clear that the Ruhunu Rajapaksas were back in the saddle again. If Mahinda Rajapaksa led the Rajapaksas to power for the first time, his brother Gotabaya has spearheaded their return to power for the second time.
The official website of the new Sri Lankan president provides a profile of “His excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa the 7th executive president of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”. It is excerpted here in full for the benefit of readers –
“Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa was born on 20th June 1949 to former Cabinet Minister D. A. Rajapaksa and Dandina Dissanayake Rajapaksa. He is the 5th sibling in a family of 9 and is the brother to 5th Executive President of Sri Lanka and current Leader of Opposition, His Excellency, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa, former Speaker of the Parliament and Basil Rajapaksa, former Cabinet Minister.”
“He was educated at Ananda College, Colombo and joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1971. During his military of service, he earned a Master’s Degree in Defense Studies from the University of Madras and underwent advanced training in Pakistan, India and the USA. Having commanded many anti-terrorist operations in the North and East of Sri Lanka, he was awarded the Rana Wickrama Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama Medals for Gallantry and Excellence in combat. He also received commendations from the President of Sri Lanka and the Commander of the Army for his bravery in action. After retiring from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1991, Mr. Rajapaksa studied Information Technology at the University of Colombo where he attained a Post Graduate Diploma in Information Technology. He later emigrated to the USA with his family where he worked as an IT professional at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California.”
“Mr. Rajapaksa returned to Sri Lanka in 2005 with the election of his brother, HE Mahinda Rajapaksa as the 5th Executive President of Sri Lanka and was appointed as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence on 25th November 2005. He was instrumental in ending the three decades long terrorist conflict in Sri Lanka through an expertly conceived and skillfully coordinated military strategy. Following the end of the conflict, he swiftly restored normalcy to the country, whilst taking steps to further consolidate national security.”
“ In post-war Sri Lanka, Mr. Rajapaksa fast-tracked the de-mining of the North and Eastern Provinces affected by the war and displaced civilians were resettled in their homes, within a short span of time. He also initiated a globally recognized de-radicalization and rehabilitation program whereby approximately 13,500 former LTTE combatants were re-integrated to society successfully.”
“In 2009 Mr Rajapaksa received Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. On 25th April 2010, Mr. Rajapaksa’s responsibilities were enlarged to include the country’s urban development program. As Secretary to the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development, Mr. Rajapaksa systematically and speedily implemented a range of initiatives that transformed Sri Lanka’s cities and improved the lives of the people by fostering a more sustainable and attractive urban environment.”
“Following a change in Government, Mr. Rajapaksa relinquished office on 9th January 2015. In February 2016 Mr. Rajapaksa formed “Viyathmaga” (Professionals for a Better Future) a non-profit organization comprising professionals, academics and entrepreneurs who wished to effectively contribute towards the development of Sri Lanka. Through Viyathmaga, Mr. Rajapaksa created a platform to engage with professionals in developing key policies to be implemented by a future government. Viyathmaga grew in in strength and popularity across the country and globally and propelled Mr. Rajapaksa to be considered a potential leader for Sri Lanka.”
“In August 2019, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was declared as the Presidential Candidate by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna under the leadership of His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa and campaigned on a platform of a policy-driven government, based on sustainable development and an inclusive Sri Lanka. On the 16th November 2019 Mr Nanadasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected by a majority of 52.2% as the 7th Executive President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.”
“Gotabaya Rajapaksa is married to Ioma who holds a Diploma in Business Management from NIBM, Sri Lanka and worked as a Medical Coder in USA. They have one son, Manoj who holds a double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Duke University, North Carolina, USA and a Master’s in Systems Engineering from University of Southern California and works at Jet Propulsion Laboratories of NASA. Manoj is married to Sevwandie, a graduate in Cell and Molecular Biology from Winona State University, Minnesota and is working as Safety Manager at University of Southern California, Los Angeles.”
The second phase of Rajapaksa rule has commenced under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There will be both continuity and change in this “new” Rajapaksa regime under Gota. The votes harvested by Gotabaya at the presidential hustings was due to the combined efforts of the Rajapaksa clan, the SLPP and its allies and also organizations like “Viyathmaga” and “Eliya” launched by Gota. If the 2010 success was due to war victory euphoria, the 2019 triumph is due to a protest vote against the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime and the yearning among ordinary people for security and economic upliftment. Gota has projected himself cleverly as both an agent of change as well as an extension of Rajapaksa rule to achieve success.
19th Constitutional Amendment
Gotabaya has pledged to transform the political culture of Sri Lanka.He has been in power as president only for two weeks. Moreover the powers of the executive presidency have been clipped to some extent by the 19th Constitutional Amendment. That lesson is sinking in slowly. An exultant Gota said earlier that he would be the minister of defence without realizing perhaps the limits imposed by 19 A. Subsequently elder brother Chamal has been appointed State minister of Defence.
Another aspect of the 19th amendment was in the appointment of ministers sphere. The role of the Prime Minister has been enhanced considerably in this exercise although the actual appointment is yet in the president’s hands. Initially it was said that Gota wanted a small cabinet of ministers. It was also said that persons facing charges in courts would not be made ministers. Sixteen ministers including PM Mahinda were appointed in keeping with the small cabinet proposal.
However thirty five State ministers and three deputy ministers were later appointed. Then the Depuy minister trio was elevated as state ministers. Moreover some of those appointed are yet facing charges in courts while a few of the appointees had behaved very badly in Parliament during the anti-constitutional crisis.. This demonstrated that the new president had to compromise with the prime minister due to political compulsions notwithstanding his stance on discipline and reduced number of ministers. Since the president and prime minister are siblings and the Rajapaksa clan has a track record of working together despite differences, the Gota -Mahinda duo has a very good chance of progressing positively.
This goes for the dynamo behind the SLPP party machine Basil Rajapaksa too. There are whispers in the corridors of power that there is some disgruntlement ment among the brothers over recent ministerial appointments. Hence Basil reportedly “missed” the swearing in of new ministers due to hospitalization and will travel to the USA for further medical treatment. But those who know the Rajapaksa brothers well say all fraternal disagreements will turn out to be tea cup tempests.
Positives and Negatives
The presidential election of November 16th was held just a fortnight ago. Attempting to assess the new Rajapaksa regime under President Gotabaya would be a premature exercise. Some of the measures undertaken are quite positive while others seem to be negative. How the new administration would proceed remains to be seen.
Gota has scored on the one hand by initiating certain measures which indicated the new president means business. Seeeping tax reforms have been announced.A policy of non -alignment has been announced and the new president went to New Delhi first in a symbolic gesture. Gotabaya has ordered the removal the portraits of all politicians including the President, Prime Minister, ministers,state ministers and deputy ministers from Govt ministries. Likewise the Armed forces were instructed only to let their office walls be adorned with military insignia. The vast number of defence personnel assigned for presidential and ministerial security duties have been drastically reduced. The number of bodyguards and security vehicles accompanying VVIP and VIP’s in a convoy have been slashed. Police have been instructed not to hold up traffic on roads unnecessarily when VVIP/VIP convoys are passing. All new ministers were advised to go to their offices and assume duties immediately after they were sworn in.Moreover ministers have been ordered not to take their spouses and/or large number of people along with them on their trips abroad. Gota personally set an example by visiting India sans his wife and with eight persons including three security guards.
On the other hand there were certain acts which are troubling. The highly respected CID director SSP Shani Abeysekara was transferred out and humiliated. He was appointed as a personal assistant to a DIG -a post usually assigned to a chief inspector. The ace sleuth in the CID Chief inspector Nishantha Silva who handled the probes in many controversial cases including that of the Lasantha Wickrematunga assassination has fled the country with his wife and three children fearing persecution. As a result of him leaving Lanka withour obtaining prior permission, a blanket overseas travel ban has been imposed on 704 CID officers. Some other CID officers are likely to be penalized too.This has demoralized the Police in general and the CID in particular. More importantly these acts have sullied the carefully reconstructed image of Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the election ban. It is creating an impression that the president is wreaking “vengeance” on the CID for interrogating him and other members of the Rajapaksa family over alleged “offences” during the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime.
Web Journalists Interrogated
Meanwhile the National Movement for Web Journalists issued a media release alleging the CID was interrogating web journalists who supported Sajith Premadasa during elections. Excerpts –
“The National Movement for Web Journalists protests the attempt to suppress the media and journalists after the new government was elected who acted in opposition to the incumbent President Gotabhaya Rajapakse during the presidential election which ended shortly.”
“With the victory of the new president on November 17, 2019, many websites and journalists in Sri Lanka have been subjected to direct and indirect repression. As a result journalists and web site editors campaigning for the victory of Sajith Premadasa during the election and who were against the previous government have been called to the CID.”
“Dhanushka Sanjaya, who is a news announcer for the “The Leader” internet news service was summoned to the CID and questioned for eight hours. Meantime a police team of 14 police officers has broken into the News Hub web office belonged to the former media minister Patali Champika Ranawaka.”
“Today 28th the editor of the Voicetube.lk website, Ms. Thushara Vitharana has been summoned to the CID and questioned for about 6 hours. Reports confirm that many more web reporters will be called to the CID in the future. Few days ago a Swiss embassy staff attached to the visa section was abducted and questioned on her way home. These incidents clearly show that state repression has started again.”
Swiss Embassy Staffer
Further complicating the situation was the Swiss embassy staffer incident. A Sri Lankan woman staffer at the Switzerland Embassy(believed to be from an ethnic minority)was allegedly abducted by inknown men in a white Toyota Corolla car on Gregory’s road where the embassy is situated. The “Sunday Times”of December 1st 2019 stated as follows –
“Details of how the abduction took place are still sketchy. However, talking to diplomatic sources, the Sunday Times has been able to piece together some of the events. The incident is said to have occurred just after 5 p.m. on Monday (November 25) along R.G. Senanayake Mawatha (former Gregory’s Road) where the Swiss embassy is located. In the vicinity are the Japanese embassy and the Australian high commission.”
“The female Sri Lankan embassy staffer was an aide to the lady Migration Officer in the Swiss embassy, a national of that country. For reasons of security and for their safety their names are not being divulged. When the local staffer had walked out of a school nearby, to her office premises, five persons in a white Toyota Corolla car had followed her, bundled her into the vehicle and driven away. She had been released only two hours later. “She complained that she was sexually molested. The abductors had bound her and covered her eyes with a black cloth,” said a diplomatic source familiar with the incident.”
“She was questioned on why she helped her embassy in the issue of a visa to CID Chief Inspector Nishantha de Silva.” She was questioned on this repeatedly. At times, they threatened her of consequences she would have to face if an answer was not given, said the source”
Swiss Embassy Statement
A statement issued by the Swiss embassy in Colombo was published in the newpapers. The following are excerpts from a news story in the “Daily Financial Times”.
“On 25 November, a serious security incident involving an employee of the Embassy of Switzerland in Colombo occurred. The employee was detained against her will on the street and forced to get into a car, seriously threatened at length by unidentified men, and forced to disclose embassy-related information,” the Embassy said in its official statement.”
“It said that the Embassy had immediately lodged a formal complaint, and is fully cooperating with the Sri Lankan authorities in order to support Police investigations and initiate an inquiry over the case, while duly considering the health condition of the victim and their relatives.”
“Due to the deteriorating health condition, the victim is currently not in a state to testify,” the statement said.It added that it has been alleged that the Swiss Government rejected a request for the extradition of an employee of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and his family. “No such request has been submitted,” the statement said.”
Foreign Ministry Refutes
The Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a media release on December 1st 2019 refuting the allegations concerning the incident. It is reproduced here in full-
“The Government of Sri Lanka, having taken serious note of the alleged criminal incident concerning a locally recruited staff member of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo, on Monday, 25 November 2019, immediately ordered a thorough investigation into this matter.”
“This evening (1 December 2019) Secretary/Foreign Relations Ravinatha Aryasinha together with Secretary/Defence Major General (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne and relevant officials met with the Ambassador for Switzerland in Sri Lanka Hanspeter Mock and the Deputy Chief of Mission, and briefed them on the results of the investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police.”
“While the Embassy had not presented the alleged victim to be interviewed by the law enforcement officials despite their request to do so, based on the information provided by the Swiss Mission on Friday 29 November 2019, the investigation was nevertheless conducted.”
“The Ambassador was presented with clear evidence that the sequence of events and timeline of the alleged incident, as formally presented by the Swiss Mission on behalf of the alleged victim to the CID, did not in any way correspond with the actual movements of the alleged victim on that date, as borne out by witness interviews and technical evidence, including Uber records, CCTV footage, telephone records and the GPS data.”
“In light of the incontrovertible evidence presented by the law enforcement authorities to the Swiss Mission, it was underlined that further investigations would need to be continued to ascertain the actual facts surrounding this allegation, for which the alleged victim will have to be interviewed by the law enforcement authorities.”
“Given that the alleged victim had also claimed that she had sustained injuries during the alleged abduction, it was noted that she should be presented for a medical examination by a Judicial Medical Officer in Sri Lanka.”
“The Embassy has been requested to cooperate fully with the Government of Sri Lanka to establish the veracity of the claims relating to this alleged incident.”
It could be seen therefore from the above statements that there are many facets to this controversial incident. Unless and until the whole truth is revealed the possible consequences could be serious It is essential that an impartial and intensive probe should be conducted and action taken in the interests of both Sri Lanka and Switzerland.
President of all the People
If these are the positives and negatives of the fortnight long Gotabaya presidency , the election results have given rise to the question of the prevalent voter divide in the elections. Though Gota has been elected president the fact remains that he could not win six districts and also some areas in the Central and Western provinces. It is also a fact that most of these regions and areas were heavily populated by Tamils, Muslims and to a certain extent Christians both Catholic and Protestant.
Gota himself has drawn attention to this reality and re- iterated that he would act as the president of all the people including those who did not vote for him. Such words are indeed praiseworthy but it is imperative that Gota should “walk the walk” in the same manner in which he has “talked the talk.” It is imperative that he wins the trust of the minorities who did not vote for him while retaining the confidence of the majority who voted forhim.
The new Government described as an interim or caretaker govt is in reality a minority government in terms of seats in Parliament.. The immediate priority of both President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda would be to hold Parliamentary elections and win more seats by cashing in on the presidential election victory euphoria. The political paralysis of Sajith Premadasa after his defeat and the resentment displayed towards Ranil by the so called Sajith faction shows that the UNP is in no state to fight the SLPP. This is likely to help the SLPP led front to gain even a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Gota has stated in India that he would abolish or amend the 19th amendment if he gets a two-thirds majority. In order to achieve this objective the current Rajapaksa regime will have to conduct itself in exemplary manner so as to garner the required number of votes, It is only after parliamentary polls that the nature and course of the new Rajapaksa regime could be properly gauged.
The “old” Rajapaksa regime under President Mahinda was rejected by the people at the 2015 elections despite Mahinda Rajapaksa remaining the single-most popular mass figure in the seven provinces outside the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. Among the various acts of omission and commission that caused this downfall was the conduct of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Defence Secretary. It had both pluses and minuses.
To his credit Gota has re-invented himself and succeeded in convincing a very large number of people to vote for him. Though his political adversaries invoked “Gotaphobia” as an electoral strategy to defeat Gota, the attempt seems to have succeeded only as far as minority community voters were concerned.
Old and New Phases
The old phase of the Rajapaksa regime under President Mahinda Rajapaksa that began in 2005 ended in 2015. The new phase of the Rajapaksa regime under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has begun in 2019. The Rajapaksas who exited ignominiously in 2015 have made made a triumphant entry in 2019.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has spearheaded that return to power. The Sri Lankan nation comprising those who voted and did not vote for Gotabaya expect the Rajapaksas to learn from the past, rectify their mistakes and embark upon a new political journey that would help usher in peace, progress and prosperity to the country.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com
This is an enhanced version of the article appearing in the DBS Jeyaraj Column the “Daily Mirror” of November 30, 2019. It can be accessed here-