21 November 2015

Mahinda Rajapaksa's most formidable enemy

This was written when Mahinda Rajapaksa was considered invincible.  The article was titled 'Thanks and good luck Mr President'.  Certain things were flagged. Maybe he didn't read. Maybe he knew it all but couldn't care less.  Maybe he was in fact powerless.  

Mahinda Rajapaksa officially began his second term as President yesterday.  I remember the day he was sworn in the first time, five years ago.  There is a marked difference in man, moment and nation.  This is as good a time as any to compare and contrast.

In 2005, Mahinda was a man without a party, without funds, without big-name backers, without a team, without experience, without coherence or direction.  He was fresh. Young(er).  He was a politician and as such made of promises.

In 2005 it was predicted that he would be brought down by the lack of numbers in Parliament or at least tripped at every turn.  It was predicted that the so-called ‘failed state’ would bury him politically.  He had been befriended by ‘yakkhos’ and as such would not have a clue about how to handle the LTTE.  He would slip and fall when dealing with the international community.  He would be brought to heel.  Since he didn’t have any idea about economics and development, the entire country would be ruined. The economy would collapse.  People would starve. The LTTE would reduce Colombo to rubble.  Such were the predictions.

In 2010 Mahinda is a man who delivered the undeliverable. He gave the nation and the people a sense of can-do, a sense of pride and dignity.  He cleared a mine-field so the farmer could plough, the engineer build, the entrepreneur to set up a business, the wanderer to travel.  He was expected to give in the pressure from foreign governments ‘politricked’ by LTTE agents or simply did not like the idea of Sri Lanka getting out of a 30-year war-rut, but trumped all such predictions.  Inflation is under control. The economy is not booming but neither is it anywhere close to collapse.  In fact all signs indicate that things will get better. 

Mahinda did not give in to foreign pressure. He played his cards carefully, locally and internationally.  He kept those who would bite and pinch and stop the nation in its tracks firmly in their place.

In 2010, Mahinda Rajapaksa is a man who not only leads a party but the broadest coalition ever and numbers that the 1978 constitution was designed to prevent any single political entity from enjoying.  He didn’t cut any deals to swell his numbers and his predecessors did. He did not compromise his agenda to purchase the numbers needed to secure the political stability so necessary to obtain governability and win the war. He got people onboard on his terms, not theirs.  He brought together sworn enemies to sit at the same table. 

In 2005, Mahinda Rajapaksa barely squeaked through to power. In 2010, he had a comfortable majority of 1.8 million and even if one factored in the play of abusing state resources (as alleged) and the relatively minor acts of election malpractice in certain polling stations, there is no denying the fact that he won comfortably. 

In 2010, Mahinda Rajapaksa is not looking at a lame-duck term, courtesy the 18th Amendment.  In 2010, he  is a tried and tested politician, seasoned, experienced, wiser; he’s not fresh, but this ‘lack’ he has compensated for by a manifest maturity and greater degrees of self-confidence. 

In 2005 he pleaded that he be spared hosannas of praise.  He requested instead constructive criticism. In 2005 he said he was ‘custodian’ and not king or owner. 

This is 2010.  There’s been enough hosannas; some deserving and some utterly sycophantic and in the long run and larger order of things, against his interest and of course that of the country.  He’s custodian but there is some perception that he is less of that than he is ‘ruler’ and ‘owner’.  There is a perception that he is not doing voluntary custodianship; that there is an allowance and that it is not a pittance. These are allegations and come without proof, but there is enough wastage and opulence around the President for people to wonder. 

Today he is the President of Sri Lanka, leader of the nation and all citizens, including those who did not vote for hum.  Today, with unprecedented popularity, very secure politically, armed with a thick ‘I DID’ portfolio that everyone knows about, Mahinda Rajapaksa does not have any enemies. Well, none that can be considered a threat. That some 40% plus people did not vote for him might have bothered him at one point, but he knows that he has a huge cushion and that this is enough given political realities.

He has shown he can handle pressure. He knows how to win over his enemies.  He knows how to deal with those he cannot win over.  He can be firm to the point of being seen as brutal and unforgiving but in this he is no worse than the next politician. 

He has one enemy.  A formidable one.  An enemy he should be wary of and watch out for every wakeful moment.  An enemy he should never underestimate for he could do so only at his own peril. 

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s biggest enemy is himself.  That’s a loaded statement and it is perhaps unfair to just say it and sign off, but I will do exactly that.  Sign off. 

Thank you Mr. President for what you’ve given us. All the best Mr. President during your second term. 

Let me say it again, Mr. President: Watch out for yourself Mr. President!  You owe it to the citizenry, the nation and yourself.