The voter’s dilemma

There is an unseen pressure on media and journalists not to ask impromptu questions from Gotabaya Rajapaksa. All other political leaders can be approached for comments whenever they are seen in public. Why is media not allowed to ask probing and critical questions from Gotabaya? Gotabaya Rajapaksa wants to show the country that he has the mass touch coming from populist Rajapaksa ancestors just like his brothers. On the other hand, the rule applied to Premadasa family should apply to the Rajapaksa family too. Of course, transformed into a democratic leader, he needs to answer many questions over his past.

Why worry, his brother Mahinda played the double game so well. Several trade union leaders vouch for that! Still, some say, despite the repeated statements from his loyalists, there is no evidence that he has, in truth, changed into a gracious democratic leader.

Presidential election

If Basil Rajapaksa told the country that their presidential candidate for the upcoming presidential election “will change himself” then they must be prepared to answer questions. They say Basil Rajapaksa also told that “Gotabaya will be a terminator”- what kind of terminator? Then we can say it is an apt description, in view of the connotations of danger attached to the word “terminator”, good or bad. However, my friend Vasudeva Nanayakkara, now a close Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalist, accepted that white van abductions happened under Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He also noted that Gotabaya has changed. Vasu is a great guy; a consistent nice guy so I take it Gota is a nice good terminator of racists, fascists and bad guys!

Kumara Welgama MP has been, for a long time, a Mahinda loyalist. Apparently, he told media that “if Gotabaya becomes the President, I too might face the fate of Prageeth Eknaligoda”. Prageeth Eknaligoda cartoonist and journalist was abducted and made to disappear, supposedly by a military hit squad a day before the presidential election of 2010. This made me look back at the attack I faced coming after participation in the Tamil liberation meeting in London. They say Gota was responsible; as all electricity activities closed, police inactive. I escaped in a different van while my van was smashed to ruins and escaped fire and death to several by the heroic effort of the driver and inmates. Both Police and the Human Rights Commission could not do much as evidence disappeared.

Eknaligoda came to my office before the disappearance and discussed the brutality involved in the war in the north. He was a media man specialized in the criminal aspect of the war.

Responding to the use of ‘Terminator’, political analyst Jayadeva Uyangoda, wrote, “it may not be an exaggeration to say that by choosing the word ‘terminator’ to describe his brother’s destructive potential”, Basil Rajapaksa sounded prophetic as well. The Gotabaya project actually has already promised to ‘terminate’ from the political vocabulary such words as ‘human rights,’ ‘minority rights, ‘political freedom’ and ‘liberalism’. Apparently, he takes pride in, even threatening to terminate Sri Lanka’s democracy itself that has survived this long under severe stress and setbacks. For him and his ex-military and business-tycoon cohorts, democracy, political rights, human rights are the demands of terrorists.

Professional politician

Sajith is a hardworking professional politician but some are doubtful if he has the commanding personality which Gotabaya use to keep his ministers and officers under terror.

However, Sajith cannot be pulled in all direction. That is why he managed to become the Presidential candidate. Sajith has the duty to work with Ranil as Prime Minister till at least the next parliamentary election in mid-2020. Retaining Ranil as Prime Minister was not part of the deal when the UNP Working Committee closed ranks unanimously backed Sajith for the Presidency. But it is understood that Ranil will continue as PM till mid-2020. Both committed to democracy and justice; we should be hopeful.

But some say the ride with Ranil is not guaranteed to be smooth if the past is any indication. First of all, it has been proved that there can be no cohabitation between people or political forces of equal strength. Secondly, cohabitation is not possible if there is no genuine commonality of interests or ideological goals.

Ranil-Sajith cohabitation will fail the commonality test. They say a sidelined and humiliated Ranil might continue to be arrogant, aloof and arbitrary in his decision making as he had been under the Presidency of Chandrika Kumaratunga and Maithripala Sirisena.

The cohabitation government will be crippled if Ranil does not take the backseat and let Sajith rule. These are idiotic dreams of people do not understand democracy. The UNP has proved how to survive under democratic clashes.

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