With ruling party members still threatening to exit and the opposition campaign gaining momentum, can the Rajapaksa campaign continue to sing the same old tune?
The 8 January 2015 presidential election is a feeding frenzy for international conspirators and the LTTE rump. The candidacy of Maithripala Sirisena is not part of the democratic attempt to effect change through a multi-party, pluralistic electoral process. He is Washington’s pawn in the grand geopolitical struggle for influence between the US and China.
The Sirisena candidacy project is the brainchild of vengeance-seeking, power-hungry ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga and former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. He challenges President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid to remain in power for a third unprecedented term in order to ensure Sri Lankan troops and the Commander-in-Chief is tried in The Hague for crimes of war.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the day he assumed his second term in 2010/ File photo
President Rajapaksa must be re-elected to continue to protect the motherland, liberated from the clutches of terrorism only five short years ago. A victory for his opponent would not only endanger Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, but bring the Government’s mega development drive to a grinding halt.
The longevity of the Rajapaksa legacy, therefore, must be ensured. It has become imperative in the ‘national interest’.
Once upon a time, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the Pied Piper. His words, like the Piper’s, enchanting music in the Grimm fairytale, had a hypnotic quality. In droves, the people followed him. He was their liberator, their mighty king, their salvation and their savior.
Until five years ago, politics in Sri Lanka was consumed by the war against the LTTE. Governments rose and fell on war-rhetoric, on which party or personality would do a better job at ending terrorism and the politics of separatism. As the Government that defeated the Tigers, the Rajapaksa regime was brimful of political capital and unashamed to use it. In election after election, in the post-war years, the vanquished Tiger has been flogged to death. Bogeymen have been created in the Tamil Diaspora. Tiger puppets were labelled and condemned in the political Opposition. From student to trade unionist, artist to journalist, Tiger-traitor label has been foisted upon a wide section of society.
But this is the trouble with post-war politics. Complacency sets in about terrorism. The memory of the Tigers and their terrible deeds begins to pale a little in comparison with corruption, impunity and the ludicrous cost of living. Suddenly, the town councillor or mayor, with his guns and goons, rampaging around the locale, has become far more troublesome than the dead Tiger. Abuse of power, the contagious quality of impunity, the failure of the economic dividend and rising tensions between religious and ethnic communities are far more likely to be issues at play at this election than a war against terror that was finished five years ago.
Perhaps if the go-to rhetoric about foreign conspiracies and latent separatism had not been hacked in successive presidential, parliamentary, provincial and local government polls over the past five years, it would have taken better this time. But against momentum clearly visible in the Opposition camp, the words and slogans are not binding. The charm appears to have broken and everywhere, even in his own ruling party, people are deserting the Piper.