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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2767

Premadasa Shooting Himself on the Foot - Again

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe

There are two ways to win a race. One way would be to practice and prepare for it. The other way would be to try and sabotage the opponent’s chances. For nearly five years, what we have seen is the ‘Yahapalana’ Government opting for the second option. Even as they ascended into power in 2015, the focus was to prevent the Rajapaksa from making a comeback. However, this tactic for survival had costed the country greatly and has weakened national security as never before.

It is very clear that the drafters of the 19th Amendment had focused more on the clauses to keep the Rajapaksa family members out of a possible presidential race than its cohesiveness. As per the Amendment, one who had served two terms as the president of the country cannot contest again. This effectively eliminated Mahinda Rajapaksa’s chances. One who is a dual citizen may not contest and this effective made both Basil and Gotabaya Rajapaksa ineligible. One must be over 35 years of age ensured that Namal Rajapaksa will not be able to come forward for the 2020 presidential elections.

Those who saw the Rajapaksas as dictators however did not realize the dangers of the two clauses that had been inserted to protect the Prime Minister’s interests. One clause effectively prevents the Prime Minister from being terminated from his job. Irrespective of his performance, the sitting Prime Minister may continue unless he opts to resign or ceases to be a Member of the Parliament. That means, until a general election he cannot be terminated. However, general elections cannot be called for four and a half years from the day the new parliament was appointed. This is the extent that the 19th Amendment is used to protect the Prime Minister.

The cost of such a job assurance was borne by the Nation in the form of the Easter Sunday Massacres. The manner the Prime Minister behaved thereafter, almost as if he was tickled pink by the tragedy, did not help the citizens to recover from the trauma or inspire confidence that the Government had taken the situation under control. This was evident by the simple fact that parents refused to send their children to school for nearly a month or more after the incident.

Akila Viraj Kariyawasam as the Minister of Education failed to assure parents with his crass comment that the Government will pay Rs 100,000 per child if something were to happen. Rather than an assurance, parents took it as an insult.

The point is, the entire machinery of the country, from schools to every area of the economy came to a grinding halt. Six months after the massacres the country is still reeling. Even small restaurants and cafes that used to operate well past midnight closes by 10 pm. Citizens are still very, very conscious of security. In the upcoming presidential elections, most articulate that they need a leader who can assure the national security of the country.

Instead of heeding this message, the incumbent powers continue with their obsession against the Rajapaksas. At first they did not expect GR to renounce his citizenship. When he did, they did not expect America to accept the renunciations. Yet, this too went through without any hinderance. Then, over a mere technicality the got a civil society to challenge the manner GR obtained his dual citizenship. After hearing and deliberating over it for three days the courts resolutely threw the case out.

A week later, one of the challengers, Professor Chandragupta Thenuwara appeared on the stage of the presidential candidate from the ruling party, Sajith Premadasa. He was even honored by giving him the opportunity to address the audience. It is there he dropped the real bombshell and declared that all those who has an affinity for the war heroes would be dealt with from 17th November.

By his appearance on Premadasa’s stage, he exposed that his civil organization is not the independent group they tried to portray. Rather, it is a group that is in cahoots with a political agenda. Sajith Premadasa’s father was brutally murdered by the LTTE. Yet, his biggest problem today is GR, the man who annihilated the terrorism from this country. From a personal perspective, the ending of the LTTE would have given Premadasa and his family closure.

As a presidential candidate, Premadasa does not have much of a plan to offer other than the promise to continue his father’s work. Even as a minister, his one and only achievement had been continuing to follow the same housing concept that his father initiated. In that respect, one would expect a lot more gratitude from a son to his father. Yet, this is not seen when he receives a speech that insults the very people who restored the honor of his father with a smile and an applause on his own stage.

From a nation’s point of view, Thenuwara’s statement does not assure that a government under Premadasa will address the deteriorating security of the country. Just as the incumbent government, a government under him will continue to discount the importance of national security, and belittle those who fought the war, engaged in securing the country and suffered in the line of duty.

Even if Islam extremism raised its ugly head to the point that the whole country erupts into a fully-fledged war, Premadasa’s obsession would be to keep the Rajapaksas out of power. This we can see consistently throughout his campaign. Even when his issue is with his party leader, his ranting is against the Rajapaksas. Now that he is the official candidate, his obsession continues to be over the Rajapaksas.

The people actually could not care who comes to power as long as the new Government assures them their security. The Easter Sunday Massacres had proven to people, no other freedom or right can be assured if National Security is compromised. This is the only reason for GR, a newcomer into politics, to become a serious contender. His track record attests that he as a man who can deliver National Security. He had also proven himself as an excellent administrator. It is only on those two counts that people are seriously considering him and not because he is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother.

Without understanding this basic reality, Premadasa is using anti-social elements such as Thenuwara to try and sabotage GR’s chances. GR on the other hand is busy preparing himself to address the issues of the country. He is therefore articulating his plans for the country. He is engaging with the people and the professionals to architect these plans. This is the simple reason for Premadasa’s plans to sabotage GR end up sabotaging Premadasa.

- Asian Tribune -

Sajith Premadasa is seen hugging Jalani Premadasa  - publicly expressing their rejoice - Unbecoming of a Sri Lankan Culture
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