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Regime change: there’s a right way and a wrong way

By Malinda Seneviratne

(November 04, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)Mahinda Rajapaksa, overcame all odds to win the Presidency in November 2005. Few gave him a chance, given that he didn’t have the support of his party, didn’t have big-name financiers chipping in the millions necessary for an election campaign and didn’t have the personnel on the ground to do the daily house-to-house grind.

Perhaps he was helped by the fact that his opponent, Ranil Wickremesinghe had a difficult brief to defend and perhaps also by the fact that the LTTE prevented Tamils in the North and East from expressing their franchise.

One thing is certain though: The man had a clear message and succeeded in bringing into his fold men, women and organizations from all parts of the island to campaign on his behalf.

Mahinda Rajapaksa won by a whisker. Today, as he approaches the completion of four years in office, his stock has risen considerably. The ‘popularity’ gap between him and his opponent is no longer ‘a whisker’. It is probably in the region of 25-35 percentage point or even more. If he were to seek re-election today, few would bet against the President.

On the other hand, it must be remembered that in a democracy, no one gets 100 percent approval from the public.

Differences in aspiration, political ideology, party affiliation, caste, class, religious faith, vocation, ethnic identity, gender, age and so on necessarily produce a multifaceted population.

There will always be those who support and those who oppose this or that candidate. In a democracy, the ‘opposition’ has a right to exist, right to express opposition and a right to aspire to power, meaning that it can want and seek ‘regime change’. All this is legitimate.

The problem we have in Sri Lanka today is that while there is wide support for the regime in Sri Lanka (and no one can really argue that the voters are dumb without sounding dumb him/herself), there are discernable moves from many fronts outside Sri Lanka to obtain regime change.

The second problem is that the ‘opposition’ seems to have put all his ‘aspirational’ eggs in the foreign-intervention basket.

This is dangerous because when one is so dependent on some outsider’s power it brings into that person’s right to represent the people, leave alone rule the country.

We do not live in isolation, this is true. It is also true that in the global political economy we are not exactly a sovereign country because we rely on foreign aid to tide things over, concessionary trade agreements (‘charity’ on the face of it, but essentially a waiving of sovereignty and submitting to terms that often lead to further impoverishment and further compromising dependency) and have required military and logistical support from foreign powers to deal with a 30-year long terrorist problem.

Still, this does not mean we are a slave nation, utterly impotent and resigned to begging for crumbs tossed from the dining tables of the rich and powerful.

There are things we can do and things we cannot. One thing we should understand is that if we cannot effect regime change from within this country, we are not deserving of regime change or the right to rule.

This is something that the opposition should keep in mind. The people will understand someone’s need to be in power. They will not forgive a deliberate attempt to seek support from external forces who are not necessarily interested in what the priority concerns are for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans.

There is one thing that was crucial in defeating the LTTE: the people loved the map of Sri Lanka; they made the sacrifices that the leadership and the situation demanded of them.

They honoured those who deserved honour, they voted out those who they believed were traitors or had other interests that were secondary to the key issue that had plagued the country for several decades, that of the real and violent threat to our territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. Today we see lots of ‘diplomatic activity’ regarding Sri Lanka. That’s the ‘decent’ way of putting it. If I were to be ‘impolite’ I would say, ‘poking dirty fingers’ in our business. Some people clearly don’t like Mahinda Rajapaksa’s face. That’s ok.

People can like some faces and dislike others. However, disliking one face, getting it out of one’s face, and finding another face to look at is up to the people of this country; it is not the business of any other country.

Interests can coincide of course. But Ranil Wickremesinghe or anyone else for that matter must rely on him/herself and not some outsider with interests that are not Sri Lanka-friendly.

There’s a choice for the opposition here.

They can be someone’s pawn or they can strive to do a better job than they’ve been doing all this time. One of the tragedies of our political system is that few actually win elections.

What happens is that others lose elections and so they secure power by default. This is not what we have here though. This is a situation where some meddler wants to influence the outcome of elections, play with the political equation.

It is and will always be anti-Sri Lankan in method, execution and outcome. Subscribe to that methodology (as Ranil Wickremesinghe and the JVP seem to have) and the former will take many more years to shed the ‘traitor’ tag he has earned during his brief tenure as Prime Minister (2001-2004) and the latter will prove that it can do nothing better than play ‘spoiler’.

We get the Governments we deserve, it is said. Do we get the oppositions we deserve as well? What we have is a ‘Yes sir/ma’am I’ll be your pawn’ kind of regime-change seekers. That’s the pits ladies and gentlemen. Such people, even if they were to secure power, can only guarantee subjugation, slavery and a nation and people that will remain fettered and doing the bidding of outsiders until who knows when! We are far more deserving, I believe.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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