| by Upul Joseph Fernando
( December 28, 2013 -Colombo -Sri Lanka Guardian) After President Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Chairman of the Commonwealth, at the conclusion of the CHOGM in November, the very first petition submitted to it for consideration was one against the Chief Justice (CJ) Mohan Peries as revealed in the media recently.
The petition was in respect of purported legal opinion sought by President Rajapaksa from the CJ about the possibility of holding the Presidential Election this year as per the relevant provisions in the Constitution. As prescribed by the Constitution, a Presidential Election can be held only after the end of the second term of a President. However, with the adoption of the 18th Amendment, the term limit of eligibility for contesting a Presidential Election had been done away with, thereby allowing the President to seek re-election beyond the original two terms.
The problem that now confronts Rajapaksa is whether he can hold a Presidential Election before the end of four years of his second term. The media had given wide publicity to the President seeking legal opinion in this regard from the CJ Mohan Peries, a few months before. There is no indication of the nature of the legal opinion he had given, as it has been kept as a close secret. At present, Rajapaksa seems to be going ahead with arrangements for a Presidential Election in 2014, perhaps because he had got a favourable legal opinion from the CJ. All this happened, of course, before he came to head the Commonwealth as its Chairman.
Determined to teach a lesson
Rajapaksa tactfully got rid of the then CJ, Shirani Bandaranayake, who was viewed as an impediment to his planned, political road map. Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe had also extended his support to Rajapaksa to oust the former CJ from her post. Now it seems like the President is going to have an early Presidential Election in 2014.
Presumably, his compulsion for an early Presidential Election is not so much because he considers that his chances of winning are diminishing day by day, but because he is determined to teach the so-called international community who are going all out to ensnare him into a human rights trap, a lesson. Their anticipated outcome is a regime change, of which Rajapaksa is well aware. At the same time, he knows quite well that without a good and strong opposition, a regime change is unthinkable. In fact, it is because of this very reason that Rajapaksa wants to keep Wickremesinghe as the Leader of the Opposition at any cost.
He can then rest assured that he cannot be defeated at a Presidential Election. Holding Southern and Western Provincial Council Elections at the same time is a tactical move adopted by Rajapksa with a view to protecting Ranil Wickremesinghe. He would have calculated that when Western Provincial Elections are held and Wickremesinghe loses the election, his opponents will rise up against him with renewed vigour. But when the Southern Provincial Council Elections are also held at the same time, and when Sajith Premadasa is defeated in Hambantota, Wickremesinghe’s detractors could be flummoxed and fall into inertia, saving the day for Wickremesinghe, undoubtedly.
Bring down two birds with one stone
The other target under Rajapaksa’s election strategy is Sarath Fonseka, whose wings he wants to clip. Although he knows that Fonseka’s election fortunes in the Western Province could be on a slightly favourable footing, overall, his chances in the Southern Province by all indications so far, could be abysmal. Therefore, Rajapaksa had opted to go for the Southern and Western Provincial Council Elections together, to bring down two birds with one stone. Once he has achieved his objectives as planned, whoever challenges him at the Presidential Election, be it Ranil Wickremesinghe or Karu Jayasuriya, it will be a one-horse race for him, of which he is fully convinced.
International cowboys have failed
Just before CHOGM, Rajapaksa held Central and North Western Provincial Council Elections, and with the massive victories his Party had recorded in both Provinces, he sent a reverberating message to the international community that he is as popular as ever among the people. When UNHRC sessions in Geneva come round this time, he is going to shove in the face of his international antagonists another election victory from the Southern and Western Provinces to unnerve them yet again. If the international busy-bodies are not discouraged even then, Rajapaksa will use a Presidential Election victory, appropriately timed before the March UNHRC sessions, to overcome their efforts and schemes conclusively. That would make them realize that, for a long time to come, they are out of sync when it comes to a regime change in the country.
Rajapaksa, who has frequently shown his electoral might in the local scene, has now taken up the multi-lateral challenge of international community with equal certainty of coming out on top. In the matter of the petition against the CJ, Mohan Peries, he is sure to use his tactical expertise to get the better of his opponents, both local and international. They predicted he could not become CHOGM Chairman much before it took place. But he shattered their cherished dreams and became its Chairman.
The international cowboys of the Wild West are trying to anoint this country as a failed state. It is they who have failed in seeking a regime change; not Mahinda Rajapaksa or this country.