Presidential elections before Pope’s visit: Mahinda’s third term is in dispute

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(October 15, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) The executive presidency hangs over like the sword of Democles and President Mahinda Rajapaksa is seeking loopholes to elect himself for a third term running. Two schools of thought by former Attorney General Sarath N.Silva and constitutional expert and lawyer K.N. Choksy place the President in a conundrum. While the former states he could not seek a third term the latter contends he is eligible under constitutional law. The Minister of External Affairs, G. L. Peiris too is of the view the President can seek a third term under the 18th amendment which bestows him unlimited powers.

Sri Lanka is facing political challenges both locally and internationally in the coming months and it is in a mighty hurry to hold elections in advance of the Pope’s visit in January as announced by the Vatican. The Pope has pressing issues within Vatican where it faces financial scandals and its clergy accused of child abuse which are surfacing in leaps and bounds.

His visit to Rome with his coterie was marred by Sajin-Nonis saga where the latter was denied audience with the Pope purportedly in the instigation of UK High Commissioner Dr Chris Nonis. Foreign secretary Kshenuka Seneviratne despite her manipulations does not count since she is seen by the President as a headache he can very well do without.

On one end of the spectrum, the UNHRC probe has enough evidence to indict the President and his acolytes for kingdom to come for war crimes and at the other end he declared early elections to get a third term. This time round he threw a challenge that unless the NPC works with the government (his government) he would not abolish executive presidency.

Some 4558 motor cycles were donated to government employees working in the outskirts of the peninsula. Chief Minister for NPC C.V. Wigneswaran stated in no uncertain terms that unless the central government devolves powers and funds relegated to the North by international donors is not forthcoming he would boycott the President’s overture…

Twenty five persons in Kilinochchi were given back the jewellery confiscated by the LTTE through the President this week. Why now and why for only 25? The grinning President and maverick minister Douglas Devananda on the choo choo train aka Yaldevi will not cut much ice with the Jaffna man who still awaits redress for the misery heaped during the past 35 years of protracted ethnic war which splintered the nation.
Lands belonging to Tamils who are domiciled abroad are being distributed willy-nilly for development with the concurrence of Governor Chandasiri and Minister Douglas Devananda. Militarisation of NE even after the war ended shows the government does not feel secure and forever looking over its shoulder when Tamil militants would re-surface. Whether this is pure paranoia or a plan to Sinhalacise North and East remain a question mark among Tamils.
Ranil Wickremasinghe’s Batalanda torture chambers probe will remain a thorn in his eligibility for presidential candidature. Sajith Premadasa’s vote base is confined to Ambalangoda and he lacks his late father’s charisma or maturity. Karu Jayasuriya cannot garner enough votes to ascend presidency. Tamils cannot stomach Sarath Fonseka’s stance during the war although he professes to have fore-fronted fight against LTTE terrorism. Fonseka’s claim to victory was pilfered by the President’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who practically runs the country while his siblings and relatives hold onto portfolios for which they have neither qualifications nor legitimacy .

Former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake lacks political acumen while Ms Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is not exactly the flavour of the day with the government or the opposition and her running for presidency is fraught with hurdles such as her botched attempt and unwillingness to abolish the executive presidency.

Other Johnny come latelys such as Ven Sobitha Thero and JVP would remain vote swingers and not presidential material. Tamil politicians should not even enter the fray for presidency since they are impotent in managing the North never mind seeking votes for presidency.

Which leaves the country at the mercy of the ruling party unless parliament votes against the 18th amendment, the curse of democracy and a thorn in the side of populace who have had it up to their eyeballs the increasing oligarchic powers the Rajapaksas are exercising since 2004.

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at