| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( October 29, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) New Delhi had reportedly expressed displeasure to Sri Lankan Defence Secretary over the berthing of a Chinese submarine when the latter visited the Indian capital recently. It was during the same period that an official of the Indian Consulate located in the North was stranded at a security checkpoint, unable to proceed to the peninsula.

This official who had come to the Indian High Commission in Colombo from Jaffna had been returning to the peninsula when security men at a checkpoint had questioned him whether he had obtained permission from the defence authorities to enter the North.

The official had been confused with this first experience encountered during his service period in Sri Lanka. The official had not been aware that permission from the Defence Ministry was mandatory even to diplomatic circles to enter the North. Though the official was granted permission to enter the peninsula after communicating with top defence officials, the Indian High Commission is now discussing this embarrassing incident with higher ranks in the government.

Meanwhile, it was reported that prior to the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Colombo, Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa and Finance Ministry Secretary, Dr. P. B. Jayasundera, flew to China to discuss the relief package that would be offered to Sri Lanka by Jinping during his visit to Colombo. Reliably informed sources revealed that the relief package envisaged in the Budget 2015 presented last week by President Mahinda Rajapaksa was designed in China during the visit of Basil and Jayasundera. Mahinda had plans to offer relief to the people before and after he made his decision to call a snap Presidential Poll. That was why Basil and Jayasundera visited China.

While President Jinping was in Colombo, Mahinda announced the reduction in electricity tariffs and fuel prices. That would have been an indication that such relief was granted under the Chinese relief package. Also it may have been a move under Chinese instructions. The State-owned media reported that fact in the following manner; "How President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to decrease the electricity bill by 25%, while declaring opening the second and third stages of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant. The nation of Sri Lanka has been able to reap a number of essential economic benefits by signing several agreements strengthening the historic bonds which existed between Sri Lanka and China.

Apart from this, while it has been decided to decrease a litre of Kerosene oil by Rs 20, a litre of Petrol by Rs 5 and a litre of Diesel by Rs 3, the President said it would take effect by midnight of yesterday. The President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued this announcement making a special statement about bringing down the electricity bill a short while after declaring opening the second and third phase of the Norochcholai Lakvijaya Coal Power Plant. The President has taken steps to bestow a concession in this manner by making it a reality of the above objective of the government, thus creating a better tomorrow in spending a strong mode of income for the whole public and thereby all citizens would enjoy a number of economic concessions".

Chinese exceeding boundaries...

Nowhere in the world does a powerful nation provide relief to a smaller country to offer relief to its citizens. They usually give relief for development projects. But Mahinda's Government says the reductions in prices are offered to the people because of Chinese relief assistance. Correctly, Chinese assistance began to flow a few days before the recently concluded Uva Provincial elections. And, China is assisting Mahinda's Government at a time the government is planning a snap Presidential Poll. This indicates that that there is Chinese involvement in internal politics of Sri Lanka. Thus, the Chinese are exceeding boundaries under the guise of providing relief. It is evident that China is backing Mahinda in the presidential race. So, if Mahinda is China's candidate, who then could be the US-India candidate?

If Mahinda is China's candidate and Ranil is the UNP candidate, it is very doubtful that India and America would support Ranil because Ranil's chances of winning are rather slim. Meanwhile, Karu Jayasuriya loyalists in the UNP media unit within the UNP are successfully creating an image that Karu is the most suitable Indian candidate. They attempt to claim that the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka is openly supporting Karu's candidacy at a Presidential Election to convince the party MPs. On the contrary, Karu was placed third in the 2010 General Election, two slots behind the popular teledrama actress Upeksha Swarnamali (Paba) in the Gampaha District. Hence, India is intelligent enough not to back or bet on Karu, who was placed third way behind in preferences to a young teledrama actress. India never bets on candidates who are sure to lose. If that happens India knows it will get cornered. Let us now examine how the three leading UNP men; Ranil, Karu and Sajith performed alongside Mahinda at major elections.

Preferential votes

The above table is prepared according to the percentage in the preferential votes obtained by Ranil, Mahinda, Karu and Sajith at the 1994, 2000, 2001 and 2004 General Elections. Karu first contested a General Election in 2000. Sajith also contested a General Election in the same year. Mahinda last contested a general election in 2004. When tele-drama actress Paba obtained 30% at the General Election in Gampaha District in 2010, Karu secured only 22.6 %. Mervyn Silva who contested from the UPFA secured more preferential votes than Karu. He obtained 25.6%.

India may prefer if Sri Lanka scraps the executive presidential system. After the elimination of the LTTE, India lost the political grip over the island nation. If the executive system is abolished, any political party will have to muster the support of the TNA and Thondaman to form governments. In such an event, India would hold the trump card in establishing governments here. Hence, India would prefer the abolition of the Executive Presidency.

Now the question is how to introduce a candidate who could perform that task. If there is a candidate who challenges Mahinda, India and America will not hesitate to back that candidate. If there is no such candidate who could beat Mahinda, India would prefer to leave room for China to win through Mahinda rather than getting cornered in the contest.