| by Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
Courtesy: The Island

( November 26, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Maithripala Sirisena, the ex-minister of Health, announcing that he is the ‘long-awaited’ common opposition Presidential candidate is the "Et tu, Brute" moment of our time, some may argue, perhaps with good justification. Others may say he tried to portray himself as righteous (Dharmishta), justifying his actions by quoting from The Dhammapada. He started with AppamadoAmathapadam - pamadomaccunopadam, Appamattanamiyanti - ye pamattayathamata, which, according to the translation by Venerable Narada reads: ‘Heedfulness is the path to the deathless, heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful do not die; the heedless are like unto the dead.’ Though not entirely appropriate, may be, he used this to highlight the urgency for abolition of the Presidency, which he is prepared to do, if elected President!

He catalogued many instances where President Rajapaksa prevented him from doing the right thing and gave the impression that he lumbered along. It would have been credible had he the guts to resign on any one of these issues, giving up all the frills and perks of office, rather than enjoying them till the last moment; when his conscience had a reawakening with the kind offer made by Ranil and Chandrika!

He followed up with Na hi verenaveranisammanthidakudacanam. Averenacasammantie sadhammosanatano, perhaps, implying that he has no hatred towards the leader he betrayed. The one who echoed this teaching of the Buddha "Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law" to the whole world at the San Francisco peace conference and, perhaps was instrumental in changing the future of the world, if not at least that of Japan, was none other than our own JR. Paradoxically, it was the same JR who created this monstrosity that everyone, except the poor who are more interested in their daily bread (rice), is keen to destroy! It was JR who called himself Dharmishta; true he made a very good start pulling the country out of the economic quagmire Mrs B left us with but drifted, later, towards the dream of all Presidents, President for life!

May be Maithripala, Dharmistha the second, is equally ambitious! He wants to be elected President, to hand over power to Ranil as Prime Minister in spite of him not commanding majority support in the Parliament, unless there are massive defections. He can then continue to be non-executive President for life, enjoying all the perks sans the headaches of responsibility! Not a bad deal!!

What is in it for Chandrika who shed crocodile tears at the press briefing? All that she wants is humiliating Mahinda for having broken the Bandaranaike ownership of the SLFP! At many a heated political discussion, I have often posed the question "Tell me one thing that Chandrika did in eleven years as President?" with a resulting deafening silence! I have to answer my own question and point out that the only good thing she ever did was sacking Ranil who, as Prime Minister, was prepared to ‘share’ the country with Prabhakaran. Anyone who cares to go up North, which we can do now thanks to Mahinda, would not miss to see the capital Prabhakaran was able to build in Killinochchi during Ranil’s time. She and Ranil are, now friends in need!

Poor Rajitha Senaratna, cried his heart out stating that he has sacrificed so much that he does not have even a private residence or a private vehicle! Did he expect to be a minister for ever, enjoying the perks! Perhaps, he did; after all he had excelled in jumping from one party to the other, at one stage forming his own party! May be he would have done better if he stuck to his profession, Dentistry! Oh! He was a bitter critic of Chandrika once but they are chums now. Politics, they say, makes strange bed-fellows!

What about Ranil? Full marks for not giving up but what is he doing to the UNP? It has become a party that cannot find a suitable candidate within, for yet another Presidential election! Someone has written that Ranil has done a sacrifice like Gandhi. Must be a joke! Why insult the memory of a dead national leader of India? One very pertinent question is whether Ranil’s recent ‘lecture tour’ of USA had anything to do with these developments? It is no secret that USA prefers anyone else to Mahinda!

If reports circulating are to be believed, there seems to be a movement by the rump of the LTTE, aided and abated by some of our own self-serving politicians, not only to defeat Mahinda but haul him before the ICJ, on the unsubstantiated claims of 40,000 civilian deaths during the tail end of the insurgency. If the army was responsible for any unjustified deaths, is it not the responsibility of the Army Commander than the President? Even if worse comes to the worst and these conspirators get Mahinda jailed, in the minds of all patriotic Sri Lankans he will remain the hero who saved the country from terrorism and will earn, without a shred of doubt, an exalted place in the history of our country.

Having said that, there is no doubt that Mahinda has to take responsibility for some of the failings, especially the deterioration of the law and order situation. There is no excuse for this to continue; errant politicians should be brought to book just like any others and misbehaviour of their progeny, which is disgraceful, must be stopped.

Corruption is a universal phenomenon in multiple guises. Though eradication will be an impossibility, he needs to take action to curtail it, as much as curtailing family bandyism. Of course, he cannot help if two his brothers get elected by the peoples’ wish; nor can he help another brother being an effective defence secretary who was responsible, more than anyone else, in defeating terrorism. Rump of the terrorists and their supporters are still at large and very much active. Therefore, it is not yet time for us to relax; we have to be vigilant for years to come and if the Presidency serves that purpose, the attended disadvantages may still be worth the price to pay. If not for the presidency, terrorism would not have been defeated and we have admit that this much maligned post has served a useful purpose.

In my humble opinion, electing Sirisena President will not serve any purpose other than bringing Ranil to power through the back door. The only person who can prevent this happening is Mahinda and may I urge him, for the sake of our Motherland we all love, to be magnanimous enough to admit that some mistakes have been made and present a plan for progress which must include the following pledges:

1. Re-establishing law & order with an independent Police and Judiciary.
2. Curtailing corruption and family bandyism.
3. Trim down the Cabinet and the provincial councils.
4. Appoint a commission of Sri Lankan judges/jurists, recognised internationally, to inquire into all the outstanding allegations and make realistic recommendations for lasting nationalunity which may include constitutional changes.
5. Taking oaths immediately after election, for a six year term.

I do sincerely hope, wish and pray that he embraces these ‘five precepts’, to win the confidence of the electorate one more time, to complete the new era he dawned with the eradication of terrorism, which many thought was impossible.

May he have the strength to make the impossible possible and leave a prosperous and united Sri Lanka for generations to come!