| by N.S.Venkataraman
( December 28, 2014, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Many were surprised, both in Sri Lanka and outside, when President Rajapaksa pre poned the Presidential election much before the expiry of his term. These days, it is very rare that a politician would seek re election ahead of the completion of his term, which may even be a calculated risk. While there is huge debate as to why President Rajapaksa has taken this decision, certainly he has won some admirers for such a bold decision that can be interpreted as reflecting on his confidence.
In any case, there is no doubt that this election will do a world of good for Sri Lanka, by enhancing its prestige as a vibrant democracy in the eyes of the world and providing an opportunity to the Sri Lankans to exercise their rights to have a government of their choice.
Now that the feverish election campaign is under way in Sri Lanka, citizens have got an opportunity to evaluate President Rajapaksa and his administration and also assess as to whether any other opposition party can promise better performance than what the present government has given.
Whatever may be the criticism inside and outside Sri Lanka against the Sri Lankan government about the so called human rights violation during the ethnic war period, people may give him the benefit of doubt and hail him for protecting the stability and integrity of Sri Lanka which, at one time, was seriously threatened by the militants. What President Rajapaksa achieved in Sri Lanka by defeating the militants is an objective that would be looked at as positive by any government anywhere in the world . Perhaps, this was the expectation that prompted him to seek re election before hand.
With stability, scope for industrial and economic growth in Sri Lanka have brightened and many overseas investments, particularly from India and China , are now taking place in Sri Lanka that would inevitably benefit the country. While all these aspects are positives, there are certainly many questions that President Rajapaksa still has to answer.
One serious criticism against President Rajapaksa is that he is intolerant of dissent and he has suppressed several journalists in the past. Media reports have repeatedly pointed out such instances. It would be appropriate if the President would answer this charge during the campaign.
There is also criticism that often he has acted in dictatorial manner particularly in dealing with political and other adversaries. The manner in which he removed the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka and dealt with the former army chief Fonseka is unlikely to be ignored by the discerning voters.
There is also criticism that President Rajapaksa has virtually converted his government as a family affair, by posting several of his close relatives in key positions. When an election would take place providing an opportunity to the people to judge the incumbent government, such aspects of President Rajapaksa’s rule are bound to be discussed loudly. Of course, the effectiveness of such campaign against the government depends on the credibility of the opposition leaders also.
While the Sri Lankan government has taken some tangible steps to improve the welfare of Tamil population in north eastern states, what has been achieved is considered to be inadequate by several agencies. While the presence of army in the erstwhile war torn areas may be unavoidable, President Rajapaksa is yet to convince the Tamil leaders on this.
|President Mahinda Rajapaksa and then The Minister of Health, Maithripala Sirisena were declared the opening of the Sri Lanka's largest military hospital, built at a cost of 1542.4 million rupees, in Narahenpitya on April this year.|
Ultimately in a developing country like Sri Lanka, the important factors that weigh in the mind of the voters is as to whether the President can provide stability in administration and can provide a fair and corruption free governance. Mr. Rajapaksa has a battle on his hand which he has invited for himself by pre poning the election. Time alone will tell as to whether this decision would do the President good.
In any case, there is no doubt that this election will do a world of good for Sri Lanka, by enhancing its prestige as a vibrant democracy in the eyes of the world and providing an opportunity to the Sri Lankans to exercise their rights to have a government of their choice. The world is now looking at Sri Lanka more closely than ever.