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President Rajapaksa Deserves Respectful Farewell

| by N.S.Venkataraman
Views expressed in this article by author own 

( January 9, 2015, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) 1To the surprise of many political analysts, President Rajapaksa has lost the election in Sri Lanka.

Many in Sri Lanka and outside were left to guess as to why Mr. Rajapaksa opted for Presidential poll much before the expiry of his term. As no credible explanation was given by Mr. Rajapaksa for his decision, many speculations were floating. Some people thought that it could have been due to his over confidence. Apart from several other explanations, there were even rumours that his astrologer could have suggested that this was the propitious time for him to seek re-election !

One hopes that President Rajapaksa will maintain his dignity as an opposition leader and conduct his party with decorum, to ensure that the democracy in Sri Lanka would thrive.
Now, that Mr. Rajapaksa has lost the election, there is bound to be huge debate as to why people dislodged him. Some would say that his defeat was due to his administration becoming a family rule and he tended to become authoritarian. Whatever may be the reason, history is bound to recognise President Rajapaksa for his successful efforts in keeping Sri Lanka united as one nation.

There have been number of instances in the past in other countries too when a leader with some acclaimed performance have lost the elections. Winston Churchill lost the election in Britain after successfully leading the country to victory in World War II . Mr. Vajpayee lost the election in India when he sought to prepone the election, even though he was acclaimed then and now as one of the best Prime Ministers that India ever had. Therefore, President Rajapaksa can get sort of consolation by recalling such instances.

While Mr. Sirisena received 51.28% of the votes cast, Mr. Rajapaksa was supported by 47.58% of the voters. Therefore , it should be kept in mind that it was not a humiliating defeat for Mr. Rajapaksa and it was not an overwhelming victory for Mr. SiriSena. It was graceful on the part of Mr. Rajapaksa to concede his defeat, even as the counting was in progress and assuring the opposition leaders that the transition of power would be smooth. Obviously, the elections have been conducted in Sri Lanka in a fair manner with healthy debate and it was largely incident free. Certainly, Mr. Rajapaksa’s administration can take credit for setting Sri Lanka’s electoral democracy on a firm footing.

Any political leader who has been in power for such a long time is bound to invite criticism for his acts of commissions and omissions. People would always judge the performance of the long time leader and government on the basis of cost benefit analysis. Obviously, Mr. Rajapaksa has failed to convince the majority of the people of Sri Lanka that the benefits that happened to Sri Lanka by his administration out weighed the cost. Further, in a healthy democratic society , citizens are rarely willing to allow a person to continue to be in power for as long as ten years and they would like to see a change. These facts appear to be the basic reasons that have led to Mr. Rajapaksa being voted out.

Mr. Rajapaksa by his strong actions during the civil war made many enemies both in Sri Lanka and outside. The criticism against his administration on the human rights violation issue was sustained by his critics and some governments in western countries. At the same time, many around the world thought that Mr. Rajapaksa had really no alternative other than waging the war against the rebels . In the process, it was inevitable that some innocents could have suffered. People who take such view also point out the fact that western countries like USA and Britain have not hesitated to send the troops to other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan , where several innocent people were killed by the troops from the western countries. Countries like USA and Britain criticised Mr. Rajapaksa for human rights violations, which is like pot calling the kettle black.

One hopes that President Rajapaksa will maintain his dignity as an opposition leader and conduct his party with decorum, to ensure that the democracy in Sri Lanka would thrive.

History is certainly bound to recognise him for ensuring the integrity of Sri Lanka , which is of great significance for the future of the country.

Finally, it is time that the world should salute the citizens of Sri Lanka for participating in the electoral process with dignity and maturity, thus proving the fact that Sri Lanka is a vibrant and matured democracy.

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