MR weaves Medamulana magic

Thursday, 2 July 2015 01:43 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Thousands rally in Rajapaksa stronghold to hear special announcement
  • Ex-President criticises national security compromises, weakening rupee, CB bond scandal 
  • Mahinda says Nugegoda rally in February has turned into major force
  • Analysts say Mahinda will be part of electoral contest, either directly or by leading opposition group 
  • Major miscalculation by President Sirisena: Victor Ivan


By Dharisha Bastians 

in Medamulana

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, ousted from office in January, set the stage for a major political comeback in his hometown of Medamulana yesterday, with the announcement that he would lead a faction of the SLFP to contest in the 17 August parliamentary election.

A low drum-roll of firecrackers sounded in the distance, as thousands of supporters gathered in the leafy gardens of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Carlton House shortly before noon yesterday to hear the former President’s ‘special announcement’ about his role in the upcoming elections.

“I am not ready to reject the appeal you are all making,” he boomed, reading from a teleprompter in the sweltering midday heat, as supporters, about 6,000 strong, cheered madly at the sight of him.

“For the sake of this country, for the sake of the motherland, we must contest in the upcoming parliamentary elections,” Rajapaksa announced.

The former President stopped short of indicating if he himself would contest for a seat in the 225-member Parliament at the August poll, repeatedly using the pronoun ‘we’ as opposed to ‘I’. He also provided no indication about which party he would contest under or which group he would lead, but invited all ‘patriotic forces’ in the SLFP, UPFA, UNP and all other parties to join his movement.

“The wall of support that began in Nugegoda, has become a great people’s force,” he said, “we must take this power forward in the upcoming election.”

The war-winning ex-Leader claimed the Sirisena administration had compromised national security and ‘pandered’ to terrorists, even attempting to give them compensation, during six brief months in office.

“In six months, terrorists have been nourished, army camps have been removed in the north, the rupee has fallen to 141 against the dollar, and the economy is collapsing,” the former President thundered.

The post-January 8 Government had presided over the worst bond scandal in history, Rajapaksa said, referring to it as the ‘great plunder’ of the past six months.

He insisted that during his nine-year term, the rule of law had been upheld in Sri Lanka.

“We stopped political witch-hunts, we never acted outside the Constitution, the judiciary was independent,” said the ex-President who jailed his 2010 presidential challenger and sacked a Chief Justice through a process deemed unconstitutional by the country’s highest courts.

The former President said that he had bowed to the verdict of the people on 8 January, given up office, handed over the party and returned home to his village.

“But now we want to build this country again, we are ready to form a future Government,” Rajapaksa said.

The former President even admitted there may have been shortcomings in his previous administration. “We are ready to fix these shortcomings and be more sensitive to the people,” he pledged.

Divulapitiya resident, Rohith Gamini, said he had travelled by bus since 1.00 a.m. to arrive on time for Rajapaksa’s 11.00 a.m. announcement in Medamulana. “If our [former] President Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t contest, I will not even vote in the parliamentary election,” Gamini said, when he stopped for breakfast along the southern expressway. “I don’t care which party he contests from,” the supporter said.

Dhanasiri Amaratunga, mayor of a Colombo suburb said people were no longer gathering around the SLFP. “They are gathering around Mahinda Rajapaksa. We want to invite him back, to save a country that has gone to the dogs since President Sirisena took office,” Amaratunga asserted.

Rajapaksa loyalist and former Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage insisted that the former President would contest the elections, most probably on the UPFA ticket. “Everyone is insisting that he comes back to politics,” Aluthgamage, who is also facing corruption charges, told Daily FT. Asked how the former President could contest from the UPFA when the party remains in the hands of General Secretary and SLFP stalwart Susil Premajayanth, Aluthgamage said those details would have to be worked out “later”.

“One way or the other, former President Rajapaksa is going to be part of the parliamentary race,” senior journalist and political commentator Victor Ivan told Daily FT. Ivan said that by repeatedly using the term ‘we’ during his speech, Rajapaksa had given himself two options to insert himself into the August poll.

“Now he can contest the election directly for a seat in Parliament, or he can give leadership to a party opposing Sirisena and the UNP, and depending on how that party performs, he could claim a national list seat,” the analyst explained.

Ivan said he believed Rajapaksa would take the second option, to give himself leverage and ensure he has an exit plan.

The analyst said President Sirisena had grossly misjudged the former President’s motivations, believing he could be convinced not to contest by offering him protection. “But Mahinda Rajapaksa will never trust the man who defeated him - this was a completely wrong analysis. The SLFP was living in a dream world, and now that dream has been shattered,” he explained.

Ivan said the SLFP was now certainly headed for a major crisis, which would give the UNP a big edge and probably propel the party to an easy win in the August election.

“Taking the leadership of the SLFP instead of going forward with the forces of victory after 8 January was a major miscalculation by President Sirisena,” he opined.

lead-picPeople capture the moment when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa makes his statement in Medamulana yesterday - Pic by Shehan Gunasekera