Sri Lankan electorate gives benefit of doubt to Rajapaksas

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 07, 2020, 10.51 PM(IST) Written By: N S Venkataraman

Mahinda Rajapaksa Photograph:( Reuters )

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While Rajapaksas’ have gained an overwhelming majority, this does not really mean that majority of the people are entirely satisfied with the style of governance of Rajapaksas’ during the last few years

As predicted by several pollsters, the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party (SLPP or People’s Party) led by Rajapaksa  brothers  has gained a majority in the Sri Lankan parliamentary election. This verdict is no surprise, particularly considering the anxiety of Sri Lankan citizens, who want strong leadership.

While Rajapaksas’ have gained an overwhelming majority, this does not really mean that majority of the people are entirely satisfied with the style of governance of Rajapaksas’ during the last few years.

Obviously, Sri Lankan people, owing allegiance to different religions and lifestyle,  must have carefully weighed the options before them and must have decided that Rajapaksas’ are the best option in the given circumstances, though they very well know that Rajapaksas’ are not blemishless leaders.

It is a fact that most of the Sri Lankans including Sinhalese and section of Tamils feel grateful towards Rajapaksas’ for decisively defeating the secessionist forces and restoring the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. What Rajapaksas’ achieved is what several Presidents and Prime Ministers before them could not do. 

Perhaps, this gratitude of Sri Lankans will be there for all time to come.

The fact is that majority of people have voted for Rajapaksas’ giving the President and Prime Minister brothers the benefit of doubt, in spite of their nearly unimpressive governance. Obviously, this will be the last time that such benefit of the doubt would be given to them and certainly people will not react in the same way in the future elections if Rajapaksas’ would not deliver in the coming years.

As it happens in several democracies, many political leaders win elections by securing negative votes, as the votes in their favour may really be more the votes against their opponents in the elections.  

One conspicuous factor that one should not miss about the politics in Sri Lanka is that the leaders of the political parties in the Tamil region were not united and were more fighting the elections against each other rather than against Rajapaksas’. This too has helped Rajapaksas’ to some extent.

Certainly, people are deeply aware that Rajapaksas’ have reduced the government of Sri Lanka virtually to a family rule in the past.  

This “family ownership”  of the government may become even more obvious and cause concern, as one brother would be the President and the other brother would be the Prime Minister. Both these brothers would be accompanied by a few other family members in the pivotal positions in the government.  This may lead to a disturbing situation, where no one can get  top positions in the government or government-owned institutions or even in judiciary, if they would not show their loyalty outwardly to the family of Rajapaksas’.

People who have given the benefit of doubt to Rajapaksas’ in the election would be keenly watching the emerging scenario and would view the scenario disapprovingly if Rajapaksas’ family members would become the be-all and end-all of Sri Lankan government.

In the past, it is a fact that Sri Lanka has not been governed at the best of standards and Sri Lanka has been made into a debt-ridden country, in spite of the several advantageous resources that the country has and the talent at an individual level that many Sri Lankans possess.

With the poorly managed economy due to misgovernance, Sri Lanka is now facing a debt trap, with Chinese government hanging like a Damocles’ Sword over the country. Sri Lankan government has been forced to hand over the Hambantota port to the Chinese company over the 99-year lease and this means that Chinese government would be occupying the port for many many years to come and would be breathing down the neck of Sri Lanka. 

Like putting all eggs in the same basket, Rajapaksas’ have entertained several projects with Chinese support and money, which is bound to cost Sri Lanka’s sovereignty dearly in the coming years, if corrective steps would not be initiated.

 In the present situation, when it is obvious that Sri Lankan government would not be able to repay the debt  to China in the foreseeable future, it is a big challenge for Rajapaksas’  and one wonders whether they would be able to extricate Sri Lanka from the vice-like grip of China.

Rajapaksas’  should clearly understand the challenges before them and understand that hard and intelligent work needed to make Sri Lanka realize it’s full potentials, instead of rejoicing over their victory in the parliamentary election, assuming that the family can be in power for all time to come.

The primary requisite now is that Rajapaksas’ should erase the impression that it is the family rule in Sri Lanka. 

They should also clearly ensure that they would not continue to appease China and continued appeasement would inevitably mean sacrificing the interests of Sri Lanka in favour of a foreign country. China is already deeply entrenched in one way or the other.

Congratulations to Rajapaksas’ for the victory in the election and the fervent hope is that they would not repeat the mistakes of the past and provide quality governance to Sri Lanka, which the Sri Lankans deserve.  

Taking along all Sri Lankans including Tamils in governance is a compulsive need to make Sri Lanka a vibrant country.

Opportunities before Sri Lanka are plenty and what is needed is a long term and lofty vision for the leaders in the Sri Lankan government.  Rajapaksas’ have the  challenges and opportunities before them and they will be tested.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)