The electoral alliances Mahinda Rajapaksa forged to win the presidency are unraveling faster than expected.Ã‚Â The relationship with the JHUÃ‚Â and the commitment to the unitary state apart, the key personalities associated with the Rajapaksa presidential campaign – Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi – having been sacked from their ministerial positions are now reportedly to join the throng of complainants to the Human Rights Commission on account of inadequate security.
There are those who have an overpowering sense of de ja vu with regard to all of this – reminiscing about the Premadasa era and the creation of the DUNF. History repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce.Ã‚Â The President’s overarching consideration of regime consolidation seems to be threatened not so much on the battlefields of the north and east or by the claymore mines and Ã¢Â€ÂœtraitorsÃ¢Â€Â in society in general, but rather by erstwhile allies in his cabinet, in his own back yard.
Nothing can be taken for granted and it is likely that the more he tries to stamp his authority with decisive action like the sacking of ministers, the more he will fuel the threats to the consolidation of his regime.Ã‚Â Whilst he cannot ignore challenges to his authority, impulsive action may be his undoing.Ã‚Â It gives the impression of one who though so preoccupied by the goal of regime consolidation is nevertheless undermined in the attainment of it because of political immaturity and the ghosts of the past.Ã‚Â Mahinda Rajapaksa is Mahinda Rajapaksa as he has said on more than one occasion – he is not SWRD Bandaranaike, Sirimavo Bandaranaike or Chandrika Kumaratunga.Ã‚Â This is a point he feels he needs to make and make unequivocally – that the old order has passed even though it shows little willingness of yielding place to the new – is the message he wants to communicate loud and clear.Ã‚Â The way he does this however, may lead to him having to reassure, as much or more clearly and loudly, that he is no Ranasinghe Premadasa either.
Mr Samaraweera of course is the threat to Rajapaksa regime consolidation personified.Ã‚Â He gets on with the JVP and how, ex President Kumaratunga and how!Ã‚Â He is a good political organizer and operator as the President knows only too well and has the reputation of being one of the very few PA ministers who could and did get a job done.Ã‚Â And in the socio-political milieu of Sri Lanka he can slip very easily into the Athulathmudali/Dissanayake role as the counterpoint to the aesthetic and other distaste for the current dispensation.Ã‚Â Mangala Samaraweera traverses the spectrum of political and social constituencies from Matara to Colombo.Ã‚Â And given his Shastri lecture, he is making a stab at projecting himself as a Ã¢Â€ÂœthinkingÃ¢Â€Â politician, ready, willing and eager to galvanize the Ã¢Â€ÂœliberalÃ¢Â€Â forces in the Sri Lankan polity along the route of the Ã¢Â€Âœthird wayÃ¢Â€Â a la Giddens.Ã‚Â As to what his JVP sahodarayas think about him positioning himself as a local Blair or Clinton would be interesting.
Mahinda Rajapakse has to slip up badly for Mangala Samaraweera to inherit.Ã‚Â And it looks like the former will do his best to ensure that the latter is history, before this could happen.Ã‚Â President Rajapaksa does not seem like the forgiving type ; quite the contrary.Ã‚Â Forgiveness may be possible if it is preceded by humiliation and humility.Ã‚Â Mr Samaraweera may not oblige on either score; victimization and martyrdom have done wonders for less promising political careers.Ã‚Â Already, with the stroke of a pen, Mahinda Rajapaksa has plummeted Mangala Samaraweera to the position of the leader of dissent and potentially, of the future.
The personalities and the balance of power and probabilities between them aside, there is that little matter of what they stand for and what they could deliver.Ã‚Â President Rajapaksa has yet to prove Vellupillai Prabhakaran and quite a few others wrong, as far as his understanding of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is concerned.Ã‚Â It is no surprise that the JHU is by his side – this is not a matter of mere political survival but also a demonstration of ideological affinity.Ã‚Â Mangala Samaraweera on the other hand, his current Ã¢Â€Âœ third wayÃ¢Â€Â pretensions notwithstanding, has run with the hare and hunted with the hounds in the past.Ã‚Â As President Kumaratnga’s chief lieutenant he declared that the Sinhala Commission report be consigned to the dustbin of history and spear headed the Sudu Nelum Movement; as she changed he changed with her chameleon like and delivered his salmon eating busy bodies barb against the long suffering Norwegians.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â As presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse’sÃ‚Â key campaign organizer he presented himself as the JVP style true Ã¢Â€ÂœpatriotÃ¢Â€Â and son of the soil – desha premi to his finger tips.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThird WayÃ¢Â€Â Samaraweera may not now have the luxury of thinking of the challenges he may have to face if and when he ascends to the presidency.Ã‚Â However, he must surely be aware that whilst he may need his JVP pals to get him there, once in office they will make his job of governing, difficult if not impossible, with regard to constitutional reform, peace and the economy.Ã‚Â Mangala Innocence may believe that they would have themselves reformed by then, through constant association with him or through some other route of Pauline conversion.Ã‚Â Highly unlikely.
In this respect, there is as always a perverse congruence of strategic interest between President Rajapaksa and Mangala Samaraweera – that of cutting the JVP to size.Ã‚Â The former can do it whilst the other bemoans the manner and method by which it is done, silently thankful for a great service done.Ã‚Â Is it too fanciful to project into the future a situation in which Mangala Samaraweera will be hot footing it to Geneva with files on human rights violations in the south ?Ã‚Â He is a founder of the Mothers Front and has already augmented his claim to be a human rights defender at present with the letter he wrote to President Rajapaksa about disappearances every five hours.
The tragedy though, in respect of what as happened is that the key challenge ofÃ‚Â a political settlement to the ethnic conflict is untouched by all of this.Ã‚Â Neither the UNP crossovers or the sacked ministers have anything positive to contribute on this score and in the case of Mangala Samaraweera, political expedience and survival combine at the moment, to prevent an open departure from the JVP position and that championed by him in his incarnation as Mahinda Rajapaksa’s chief campaigner within the SLFP fold.Ã‚Â The power struggle in the southern polity has come to the fore yet again to push the key issue of peace into the background.
The President is not anywhere near as secure as he would like to be and the LTTE we are told is on the way out.Ã‚Â Will Mr Wickremasinghe now act and act boldly to lay out the agenda for a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka or is it the case that he is waiting for things to deteriorate further.
How much further ?