Photo courtesy TVNZ

15 January 2015. Mahinda Rajapaksa is not the president of Sri Lanka.

I pinch myself.

I have been doing so for the last six days.

He still is not. He was democratically voted out of power a week ago. One person was killed, many were attacked, state resources were abused massively. The election was not free or fair, but he was democratically defeated by Maithripala Sirisena – who has since referred to himself as the foremost public servant of Sri Lanka. The main servant. Servant.

9 January 2015. Rupavahini and ITN – the state media that spent the previous 50 days hurtling lies and abuse at Sirisena and his coalition – run documentaries glorifying him. The next day, the Daily News editorial hails his election as president. The state media is schizophrenic. It is lost. It responds the only way it knows how. By replacing one form of blindly partisan propaganda with another. Independence lost is difficult to rediscover. It will take time. But Sirisena must demand it. He must be acutely uncomfortable with his glorification and with the abuse of state resources to do so. He must not even for a moment believe their lies.

10 January 2015. I skim through social media. One post catches my attention. “What Prabhakaran failed to do with the bullet, Sri Lankans did with the ballot. Shame on democracy!” I ponder. Apart from the obviously objectionable, this statement is factually incorrect. It should really read “What Prabhakaran started with the bullet, Sri Lankans ended with the ballot.”

17 November 2005. Mahinda Rajapaksa becomes the fifth president of Sri Lanka with the slimmest of majorities – 180,000. In the north, the LTTE ordered boycott is largely respected for fear of reprisal. The story of a single voter having his finger chopped off by the LTTE for defying them permeates. The LTTE bullet brings Mahinda Rajapaksa into power.

December 2014. The Rajapaksa campaign accuses the Sirisena camp of conspiring with Western forces and the LTTE remnant diaspora.

10 January 2015. Rajapaksa is hanging out of a window in Medamulana. Rajapaksa is shouting out of a megaphone. His subjects cannot contain their despair and anger. They call him their king. He says Eelam votes defeated Sinhala democracy. Eelam is to blame. Tamil and Muslim votes defeated democracy. Mahinda Rajapaksa remains the king of the Sinhalese and Sirisena is the president of Eelam.

31 August 2009. J.S. Tissainayagam is sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He had been detained since 7 March 2008, the first six months, without any charge. His crime, inciting communal hatred through his writing. His incendiary words: “It is fairly obvious that the government is not going to offer them (the Tamils) any protection. In fact it is the state security forces that are the main perpetrator of the killings…” and “Such offensives against the civilians are accompanied by attempts to starve the population by refusing them food as well as medicines and fuel, with the hope of driving out the people of Vaharai and depopulating it. As this story is being written, Vaharai is being subject to intense shelling and aerial bombardment.” 85 words, 20 years, three months per word.

8 January 2015. A total 81.59% eligible Sri Lankan voters turn out to cast their ballot. The highest ever at a presidential election. In the Kilinochchi electorate, Mahinda Rajapaksa wins an unprecedented 24.68% of the vote. Of the Tamil, Kilinochchi vote. Up from 15.78% in 2010. In the South, his popularity hits an all-time low. He secures less than 37% in the Galle electorate. He loses Panadura. His percentage in Matara District drops from over 65% to below 58%. Mahinda makes a net-loss in the South. He blames Eelam for his defeat.

Eelam is Tamil for Lanka.

18 September 2014. Scotland votes on independence. By a close enough margin, the vote is a ‘No’. Among the most relieved are leftist liberals in England, who feared being eternally saddled with a conservative government, had Scotland gone its own separate way. The reality in Sri Lanka is the same. Seperatism would ultimately serve Sinhalese and Tamil extremist nationalists. It would consolidate their voter base and give them a perpetual enemy. This is why Tamil extremist nationalists – many living abroad – pushed for an election boycott. Tamil extremist nationalists are the new Prabhakaran. Mahinda is the old Mahinda.

12 January 2015. The Cabinet of Ministers is sworn in. Ravi Karunanayake is the Minister of Finance. Remember Sathosa? The road ahead will be challenging. But at least, there is a road where none existed before. We need to support the president. We need to relearn, that criticism is the cornerstone of democracy. We need to unlearn that corruption can ever be acceptable.

Sometime between 8 and 9 January 2015. A coup is reportedly on the cards. Public servants refuse to bow down to the force of power. Public servants who in the preceding days imposed injunctions against the abuse of state resources and the violation of election laws; who resigned from their posts for being prevented from doing their duty; who stood up to a corrupt, powerful, vengeful regime. Public servants who endured years of indignity at the hands of their masters and ridicule at the hands of an increasingly frustrated public.

8 September 2010. The 18th Amendment is passed by parliament. Two lone voices stand in opposition. The JVP and the TNA. The same two parties that refuse cabinet positions on 12 January 2015. The same two parties that campaign tirelessly for the public to vote Mahinda Rajapaksa out. The same two parties that are the remnants of (or closely associated with) two insurrections against inequality and injustice.

8 January 2009. Lasantha Wickrematunge is murdered in broad daylight in Colombo. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa asks “Who is Lasantha?”

7 January 2015. The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo are murdered in broad daylight in Paris. Mahinda Rajapaksa condemns the cowardly terrorists for killing journalists.

16 June 2014. Muslims are attacked in Aluthgama. Parliament and national leaders are largely silent.

May 2009 onwards. Tamils in the north face mass interment in Menik Farm. Their crime – having endured decades of terrorist rule. Their lands are grabbed. Urban slum dwellers in Colombo are forcibly evicted. The city is beautified. The poor are forgotten.

8 January 2015. The victims have the power. Silent, unostentatious, anonymous power. They use it. They vote. The king is no more. The servant is elected.

Democracy is a beautiful thing. It is a difficult thing. Let us take a moment to bask in its glory. Then let’s begin the real work.

  • puniselva

    ”Democracy is a beautiful thing. It is a difficult thing. Let us take a moment to bask in its glory. Then let’s begin the real work.”

    Thank you.
    All hands on deck please.

  • Mitt

    “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Winston Churchill – from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)

  • Justin

    The past ten years, criminality, corruption, terror and Sinhala Buddhist extremism ruled SL.

    The entire Sri Lankan society is bound now in mental slavery to believe in and accept untruth instead of the truth.

    This untruth was nurtured by falsehood in politics and national history, false Buddhism, False Sinhala ego and the like.

    The mass media, religious leaders and the new regime must start to
    talk sense and expose the untruth to help the people of SL emancipate
    themselves from this mental slavery.

    If undone, the country will not revert to normalcy from the terrible mental damage done to it by Rajapakse and the UPFA regime.

  • Entertainment Nz

    New SL president and all the country must be very grateful
    to out going president honourable Mahinda R for holding a very peaceful and legitimate
    election campaign. misusing government resources in presidential election is done by all past presidents
    ,starting from JR. Likes of JR and R .Premadasa not only misuse power , but
    keep the election under the control of thugs , terrifying voters to reach the
    polling booth to use their vote. Did not allow neutral election moniters to
    visit the country at the election time.

    We all Sri Lankans must respect Mr MR ,for inviting all
    foreign election monitoring commotions to be present at the event as well as kept
    the election in time though he had another 2 years work as a president in SL and allow and
    support Election Commissioner to conduct the election without any interference and handing over the
    power to new leaders as soon as he know he was in losing end.

    He did not dissolve the government to before the election ,
    like most other power greedy leaders do to mess up of the smooth transition of
    the power.

    But he had to pay the price for allowing some stupid ministers to misuse the
    power. Now most of them are with new government.

    We all wish MR ,the greatest leader ,to contest for the next general election
    and come to the power again or form a very powerful opposition.

  • Jayalath

    Dear. Amal .
    It would be incorrect if some one attempted to concede that Rajapaksa regime did not use his mandate to suppress people and his henchmen involve with relentless corruption and wrong doing during his terms . But who can give the fullest assurance to people that will not happen under Sirisena and his mates .
    We all know now ! The new president sirisena is very innocent person and who will not dare to use the super power of presidency even if he had to . If I would pick up from his point of view that he told to Ranil during the election , let’s me to call Ranil Sir , even if i was elected president of Sri Lanka ,and you can imagine about his thoughts and innocence .
    Please be assumed of that we are today in the war and sirisena is the president ,,,will he be able to take decision like Rajapaksa ?? I do not think that he would . Therefore , I personally believe what ever occurred in Sri Lanka during the war and the post war ,those have relevant context with each other, and also it was only five years after 30 years of blood flow which terminated on the extreme difficult circumstances to restore the peace and prosperity of the country , and Rajspaksa led it fearlessly ,that’s why I believe what ever come about he deserves the honour . As it wasn’t as easy as thinking of winning an election with load of rubbish .

    Therefore , We must not forget what he had to face on the post war ,on one side diaspora and other side international conspirators including internal conspirators. But people were beginning to relive of new peace environment which of course should be accepted by us without a doubt.
    While Rajspaksa himself had to face all the new challenges amid taking efforts to revive the dream of Asia . Which was successfully initiated and most of developments completed .But ,the threats of westerners toward him and country was not diminished at all and he was pressurised and charged by foreign countries for killing innocent people on the last bastion of war . Which also largely derided our country .i think he spent much time to arrange to face those allegations and mean while he had not enough time to observe what his friends and family had been up to .nonetheless that he had to boost the image of country from countless allegations arrived from the internal and external hypocrites .,also the rising domestic tension between the religionists in the country was affected to his image and to the name of country very seriously .where He was forthwith accused of not doing enough to deter religious rifts between them , which cause the beginning of down fall .
    You may remember when David Cameron came to Sri Lanka to participate for the commonwealth that certain group of Muslim and Tamil leaders were interviewed by BBC where those people were vividly seen precipitating the state . And those were relatively part of conspiracy .yet , I believe those religious controversies were direct involvement of long chain of conspiracy in order to depose Rajapaksa . Which did not understand by him . The ignition of religious tension in the country was a potential route to damage of his reputation and unstable the country . And finally it perfectly worked . We have seen such kind of conspiracies undoubtedly work in some countries to unstable it’s stability in the interest of west . Astonishingly this ground view site also conspired to support sirisena,s campaign not publicising the forums against the image of Chandrika during the period of election .
    perhaps , the potential consequences of those drama may not appear sooner but indefinitely later .
    Finally , Rajspksa failed to guard against the ostentatious charges and tarnishing his image by radical opponents to win the election . ,but truly, Rajspaksa lost its gripe to colossal charges made by international and local conspirators . Just imagine the voting base of Sirisena . The total Muslims and Tamils voted against Rajapaksa and those whose votes did not fall on the interest of country . The Tamils votes based on the revenge of war and it taught us a lesson ,and it exposes the ingrained hatred. Rajspaksa invested that much of money to rebuild the bridge between us ,but it seems to be not working well considering to the style of vote by Tamils . the Muslims ,another minority who voted for their interest not for the interest of country which is normal which reveals the magnitude of distance between the Muslims and singhalese . Unfortunately many singhalese people Now is time to wake up ,it is enough that we shed blood to guard the country .

    By the way , , there are Enormous ambiguities on the current corruption charges , they should be unveiled since Chandrika’s rule ,not only from Rajapsksa’s period .unless it would not be fair . I remember that Lohan Rathwatta how he behaved under Chandrika period . Once Lohan was accused for murdering 13 Muslims in Katugastota area in an election . And Chsndrika was accused for number of corruption charges ,those things also should expose and punish according to the interest of good governing . They should not allow to dodge from the penalisation .likewise I also can see many people pay enough attention to Chinese involvements in Sri Lanka . I wish to ask from those who ,unless the Chinese who braved to support us to eradicate the Terrorists ?
    India and Pakistan supported us which we should appreciate ,but without support of Chinese we would still suffer from the terrorism . We were supported by Chinese in Geneva when every one else vote against us . These are very vital to think off . And we should accompany and associate with who ever stayed with us in the difficult time which is called RESPECT

  • Rizwan

    Actually, I think the Tamil word for Sri Lanka is “Ilangai”!

    Pure democracy is simply majority rule. Or in other words, where the majority vote to remove the rights of the minority. What we need is a constitutional republic, i.e where the powers of government are limited by law, and a democratic vote is unable to give so much power to any individual as to remove freedoms and rights.