Most countries would consider themselves blessed if they were graced by the presence of three prime ministers and three presidents at the same time. For one, it signals to the world that the country has a vibrant and confident political system that encourages and expects the smooth transition of power when a political term comes to an end. For another, it would mean that the country can tap into the vast reservoir of knowledge of six individuals who have occupied the top two jobs of the country.
As with all things political in Sri Lanka, what you see is not necessarily what you are destined to experience. This is most certainly the case with the country’s two former presidents. The post-office impact of the six individuals who have occupied the seats of the president and the prime minister unfortunately has not always been beneficial or benevolent. In too many instances the individuals have acted as if the country owes them even after their services have been terminated. They have refused to leave office gracefully and retire into a gentle sunset. Instead, they have become a burden on the polity and in the worst instance polarizing figures who keep promoting themselves even when it is obvious that their acts can only bring discredit and disaster for the nation. In the case of the two former prime ministers, Wickramanayake and Jayaratne, the public burden has been relatively light in that all they want it seems is to be acknowledged as has been politicians who would like another 15 minutes or so of public relevance. The most harmful behaviour has come from the last two presidents of the country; Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Supreme Court found her guilty of abuse of authority and fined her Rs.3 million. She also attempted to hang on to her office citing a ridiculously self-serving and transparent argument even after Rajapaksa was elected as her successor
In the case of Kumaranatunga, much has been said about her pivotal role in corralling the current President Sirisena into taking on Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last presidential election. To Kumaranatunga’s supporters, her actions were pivotal in bringing an end to the abuse and misuse of power by the Rajapaksa Government. However, they overlook her shady past acts and ignore the destructiveness of her current day words and actions in the name of political expediency. While Kumaranatunga was president, she was indulgent in many high-handed acts. One of them was to allow the sale of some 224 acres of state land, some of it vital wetlands, to a private developer. The Supreme Court found her guilty of abuse of authority and fined her Rs.3 million. She also attempted to hang on to her office citing a ridiculously self-serving and transparent argument even after Rajapaksa was elected as her successor. During the 2004 Tsunami, it took Bandaranaike a good 48 hours after the disaster to address the nation even though she would have known that many Sri Lankans lost their lives (estimated at 35,000) and many more lost most of their belongings (estimated at over half a million). That was as callous a disregard for the welfare of a citizenry by a leader as any. This same person in the post Mahinda Rajapaksa Sri Lanka has started speaking and acting as if she, not Maitripala Sirisena received a mandate in January, 2015. Driven mainly by the hurt of insignificance inflicted on her by Rajapaksa during his term in office, Bandaranaike has been on a mission to exact revenge on the former president without much regard for the consequences of her actions and words. By bad mouthing the Rajapaksas in public at every given opportunity, she keeps making a spectacle of herself and undermining the presidency of Maitripala Sirisena and playing into the hands of the pro-Rajapaksa supporters. Kumaranatunga needs to put a closure to her grotesque clown act, and allow Sirisena to conduct the business of state.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s post-election behaviour too has left much to be desired. The man who was hailed a hero by many if not most for ending the brutality of the LTTE and ushering in a period of peace and rapid development allowed all that to be squandered on the altar of greed, hubris and vainglory. Rajapaksa has allowed a group of self-serving parliamentarian hangers on to take him on a path of self-destruction by allowing them to act as his proxy in their bid to undermine the Sirisena presidency. Even worse, he has directly gotten involved in the act of destabilizing the country for personal gain. Mahinda Rajapaksa surely must know that encouraging dissension in Sirisena’s ranks will most likely fracture the President’s coalition to the point that a UNP-led coalition would be the most likely outcome of a general election. He should also realize that if his actions lead to the break up of the UPFA or the formation of a new front under his leadership, it could lead to the Israelization of the Sri Lankan polity where a number of smaller parties end up as the kingmakers because the voters will not provide a clear mandate to one entity. These are not the acts of a patriot. To the contrary, they are the acts of a delusional man who refuses to accept the verdict of the people. If Kumaratunga and Rajapaksa are serious about serving the people, then they need to sail into political oblivion.