Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa (File photo)

When the plot eventually unravels, UNPers throw tantrums. This is what happened last week when President Sirisena did what everybody expected him to do, which was not divide the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

He would have been suicidal to attempt anything other than that. The SLFP is his political base.

He won due to SLFP votes which came his way despite the fact that he had joined the UNP led Opposition bandwagon.

But could he have won, exclusively with UNP and pro UNP minority votes? No. If winning was that easy, Ranil Wickremesinghe would have been the Opposition candidate for the Presidency earlier this year.

A brittle victory, bought by subterfuge is not the real thing, and to expect Maithripala Sirisena to behave as if he is a UNPer, is to imagine that the January 8 fluke is the real deal, which it is not.

The Asipatha CutsSirisena therefore did what he had to do to be viable politically which is to redeem himself as the uniter of his party, rather than destroy himself as its most notorious renegade backstabber.

So how does the UNP react to this most natural of acts of political savvy, and preservation, the existential stuff of every successful politician?
With a great deal of mewling, puking and howling, one might say.

The best laid plans of mice and men? The resurgence of Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom the UNP had imagined dead after the defeat in January, had been taken for the best sign that the UNP’s general election victory is guaranteed.

The hope was to divide the SLFP and win, but it would probably surprise most UNPers to know that Mahinda Rajapakasa could field his own candidates from his own new political party and still probably have a very good shot at winning the highest number of seats.
The best laid plans of mice and men indeed …

It is to the credit of both men, Presidents Sirisena and Rajapaksa that they put the interests of party first, but the latter should particularly take the credit.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was the viable opposition. Why wouldn’t he be when Maithripala Sirisena had identified himself with the Ranil Wickremesinghe government, to put it by way of glorious understatement. There cannot be an opposition which is part of the government, and within the government.

(Ask Thilanga Sumathipala the record holder for short duration Deputy Ministership, a measly, ghastly, comic 18 days …)

All opposition elements naturally gravitated under the above circumstances, to the only man who was the credible leader of the opposition, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

This was coupled with the fact that the average SLFPer was incensed by the fact that Wickremesinghe or his handlers had tricked Sirisena into pulling the rug from under the feet of what would have been a shoo in SLFP/UPFA government, under President Rajapaksa, on January 8th.

(This aspect was dealt with in a previous column in this space.)
Things have now returned to their natural equilibrium within the SLFP, and Maithripala Sirisena would have been rendered politically irrelevant if this had not happened.

He may be the President, but he is not immune, for instance, to impeachment attempts. If the UNP won over the remains of a divided SLFP, Ranil Wickremesinghe would have planned to laugh all the way to President’s House, riding roughshod over a hapless Sirisena who would have had a handful of SLFP MPs to call his own, and nothing more, as the Opposition was very much locked up under the leadership of Rajapaksa who was the only leader people looked to deliver them from Ranil’s government of incremental chaos, deepening corruption and cynical mismanagement.

It’s easy in the context of the above, to realize what a terrible bunch of cry babies the right wing and so-called liberal elite of this country (read Western educated, and reactionary …) had become, and why.

Their portrayal of Sirisena as some kind of traitor for being amenable to a Rajapaksa comeback by giving him nomination is hilarious for one most important reason, among others.

The UPFA nomination for Rajapaksa does not mean a victory for him, at least technically not so. The relevant UNP district candidates could defeat him if they feel they have exposed him as they say they have.

It’s another matter that in reality they cannot defeat him, not in the wildest of their dreams. His victory is guaranteed, irrespective of the District he contests from. But therein lies the UNP’s problem. They want to stop someone the people obviously want in Parliament at the gate, because it’s a matter for their own survival.

It is a form of craven tantrum throwing therefore to say that President Sirisena betrayed the many lakhs people who voted for him by letting Rajapaksa ride with the UPFA ticket.
In the first place, that’s not the correct way of putting things across in a manner that reflects the reality on the ground.

President (ex President) Rajapaksa was magnanimous enough to accommodate President Sirisena despite the fact that the entire surge of the Opposition’s comeback, was solidly, to a man and a woman, with him.

Sirisena gave him the nod in the interests of the party, and it would have been foolish more that churlish for him to spurn the goodwill of the man who commanded the allegiance of the vast majority or the SLFP rank and file, never mind who was technically the leader of the party.

The petulant UNP reaction is symptomatic of the unacceptable behavior of the Sri Lankan right wing rabble.

They have called Rajapaksa ‘eka’ and ‘meka’, and tried to hasten some kind of local ostracism they hope to achieve by demonizing him, on top of the despicable international pursuit of him on trumped up war crimes charges.

The basics have been forgotten. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa cannot be arrested, unless there is extraordinarily good reason. Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot be vilified, and called a rouge when it is patently obvious it’s not true. These are actions so much beyond the pale. They are vile, period.

MR’s losing the last election was taken by the UNP as the green light to destroy him by vilification even though they knew it was unconscionable, first due to the reason that a man cannot be crucified for no sin, and second for the reason that a man who literally saved the nation cannot be crucified for the reason that it’s to their political advantage and no other…

All this should have been common sense. The surge of crowds in Medamulana should have been an early indication that as far as the Sri Lankan people are concerned, Rajapaksa is not the ordinary politician they look up to. He is special; he is kindred.

Most swing voters regretted they had sent him home. But the sight of his loss, and then the sight of his persecution via the most vile and unscrupulous means made it an article of faith among the people to reject the crass, stupid and evil right wing of this country. Sirisena rescued himself from being caught up in the deluge of the backlash, in the nick of time.