The election of a man of the masses
THE triumph of Mahinda Rajapakse at the
Presidential election of November 17 would be best remembered as a
popular endorsement of a common man's candidate for the highest public
office in this land.
This memorable moment was quite rightly seen by the President-elect
as evocative of the 1956 social revolution initiated by the late S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike when the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna which he ably led,
changed the complexion of Lankan politics and made the seats of
political power accessible to the common man.
Unlike many of those who have wielded political power in Sri Lanka,
Rajapakse could not be described as descending from those who live in
the lap of privilege and social prestige. This is because Mahinda has
lived and walked with the people, both literally and figuratively.
Rajapakse was quite at home leading the people from the front in 'Pada
Yatras' that spanned the length of Sri Lanka in the early Nineties when
democracy was eclipsed by authoritarian rule and when the rights of the
people were trampled by tyrannical feet which sought to keep them in
Those were bleak times for Sri Lanka when political dissent even
earned death at the hands of State-linked vigilante death squads but
Rajapakse stood-up dourly for the rights of the people in local courts.
His wholesome political lineage could be said to have accounted for
this highly progressive orientation, being a son of the iconic D.A.
Rajapakse, who, along with S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike established the Sri
Lanka Freedom Party in 1951.
Having figured prominently in the struggle for the redemocratization
of Sri Lanka, along with President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in
the early and mid-Nineties, Mahinda Rajapakse held some of the most
important portfolios in administrations led by President Kumaratunga
His appointment to the position of Prime Minister in the UPFA
Government of April 2004, marked Rajapakse's emergence as a political
leader who would soon occupy the highest echelons of the country's power
Without doubt, Rajapakse's election as the fifth Executive President
of Sri Lanka is an epochal moment in the post-independence political
history of this country because we are reminded as never before that the
highest political office in Sri Lanka is not beyond the reach of a 'Son
of the Soil', which Rajapakse truly is.
The country could take heart from the fact that the President-elect
is not only intent on realising the provisions of the 'Mahinda
Chinthanaya' - which has just won popular endorsement - but is also keen
on kickstarting and taking forward the peace process.
Peace along with economic development were singled out by Rajapakse
at the announcement of the final results of the Presidential election,
as his twin priorities and we call on the rest of the polity to rally
round the future Head-of-State in these vitally important endeavours.
As could be seen, Mahinda Rajapakse's rise to the foremost position
in the land was not paved with roses, because he had to even stave off
efforts by the opposition to besmirch his image.
However, Rajapakse could take heart from the fact that his honour has
been vindicated by his election to the Presidency in a free and fair
He is the people's choice and the people in their collective wisdom
would not have ensured his election to the foremost political position
in Sri Lanka if there was any basis to opposition mud-slinging.