Foreign Affairs

Sri Lankan Presidential Elections 2015 – The Decision

By Brian Senewiratne

Dr. Brian Senewiratne

Dr. Brian Senewiratne

There are two main candidates – Mahinda Rajapaksa and ‘Common Opposition candidate’ Maithripala Sirisena.

The election was known as by Rajapaksa two years before it was due due to the fact of a slide in his reputation as judged from the recent Provincial Council Elections. It is critical to know that he had two much more years as President when he called the election. The significance is that he has claimed, with some strange reasoning, that even if he loses, he will continue as President for two far more years (if he wins, the two years will be added to the 6-year term – creating it 8 years).

With the Opposition in disarray and unable to locate a credible candidate, Rajapaksa was so confident of victory that he even said that he would be the only candidate. He failed to see that the attainable candidate was Maithripala Sirisena, his personal Overall health Minister and Common Secretary of his party (the Sri Lanka Freedom Celebration – SLFP).

With no warning, on 21 November 2014, Sirisena stated that he would be the “Common Opposition Candidate’ to contest Rajapaksa. He blasted the Rajapaksa regime:

The entire socioeconomic and political systems of this country have been taken over by 1 family. They have ruined this country that is now engulfed in corruption and blatant abuse of power. It is against this that I am coming forward as the common candidate of the opposition”.

Holding the President accountable, he said, “thuggery, embezzlement, crime, drug mafia, nepotism and corruption have institutionalized beneath the Executive Presidency but alas President Rajapaksa or his government has carried out tiny to arrest this horrible and harmful situation”.

Going on to say what he would do, if elected, he went on:

“I will abolish the Executive Presidency in one hundred days soon after becoming elected as the President. I will restore the rule of law by reactivating the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and make the Police, Elections, Public Service and the Judicial Service Commissions fully independent. The President will be created answerable to the legislature and develop a people’s government that take pleasure in real peace, prosperity and happiness”.

Sadly he did not say what he will do about the significant troubles facing the Tamil individuals in the North and East who are beneath military rule, the absolute require to demilitarise the Tamil location or let internationally credible human rights organisations into the nation.

He was well conscious of the dangers. Referring to the Rajapaksa junta he mentioned, “They will do every thing attainable to tarnish my image and will even go to the extent of murder”.

I would rather not print the words utilized by Rajapaksa when Sirisena went to hand in his resignation as Health Minister. Safety employees advised Sirisena to leave even though he was nonetheless in a position to do so. It was sound suggestions given what happened to ‘Loku Athula’, a senior SLFP politician, who had decided to back Sirisena. I will describe this outrage later.

The help Sirisena had was overwhelming and cut across political and celebration divisions and has continued to grow.

The election is a lot more than an try at a regime change. It is an try to dismantle the Rajapaksa Family autocracy and replace it with one thing that is more acceptable. It is, by far, one particular of the most crucial elections in recent occasions in Sri Lanka which could have far reaching consequences for the country.

Getting a contest in between two Sinhalese politicians to elect what in effect is a Sinhalese President, there has been some speculation no matter whether this is of any consequence to the Tamil folks in the North and East – the suggestion getting that they must boycott the election as they did in 2005. However, the feeling nowadays is quite diverse. Several Tamils in the North and East want to vote. The query is no matter whether they will be in a position to do so in an location which is an Army-run military state.

With no credible election monitors and with plans afoot to commit extensive vote rigging, such as violence to avert folks from voting, the validity of the outcome will be doubtful, specifically if Rajapaksa wins. On 29 December 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon telephoned the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister and conveyed his “strong expectation” that the Government of Sri Lanka will make certain “the peaceful and credible conduct” of its upcoming Presidential election. Ban Ki-moon would have restored his vanishing credibility had he said that the UN was sending election monitors to see that the benefits have been credible.

Some crucially important points

  1. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brothers and scores of his family have run (or, as Sirisena place it, “ruined”) Sri Lanka. Some 70% of Government expenditure is in the hands of this family. It has turn out to be a ‘family business’. If Rajapaksa goes, so will they.
  2. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President Rajapaksa’a brother, an American citizen, is one of the most potent people, if not the most effective individual in Sri Lanka.

Supposedly the ‘Defence Secretary’, in reality he is the de facto President of Sri Lanka, his brother only becoming the de jure President.

He is also a single of the most violent men and women Sri Lanka has ever made. He could get in touch with the senior editor of a significant newspaper a “f…..g pig who eats shit! Shit! Shit!” and get away with it.

A former Army Officer, he has absolute control of the Armed Forces and Police. He is a lot more than capable of launching a military coup to take over the nation.

  1. Sri Lanka’s politically active Buddhist monks, the curse of Sri Lanka for more than half a century, are as bigoted as they come. They will oppose any degree of power-sharing, however minimal, with the Tamils. For these Sinhala-Buddhist ethnoreligious bigots, Sri Lanka is a Sinhala-Buddhist nation. Neither Rajapaksa nor Sirisena will be prepared to challenge their bigotry and send them back to their temples to preach one particular of the fantastic religions in the globe, Buddhism, and not get into ethnoreligious chauvinism and violence.

If Sirisena has to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with 1 of these chauvinist groups, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), which he has completed to get their assistance to get elected as President (as Prime Minister S.W. R. D. Bandaranaike did in 1956 and was later assassinated by 1 of them), one wonders how he can do anything to address the ‘National Problem’ facing the Tamils.

A rundown of the candidates

Mahinda Rajapaksa

A rundown is necessary to remind the Sinhalese folks of the regime that they are under. The Tamils do not need to have to be reminded – it is a everyday truth of life.

TNA Mahinda and MaithripalaSri Lanka has never been run by a more violent or corrupt regime than the 1 run by Rajapaksa since his election as President in November 2005.

Considering that his election he has launched what was clearly a genocidal war against the Tamil individuals. Claiming that this was to ‘defeat Tamil Tiger terrorism’ it was considerably more than that. It was to crush the Tamil people into accepting Sri Lanka as a Sinhala-Buddhist nation.

He has continued to destroy the Tamil men and women in what is greatest described as ‘slow genocide’. The Tamil individuals in the North and East have been handed over to the Sri Lankan (Sinhalese) Armed Forces who can do what they want with no accountability. It is a single of the most brutal armies in the globe that treats the location they run as ‘occupied territory’ and the men and women in it (Tamils and Muslims) as the ‘spoils of war’.

The Tamil folks have lost their lands in land-grabs by the Armed Forces, and they have been prevented from earning a living (agriculture, fishing and commercial activity – all of which have been taken more than by the Armed Forces or handed over to Sinhalese brought from the South).

Torture, sexual violence, detention with out charge or trial at undisclosed places, and involuntary disappearances are every day occurrences for the Tamils in the North and East.

Militarisation is at an unprecedented and fully unacceptable level with a single member of the military for each 5 (Tamil) civilians.

Sinhalese men and women are getting relocated in the Tamil North and East by the Rajapaksa regime in a determined effort to modify the demography and make the Tamils a minority even in the area exactly where they are a majority. This ‘Sinhalisation’ may well nicely not be reversible whoever takes over as President now or ever.

Buddhism is being forced down the throats of the Tamils who are Hindu or Christian in what has been referred to as ‘Buddhistisation’.

Tamil children are becoming taught by Sinhalese (several of them soldiers) who have no experience in teaching or even of the language (Tamil).

The Tamil folks have suffered immensely beneath Rajapaksa’s regime. The question of the Tamil individuals in the North and East voting for him simply does not arise. The only exceptions are those who support Tamil thugs whose leaders are in Rajapaksa’s government.

The international investigation into human rights abuse, at present getting carried out by a team appointed by the Higher Commissioner for Human Rights, has been obstructed in every possible way by Rajapaksa and his cronies. It is likely to come down difficult on the Rajapaksa regime when their Report is submitted in March 2015.

In addition to gross violation of human rights and crimes against humanity, Rajapaksa has tampered with the Constitution to suit his own political interests and hunger for power. This will impact all the ethnic groups in the country.

His selection to scrap a two-term limit for Presidents through the 18th Amendment has been criticized across the board, for ignoring democratic conventions. The Amendment reeks of authoritarianism, standard of Rajapaksa. Below it, the President has the power to appoint the Chairman and members of the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, National Police Commission, Human Rights Commission, Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption, Finance Commission, Delimitation Commission, Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court, the President and Judges of the Court of Appeal, Members of the Judicial Service Commission, Lawyer General, Auditor General, Ombudsman and Secretary General of Parliament.  There is no doubt whatsoever that Rajapaksa has employed this to make sure that his loyalists are appointed to these strong constitutional posts to profligate his writ unabatedly. The United Nations Human Rights Council has already criticized this amendment as being violative of the human rights of the citizens of Sri Lanka.

Because the announcement of the election which will take spot on 8 January 2015, there has been no space for any voice of dissent, as Rajapaksa is abusing the state machinery to conduct arbitrary surveillance, detention, and considerably much more, of his detractors. The democratic fabric of Sri Lanka is beneath serious pressure, with authoritarianism obtaining crept into governance as properly. The state apparatus is subservient to the Rajapaksa loved ones, rather than the men and women of the country. the Police and Armed Forces are openly putting up placards praising Rajapaksa. What they will do on election day is apparent.

Rajapaksa heads one of the most significant governments in the globe, with more than one hundred ministers and deputy ministers in workplace. It is a vast network of patronage and control. Politicians only thrive if they are inside this ‘ruling club’. The true government is significantly smaller, concentrated about the three Rajapaksa brothers, who manage almost 70% of the state spending budget. Only one household has captured the country’s economy, administration as well as the management of the ruling Political celebration.

The President’s brother, Gotabaya, presides over the potent Defence ministry. An additional brother, Basil, is properly in charge of the Economy, as Minister for economic development. Just to round items off, elder brother Chamal is the parliamentary speaker, while Mahinda’s son is a wheeler and dealer member in numerous matters.

It is by means of this network that the Rajapaksa family has been exercising improper influences by carrying out inducements, pressures, threats or interference in the working of the legislature, judiciary and the executive. With the electoral method underway, Rajapaksa and his coteries have diverted their might to preparations for massive scale rigging.

Cronies of Rajapaksa control the major businesses of the country. An election needs funding, and this one, requirements a lot more of it, for rigging and malpractices! This funds is readily discovered by members of the loved ones and their cronies who have robbed Sri Lanka considering that Rajapaksa came into energy. Money is not a dilemma – as we will see.

Media censorship is so tight that even the Sinhalese (72% of the nation) do not know what is going on in the country. What they do know is that the expense of living has soared due to maladministration, stealing by Rajapaksa cronies and his family members, the ‘need’ to preserve a massive Army of some 300,000 – the highest per capita of the civilian population in the planet. This is claimed to be for the protection of the nation. in reality it is for protection of the regime.

Law and order have collapsed and been replaced by the rule of the armed thug and hooligans.

Bribery and corruption are rampant at all levels from the very top to the bottom – adding to the expense of living since it is not achievable to get anything done with out a bribe.

Democracy has been replaced by a Totalitarian regime beneath a single family – the Rajapaksas.

There is an atmosphere of worry in the Sinhalese South, as there is to a a lot higher degree in the Tamil North and East.

It is difficult to see why the Sinhalese would want to vote for a lot more of the exact same.

Rajapaksa boasts that he has brought peace, security and prosperity’ to the country with the ‘defeat of Tamil ‘terrorism’. Yet he has refused to allow internationally credible human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to enter the country. The purpose is that State terrorism today is far worse than any terrorism that existed earlier.

Maithripala Sirisena

A fairly unknown entity even in Sri Lanka, Sirisena has been in the Cabinet and has been the Basic Secretary of the SLFP (the celebration to which Rajapaksa and his predecessor, Chandrika Kumaratunga belong) considering that 2001.

To give credit exactly where credit is due, he had the courage to come forward as the typical Opposition candidate to contest Rajapaksa. He has taken the not inconsiderable risk of becoming murdered – a risk he acknowledged.

His account of Rajapaksa’s poor governance was correct but he was a member of this regime, and a senior one at that, for much of this time. His excuse was that he was also afraid to speak.

Of a lot more significant concern is that he mentioned nothing at all about the main difficulties faced by the Tamil people in the North and East. Maybe he was as well afraid to address this vital concern for worry of losing Sinhalese-Buddhist votes. If so, it is hard to see how as President he will address the significant troubles faced by the Tamils.

Sirisena’s primary agenda appears to be that he will get rid of the Executive Presidency ‘within 100 days’ of being elected as President. There is no doubt that this will be a welcome step towards democracy but the query is regardless of whether that it will be sufficient. It must be remembered that Hitler rose to power in a functioning democracy in Germany. Hitler basically manipulated the current laws to suit his intention to be a dictator.

Merely receiving rid of the Executive Presidency and returning energy to Parliament is insufficient. There is considerably a lot more that demands to be accomplished such as the separation of powers which is the corner stone of democracy.

There was not a word about demilitarisation of the North and East – an essential step in addressing the enormous issues faced by the Tamil people in that region. As such, the modify to a Sirsena government may be of no benefit to the Tamils.

Sirisena’s closeness to the most intense ethnoreligius chauvinists, the political party of Buddhist monks – the Jathika Hela Urumaya – is of critical concern. He has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with them. If it is necessary for him to get into bed with a rabid anti-Tamil party of Sinhala-Buddhist extremists, it is challenging to see how he can provide peace with justice to the Tamil people.

History may nicely repeat itself since this is specifically what S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (from Rajapksa’s party) did in 1956 – to ride to power on the backs of politically- active Buddhist monks and located that he had to get into significant discrimination against the Tamils. When he attempted to water this down (minimally), he was assassinated by a single of them. These days, the Buddhist monks are far much more violent that they have ever been. Sirisena will have to be firm – one thing that is unlikely to happen. If it does, his survival will be in doubt.

Sirisena has clearly stated that he will not allow an international investigation into war crimes or allow those discovered guilty to face justice. That will make him an accomplice to war crimes.

What is the option facing Sri Lankan on 8 January 2015?

The option is to vote for more of the exact same or for a (possible) adjust.

The alternatives facing the Tamil people in the North and East are set out in some detail beneath. To summarise it right here, they have the decision of voting for a lot more of the same which they will not do, or for voting for Sirisena. The query is whether they will be capable to get to the polls with a murderous Army watching every single step. For the Tamils to abstain from voting (as they did in the 2005 Presidential election) is to vote for Rajapaksa, a mistake they will not make this time.

The Sinhalese have a option. They can vote for Rajapaksa and a continuation of a Totalitarian state which is totally corrupt, exactly where there is no law and order a regime characterised by a lack of governance, nepotism, police and army brutality which was unleashed on the Tamil people but is now becoming unleashed on them exactly where the media are muzzled and the dissenting voice silenced a sky-rocketing cost of living due to the fact their funds is being stolen by their rulers and their relatives and the usual problems of living in a Totalitarian state.

They can vote for a adjust – hopefully a adjust for the greater given that it cannot be a adjust for the worse.

Escalating violence

There will, with out doubt, be escalating violence each in the Tamil North and East organised by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and Rajapaksa’s violent supporters in the South by goon-squads supported by the Government.

The violence will consist of assault and even murder as was observed lately in the President’s property.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) says that much more than 300 circumstances of violations of law have been reported thus far. In most of these instances pro-government armed goon-squads have been involved. This violence will escalate as much more defections from Rajapaksa’s camp cement the defeat of President Rajapaksa.

The mildest violence, but a significant 1, was on 26 December 2014, in Beruwela, a suburb near Colombo. Following an election rally in favour of Sirisena, the former President, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Western Province Councillor Ms Premchandra visited Western Provincial Councillor Jemine Marika Mohamed’s residence for dinner. Goon squads attacked the house damaging Kumaratunga’s vehicle and injuring an Opposition Urban Councillore Mansoor Dalhan. Dalhan was taken to the Beruwela base hospital but refused admission. The outpatient medical doctor in a report sent to the CMEV stated that police had instructed her not to admit any casualties to the hospital.

The violence unleashed by the goons was so serious that the Police and Securiy employees had to run for cover.

A much far more serious event involving the President himself occurred on 29 November 2014 – the death of ‘Loku Athula’.

The ‘Loku Athula’ death (29 November 2014)

‘Loku Athula’ (Nimalasiri Jayasinghe) is a former deputy Minister in Rajapaksa’s government and the current SLFP organiser in a rural location (Gampaha). He was as soon as the leader of the JVP insurrection in 1971, and then joined the SLFP to further his political profession.

Soon after he had had revealed to his close celebration associates that he was going to support Sirisena , he was summoned to ‘Temple Trees’ (the residence of President Rajapaksa) on the night of 29 November 2014 to hold discussions with a view to influencing him to modify his mind.

In compliance with the request he visited the ‘Temple Trees’ at 7.30pm and had discussions with a higher profile team comprising Mahinda Rajapaksa , Basil Rajapaksa, Dallas Alahaperuma, Susil Premajayantha and Anura Priyadharshana Yapa.

This went on till about 9.00 p.m. At the finish of the discussion, Mahinda Rajapaksa had referred to as Loku Athula into a room to have ‘further discussions’. What happened thereafter is identified only to the two of them. What is known is that screams have been heard, the ‘resident’ ambulance at the Temple Trees was brought and Loku Athula was taken to hospital. When he arrived there he was dead.

Evidence has leaked out that when Loku Athula was being taken into the ambulance he was dead. .

In such circumstances, a post-mortem need to be performed compulsorily to ascertain the result in of the death, and an open magisterial verdict delivered soon after the inquest. But , this procedure had not been followed. What is worse, all moves are being produced to suppress this incident which has critical proof of homicide committed within ‘Temple Trees’.

How did Athula who was hale and hearty all of a sudden die? Was he murdered ? Did he die due to a fatal fall when he was becoming assaulted by somebody? What had been the screams all about? Why was a post-mortem and inquest not completed? These are inquiries that the last individual to see Loku Athula alive, President Rajapaksa, will have to answer.

The existing voting trends

The current figures released by an independent agency is that help for Rajapaksa was 15%, for Sirisena 85%. Even so, this can change dramatically due to violence, vote purchasing or plain election fraud.

The fall-back position

If factors turn poor for Rajapaksa, his brother Gotabaya, can launch a coup ‘to restore law and order’. To create disorder there is some info that plans are afoot to detonate two enormous explosives in Colombo two days prior to the Election. There will then be ‘disorder’ and the ‘need’ for a military take-more than.

If the worst comes to the worst and Sirisena wins, arrangements are in place to get the Rajapaksas, households and cronies flown out of Sri Lanka.

Primarily based on informed sources in Diplomatic circles, if the Rajapakse regime is unable to use the Sri Lankan planes (which impediment may possibly happen), the regime has currently produced arrangements with two Indian Charter plane businesses to get down planes , for which the regime has paid in full.

A single of these firms is &#8216Air Charters India&#8217 even though the name of the other business is nevertheless not absolutely known. &#8216Air Charters India&#8217 had stated that it have to be notified at least 12 hours ahead if it is to send a plane to Katunayake or Mattala airport . In any case, payments have been produced in full to two Indian charter firms so that if a single organization fails to comply with the request urgently, the other firm can be relied on as a stand by.

The Rajapaksa loved ones has currently sold a enormous amount of gold it has robbed from the country, to a Japanese millionaire Keiji Matsumura. Matsumara represents a Japanese Firm , Japuga Holdings Private Ltd, that has bought the gold. I do know the quantity of gold that was sold but it is so huge that I have opted not to state the exact figure until it has been checked.

This gold has been illegally shipped via 16 containers loaded at the Colombo Port . A really senior official in the Port had observed to it that has been shipped with no it being recorded in any of the registers. The money amount realized by the Rajapaksa household is US $ 38,000 per kilogram. I am told that the total amount collected by the sale is US $ 13,300 million. This transaction had taken location with the expertise of HSBC bank.

Sirisena, if he wins the election, may possibly like to look into this. On the other hand, he may well believe it wiser not to do so. Nonetheless to look into the death of ‘Loku Athula’ is mandatory.

The Tamil people in the North and East and the Elections

As has been described, there was some speculation as to whether the Tamils in the North and East ought to just boycott the Elections as they did in 2005 – with disastrous consequences – this being the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President. This time it is going to be diverse, extremely various. They have suffered so significantly beneath the Rajapaksa junta that there is no way they will vote for him or abstain from voting.

The issue facing the Tamil folks is that they have no leaders least not in Parliament. They do have leaders – the most noteworthy getting Rt Rev Bishop Dr Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, former Justice Wigneswaran, Head of the Northern Provincial Council and Tamil Civil Society, an outstanding group of academics and pros in Jaffna.

Their ‘elected representatives’ – the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are a joke. Right after weeks of silence, the TNA has just woken up and mentioned that the Tamil men and women ought to vote for Sirisena. I think the Tamil individuals had realised this some tome ago while the TNA was asleep..

Sirisena may well not be in a position to address any of the major issues faced by the Tamils specially simply because of his close relations with rabid Buddhist monks.

What the Tamils cannot do is to elect a Sinhalese President, be it Rajapaksa or Sirisena, sit back and hope that their considerable difficulties will be addressed. They should know from extended knowledge spanning far more than half a century,that this will not be done.

The Tamil people should draw up a political system to fulfil their aspirations and mobilise themselves around such a plan with the leaders I have just described. The priority in this system is to stress for the correct of self-determination to ascertain what the Tamil men and women in the North and East want.

They have to insist on the instant admission of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch into the nation in basic, the Tamil North and East in certain. It is a reasonable request that the planet need to assistance. Amazingly, this vital action has not even been talked about, let alone pursued.

A feasible outcome

All that has been written might come to naught, if Rajapaksa sweeps to victory employing fair indicates or foul and begins his eight year term, possibly to recontest in eight years for one more six years, buys back the gold, and locks up Sirisena for life. Nothing is impossible in Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka. This has been documented for a lengthy time. It may not be about to adjust. It will then be for the majority Sinhalese to deal with the dilemma.

They can take heart from history. No dictator has lasted for ever. Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin – they have all come and gone. Rajapaksa is unlikely to be the exception. The only query is how a lot harm he will do to the country and its men and women before he goes.

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