In typical MR style
In his haste and eagerness to anoint his brother as the Presidential candidate, Mahinda Rajapaksa now appears to have got himself into a fix and faces the prospect of losing his Parliamentary Seat. Not just Rajapaksa, a host of other SLFPers are in the firing line for defying the party edict and attending the Pohottuwa’s (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) maiden convention which confirmed Gotabaya’s candidacy. Mahinda’s offence is doubly serious. He not only attended the convention but also assumed the mantle of leader of the Pohottuwa party. This, after being elected to Parliament on the SLFP/UPFA ticket at the August 17, 2015 General Election.
This was not only in violation of the SLFP constitution, but also in defiance of the laid down laws governing Parliament, which now does not entitle him to hold the post of Opposition Leader. Rajapaksa was declared Leader of the Opposition following the exit of the SLFP/UPFA from the Yahapalanaya Government on the basis that he was now the leader of the largest political party in the Opposition, dislodging the TNA. This took into consideration the fact that he was elected from the SLFP/UPFA.
Now, by being the leader of another political party, Rajapaksa is automatically deemed to have renounced his claim to the Opposition Leader’s post. Indeed, there can be no Opposition Leader in Parliament who is now an office bearer of a party which did not contest the last General Election. It is on that basis that Speaker Karu Jayasuriya refused to recognize the JO as the real Opposition and conferred the post on the TNA. There was no JO when the election was held - it was only a breakaway faction of the SLFP/UPFA after the latter joined the Government. It was a rival group to the SLFP/UPFA since the latter was in partnership with the UNP. Hence, the Speaker, by law, was compelled to recognize TNA leader R. Sampanthan, who led the next largest group, as Opposition Leader.
Not just the Opposition Leader’s post. All positions in Parliament assumed by the Opposition after the change in composition of the Parliamentary Opposition following the October 26 coup stand void. On that basis Dinesh Gunawardena should be stripped of his post as Chief Government Whip while the composition of the Parliament Committees too should undergo change.
Issuing a statement in this regard UNP Chairman Kabir Hashim said Opposition Leader Rajapaksa had violated the SLFP constitution by taking over the leadership of the SLPP and also the country’s Constitution by fielding a US citizen as the party’s Presidential candidate. “Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected to Parliament from the UPFA. He is a member of the SLFP. But he formed the SLPP with his brothers and became its leader on Sunday.” He adds; “How can we expect a man who has violated his party’s constitution to respect the rule of law?”.
Many would endorse the UNP Chairman’s view that a man who violated not only his party’s constitution but also the country’s Constitution could not be expected to respect the rule of law. One has only to go back in time to recall the contempt for the law displayed by the Rajapaksas. The Shiranee Bandaranayake episode stands out as the most glaring example of how the rulers of the day gave a tuppence for the rule of law and justice.
The country’s first lady Chief Justice was humiliated and made to suffer indignities by subjecting her to a sham trial by a Kangaroo Court, read Parliament Select Committee, before being impeached and thrown out of office. Not stopping there, goons were deployed to hurl insults at the deposed CJ opposite her official residence, with the aid of loud-hailers and firecrackers lit. All because her ladyship gave a ruling against a Rajapaksa sibling who was a powerful minister of the Government. Furthermore, Appeal Court President Justice Sri Skandaraja who ruled against the ouster was overlooked for promotion to the Supreme Court and forced to retire. Not long after, he died, a sad and disillusioned man.
The Attorney General’s Department was a mere appendage of the executive and made use of to suppress cases against Rajapaksa loyalists. So it became that a notorious politician who was accused of rape went scot-free and what is more, made Monitoring MP overseeing Defence, no less.
The public, no doubt, received a sample of what is to come during the 51 days that followed the constitutional coup when Government media institutions were stormed by Rajapaksa goons and other mayhem let loose in Government offices. A standout in this regard was how Petroleum Minister Arjuna Ranatunga was held hostage when he went to his office to collect his keys. One of the mob was shot by a member of the security detail and died later in hospital. There was also the anarchy witnessed inside Parliament for several days with the Speaker having to enter the August Chamber under heavy police protection.
All this, while the promoters of Gotabaya Rajapaksa emphasize repeatedly his apparent ability to bring discipline to the country and ensure its security and protection.