Cometh GR

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Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has returned home––at last. His return has come as no surprise. The question is why he fled. Nobody asked him to leave the country; protesters only called upon him to ‘go home’ as he had failed to carry out his presidential duties and functions properly; they wanted him to let go of power. He may have sought to defuse tension by leaving the country and remaining overseas until the resentful public simmered down. Nobody has protested against his return. He is now in the exalted company of the former Presidents maintained by the public.

All others responsible for bankrupting the economy have been here. The Rajapaksas have reverted to old ways, and are controlling the government by keeping the President, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on a string. They are doing more of what they were doing before the ouster of Gotabaya. Corrupt deals continue to be put through while the economy is receiving oxygen support. So, there is no way Gotabaya’s return could make matters worse for the public.

Gotabaya must have been happy to see so many SLPP politicians and friends waiting at the BIA to welcome him back, on Friday night. He may not have expected them there, for gratitude is a rarity in Sri Lankan politics. There were some notable absentees, though—his economic advisors who gave him the wrong advice and ruined the economy, the pundits who misled him into embarking on a disastrous organic fertiliser experiment, which proved to be his undoing.

What pains Gotabaya more than anything else may be the fact that his successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was left for politically dead, so to speak, following the UNP’s crushing defeat at the last parliamentary election, has ‘succeeded’ where he pathetically failed. He prides himself on being the former wartime Defence Secretary, but he ran away when the Aragalaya activists came looking for him. His successor sans any military background made the Aragalaya protesters run as fast as their legs could carry them! The former frontline combat officer is now protected by Wickremesinghe, who wouldn’t say boo to a goose while the Tigers were around!

Gotabaya’s political career has been a paradox. His meteoric rise in politics was possible because he was a member of the Rajapaksa family. His downfall was also mostly due to his family, which has become synonymous with questionable deals, misappropriation of public funds, waste, and abuse of power. In the past, even those who were distantly related to the ruling family would flaunt their relationship and go places. But, today, nobody dares claim any relationship to the Rajapaksas, in public, lest he should have to tuck up his sarong and head for the hills with the irate public in hot pursuit!

If Gotabaya had been wise enough to cross the river feeling the stones, avoiding whitewater and maelstroms therein, he would have been able to complete his presidential term without sending the economy into a tailspin. But he became cocky and reckless. The problem with most ex-military officers in politics and administrative positions is that they are given to binary decisions. This may explain why President Rajapaksa had to revoke so many gazettes he hurriedly issued, and made a mess of the organic fertiliser drive. Power blinds rulers to reality. President Rajapaksa would tell public officials in no uncertain terms that his orders had to take precedence over government circulars, which came to be dubbed ‘Sir-culars’, as a result.

Is Gotabaya planning to engage in active politics again ? Will he be able to make a comeback? These are some of the questions being asked in political circles. Anything is possible in politics where nothing is predictable. Whoever would have thought Wickremesinghe would ever become the President?

Meanwhile, the government has inflicted unbearable suffering on the public. It had better stop testing the people’s patience further. The cost of living is soaring and even bread has become a luxury that most people cannot afford. The possibility of another popular uprising cannot be ruled out.

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Disclaimer: Cometh GR - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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