Why Rajapaksas are refusing to resign

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has dismissed calls for his resignation, as has his brother, Gotabaya, the president. In an interview with a private radio station, he pooh-poohed calls for an interim government, and insisted that “If there is a need for an interim government it should happen only under my leadership.”

The protesting public is justifiably outraged, but they are left with little recourse to make him leave his office in peace. University students surrounded his residence, threatening to drag him by ear; the high priests of main Buddhist chapters demanded an interim government, which would not be possible without the resignation of prime minister and the president.

To all his previous glory as a reincarnated Sinhalese monarch, Mahinda Rajapaksa now cast a shadow of a reject; an ageing strongman who is out of touch with reality, like Mugabe, Mubarak, Chaushesku, or Gaddafi. Like them, he is risking himself an unglamorous exit.
 Political leaders of the kind of MR have an overblown sense of entitlement to their nation. They tend to think they own the country and many of them have died in the office, often bequeathing the mantle of the government to their offspring who had been groomed for the job.  

Many ill-thought-out decisions of MR-presidency emanate from this state of mind. Consider billions of dollars invested in Hambantota, his pocket borough in projects which had limited return on investment. Those were part of his dynastic project paid with the public funds.  Consider the taking over of the Sri Lankan airline from the Emirates for he felt slighted by the airline management‘s refusal to deplane hundreds of passengers to make room for MR’s entourage.  Then, he handed the top management of the national carrier to a brother of his sidekick-and they ran it to the ground. The 18th Amendment of the Constitution, which removed the term limits and domesticated the Supreme Court and other independent institutions is an extension of that psychological standing point.
It is not just MR who is in trouble. A full-blown dynastic enterprise that ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa’ so meticulously designed is now in ruins. Rajapaksa is not alone; Mubarak, Gaddafi, Suharto et al groomed their offspring to inherit the throne, and when the good times ended, destiny had a different calling for them. Most third world’s tin pot dictators think and behave the same way. Also, when they fall from grace, they all tend to have a hard, and often fatal, landing. 

Of course, the Rajapaksas are also concerned about the potential legal proceedings over corruption and abuse of power. There are reasons to believe that an eventuality of legal action   is more real this time than on previous occasions given the nature of public campaign. On the past occasions, it was the same old political class who had been calling shots which in effect granted a degree of immunity for its members to loot the public coffers. When both main political parties are neck-deep in corruption, such a status quo helped both. Yahapalanaya’s reluctance to hold the Rajapaksas accountable is a case in point. There existed an unofficial understanding not to target the key players of either government. 

 

 Thousands who are camped in the Galle face Green or hundreds of thousands who take to the streets across the country do not party political activists.  Their activism as much as dethroned the traditional party-political activism from its dominant place has also empowered the public

However, increasingly apolitical mass protests are rejecting not just the Rajapaksas, but the entire political establishment, which they consider corrupt, nepotistic and responsible for the current economic and political malady of the nation. 

Any interim government that comes in place of the Rajapaksa brothers would find it hard to ignore these calls, without provoking a major public reaction. Thousands who are camped in the Galle face Green or hundreds of thousands who take to the streets across the country do not party political activists.  Their activism as much as dethroned the traditional party-political activism from its dominant place has also empowered the public. Given the newfound mass political activism, the Rajapaksas are right to be worried about possible legal actions. It is not business as usual. 

However, the stubborn refusal of the Prime Minister is not only fuelling public anger, but it is also making life after a possible resignation harder. However, the Rajapaksas themselves seem to have made certain well thought out decisions, such as not to unleash the security forces or police on the protesters. That is something many of their peers across the world overlooked, so they galvanized the public against the state and its brutal apparatus, which ousted them, often violently. 

However, Messrs Rajapaksas have overlooked the fallout when the leaders overstay in the office against the public protests.  Such leaders go down in the end, but, most of them, carry their nations with them. 

 

It is not just MR who is in trouble. A full-blown dynastic enterprise that ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa’ so meticulously designed is now in ruins. Rajapaksa is not alone; Mubarak, Gaddafi, Suharto et al groomed their offspring to inherit the throne, and when the good times ended, destiny had a different calling for them

courtesy daily mirror

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