Hail Sirisena! Hail the mighty slayer of King Mahinda. Like Dutugemunu of old who killed Elara in mortal combat, he could not have done it alone. The Ruhunu Raja had his faithful elephant Kandula. More than three years ago Sirisena had no personal elephant but he had the support of the party with the elephant [...]


Sirisena’s second coming — or so he hopes


Hail Sirisena! Hail the mighty slayer of King Mahinda. Like Dutugemunu of old who killed Elara in mortal combat, he could not have done it alone. The Ruhunu Raja had his faithful elephant Kandula.

More than three years ago Sirisena had no personal elephant but he had the support of the party with the elephant symbol which for all the pretense of loyalty was nothing like the faithful Kandula. After all the leader of the pachyderm tribe had been persuaded, nay pressured, to stay out of the fray and support, like some others, the lacklustre and inglorious Maithripala Sirisena who having partaken in an egg-hopper feed took Mahinda of Medamulana for a ride along with the whole Rajapaksa clan that is said to have prospered during his reign.

Sirisena, the common candidate for the presidency seemed honest enough when he said during those testing times before January 8, 2015 that he had no real interest in the presidency.

All he wanted to do was bring clean and incorruptible government to Sri Lanka and that when his term is over he will pack his suitcase and whatever else he has gathered and retire to his beloved Polonnaruwa where he will share a hopper or two with the local peasantry seated perhaps on the niyara of a paddy field he seemed to like so much.

True, the people voted for him, not because many believed he was honest in what he said about governing from a modest abode and taking a bus back to Polonnaruwa, that he was making this supreme sacrifice of trying to bring peace, quiet and political decency and cleanliness to his native land wracked by all that was morally corrupt.

But let the truth be told. It is not that they wanted Sirisena, they did not want Mahinda because of the shenanigans of his clan and those near to him for which Mahinda Rajapaksa paid the price. He suffered surprise defeat just as the aged Mahathir Mohamad surprisingly clinched the Malaysian election last week.

May be those who gathered around Sirisena did so because of the venerable Sobitha Thera, the respected monk who set the stage for Sirisena’s arrival. It now seems that the Ven Sobitha himself was misled by Sirisena’s show of innocence, humility and seeming honesty of purpose.

Some say the Ven Sobitha passed away prematurely, disgruntled or more accurately sadly disillusioned at the way the so-called yahapalana government was turning away even in the early months from the philosophy and basic guidelines that were to be the bedrock of the new administration.

But before long the real Sirisena began to emerge. Within a couple of weeks of his assuming office, he appointed one of his younger brothers-at the time managing the State Timber Corporation, as chairman of the cash rich Sri Lanka Telecom. He justified the move saying his brother was a public servant.

Before too long, the media happened to pick up the story that brother Kumarasiri was presenting board papers to increase his salary to nearly a million rupees a month and seeking other perks.

Probably taking a tip from the presidential action, the finance minister of the UNP, Sirisena’s coalition partner was pushing his own relative into a top position at Sri Lanka Insurance, raising quite a ruckus in political and trade union circles. It appeared that the rot that was to subsequently eat into yahapalana rule had already begun.

Now the real Sirisena has emerged from the woodwork or wherever he hid his real self. Speaking at a May Day (postponed) SLFP rally in the eastern province he said he had no intention to retire in 2020. As we very well know that is the year of the two elections-presidential and parliamentary.

The man who was pretending to shy away from a full first term reducing the presidential period from six to five years and restricting to two terms the president could serve by constitutional amendment made the Sri Lankans believe that the messiah had arrived.

Hail be to the savior who had come to rescue the country from the dangerous clutches of Medamulana autocracy and nepotism! Well, so the people thought. And they are daily being proven wrong. When the taste of power begins to titillate the senses and the grasp on political power becomes tighter that is the time for the nation to rethink the true intentions of their leader.

The man who willingly curtailed by one year his period in power thus making his voters believe that in all honesty he was following in the footsteps of the Ven. Sobitha and a new political culture was about to be born were soon deluded. How wrong we could be, relying faithfully on the messianic preaching when all it turns out to be months later nothing more than pretentious prattle, a national exercise in premeditated deception.

The first signs of vaulting ambition were seen in two separate episodes. There was Duminda Dissanayake, general secretary of the SLFP and the man who has spent millions of rupees each month not to occupy a massive office building, hinting quite openly that “Siri the Slippery” would be the party’s next presidential candidate.

More recently President Sirisena sought the advice of the Supreme Court how long his current term is, obviously regretting that he was ill-advised when he reduced his term to five years. Even before he had completed three years he was thirsting for a longer stay when he would be able to wield power– however diminished by constitutional change- make appointments, stamp his influence and travel the world.

Just the other day there was a story doings the rounds that kith and kin had a bar licence while banning women from purchasing beer. For a person who abjures alcohol and tobacco, not to mention environmental degradation and such other morally reprehensible habits, one would have expected at least Polonnaruwa to be kept clean, if Mirissa was too far away to worry about.

Now I have no idea whether this is a concocted story intended to embarrass the president or contains elements of truth, if not the whole truth. If it is false, it is the duty of the president’s office to deny the story in order to clear the president’s name. Only the other day the president appointed a new chairman of the Timber Corporation who was dislodged within days. Earlier he appointed a pistol (toy one we were told) wielding former mayor of Hambantota who threatened some UNP MPs on a fact-finding mission during the Rajapaksa era, as the SLFP district organizer.

Now it is said that he Sirisena wants to appoint as ambassador to Norway a Sri Lankan living in Australia, displacing one of the most senior and competent diplomats in the foreign service Jayantha Palipana. Hasn’t this government already learnt a lesson from the mess it made in London until that was ended recently?

Sirisena laments that Sri Lanka does not have political leaders who love the country and the people.
It is indeed nice to hear words of truth drop from the lips of a politician. Even if it is a rare occasion it does tickle one’s ears. President Sirisena says he will not retire from politics in 2020. But then Sirisena might consider another possibility- that the people could retire him.
As Mark Antony said of Julius Caesar, “ambition should be made of sterner stuff”.

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