As D Day approaches for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna to formally declare on August 11 its choice of presidential candidate as it had pledged it would on that day, will the  lights go out one by one on Gotabaya’s presidential star; and render it dimmer by the fleeting hour? In the volatile week ahead [...]


Will Gota reach his unreachable star as lights grow dimmer hour by hour?


As D Day approaches for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna to formally declare on August 11 its choice of presidential candidate as it had pledged it would on that day, will the  lights go out one by one on Gotabaya’s presidential star; and render it dimmer by the fleeting hour?

GOTABAYA: Waiting in the wings to make his entrance or exit on August 11?

In the volatile week ahead which will decide whether he will be made Pohottuwa’s Sun God or whether he will be condemned to the Black Hole of Fate, the nation has no doubt that it will be the Rajapaksa Brothers Incorporated Unlimited that will have the final say on the matter; and that other senior sleeping Board Members will do the needful and rubber stamp the decision the instant the Family Bros place it before them for their endorsement.

Of course, it’s too early to say, even at this late hour the party choice. For clenched within the fist of his brothers, stays secret the family’s chosen steed. Who the running horse is not for the party to choose but for the family to decide.

But all keep mum. Their lips stay zipped. As if their choice of their presidential candidate is a privilege for the nation to learn at the Rajapaksa beckoned hour, like alms given to beggars at one’s summoned choosing.

As the Sunday Times Political Commentary stated last week, younger sibling Basil has said: “Officially, I still do not know the candidate yet.  If it is Gotabaya, I will work even harder than my brother Mahinda.” And the tacit response of eldest brother Chamal, aged 78, who hasn’t ruled himself out of the presidential stakes, was:  “I will let you know at the right time.

And as for the family’s crowned jewel, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s terse comment to a TV reporter last week — “I have never said that I have nominated Gotabaya” — serves only to make more exquisite the mystique of how feudal in terms and thoughts the Rajapaksa family chooses from its Medamulana Camelot its choice presidential runner.

Is this the way that the SLPP chooses its candidate? The UNP Working Committee decides through a majority vote, as does the SLFP choose its through its Executive Committee. But in the case of the SLPP, from which Gotabaya expects next Sunday to be nominated from, the selection is made from one man’s fiat who is not even a member of the one man G. L. Peiris party.

Never in the field of Lanka’s presidential battle, has one man striven so earnestly, so  diligently and so desperately to gain presidential nomination from a party of which he is not even a member. Nor are any of his brothers members of.

And never in the field of Lanka’s presidential battle had any volunteered to present himself as a candidate from a party which has still not endorsed him, but who, nevertheless had arrogated the right to claim he is the presidential nominee without it’s official and voted approval, let alone his king maker brother’s sanction.

And neither, it must be said, has anyone, in the field of Lanka’s presidential contest, presented himself in the gladiatorial arena, handicapped by so much baggage?

It’s not that he is not popular and there are many who will hedge a bet of his chances. The concern is of his ability to jump over the insurmountable barrier of the legal hurdles placed before his course in this high stake political steeplechase that faces him today; and this must give him pause. It’s the kind of daunting hurdle which even winged Pegasus would think twice before risking a leap, knowing full well it would only land him in a watery ditch, face down.

DECRIED FAKE: First circulated but denounced by Gotabaya as fake

Consider the odds stacked against him.

In the national courts of Lanka, he faces many a criminal case. In the US courts, he has two cases filed against him.  One case concerned the killing of former Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge in January 2009. It was filed by the Centre for Justice and Accountability on behalf of Ahimsa Wickrematunge, the slain editor’s daughter and the legal representative of his estate. The Centre for Justice and Accountability is a non-profit human rights organisation founded in 1998 based in San Francisco in California and represents torture victims and victims of other grave rights abuses against human rights violators before US courts, pioneering the use of civil litigation to give redress to the survivors all over the world. The suit filed alleges ‘Gotabaya “instigated and authorised” the extrajudicial killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge, and claims damages as compensation from him.

The other case has been filed by the International Truth and Justice Committee on behalf of a Canadian citizen of Tamil origin named Roy Samathanam. In a press release issued on Tuesday April 9, the South African based International Truth and Justice Committee states:

“The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), in partnership with the international law firm Hausfeld and human rights lawyer Scott Gilmore, have filed a civil damages case in California against former Sri Lankan defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on behalf of a Tamil torture survivor Roy Samathanam. Roy Samathanam made the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Mr. Rajapaksa, who is a dual US-Sri Lankan citizen. The case was brought under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which gives torture victims legal redress in US courts. Notice was formally served on Mr. Rajapaksa on Sunday night.

The statement also claims: “Roy Samathanam, a Canadian national, was arrested on false charges in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo in September 2007 by Sri Lankan police who reported directly to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the time. Visiting Sri Lanka to marry his wife, Mr. Samathanam was detained for three years and repeatedly denied access to a lawyer or a judge.”

In addition to that he has had ten more cases filed in the US on June 26 this year alleging accountability for human rights violations.

And on top of it all, there is, of course, the issue of his dual nationality, which makes one ineligible to contest a parliamentary or presidential election n Lanka by virtue of the 19th Amendment which Geetha Kumarasinghe found to her dismay after petitioning the Supreme Court which held against her appeal and which has set a landmark precedent. One that will be near impossible to dislodge.

And to cap it all, the major obstacle of gaining the blessings of the SLPP Godfather, brother Mahinda still eludes. He has still not anointed him with his charismatic oil to be the consecrated one to be the heir to the Rajapaksa throne.

Consider what Mahinda had to say on the issue in September last year when he visited India:

PURPORTED ORIGINAL: Supposed to be the original by others with Gotabaya still to confirm genuineness

As the Sunday Punch of 16th September 2018 commented:  “This week in India, fond father Mahinda Rajapaksa declared for the first time the presidential ambitions he harbours in his heart of hearts for his eldest son Namal to be his natural successor and heir apparent, groomed to be the president of Lanka come 2025.

“Speaking to the Indian media, he said on foreign soil what he has kept secret all along in Lanka: that his choice of candidate to run for the presidency is his own son and heir.  Alas, the 19th amendment had raised the age limit for a presidential contender from 30 to 35 thus barring Namal from contesting the 2020 elections, forcing him to click his heels till the 2025 elections come along to throw his year beaten hat to the ring and realise papa’s fond dreams.

“In answer to a question raised by Tamil Nadu’s Hindu newspaper: “Will it be a member of your family, or would you consider someone outside it?”

“Rajapaksa’s answer: “My son Namal Rajapaksa cannot be a presidential candidate since they have now raised the minimum age to 35 years, instead of 30, so he can’t be considered in 2019.

“So who’s going to warm the seat till 2025 till Rajapaksa son and heir finds his bottom cushioned on it, with his father’s blessings?

“Rajapaksa’s answer was: “My brother is certainly a contender, but the party and the coalition will have to decide who the people want.”

All know that it’s in Mahinda’s sole hands to name who that contender from the SLPP will be. So why the hesitancy to name his brother Gotabaya and instead pass the buck to the party and coalition which will slavishly follow his command and hold it as the supreme word of the Almighty. One year later that answer has still not been forthcoming. As stated earlier, Mahinda has kept mum on his choice of Pohottuwa contender stating only as he said last week: “I have never nominated Gotabaya as the candidate”.

Now if that weren’t enough to compound the issue and place the public in further quandary, two documents relating to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Loss of USA nationality mysteriously surfaced this week, timed before next Sunday’s deadline when the Pohottuwa Party was poised to unwrap its presidential mascot.

The first pod planted in the social media was decried as fake by Gota himself who claimed he had the original proving that he had renounced US citizenship. On Thursday, a Sinhala newspaper carried a copy of the purported original. On Friday, another Sinhala newspaper published a copy of Gota’s American passport information. Next to it was a photograph of a passport age which stated that the passport was cancelled. But whose passport? The photos side by side failed to make the necessary nexus. True or false, believe it or not, one thing was clear. That there was a desperate attempt made by interested parties to show that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had the all clear from the United States Government for his request of renunciation of his US citizenship.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror on Wednesday, Gotabaya said the document which is being circulated on social media sites purporting that he has renounced his US citizenship was fake and that he was in possession of the original certificate  and that he received the official document pertaining to renunciation of his US citizenship from the US State Department on April 26. He said he was also issued a new passport by the Immigration and Emigration Department after his dual citizenship was renounced.   “I returned the old passport to the Immigration and Emigration Department with the document issued by the US State Department.  The immigration department issued a new passport.”

The Controller General of Immigration and Emigration, R. M. P. S. B. Rathnayake, whilst confirming that a passport had indeed been issued to Mr Rajapaksa on May 7 this year, said the issuance of passport doesn’t necessarily mean a citizen has or has not renounced their dual citizenship.

Another problem:  The document circulated as the one original, the real thing. The real coke had been issued on May 5 and the question has to be raised why it was never made public for three months but was timed for publication a week before the Pohottuwa was to unveil its presidential stallion.

And to make matters worse and make confound the issue more confounded the American Embassy refused to give a helping hand and clear the air and set free the doubts of the nation.

In a query made by the Sunday Times on Friday, the terse reply of the Embassy spokesperson Nancy VanHorn was that ‘Due to U.S. privacy laws, we cannot comment on issues related to immigration and citizenship.”

How convenient. In a land which holds freedom of speech as sacrosanct, in a nation which upholds on its own soil the right of any person to question its president and make him answer, its reps abroad should deal answer so obtuse when confronted with a question so important to the host nation’s relying upon confirmation to determine a presidential candidate eligibility to contest the elections?

The question was not of the private life of a private person who had enjoyed or who still continues to enjoy the domestic bliss of US air, but of one who had declared himself to be a presidential candidate in the forthcoming presidential election only five months away. It was a matter of great importance to the Lankan Public whether the declared candidature was keeping terms with the eligibility provisions of the nation’s constitutional law. If the published documents had been false, wasn’t it imperative of the US Embassy to declare them false — especially when it was asked — or would it rather have forgeries in the market carrying their brand name and purported seal without batting an eyelid to confirm or deny their authenticity, either way?

Or does America think it very civil to be, so very politically correct as the new jargon holds, not to express any transparency when it comes to revealing the status of one who is or has been a citizen of her famed land; and on that ground to pedantically withhold such vital information from the public of Sri Lanka whilst it has no qualms about making the Lankan nation swallow a whole SOFA down its throat? And choke its sovereignty?

Despite the sullen stance taken by the US Embassy, neither has the protagonist of the election drama offered evidence of his own to confirm his own self asked for castration of his dual nationally. It moved former SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake to challenge the authenticity of the claims made that Gota had jumped the US hurdle and was now  in the steeplechase.

On Wednesday, he urged Gotabaya Rajapaksa to prove widely claimed renunciation of his US citizenship by displaying the relevant State Department document.  He challenged Gotabaya to display Certificate of the Loss of Nationality of the United States issued by the US Bureau of Consular Affairs at the SLPP Convention on August 11 at the Sugathadasa indoor stadium.

Fair enough demand. For the presidential hopeful is still to reveal his trump card. But until and unless he does – and not through the megaphones of his supportive hacks — and until and unless his brother Mahinda confirms it, the answer to the question whether he has truly being granted renunciation by the US  or whether the document so far published is a mere acknowledgement of his declared intention to renounce US citizenship and nothing more than that, will, in the words of Dylan, be ‘blowing in the wind’. PS: SLPP MP Kanchana Wijesekara said on Thursday, “Mr. Rajapaksa never abandoned his Sri Lankan citizenship. For his information: Rajapaksa renounced his Sri Lankan citizenship in January 2003 upon becoming an American citizen. He was granted his Sri Lankan citizenship only in November 2005 by brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, after the latter was elected President.


THE POWER OF PRAYER: Ranil and Maithree participating in a special pooja this week at the Sri Mookambika Temple

The power of Sri Mookambika: The temple Ranil went to pray

Many a Lankan politician has trekked to Tirupathi to seek prosperity at one of Hindu India’s holiest temples, the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in the Andra Pradesh, where the reigning deity is Lord Vishnu.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and wife Maithree, however,  went off the beaten track from their normal pilgrim excursion last week and paid worship at the lesser known temple of Sri Mookambika Devi situated in Karnataka, where the reigning deity is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess.

This temple is unique because it is combination of both Shiva and Shakthi. Mookambika is the manifestation of Shakti, Saraswathi and Mahalakshmi. At Sri Mookambika temple the Lingam is the main deity and is known as Jyothirlingam. Devi Mookambika has three eyes and four arms, with the divine disc and conch in her hands seated on the lion.

Legends surround this 1,200-year-old ancient kovil. One says that there was a demon Kaumasura who was a great threat to the lives of the people in this territory because he had a boon to get killed only by a woman and none else. Mother Goddess appeared and killed him and thereafter she is called as Mookambika Devi for whom Lord Shiva Himself built the temple here after drawing a Chakra with His toe.

SRI MOOKAMBIKA DEVI: The Goddess has three eyes and four arms, with the divine disc and conch in her hands and is seated on a lion

Lost Youth

By Don Manu

I wish I had my life again
To live but not in vain;
Realise rainbows beyond the rain
My vanished youth regain:
To traverse fields where daisies bloom:
In sunlit streams to bathe my gloom
And cleanse away Time’s stain
To relive the joy I once relished
In misspent youth’s my dearest wish.
To be the bee on a honeycomb
Fresh from the roses’ scent
Enriched with nectar, freely roam,
To another bloom and vent
My hopes, my dreams with passions zest
To blossom at its youthful best
Which old age now prevent:
To turn the night to morn and wring
Careless freedoms that youth does bring
To breathe again with hopes born new,
To chase elusive dreams;
And dare to make those dreams come true
Upon the highest steeps:
To match performances with desire,
To rake the coals, renew the fire
And dance in sunlit beams;To voyage on turbulent sea
And dare the gulfs to swallow me.
Ah to strive with Adonis and wring
Ambrosia to the brim;
With Alexander march to the brink
Of unknown worlds with vim;
Discover again my fears to soothe,The aphrodisiac of youth,
Give flight to every whim;
Resurrect youth and see burnished
My soul’s mansion that time tarnished.
I wish I could in joyful mirth
Relive those sunshine days;
Labour my soul a painless birth,
Savour youth’s brave new ways;
And see restored hopes I cherished
Which now in time’s rim lie perished
Denied a single ray.
Sip from the fount of youth break free
The shadow of time followin’ me
But in my heart youth will remain
Never to see the sun;
That time eclipsed in a far off plain
And barred hope’s light from one.
Now as I wait the reaper’s tread,
I have no qualms, I have no dread
To hear the death knell rung:
I await rebirth for my heart to sing
And in my winter, see my spring.

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