It is indeed great to be patriotic and be like Gandhi and Mandela. Their zeal and hunger for liberation and nationalism were like an active volcano’s ever flowing hot lava. But their enthusiasm was tethered with practicality and reality. Many say Gandhi shouldn’t have agreed to the partition of Pakistan. Many an Indian misguided soul states that India would be the greatest power in the current world standings if Pakistan were part of India. I humbly beg to differ. India is a kaleidoscope of cultures. Still, it is also a boiling cauldron of ethnic tension waiting to spill over and scald the republic. The continuous turmoil of Caste versus Caste, Hindu versus Islam &and Christianity, state versus state, federal versus state, etc., is a living reality in modern-day India. If the Islamic population were a part of current-day India, India would be another Somalia. Gandhi was wise in his compromise, as was Mandela. Mandela did not seek revenge on the whites of South Africa who had traumatized him and his people for many years. Still, he made vital compromises that allowed his nation to stabilize and prosper, unlike his neighboring country, Zimbabwe.
Wise leaders make courageous decisions, and brave leaders make intelligent compromises. The decision made by Mr. Rajapakse is a reflection of the above principle. Both are from opposing parties, one is an upcountry Sinhalese, and the other is from the low country. But despite their differences, they both have commonalities. Both are leaders of men. Mr. Rajapakse is a soldier, thus more upfront and aggressive in his approach. Mr. Wickermesgine is a trained lawyer and a career politician who is more guarded with words and less aggressive in his style. One must also remember both have tasted the bitterness of defeat and nearly have attempts on their lives during the LTTE war. They have also lost friends, family, and party colleagues to the war. But they both care for this land and its people. Some call it an “Unholy Matrimony,” and others call it a “Marriage of Convenience,” but like all marriages, the alliances are done for a purpose and mostly a good one. The same is the case with this alliance. This alliance is formed on the basis that it will ensure the continued survival of the Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka.
Yes, some of Sri Lanka’s current perils are due to the mismanagement and leadership of its leaders. Even Mr. Rajapakse has admitted that. But many forget that external factors such as Covid played a large part in the rapid fall of the Sri Lankan economy. Vital Foreign Exchange derived from foreign employment came to a sudden halt as the world entered into a depression caused by Covid. The export industry was at a near standstill as the order for garments and other finished products vanished. The tea industry was in a predicament. The Statements of Work for the IT Service sector also dwindled with the developed nations curtailing or canceling projects. So Sri Lanka was not only double whammied but whammied to the power of 100 if there was such a thing.
Under the circumstances, Mr. Rajapakase had to make important decisions on the nation’s welfare. He painfully accepted the resignation of the PM ( his brother) and the cabinet. He knew he had to start afresh. Thus, he proposed a new cabinet that is certain to reflect the nation’s social fabric. He made a brave and unselfish choice of calling on the nation’s elderly statesman with international recognition and a track record of successful negotiations with the Western powers, Japan, India, and China. Mr. Rajapakse needed a deputy with an understanding of business transactions and one who knew how to negotiate without disturbing the “Giant” neighbors, China and India. The above is an art mastered by his excellency JR Jayawardene and Major Tito of former Yugoslavia. Deftly do the political waltz without treading on anyone’s toes. The chosen curator for the dance was Mr. Wickremesigne.
The appointment of the Prime Minister reaped immediate rewards. US Ambassador Julie Chung immediately tweeted a congratulatory note with a willingness to work with the PM, followed by meetings with India, China, Japan, USA, and Britain. The PM has assured the safety of the protestors at Galle Face and even formed a team comprised of Mrs. Rosy Senanayke and Ruwan Viajwaredene to ensure their welfare. The business community has been upbeat about the appointment, and the stock market is sure to climb next week. The journey may be long, but it does look promising. But as Mr. Wickermesinghe himself has stated, “the crisis will get worse before it gets better.
Sri Lankan armed forces are probably the most successful, disciplined battle-hardened military units globally. They did win a long-fought war against an efficient but brutal terrorist organization. However, there will be chaos if such a force does not respect its leader as the ultimate commander. Imran Khan, the recently ousted leader of Pakistan, is a prime example; when he lost the forces’ confidence, he lost his mandate. But Mr. Rajapakase has the ultimate loyalty among his men and women in the armed forces, he is not only their commander in chief, but he is also a comrade who led them to victory. Mr. Rajapakse has also been very loyal to the forces; not one member has ever been prosecuted for any human rights violations during the war against the LTTE. He has always shielded them against criticism from the LTTE diaspora and their proxies.
So with a pragmatic mindset, I implore my fellow Lankans to let’s give this two veteran, proven leaders a chance to steer us away from these dark times and into the light.
Let’s dream of dreams and not of nightmares.