The long road to success | Daily News

The long road to success

Today, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa marks one year in office, having taken oaths before the sacred Ruwanweliseya in Anuradhapura on November 18, 2019. This was a remarkable achievement for a political novice who was nevertheless a renowned public servant and military officer. He is in fact the only public servant cum military officer to ascend to the Presidency.

If anyone had harboured any doubts as to how he could rise up to the expectations and challenges of the Presidency, they have been answered by now. His immediate priority was ensuring national security following the devastating Easter attacks of April 2019. This he did with remarkable speed, revamping the entire security and intelligence network.

The President also campaigned successfully on the need to repeal the 19th Amendment in order to govern without any obstacles placed in his way. This goal has now been achieved with the passage of the 20th Amendment by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. However, the President has stressed the need for a completely new Constitution that takes new and future challenges of governance into account.

But the biggest challenge faced by the President during his first year in office is an unseen, unheard enemy. The Coronavirus that emerged in China at the end of 2019 quickly spread around the world. It was due to his astute leadership that Sri Lanka emerged relatively unscathed from the first wave of the pandemic to hit our shores. Now that the country has been confronted with a second wave of the pandemic, the President is deftly managing the response. This time the Government has opted for targeted curfews and lockdowns, since it is vital to keep the wheels of the economy moving.

When former President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided to eradicate LTTE terrorism, he handed that task over to the one man he knew who had the required military experience to coordinate the long battles ahead. That was Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Today, Mahinda Rajapaksa is his Prime Minister.

Mahinda Rajapaksa chalks up 75 years in his life’s journey today, 50 of them as a politician, during which time he became President twice. Who would have foretold that a young 24-year- old from far flung Beliatta would one day rise to the highest office of the land and guide the destiny of the Nation?

Certainly, it will not be an exaggeration to say that destiny beckoned the young Rajapaksa from the very inception of his election as the youngest MP. He made his Parliament debut a springboard for the kind of radical politics he indulged in that largely appealed to the common man and the oppressed whose cause he always advanced as a young Parliamentarian.

However, it was out of Parliament as an Opposition political activist that young Rajapaksa gained prominence as a relentless fighter. His fiery oratory coupled with his ability to mobilize the masses proved a thorn in the flesh of the then UNP government.

His re-election as a MP in 1989 could certainly be termed a watershed in the political life of the radical Southerner, who, by then, had gained a name for himself as a Human Rights activist appearing as Counsel for the many Habeas Corpus cases in regard to disappeared youth during the height of the second JVP uprising. His daring exposure of extrajudicial killings no doubt went a long way in carving a niche for himself as the true face of Opposition leadership at a time when prominent figures of the former ruling family had sought refuge in foreign climes. But it was clear that those at the helm of affairs in the party were getting uneasy by the increasing prominence gained by Mahinda Rajapaksa within the Opposition ranks.

Following the ouster of the 17-year UNP rule in 1994, and with CBK installed at the helm, it was certainly payback time with MR relegated to an insignificant portfolio, craftily designed to keep him out of centre-stage and public limelight.

Even following the 2004 General Election victory when the overwhelming consensus among PA MPs was to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, attempts were made to bypass such demands in favour of Lakshman Kadirgamar, with only a threatened mass resignation of Government MPs saving the day.

The fruits of his long political struggles and the political capital accrued to him during those long years eventually propelled him to the hot seat of power even amidst the various machinations and acts of sabotage thrown in his path, by those keen to propagate the rule of the elite.

The new Head of State cast in the mould of a fighter and a radical, lost no time in giving utmost priority to the one factor that was bleeding this nation for three decades – that of winning the war.

At 75, MR has already set the record straight that he has no intention of calling it a day in politics. He will continue to remain a vibrant force in Sri Lankan politics, winning the acclaim of the masses with whom he is still very popular.