Deliberately or inadvertently, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has let the cat out of the bag.

At a discussion with heads of media institutions this week, he is reported to have said that he has not just three but eight years to implement his policies and complete his program of work.

None of the media institutions reported this themselves- possibly because they were worried they would be taken to task for taking an off the cuff remark too seriously- but the President’s new found Media Spokesman, Kingsley Rathnayake of Sirasa fame then tweeted the remark.

Rathnayake has been with President Rajapaksa only a few months and has already gained notoriety saying that the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved a vaccine after President Rajapaksa telephoned them- only for the WHO to promptly deny it.

One would then presume that Rathnayake got the story correct this time around and would have checked it with his boss before tweeting it- unless he is an absolutely reckless man. It is also worthwhile noting that the next day, the state media went to town on it, with banner headlines in the state-owned newspapers. That then was confirmation that once the remark was made, the story was meant to be told and also meant to be heard, loud and clear.

There are several messages in this seemingly throwaway comment- and they do not augur well for Sri Lanka, its democratic traditions and even for those in the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).


Firstly, President Rajapaksa has now made it clear he wants to run for a second term of office. He is, of course, entitled to that privilege and the we shouldn’t begrudge him that. There is also another very good reason for Gotabaya Rajapaksa saying he wants to be in office for a second term.

Come 2024 when the next presidential election will be held, Chamal Rajapaksa will be nearly eighty-two years old- that is, if one sees him as a presidential contender at all. Mahinda Rajapaksa will be seventy-eight years of age and still be disqualified from running because he has already held office twice.

The youngest of the brothers in politics, the recently re-incarnated Basil will be seventy-two by then. He has zealously guarded his American citizenship. If push comes to shove he could forego that, just as brother Gotabaya did, but Basil does cherish his American passport, so he could flee when the going gets tough for him.

This means that, despite the extensive family network in politics, none of the Rajapaksa brothers are ideally placed to run for the office of President. What about the ‘other’ Rajapaksa, young Namal, you might ask?

Namal Rajapaksa is thirty-five years of age and has only just become a minister. In three years, he will be just thirty-eight. That itself might not be a disqualification but up until now he has done nothing spectacular that distinguishes himself from a motely crowd of mediocre politicians. His handling of the cricket crisis, with all the right connections at his disposal, leaves much to be desired. So, he is not the ideal candidate in 2024 either.


This then is why Gotabaya Rajapaksa wants to be re-elected. He wants to keep it in the family and for the reins to pass on to a younger Rajapaksa, most likely Namal, in eight years. Besides, by then, Namal would have spent twenty years in Parliament and would very likely to have been promoted to a key portfolio in the next Rajapaksa government.

This will no doubt be of concern to those ambitious politicians who serve in the SLPP. They must now realise that they will never scale the heights of power. The most they can aspire for is to be a minister who will be at the beck and call of the Rajapaksas. Usually, this would cause a revolt but those presently in the ‘pohottuwa’ party have shown nothing but a slavish mentality, falling over each to oblige the first family whenever they can, the only notable exception being Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.

Even if all of the above comes to pass, none of that is illegal or irregular. If the Sri Lankan voters are happy to elect the same family over and over again, so be it. It happens even in so-called ‘developed’ countries. The Americans elected two gentlemen from the Bush family and closer to home, Singaporeans want Lee Kuan Yew’s family to continue leading them.

What is more concerning though is the second message contained Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s words. Although the media headlines made it sound as if President Rajapaksa would contest for a second term that is not exactly what he said. What he did say was that he had eight years, not three, to complete his program of work.

What this implies is that, in his mind at least, Rajapaksa has already won re-election and that this is a fait accompli. That is chilling indeed. Does this mean that his vision includes winning the next presidential election by hook or by crook?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, during his short period in office has demonstrated that he will use the military for almost anything. He is using military men to manage the health sector, the Corona virus pandemic, the Ports Authority and the Customs Department, to name just a few. It doesn’t take a great stretch of imagination to surmise that the military will be at the forefront of the next presidential elections.

Then, we have already seen indications that concepts such justice, rule of law, justice, morals and ethics mean nothing to this government and its leadership. If there was even a semblance of doubt about that, it disappeared with the pardoning of Duminda Silva. That single act demonstrated that this regime will stoop to any level to ensure that those who are loyal to the regime are rewarded, even when they know that the public backlash from such actions will be considerable.

That is what democratically minded Sri Lankans should be worried about, instead of speculating as to which Rajapaksa will sit on the presidential chair.




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