Mahinda caricature by Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

Mahinda in politics for 50 years

Mahinda Rajapakse is not a mere celebrity in Sri Lanka but also a true legend of the modern politics in Sri Lanka.

A basic feature of these types of legendary characters is the collection of stories around their characters that infuse bravery to such individuals. The majority of   such stories are exaggerations. There are many such stories on other legends like J. R. jayawardena, Vijaya Kumaranathunga, Gamini Fonseka and H. R. Jothipala,

They go to history with these stories. The true character of the historical legend is usually overwhelmed by the fictional versions. Mahinda sees it while he is alive.

Mahinda was an average politician who suddenly emerged as a a brilliant leader with the ethnic war. He was successful in defeating Tamil Elam liberation struggle and consolidating the victory of the Sinhala nationalist movement.

He was not ready for that. Also, he was not a visionary but a populist. He is a shrewd politician who is clever in touching the pulse of popularity. However, he would not have much chance to become who he is today unless the boost he received from leftist People’s Liberation Front (JVP) and Tamil separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) in 2005.

The said organizations expected to bring an incompetent leadership to power in order to proceed with their power strategies easily. On contrarily, Mahinda became a powerful and a popular leader decisively defeating the political objectives of both JVP and LTTE.

The scene for Mahinda to become a Sinhalese war hero was set by the inflexible, war-mongering overestimation of the LTTE. They shouldered for a difficult armed struggle with the illusion of desperate Tamil state instead of devolution of power within one country through a negotiation process. Tamil diaspora and the middle class in Colombo and elsewhere, who endorsed the armed struggle, did not send their children to become billy boys of the war. Finally the LTTE had to retreat continuously until the ultimate annihilation since there was no human resources to bear the weapons they had gathered in massive quantities with the funds they received from the Tamils around the world. Mahinda went through the path he had to proceed. He did not create the history, but the history created him.

The war victory under the leadership of popular but visionless Mahinda Rajapakse defeated not only the Tamil nationalism but drove the Sinhala nationalism into a never ending crisis. In the aftermath of the war, the Sinhalese did not receive anything from Mahinda Rajapakse other than the continuous fight against the Tamils and Muslims with an illusion that they are the cause for their unending backwardness.

Mahinda had no vision to use the opportunity to free the country from racism and backwardness and to lead the nation to build a developed society. But he undermined the country to fulfill the petite objectives of his family members.

Despite the war victory, Mahinda neither became a true leader to the country nor to the Sinhala community. Instead, the country was bestowed with a popular social symbol led by backwardness. However, he remains in the apex of the popularity. He will remain as a popular legend because Sri Lankan polity does not lack the ignorance needed for it.

However, we shall not see another popular leader of Mahinda’s caliber in near future. He is a respectable enemy of progressive politics.