Get Mahendran

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2018-02-14

On 8 January, 2015 the masses gave a mandate for justice; equity; democracy; rule of law; anti-corruption, anti- nepotism,anti-cronyism and to reduce the cost of living (CoL) by electing Maithripala Sirisena as President, with the aid of the UNP, Sri Lanka's single largest political party. With an 81.52 per cent total voter turnout, Sirisena obtained 6,216,162 or 51.28 per cent of the franchise, whereas the then incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa obtained 5,768,090 or 47.58 per cent of the vote.

The previous regime was tainted with unsolved murders and extortions, where the finger was pointed at Rajapaksa and his acolytes.

Seven months later, at the 17 August, 2015 Parliamentary Poll, the 8 January, 2015 mandate was reinforced, with the UNP-led UNF coalition winning 106 of the 225 seats offered, seven short of an absolute majority. The UNP/UNF coalition obtained 45.66 per cent of the vote, 16.32 percentage points more than the 29.34 per cent garnered at the immediately preceding Parliamentary Poll held in April 2010 where it won only 60 seats. The August 2015 Poll witnessed a high voter turnout of 77.6 per cent.

The 17 August, 2015 Poll also saw the UNP's arch rival, the SLFP, which led the UPFA Coalition at the Poll, not being headed by its incumbent leader Sirisena, but by its former leader Rajapaksa, who had been defeated just seven months ago at the 8 January, 2015 Presidential Poll.

Rajapaksa's campaign slogan was racism, a card which was successfully touted by the SLFP's founder S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike at the 1956 Parliamentary Poll which saw the UNP reduced to a mere eight seats.

But the 'communal card magic' didn't work in 2015. His SLFP/UPFA, which at the April 2010 Parliamentary Poll he successfully led, winning 144 seats, six short of a 2/3rds majority, whilst obtaining 60.33 per cent of the vote, saw those numbers reduced by 49 seats to 95 seats at the August 2015 Poll. Further, the SLFP/UPFA's vote was reduced by 17.95 percentage points to 42.38 per cent.

Rajapaksa however, won his new seat Kurunegala, having given his home seat Hambantota to his son Namal. Despite two defeats in the space of seven months, Rajapaksa, by winning his seat in Kurunegala at the August 2015 Poll; continued to remain politically relevant.

Though the UNP convincingly won the August, 2015 Poll, cracks began to appear. It was only a month after the January, 2015 Presidential Poll the infamous multibillion rupee Treasury (T) Bonds scandal erupted, beginning with the 27 February, 2015 T Bonds scandal.

The centre of these scandals was UNP Leader and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe's Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor-appointee Arjuna Mahendran.

Rather than distancing himself from Mahendran, Wickremesinghe 'went out of his way' to protect him. Mahendran didn't go, but had to leave 17 months later, when his contract was not renewed by Sirisena. Mahendran flew out to Singapore.

There is a Court Order directing Mahendran to report to the CID by today. If he fails to do so, Wickremesinghe could yet revive the flagging fortunes of the UNP by requesting the Singaporean authorities to repatriate Mahendran to Sri Lanka to face charges.

It should not be done clumsily though, like in the case of Rajapaksa's first cousin and his former Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga, now in exile in the UAE, but wanted here in connection with an arms procurement scandal at the height of Rajapaksa's power.

Weeratunga's extradition request to the UAE on the eve of the Local Government Polls of Saturday fell through because Wickremesinghe's Government didn't do its homework.

Rajapaksa scored on those points too.

At Saturday's Local Government Poll which Rajapaksa led with his new party the SLPP, he romped home the winner, winning more than 2/3rds of the councils, 239, while garnering 44.65 per cent of the vote, whereas the UNP/UNF's vote was reduced to 32.63 per cent, from a high of 45.66 per cent in August, 2015; a 13.03 percentage point reduction.

2020 beckons the UNP with both a Presidential and Parliamentary Poll. 'Getting' Mahendran may be the 1st step to revive its flagging fortunes.

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