50 MAHINDA: A great humanist and political Titan | Sunday Observer

50 MAHINDA: A great humanist and political Titan

Inspired by the call of his legendary father, the late Don Alwin Rajapaksa, popularly known in politics as the ‘Brave Son of Ruhuna’, and also the co-founder of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), young Percy Mahinda Rajapaksa walked the ‘Well’ of the historic old Parliament in Colombo (now Presidential Secretariat) exactly forty years ago on June 7 to be sworn-in as the youngest Member of Parliament after being elected at the General Election held on May 27, 1970.

The fair, lanky lad from Beliatte, hair combed sideways, sporting a thin moustache was the cynosure of all eyes that day in a Parliament that had heavyweights such as, Prime Minister Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Dr. N. M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R.de Silva, Dr. S. A. Wickremesinghe, Pieter Kueneman, Felix Dias Bandaranaike and Lakshman Jayakody in the ruling party, with Dudley Senanayake, J.R. Jayewardene and R. Premadasa occupying the front benches in the then Opposition, if I may distinctly recall a few great names to memory.

In that long walk from 1970 which now spans fifty years, the charismatic Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political history is indeed remarkable. It had its twists and turns, its backward and forward movements which often took many by surprise. The late D.A. Rajapaksa and incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa join the elite band of fathers and sons in politics who earned the respect and love of the Governments, the Opposition and the people of the post Independence era.

Among the others in the lead were the DS-Dudley and SWRD-Anura combinations. Mahinda pursued the political philosophy he believed with courage and determination. In him was a man who preferred his father’s footsteps and not the shoes of Nicholas. His unswerving loyalty to his political party, love for his Motherland and respect for true leaders cleared all and the many obstacles that were placed in his pathway by opponents within and outside.

The first political leader who foresaw a bright future for young Mahinda Rajapaksa was none other than the first Executive President of Sri Lanka, Junius Richard Jayewardene who was then an Opposition MP when the late Dudley Senanayake was Opposition Leader. Admiring the presence of the youngest MP Mahinda Rajapaksa in the House, JR Jayewardene while walking on the corridors in Parliament to lunch, stopped to inquire from Felix Dias Bandaranaike whether Mahinda was the eldest son of JR’s friend D.A. Rajapaksa. Felix replied, “No Sir, the small chap is the second of DA”.

Snapped JRJ, “I can observe that the young chap looks to be heading towards a long and successful journey in politics”. True to JR’s prediction, Mahinda Rajapaksa has travelled a long way to occupy the highest office in the land created by J.R. Jayewardene in 1978.

The success story of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political journey brings to mind a noteworthy quotation from A. Huxley who said - ‘All authority belongs to the people’. A lawyer by profession, President Rajapaksa from the time he was a young politician fought against any injustice caused to mankind. Even as a schoolboy Mahinda was ever popular for his bravery and forthright conduct.

But, he possessed a character of patience and understanding. He was never ambitious. He waited for his turn while those who wore ‘Nicholas’ shoes’ within the ranks attempted to suppress his rise in the party.

As a Parliamentary Lobby Correspondent for The Island newspaper covering the 1989 Parliament, I distinctly remember, in a period where terror reigned both the North and the South, Mahinda Rajapaksa rose from the Opposition benches to quote Henry Clay to remind that ‘a Government was only a Trust and the Officers of the Government were only Trustees and that both the Trust and the Trustees have been created for the benefit of the people’.

The well read late A.C.S. Hameed, the then Foreign Minister responded in the following manner - “Yes Hon. Rajapaksa, I fully endorse and agree with your fine quotation from Henry Clay but the Rulers have failed to realise the value of those great sayings made 160 years ago”.

Mahinda Rajapaksa always led his political life in the belief that all authority belonged to the people as in the words of Huxley. Though he hailed from a moderate Walauwwa in the Deep South, he moved and mixed with the common man. His rise to Presidency is far from the famous story of, Log Cabin to White House.

Though he hailed from an affluent family in the South, Mahinda Rajapaksa never boasted about his progeny and clan which had a band of reputed politicians with his father being a Deputy Speaker of Parliament in the golden era of post Independence politics. In contrast, he displayed quality in thought, word and deed.

It was these vibrant qualities that helped him to free this nation from the blight of terrorist violence after three decades that brought dark clouds over the nation.

The experience he gained in a long political journey which completes fifty years today, made him a strong leader and a President loved and admired by all citizens. Today, a victorious two-time Executive President and present Prime Minister has demonstrated the manner to command respect as a Head of Government.

His style of governance is transparent. He does not fear the impossible. Challenges give him added strength. Courage gives him confidence. Rajapaksa is a strong leader with a mild heart. He has inherited a mellifluous smile that could even turn the enemy into a friend. But he does not fear to tread on paths where even Angels fear to tread. The victory over LTTE terrorism is ample testimony to that effect. Unholy elements could never stand in his way.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the astute politician, leader and President has inherited noble and gentle qualities from his late father D.A. Rajapaksa and is well aware of his cliometrics in all types of political ideologies to meet and clobber any challenge. He has already proved his leadership qualities to the nation and the people. Today, he stands as the only leader in the world who eliminated the menace of terrorism from the land that he rules.

Mahinda, who held the post of President for two terms and currently holding the post of Prime Minister in his third term, completes fifty years in politics and public life has displayed that he is a unique leader of the people.

His contribution to democracy, peace, development and stability to the nation is a blessing not only to our nation but also to the region in which we are located. Mahinda Rajapaksa who toiled and sweated in politics for five decades, has today offered a - ‘Better life for all’-.

The nation salutes a People’s leader who completes fifty years in politics. History will record in time to come, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as a great Humanist and a political Titan in the annals of post independence politics of the island nation Sri Lanka known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

- Reproduced from an article written by Prasad Pujitha Gunewardene.