The Nation above all

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An election was held. Someone won and someone lost. Accordingly, those who voted for the winner would consider themselves shareholders of the victory and those who backed the loser would partake of the defeat.

On the other hand, the winners do not automatically become special and the losers lesser citizens. Maithripala Sirisena is the President of the entire country, never mind the fact that almost 6 million did not vote for him, of which 5.7 actually voted for other candidates. Preferences change over time and this translates into reward or punishment when people get to vote again.

The new President has pledged in manifesto and platform (and reiterated the fact in his speech following induction) to correct constitutional and institutional flaw to ensure better governance. For this he is applauded. He will receive greater accolades once word turns into deed. The nation won and not only for reasons we’ve heard the victors utter over the last few days. This country proved to all its detractors (let’s not fool ourselves that the venomous sections of the international community wanted Mahinda Rajapaksa out because they loved the people of this country) that we can do the needful on our own, thank you very much.

We got ‘regime-change’. At our own pace. The way we wanted it. This is something those who have been hauling Sri Lanka over the coals in international forums should take note of. No coups. No ‘Gaddafying’ of Mahinda Rajapaksa. No pound of flesh, no blood flowing in the streets of Colombo.

Both the newly elected President and the Prime Minister he appointed immediately after being inducted, have clearly acknowledged the immense services rendered to the nation by Mahinda Rajapaksa. He recovered the nation for the citizenry, including those who voted against him. He made a tomorrow possible. That he forfeited the right to guide the country to other tomorrows is another matter.

He went with grace. As someone pointed out, that should not deserve extra applause. That’s what he has to do. The reason why it is applauded is perhaps because there was so much hype about ‘The Rajapaksas’ not going out without a fight. That hype was created clearly by those who do not know Mahinda Rajapaksa and worse, underestimate the democratic spirit of the citizens and their sense of timing. Mahinda Rajapaksa knew this better than most.

In any event, the signal to the country’s enemies is clear: do not interfere, we don’t need your help, we know what we want and don’t want and we will do what is best in our interests in a manner of our choosing.

To the new President, we say the following:

‘Congratulations and may you be true to the promise to be compassionate, and may your compassion be coupled with wisdom. You have set yourself some tasks and they are all people-friendly. We will watch, we will cheer when you deserve applause and will critique where necessary. But Mr. President, you also have unfinished tasks. Even as you get moving on your 100-day program, you cannot postpone two important concerns close to your heart: the National Drug Policy and the fight against the tobacco industry. Finish what you started, Your Excellency. That will give us confidence that you have indeed put the nation above all else.’

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