Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has fired a salvo at the Temple Trees in a bid to safeguard her party leadership. The battle of the Blues is raging and SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena has got caught in the crossfire. Chandrika, who boycotted Wednesday`s SLFP meeting in Colombo where President Mahinda Rajapakse addressed the party candidates in the LG polls fray, has sent a stinker to her former loyalist, Maithripala.
Accusing him of undermining her authority as the party leader, she has taken him to task for inviting her to the meeting at the eleventh hour and for not adhering to decisions taken at party meetings under her chairmanship. Hell hath no fury like an ex-woman president scorned!
She has reportedly lashed out at Maithripala and President Rajapakse for, what she terms, acting in contravention of the party constitution and reiterated her claim that it is her tireless efforts that revived the SLFP after being in the opposition for 17 long years. While it is true that she worked hard to bring the SLFP to power, the fact remains that she was also partly to be blamed for debilitating that party and relegating it to the opposition. After her breakaway from the SLFP, with Vijaya, she worked `tirelessly` to engineer its downfall. And but for heavyweights like Anura and Mahinda, who held the party together under Sirimavo`s leadership, there wouldn`t have been an SLFP for her to return to from London. If Chandrika claims the full credit for the revival of the party, she is not being fair by her illustrious mother, brother (who crossed over to the UNP and is back in the SLFP), Mahinda and others who fought against the seemingly monolithic UNP (1977-1994)
Capturing power would have been a pipedream for Chandrika, if not for the assassinations of some political giants like Lalith and Premadasa. The democratization of Sri Lankan politics really began after Lalith, Gamini, Premachandra and several other UNP stalwarts tried to impeach Premadasa in vain and were thrown out of the party. It is their impeachment effort which soon developed into a mass movement led by the then Opposition against the UNP, which marked the revival of the anti-UNP forces including the SLFP. After the demise of President Premadasa, under President D. B. Wijetunge, Chandrika made use of that popular movement to ascend the throne. She, no doubt, had charisma and still has some left. But charisma alone wouldn`t have helped revive the SLFP without the aforesaid contributory factors.
Chandrika was lucky that in her sprint to presidency, she had the entire party behind her. But Mahinda entered the race even without the full backing of his own party. While Ranil was doing a hundred-metre dash Mahinda had to do hundred-metre hurdles for the same cup. His victory wouldn`t have been possible without the Rathu Sahodarayas.
It looked as if Mahinda had wanted to make mince meat of Chandrika et al after the presidential election for colluding with the UNP. But he has not yet done so. Now that she is trying to put a spoke in his presidential wheel and his political enemies are using her as a battering ram, he appears to be flexing his muscles to ward off threats to his leadership. If Mahinda could become the President with CBK as the executive president pulling in the opposite direction, now that he is the Executive President, bagging the leadership of the SLFP should be child`s play for him. There is no room for two power centres within an executive president`s party, as he or she becomes all powerful therein. Chandrika now has her trusted lieutenants deserting her one by one.
Unlike former Presidents who were either assassinated while in office or retired too old to be in active politics, Chandrika has some more years of politics in her. Therefore, she may be desirous of giving herself another chance. But the problem is that there are also other SLFPers with many more years of politics in them and the same ambitions. They cannot wait.
The retirement of a president is like the sinking of a ship?water closes on it immediately afterwards. CBK claims to have learned Buddhism at the feet of erudite monks, as a child. But she appears to have forgotten the essence of the Buddha`s teaching?anicca. In an impermanent universe, nothing else can be permanent?remember Ozymandias? So, however hard it may be, she has to come to terms with the impermanency of her party leadership. Mahinda, too, should prepare himself for such an eventuality one day.
Once upon a time, in Chandrika`s stronghold, Attanagalla, a pious king by the name of Siri Sangabo sacrificed his head for the benefit of another who sought it. But times have changed and today we don`t have anyone of the ilk of that great king in Sri Lankan politics either from Attanagalle or Tangalle. Hence, our predicament.