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A post-war role for Chandrika?

[DailyMirror, Sunday, 24 May 2009 21:24 No Comment]

In an interview with TIME Asia in March 2004 then President Chandrika Kumaratunga said “… there are times in the history of a country when circumstances converge in a particular manner where people are called upon to lead historic processes. That’s how mankind has moved forward”.

Circumstances certainly bring opportunities.

If the opportunities slip away then the progress is stunted.

Today it appears that Mrs.Kumaratunga has conceded that her successor Mahinda Rajapaksa, her one time prime minister is one such person who had made maximum use of the opportunity that came his way to fight terrorism and unite the nation.

‘You have undoubtedly won the war…I wish you strength, wisdom and magnanimity in the days and months ahead’ the former President wrote in her congratulatory note to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

It was a simple letter yet so symbolic of the warmth of her feelings.

Being the only national leader to survive a LTTE suicide attack, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has all the reasons to rejoice when she learnt that the LTTE, which played hide and seek with her and blinded her in one eye, is finally finished.

After all here is a leader who gave ample time for the LTTE to reform, inflicted some lethal blows on them when they cheated her but still genuinely attempted on a political package, to prevent a blood bath even after the Tiger suicide attempt on her. Whether it was peace or war, she did that with a single mindedness despite strong opposition to her moves by some.

Perhaps it was the influence of her husband’s politics that made her identify with the Tamils and Muslims better than any other executive President of Sri Lanka. Her repeated attempts to devolve power are generally attributed to this factor.

However one may say that it had little to do with her initial attempt to appoint her Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar as her prime minister in 2004, over Mahinda Rajapaksa. Finally she reconciled with the idea of appointing Rajapaksa as her premier and it is very unlikely that she regrets this decision now though the last few years saw some petty battles between the Bandaranaikes and the Rajapaksas.

While there was speculation that Mrs. Kumaratunga would make a come back in politics, during the early days of her retirement, she had not shown much interest lately in the subject.

When she was in power the former President was quoted as saying that "In Sri Lanka, politics is a terrible, terrible game. So dirty, absolutely filthy. Decent people do not want to have anything to do with it anymore. It is my dream that we move beyond this”.

Post-retirement she had indicated her interest in playing a non-political role in nation building. In her letter to President Rajapaksa Mrs. Kumaratunga has said “The greater challenge of winning a lasting peace lies ahead of us. We now have to take on the daunting task of building a Nation in which all our citizens, of all races, religions and political beliefs can live in freedom and with dignity and human rights”.

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