Ending nepotism | Daily News

Ending nepotism

Nepotism is by no means confined to Sri Lankan politics, but the extended Rajapaksa family has taken it to a whole new level. It is no secret that former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa formed the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (Pohottuwa) solely to have an outlet for his family to shine on the local political stage.

The Rajapaksas are simply unable to think beyond the family orbit and their followers too are unable to do so. With former President Rajapaksa being ineligible to contest for the presidency again due to a two-term limit imposed by the Constitution, the family-centric SLPP floated several names around, all Rajapaksas, naturally. Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa seems to have emerged as the potential candidate for all intents and purposes, though no official announcement has been made. Gotabaya himself has publicly claimed that he would be contesting the Presidential Election.

While this would be a disappointing turn of events for those who harboured hopes for more democratization within the SLPP, it is par for the course for the Rajapaksa family. But if current events are anything to go by, there is bound to be resistance to Rajapaksa family bandysm from within the SLPP-oriented political circles.

The first salvo against a possible Gotabaya candidature was fired some months ago by the outspoken MP Kumara Welgama, who minced no words about his dislike for the former defence secretary. Even as others like MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara who too opposed a Gotabaya candidacy have not been so vociferous recently, Welgama kept up the tempo. Welgama has persisted in calling for the SLPP to think beyond the Rajapaksas. He even suggested that if national security was the sole reason to select Gotabaya, then there are plenty of other candidates who would be even more qualified than him, including Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.

But Rajapaksas do not like critics and criticism and in the end, Welgama’s fate was clear. He has since been relieved of his duties as the Badulla District SLPP organiser. Welgama on his own volition will be leaving all nominal posts in the SLPP, noting that he had anyway not received party membership. However, he has indicated he would have no trouble supporting Chamal Rajapaksa, who is known to be outside the Mahinda-Basil-Gotabaya triumvirate, if he comes forward as a candidate by any chance.

The dynamics of a Presidential Election keep changing day by day, but Welgama’s bold stance could mark a significant turning point. It is time for all political parties, not just the SLPP, to think outside the nepotism box. It has been a practice here (and in many other Asian countries) for the baton of politics to pass from father to son, mother to daughter or from uncle to niece or nephew. But politics will be more diverse and rich if more qualified young professionals join in. All political parties must make an honest effort to attract such talented individuals to their fold. The voters will no doubt keenly endorse this concept.

A historic 20 steps

Twenty steps do not mean much in everyday life, but when the President of the United States takes that many steps inside a “hermit kingdom” known for its nuclear ambitions, it assumes great significance. When US President Donald Trump stepped into the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Koreas and met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he became the first sitting US President to cross the line into North Korea, in more ways than one.

The duo first met at the Capella in Singapore more than one year ago, followed by a second meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam which was abruptly cut off without the two sides reaching any kind of deal or compromise. Many thought that it would mark the end of negotiations and indeed, Kim did fire off a few missiles afterwards. On his part, President Trump did not let go of the tough sanctions imposed on North Korea.

But several behind the scenes moved helped to make a third Trump-Kim meeting a reality. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is keen on ensuring peace in the Korean peninsula and would rather have a peaceful neighbour than a hostile one. Moon and Kim have developed a good relationship over the last few years. Furthermore, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s historic visit to Pyongyang, the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years, marked another new chapter for North Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin too is believed to have indicated a desire for more diplomatic moves by North Korea.

If all goes well, negotiations between the US and North Korea are set to begin in a couple of weeks. No one, including Trump himself, believes this to be an easy process as the North will not be willing to denuclearize without a guarantee for its security and existence. But a nuclear-armed North Korea is a huge headache that South Korea and the region can do without. If President Trump and Chairman Kim can succeed where others have failed, the world will be a better place to live in. 

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