Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

  • January 2015
    M T W T F S S

The Maithri Presidency – The triumph of hope over fear

Posted by harimpeiris on January 20, 2015

The Maithri Presidency – The triumph of hope over fear

By Harim Peiris


President Maithripala Sirisena‘s election victory was a triumph of hope over fear. Maithripala Sirisena, dared us to hope, to hope and believe in a better Sri Lanka, a “Maithri palanaya” where Sri Lanka would be re-democratized, the rule of law restored, where cronyism would not be endemic, where corruption would not be an occupational past time of the rulers and where all Sri Lanka’s diverse peoples, including ethnic and religious minorities can live free from fear. Mahinda Rajapakse on the other hand, tried desperately to continue the polarization in our society, to frighten especially the Sinhala people about vague threats from various sources. We were asked to fear our fellow countrymen, be they Tamil or Muslim demonstrating that while Mahinda Rajapakse had to his credit led our country to a post war situation, he was completely unable to take us to a post conflict or harmonious, Maithri if you like, stage.

Initial stages of “Maithri Palanaya”  


The initial, first week of a “Maithri era” started off commendably. Winning against all odds and especially the unconscionable vitriol of the state media, the new president took his oath of office in a simple ceremony at Independence Square, to which the public were just welcomed to turn up. The clear message against post election violence has kept the same to a minimum, with law enforcement acting swiftly. More commendably there have been no visible signs of revenge taking on the defeated elements in Rajapakse regime, though eventually the law may take its course against law breaking, unless President Rajapakse negotiates a quiet retirement from political life in return for immunity from prosecution for many alleged misdeeds not least being an attempted coup in the face of electoral defeat, as well as corruption in the mega scale, untendered Chinese projects.

The alleged attempted coup


Former Maithri campaign spokesman and current Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has taken the lead in making a formal complaint to the CID about the alleged coup attempt by the Rajapakse’s as the inevitability of the electoral defeat became apparent late on election night and in the early hours of January 9th morning.  From about a week before the election, talks of a possible coup or attempts by the Rajapakse regime to hang on to power notwithstanding the election results was doing the rounds in the NDF campaign, diplomatic missions and political circles. The factual basis for the concern was a massive military troop deployment plan drawn up by the Chief of Defense staff, not only by passing the normal security channels, but more importantly without the knowledge of the Commissioner of Elections or the concurrence of the Inspector General of Police. The core of the plan was to deploy the military to take over key communications installations in Colombo, including the TRC and the state media, supposedly for their protection. Mercifully the democratic elements and wiser counsel in the state apparatus asserted itself, especially in the person of the Elections Commissioner and the IGP, who denied ad any request for military deployment and thwarted the attempt. The complaint to the CID by the new Foreign Minister is that his predecessor and an inner coterie of Rajapakse loyalists including Mohan Peiris were present during the plans to thwart the election results. The military’s lack of support for any illegal and extra constitutional measures meant that the Rajapakse family was on an early morning flight back to Hambanthota.

Restoring Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike to the Supreme Court Bench


The impeachment of Chief Justice Bandaranaike in a farcical process or rather the absence of any due process, completed with a boycott of the then opposition in the parliamentary committee proceedings and against the rulings of the Appeal Court, together with military searches of the Supreme Court access roads, has resulted in the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the apex body of all lawyers in the country resolving that Mohan Peiris, the former defense ministry advisor appointed to head the bench after impeaching Justice Bandaranaike should vacate the bench and Justice Bandaranaike allowed to resume functioning in the office of Chief Justice. The legal position largely favored by the Bar Association is that Shirani Bandaranaike was never legally removed, so accordingly was never duly appointed and that his purported appointment was null and void and of no force and avail in law. President Sirisena demonstrated his own views on the matter very clearly when he chose not to sully the start of his “Maithri Palanya” by taking his oath of office in front of Mohan Peiris. Accordingly the senior most judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Sripavan presided over the swearing in of President Maithripala Sirisena.

A mature Sri Lankan democracy

Sri Lanka has drawn the admiration of the international community once again on its mature democracy and the ability of our society to change political power peacefully. The election also showed a strong commitment by all Sri Lankans to a democratic process and way of life. Irrespective of ethnicity or religion there was high turnout and more importantly the Sri Lankan State system showed a strong systemic bias towards respecting the wishes of the people through election. The main government officials demonstrated a commitment to a free election, the police withstood enormous pressure and strove to be politically neutral and the military refused to be drawn into a political contest and use force on a democratic exercise. The underlying people’s support for a re-democratization of Sri Lanka, post the Rajapakse’s or a Maithri palanaye has begun.

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