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Mahinda Rajapaksa Twitter Q&A: A Breakdown

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Himal Kotelawala

Himal Kotelawala

Staff Writer

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa began the year by expressing his desire to topple the democratically elected yet increasingly unpopular Yahapalana Government in 2017. He fired his first salvo by sending in his troops from the Joint Opposition to bear the brunt of the government water canons in his home turf of Hambantota (for the cameras at least) when a protest broke out there that turned predictably violent. This morning, the Kurunegala District MP took to Twitter to stir the pot further by way of an online Q&A where #lka netizens were encouraged to fire questions at the former Commander-in-Chief. The following is a breakdown of this exercise.

Rajapaksa made the initial announcement on Monday through his official Twitter account @PresRajapaksa:

The questions started to pour in, tweeted with the hashtag #AskMR.

With a slight delay, Rajapaksa (or whoever is handling his social media these days) began:

On The National Question

The first question Rajapaksa chose to answer was a big one. It had to do with the national question.

His answer is an interesting one, in that the Government has reportedly approached him requesting his support in solving the issue. Although it’s unclear at present whether or not Rajapaksa will extend his support in this regard, he has stated that he is not in favour of proposals to devolve land and police powers to the provinces.

The Election Of Jan. ’15

Question: President Sirisena has charged that you called for early presidential elections to escape a looming economic and international crisis. What is your response to this?

MR: (Paraphrased) Nobody calls for elections with the intention of running away.

Big Brother Vs. Little Brother

Here, Rajapaksa vehemently denies allegations made by Minister Rajitha Senaratne that even though Rajapaksa was personally interested in establishing national reconciliation, his brother Gotabhaya stood in his way.

Speaking of brothers…

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Rajapaksa and the Joint Opposition have always maintained that the Financial Crimes Investigation Division is an illegal entity. If he indeed manages to topple the UNP-led government this year, the FCID will likely be the first to go.

Allegations, Allegations

Answering a question with a question, Rajapaksa challenges the questioner to name any land his government had allegedly leased to foreign nations.

Extremism And The BBS

It is no secret that the Bodu Bala Sena and similar racist outfits operated with relative impunity under the previous regime, despite numerous instances of their openly breaking the law. But Rajapaksa himself was never directly linked to any of these organisations, with members of the JO occasionally implying a connection between a recent spike in racism and sections of the Yahapalana Government. Here he appears to confirm that link.

Gota For President?

(Question: Is it true that a younger brother of yours is planning on running for president?)

(Answer: Anyone who meets the requirements as spelt out in the Constitution can run for president).

There have been whispers of Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa making his entry into active politics come the next presidential elections. He has so far been coy about it, neither confirming nor denying the possibility. His older brother, it seems, is playing the same game.

The SLFP, meanwhile, has decided to retain the executive presidency for itself and field Maithripala Sirisena as its candidate for the 2020 presidential elections.

When asked if he would act in an advisory role in the event Sirisena is nominated, Rajapaksa said his decision will depend on the decision of the SLFP.

Sharing without comment.

On The New Constitution

Rajapaksa understandably hasn’t placed much faith in the proposed new constitution.

‘The People’s Will’

Revealing response, to say the least. The Government is taking its time with the local government elections, and the SLFP will most likely contest independently. It will be interesting to see how Rajapaksa and his allies use this opportunity and exploit the widening rift between the SLFP and UNP to finally showcase that they may be down but are definitely not out.

MR For Trump

When Donald Trump won the US elections in November, Rajapaksa issued a congratulatory message, stating that he looks forward to a non-interfering foreign policy from the US with regard to internal affairs of sovereign nations. Here he reiterates that wish.

Development And China’s Involvement

As far as vague non-answers go, this is a good one. But it is safe to assume that a future MR administration will revert to its trusted model of Chinese-backed infrastructure development.

Here, Rajapaksa scoffs at the Yahapalana Government’s development drive, tweeting that anyone with commons sense can see that the Government’s “development” doesn’t in any way justify the loans it has been taking since coming into power.

There was speculation that Rajapaksa was recently requested by Beijing not to interfere too much in ongoing Chinese investments in the Hambantota district. In that context, this is an interesting response, given what the Chinese Ambassador has  said in the recent past.

More on Chinese investments.

Well, he’s not wrong.

On ETCA

Rajapaksa reiterates his opposition to the controversial ETCA document.

The Wilpattu Issue

RTI And Independent Commissions

MR’s thoughts on Right to Information (RTI) and the independent commissions: “We have to stay vigilant on whether these Acts and Commissions are used for political reasons or for the benefit of the people.”

For The People

Rajapaksa, ever the man of the people, didn’t hesitate to answer in Tamil too.

Classic MR.

Featured image credit:  Eranga Jayawardena/AP

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