Sri Lanka’s 5-Time PM: Why Ranil Wickremesinghe Is ‘Man…
Where in all this does Ranil’s ‘missed lesson’ appear? Contesting the presidency in 1995 as the incumbent Prime Minister, Chandrika recorded the highest-ever 62.28 per cent, which even incumbent Mahinda could not break, despite defeating the dreadful LTTE in the decades-old ethnic war. In 1995, Chandrika was the face of hope for a nation already reeling under the weight of internal contradictions, worsened by the unstoppable ethnic war. In her campaign speeches, Chandrika promised a fair deal, which the Sinhala-Buddhist majority did not actually oppose, showing that a majority of the community was not extremist but peace-loving, at least at that particular point – not earlier, not later.
The LTTE learnt its lesson, turned the Tamil people against the government, and by 1996, they loved to hate and curse Chandrika, the woman, the mother they had voted only a few months earlier. When Chandrika contested a second time, the LTTE actually tried to assassinate her at a campaign rally, just as they had assassinated a predecessor, Ranasinghe Premadasa, from Ranil’s UNP, at the May Day rally in 1993. Ranil himself escaped the LTTE’s attempt on his life once, but that was to come later.
Premadasa’s crime? He negotiated with the LTTE behind the back of the IPKF and the Indian government, when the two of them were helping him to defeat two militancy groups, which included the JVP. Premadasa also diverted India-supplied weapons for the Sri Lankan army to the LTTE, in order to fight the IPKF.
Chandrika had a providential escape but completely lost sight in one eye. The LTTE’s attempt on her life sealed the electoral fate of her opponent: Ranil Wickremesinghe of the UNP.
Even Norwegians were reported to have been barred from briefing the President, though it was Chandrika who had invited them to play facilitator in LTTE negotiations. All this, when Chandrika as President was the Head of State, Head of Government, Head of Cabinet, and of course, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Under the Constitution, she was also her own Defence Minister.