Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has done it again. Making use of a visit to Japan, Rajapaksa has sought to extend his partisan politics even on alien soil by being critical of the government while in a foreign land. According to an English daily, Rajapaksa says that Sri Lankans living in Japan were critical of the Yahapalanaya government and was clamouring for a regime change.
How a regime change in Sri Lanka can transform the lives of Sri Lankans in Japan, who, no doubt, are living comfortable lives in that country no one has ventured out to say. He (MR) has also stated that Lankan businessmen in Japan, particularly vehicle importers, were complaining that they were no longer able to survive due to the ‘disastrous policies’ of the Yahapalanaya government (no businessman though were quoted in the article). One would have thought that Sri Lankan businessmen in Japan hardly relied on Sri Lankan government policies to prosper as businessmen in Japan and particularly were dependent on Sri Lanka for their vehicle exports. Or are they cross because the import of Lambroginis have ceased under the Yahapalanaya government?
Sri Lankans living in Japan and who want a regime change could not have all migrated to that country after January 8. A majority of the country’s workforce always seek greener pastures looking for the proverbial pot of gold and Japan holds out very lucrative prospects even over most of the Western countries. Hence the exodus cannot be of recent origin and it is very much doubtful if the economic policies of the Yahapalanaya government drove these Lankans to Japan. It would have been relevant if these Sri Lankans living in Japan were asked if things were all hunky dory during the tenure of Rajapaksa and if so what drove them to Japan, for there can be no doubt that mass migration of Sri Lankans to Japan and other countries for brighter prospects has been a continuing phenomenon since the doors were opened to the foreign job market in the late seventies.
We have only Rajapaksa’s word that Lankans living in Japan are yearning for a regime change and in the absence of any tangible evidence to confirm this, one has to come to the conclusion that it is a only a concoction of Rajapaksa for local consumption. True, there may have been some elements who had been mobilised by MR’s handlers in Japan to welcome him and indeed make uncomplimentary remarks about the government. But these hardly constitute the general opinion of the Sri Lankans living in Japan.
Which bring us to the question of protocol. This is not the first time that MR had painted the government in poor light while in a foreign land. There was once an instance where MR delivered a strong broadside at the government after travelling abroad at state expense. It is not clear if the current visit to Japan, undertaken by Rajapaksa, with a fourteen member delegation, including his son Yoshitha, and an In-law to be, too had been funded by the government or it was purely a private visit. Whatever it is, it is certainly unbecoming of a former Head of State, who is being maintained and provided for by the government, to speak ill of it while in a foreign land as Rajapaksa has been continued to do during all his visits abroad.
True, Rajapaksa is a member of parliament representing the Opposition and has to play the role of an Opposition member (though it is moot if this role can be taken beyond our shores). However over and above that of an Opposition member of parliament he is first and foremost regarded and accepted as the former Head of State. That is why he still has audiences with visiting dignitaries and Heads of State as seen in the recent meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi. Hence it is expected of him to maintain this dignity and decorum as the former Head of State of this country. Former President J.R. Jayewardene was the epitome of this quality attributable to a retired a Head of State who had gone into the sunset. JRJ confined himself to formal after dinner speeches and being occasional chief guest at selected events. President D.B. Wijetunga retired from public life altogether after his exit while CBK too, although, still very much in the public eye, following retirement, did not thrust herself to make a political comeback.
In that context Mahinda Rajapaksa is the only retired Head of State who is still engaged in active politics although he has no prospects of being President again and only a very remote possibility of becoming Prime Minister. For all that, MR continues to be on the war path, politically speaking, which cannot be found fault with, except when he goes beyond the ken and demeans himself and the high office he once held in his quest for power.