Michael Roberts .… reproducing an article presented earlier in the COLOMBO TELEGRAPH in the year 2012…. an article bearing a different title: viz. “Populism And Sinhala-Kingship in the Rajapaksa Regime’s Political Pitch” … an article that also appeared under a differeTn title in GROUNDVIEWS in January that year
On 4th December 2011 the Sunday Island carried a headline: “Mahinda ready to meet General Fonseka’s family over pardon” — with a picture alongside showing President Mahinda Rajapaksa seated in an armchair perusing an official document – a document in royal red and marked by a recognisable state seal. It is the juxtaposition of the headline and image that drew my interest. In my reading as an analyst attentive to indigenous cultural threads, this combination suggested several interrelated motifs, namely, that
- President Rajapaksa is the epitome of sovereign power, vested with the rights of clemency on high, just like Sinhalese kings of the past who could be supplicated by condemned subjects who crawled on their knees to the palace gates (mahāvāsala) and begged for pardon for their evil-doings or crimes;[i]
- President Rajapaksa is akin to a manorial lord of the past, a patrimonial figure who is readily accessible on his verandah to subordinate officials, tenants and other people seeking favours from this font of noblesse oblige;
- President Rajapaksa is a son of the soil, native to core. After all, what can be more native than a hansi putuva? He is, therefore, as personable as approachable.