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To the power of two: On the Rajapaksas

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Meanings are given in Bold

The appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister consolidates (make (something) physically stronger or more solid) the hold of the Rajapaksa family on power. The change was entirely on expected lines, after his younger brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, won decisively ( in a way that shows the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively) in the presidential election. Outgoing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose party’s candidate lost the election, submitted his resignation, thus enabling the newly-elected President to appoint a new Prime Minister.

Under the country’s constitutional scheme, the President is directly elected, and heads the Cabinet, even while the Prime Minister he appoints ought ( used to indicate duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions)  to be one who commands a majority in Parliament. Even though the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, the party of the Rajapaksas, does not have the requisite ( a thing that is necessary for the achievement of a specified end) numbers, it is unlikely to be an issue, as it is expected to be only a caretaker regime ( a government, especially an authoritarian one) until the next parliamentary elections, due in late 2020.

Under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution introduced in 2015, the President may dissolve ( lose down or dismiss (an assembly or official body)) the House six months prior to the end of its term, which effectively means it could be dissolved any time after March. Mahinda Rajapaksa has emerged as Sri Lanka’s most popular leader today. Few will doubt that his acumen ( the ability to make good judgements and take quick decisions) and personal charisma were crucial to his brother’s victory. His presence in an official role in the corridors of power will be vital in the way the President runs the country and handles external relations.

However, the prospect of the country’s two most powerful offices being vested ( confer or bestow (power, authority, property, etc.) on someone) in a single family does raise concerns. The 2015 mandate against Mahinda Rajapaksa was one for reform and change. It led to the 19th amendment, which curbed ( restrain or keep in check) the President’s powers, especially the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and his Cabinet at will, and the two-term limit on contesting for President. The question now is whether the gains it brought about for democracy will last. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reaction to the election result contained a specific reference to the “complications” in governance caused by the amendment, and promised a “programme of action”.

It would be a retrograde ( directed or moving backwards)  step, if they embark ( begin (a course of action))  on any move to overturn the gains of the legislation. A return to ancien régime ( a political or social system that has been displaced by another) was undoubtedly one of the concerns of the minorities when they voted against Gotabaya Rajapaksa. India’s move in sending External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to call on the new President has signalled an eagerness to preserve its traditional ties with Sri Lanka as well as its interests. It is particularly welcome that India has conveyed its expectations that the process of national reconciliation ( The restoration of friendly relations) would be taken forward by the new regime, with a solution for the Tamil population based on equality, justice, peace and dignity at the core of it.

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