Former Sri Lankan President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa and Leader of the Opposition and Trincomalee district MP Rajavarothayam Sampanthan have engaged in significant political discussions at a one on one meeting without aides this week.
The 45-minute meeting took place at Mahinda Rajapaksa’s residence in Wijerama Mawatte Colombo on August 29th following an invitation extended by the former president to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader for a one on one meeting to discuss current political matters. The meeting began at 3.30 PM
The Opposition leader responded positively and met with the former president for in depth discussions conducted cordially. Both leaders engaged in closed-door talks without any others being present.
After the political discussions concluded, former first lady Ms. Shiranthi Rajapaksa made her appearance to provide refreshments and exchange pleasantries with Mr. Sampanthan.
Though both leaders remained tight -lipped about talks it is learnt that most of the talks focused on the envisaged new Constitution and the Constitution making process. Though no conclusive decisions were reached both leaders had apparently engaged in frank discussions on the topic ,it is learnt.
Mr. Sampanthan had explained at the discussions that there was hope of the proposed Constitution bringing about greater power-sharing arrangements while ensuring the unity of the country in an indivisible Sri Lanka. He said that unlike the 1972 and 1978 Constitutional exercises the Tamil people were participating fully in the making of this Constitution. The Constitution would be promulgated only after obtaining the consent of the people of Sri Lanka at a referendum. For this the cooperation of all major political parties was necessary. As such Mr. Sampanthan pointed out that the former President being a responsible political leader of great stature, had a duty and responsibility towards the country in cooperating positively in the Constitution making exercise.
Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa said that he appreciated Mr. Sampanthan’s viewpoint about the proposed new Constitution. However, the former President stated that there were certain political problems and issues confronting him in the current constitution making exercise as conducted by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government. He himself had certain ideological reservations about some of the aspects of the Constitution- in – the – making emphasised Mr. Rajapaksa. The ex-president who is the De-Facto Leader of the group of MP’s known as the Joint Opposition also said there were further constraints due to the different opinions held by his political allies on Constitutional matters.
However, both Mr. Rajapaksa and Mr. Sampanthan concurred that further efforts should continue to transcend and overcome these political impediments and obstacles and evolve a viable Constitution acceptable to all shades of political opinion and all sections of the people. Both agreed that this preliminary round of talks could serve as a forerunner to more rounds of discussions in the future.
It was also hoped that a satisfactory approach towards the question could be fashioned tactically with the involvement of other political parties and groups in the future. A second meeting would be held in September.
It is learnt that a meeting between Mr. Rajapaksa and Mr. Sampanthan had been in the pipeline for several weeks. The move was triggered off when both Mr. Rajapaksa and Mr.Sampanthan participated at a book launch event. Both leaders had expressed a desire to hold discussions among themselves at the event. Thereafter Hambantota District MP and Mahinda’s eldest son Namal Rajapaksa welcomed the move and had worked behind the scenes to bring about such a meeting.
It is premature to speculate about the potential results and future course of related events of the Mahinda Rajapaksa- Rajavarothayam Sampanthan meeting at this juncture. Political observers, however, opine that the positive interaction between both leaders needs to be further enhanced with greater vigour and enthusiasm in the days to come.