It could well be the perfect New Year gift for President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He has been ranked sixth, far ahead of any contemporary political leader or statesmen, in Time magazine’s prestigious poll to find out the 100 most influential persons of 2011.
It is being said that he is the first Lankan leader to be featured in the annual list.
While Rajapaksa seems to be sitting in pretty in the company of singer-actor Beyonce, who precedes him, whistle blower Julian Assange is a distant 11.
The US based magazine’s list came out on a day when the US government again reminded the Rajapaksa regime to engage in a process of accountability, with regard to the allegations of war crimes during the civil war with the Tamil Tigers.
In a brief introduction of Rajapaksa, Time said, "Since ending Sri Lanka's 26 year long war against the Tamil Tigers in 2009, and grabbing control over once independent institutions like the Commissions on human rights and elections, Mahinda Rajapaksa has come to dominate the institutions of his nation more than any other democratically elected head of state."
It added that with the help of friends like India and China, Rajapaksa is also someone who has dared the western nations to prosecute him for alleged war crimes.
"He challenged the US, the European Union and the UN to prosecute him for war crimes, confident that Russia, China and India would not support it — the latter two have billions of investment at stake in Sri Lanka."
Some could have found the use of words like "grabbing", not exactly generous. Rajapaksa’s official website, however, put up the news distinctly, though expectedly leaving out the introduction. The website proudly said, "President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been voted the most influential among political leaders worldwide by readers of TIME, in voting for inclusion in the TIME 100 list. The Sri Lankan President came sixth in the list among 203 personalities voted…"
The Presidential website pointed out that Rajapaksa easily beat contemporary leaders like Hu Jintao of China, Myanmar’s Aung Sang Suu Kyi , US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and India’s Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.