By Brian Senewiratne -
A Possible Psychiatric Disorder At The Top Of The Government, An Analysis Of Gotabaya Rajapaksa
This is a serious analysis of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary, effectively the de facto President of Sri Lanka, brother of the elected President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is only the de jure President.
A country with two Presidents
It is erroneously claimed that Mahinda Rajapaksa is the most powerful person in Sri Lanka. There is evidence that Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the most powerful (and certainly the most feared and ruthless) person in Sri Lanka.
A single (but crucial) example will suffice. With mounting international pressure to devolve some power to the Tamil areas (North and East), President Mahinda Rajapaksa initiated the All Party Representative Council (APRC) to look into a constitutional political settlement. The APRC limbered on from 2006-2009 and submitted a Report. This was never published. It was buried, as have so many Reports of Commissions of Inquiry and the like, in Sri Lanka.
With increasing pressure, particularly from India, the President initiated (yet another) ‘Committee’ – the Parliamentary Select Committee – to look into a constitutional settlement (that had just been done by the APRC).
In stepped de facto ‘President’ Gotabaya Rajapaksa. On 16 August 2012, in an interview to India’s Headlines Today television, he said that Sri Lanka would not devolve any more powers to the minorities in spite of the promises it made in the past. He said:
“The existing constitution is more than enough…..Devolution-wise I think we have done enough. I don’t think there is a necessity to go beyond that”.
And it has not gone “beyond that.” Q.E.D (quod erat demonstrandum – a Latin phrase which translates as “which was to be demonstrated”. The phrase is placed in its abbreviated form at the end of a mathematical proof or philosophical argument when what was specified in the enunciation has been proved.
There are numerous other examples of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a mere Public Servant, telling the President and the Government to go to hell. What will be done is what he wants done. If that is not a de facto President, I do not know what he is.
Several people/groups, in and outside Sri Lanka, have expressed concern. Col R Hariharan, an Indian specialist on South Asian military Intelligence, in his “Sri Lanka: Gotabaya larger than life” (9 July 2012) said, “President Rajapaksa would be well advised to distance himself swiftly from his brother…. on sensitive issues that are not his business”. Yes, indeed, it is not his business.
The Head of the Centre for Policy Alternatives – a human rights group in Colombo– in an article, “Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Too full of power to exercise it”, has called for his resignation or dismissal, not once but three times.
Friday Forum, a group of much respected members of civil society in Colombo, which includes Jayantha Dhanapala, an internationally respected diplomat, in a damning indictment, “Arrogance of Power”, asked, “Is it acceptable for His Excellency the President to keep in high office a person who demonstrates an incapability to control his temper?”
Interview with a senior journalist
One of the serious incidents (among others) which merit careful analysis, was his recent response to the senior editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, Frederica Jansz. To dismiss Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s language and the contents of what he said as, “he is crazy”, is neither accurate nor appropriate. On the contrary, I think it is an important interview which sheds light on his psychopathology. I will analyse it sentence by sentence and give it the importance it merits.
I will not deal with his other outrageous statements such as the one on British TV. He said, with a straight face, that it is acceptable to bomb hospitals (in violation of the Geneva Convention). I have dealt with this in detail in my dvd, “Sri Lanka: Genocide, Crimes against humanity, Violation of International Law” (which is on the net),
The recent Incident
The incident is now too well known to be repeated here except for analysis. Briefly, Gotabaya Rajapaksa wanted to import a puppy from Zurich for his wife. Captain Preveen Wijesinghe whose girl-friend is Flight Officer Madini Chandradasa, a niece of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (and, of course, of Gotabaya), personally offered to fly down the puppy. He was not qualified to fly the Sri Lankan airline A340. Arrangements were being made to downsize the aircraft to an A330 to enable Wijesinghe to fly it. 56 passengers would have had to be off-loaded if the aircraft was changed. Why another pilot could not fly down the ‘Royal Puppy” is unclear.
With a loss of national income, Jansz commendably thought it necessary to apprise the public. Before she did so, she called Rajapaksa to ask whether he was aware of this. She was threatened.
When the aircraft change was cancelled after protests by some members of the Pilot’s Guild, she called him again to say that the paper would not carry the story (because there was now no loss of revenue, and not because she was threatened).
What Gotabaya Rajapaksa said and the language used is of serious concern and must be addressed. Before I do so, I will introduce the two participants.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary, is a Public servant, governed by an Establishments code which has standards of conduct set by the Public Service Commission. Violation of these standards of behaviour calls for an explanation, disciplinary action, resignation or termination of appointment.
These standards of conduct have been regularly flouted by Rajapaksa, with no action taken. He can do what he wants, to anyone he likes (or dislikes), in any manner he chooses, with no accountability or consequences. He had filed action against the Sunday Leader earlier. The sum asked for, had it been awarded, would have shut down the newspaper.
Frederica Jansz is the senior editor of the Sunday Leader, about the only newspaper that questions what the Rajapaksa regime is doing. She is an award-winning journalist – the “Zonta Woman of the Year in Media and Mass Communication” in 2002, and “Journalist of the Year and English Journalist of the Year” in 2004. She became the senior editor of the Sunday Leader when Lasantha Wickrematunga, the founder-editor of the paper, was bashed to death on a busy suburban Colombo street by eight masked gun-men, on 8th January 2009. It was only a few hundred yards from a military check-point. No one has been apprehended but the bloody foot-prints lead to very high places.
Jansz has, with commendable courage, gone down the same path as the murdered Wickrematunga. As a journalist, she has the right, indeed the duty, to investigate problems that are reported to her, particularly ones that are of national interest. This is what she did, and received an expletive ridden tirade of abuse in obscene language, with threats, including murder.
Jansz published this interview with Rakapaksa in the Sunday Leader 8 July 2012 “Gota goes berserk”.
The responses I have had from the many I have called, have been disappointing, inaccurate and unacceptable.
A proper analysis of what he said, and the language used, and its possible consequences are important. Consider this, he is the Defence Secretary, possibly the next Prime Minister nominated by his brother, and, as I have said, the de facto President of Sri Lanka.
There were many more similar comments, “an arrogant shit, a thug, a dim-bat, a pompous ass”, which are wrong for obvious reasons. Some whom I contacted were so worked up that they challenged me: “You can present all your medical clap-trap, but he is simply an arrogant shit”. Ironically, I found myself defending Rajapaksa, something I never thought I would have to do: “Steady on, you are now drifting into Rajapaksa’s language. Although he has not taken out a patent on these words, let us not get into the gutter ourselves. While he might well be what you say he is, can you reserve your judgement until you have read, what you call, my medical clap-trap?”
In the six decades I have observed and commented on those who hold power in Sri Lanka, I have never had such negative comments about any of them. They include dreadful people like Cyril Matthew, his replacement today, Hon Mervin Silva, and others of their ilk. Gotabaya Rajapaksa seems to be universally hated (and feared). Perhaps I telephoned the wrong people.
The impression I got was that people (the ones I called) were seething with anger – anger they could not express without the risk of a ‘white van without numberplates’ coming for them or, as happened to Lasantha and so many others, simply being murdered. Amnesty International has reported that at least 15 journalists and media workers have been killed and 30 seriously injured since January 2006 (the Rakapaksa regime took over the country in November 2005).
I began to worry. If there is so much anger, anything could happen. Very angry people do some crazy things. We do not want a martyr. This is one of the reasons why I decided to do a proper analysis.
What follows is an analysis of what he said, and the language used, and its possible consequences.
The language used
The language used by Rajapaksa as printed in the papers (including the Sunday Leader), is ‘sanitised’ – ‘f……g’. That was NOT the word used. He used the full word.
I know this because I have been subjected to this same language (and worse) by ‘patriotic’ supporters of the Rajapaksa regime on many occasions, every time I write an article or address a meeting (recently one even in a Church here in Australia), on the violation of human rights by the Sri Lankan government. I too will use the ‘sanitised’ version to make it less offensive, although I am not convinced that I should. If it is acceptable for these people to use these words, then, by the same token, it must also be alright for us to print them (as said).
It is on this same dubious reasoning that I removed some of the photos of children raped by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces from my dvd “Sri Lanka: Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Violation of International Law”. If it is acceptable for the Armed Forces to do these terrible things it must also be alright for us to show this to the world. The UK Channel 4 video did not ‘sanitise’ anything – hence its impact.
The only reason for quoting, albeit sanitised, what I have been subjected to is to show how they should be dealt with. Frederica Jansz did this superbly. To the vituperative, threatening and obscene language, she simply said, “I hope you can hear yourself, Mr Rajapaksa”.
So do I. I keep my cool and stick to the Queen’s English and not get into gutter language which I last heard in real life, many moons ago in the Pettah fish-market. Getting into crude, vulgar and obscene language seems to be a measure of Sri Lankan (I hasten to clarify this, Sinhalese) patriotism.
Here is just one of many examples, which have kept me awake night after night, to be sure I do not sleep, and day after day to be sure I cannot see my patients. It is ‘Gotabaya Rajapaksa language”.
“You mother f…..g Tamil Tiger c…t (the vagina)”. My measured response: “No, Sir (or Madam – some of the most obscene ones come from ‘ladies’), I have never done any such a thing to my mother. I hope you have not done this to your mother. If you have, then you have a problem. Call my secretary for an appointment to see me (professionally, I mean). There will be no charge for this.
Sir, you are anatomically confused because the organ needed for the former act is not possessed by the owner of the latter organ. So, I suggest that you get the anatomy right.
And Sir, I am not a Tamil, nor am I a Tiger but a member of the ‘Lion race’ as your patriotic self. Good night and may the blessings of Almighty God or the Triple Gem, which ever you like, be on you. I say this as a Christian whose mother was a devout Buddhist. Now go to sleep and thank you so much for staying awake so late to keep me awake.”
Some of these calls are much more dreadful, and deeply worrying. In addition to exporting tea, rubber, garments etc, an important export from the “Asian Wonder” has been obscene language and thuggery. Listen to the Channel 4 video – never mind the execution of naked bound and blindfolded prisoners, and slicing of their throats with a pen knife. Just listen carefully, about 20 minutes from the start, to the language used. It is ‘Gotabaya-language’, presumably learnt for Lieutenant Colonel. Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the Gajaba regiment before he ‘patriotically’ left for theUSA in 1992 (and became an American citizen!)
As Viktor Klemperer said in The Language of the Third Reich, “Language reveals all”. Sri Lanka is surely moving towards Nazi Germany, if it has not got there already.
Let me take this sentence by sentence – Gotabaya Rajapkasa (GR), Frederica Jansz (FJ). Comment by me (BS):
Thursday, 5th July 2012, first call.
FJ: “I do not know if you are aware ….. that a Sri Lankan airline flight is to fly toZurich …to fly a puppy dog for you”
MR: “Yes, they are bringing a puppy – it is for my wife… I have every right not to bring a dog but an elephant if I so wish… they brought a dog for me…”
BS: I am not sure of the need to import a puppy or a dog, when there are so many dogs in Sri Lanka, some with rabies, some quite sane. Nor an elephant. A hippopotamus, I can understand.
The Q&A continues on the proposed change in the aircraft and its reversion to the original.
FJ: “The decision was reversed only after the President of the Pilot’s Guild objected”
MR “Nobody objected. If you write any bloody thing I will sue you. I am not afraid of the bloody Courts. I have already sued you and will sue you again. That is my right”.
FJ: “Yes. But it is also my right as a journalist to ask you for your side of the story or clarify this with you since it involves you.
BS: This is serious. ‘I am not afraid of the bloody Courts’ is contempt for the entire legal system in the country. The Judges and lawyers must object. I am aware that the Chief Justice (for reasons I do not want to go into here) might not, but surely there are many lawyers still left, who will. After all, it was only a week or two ago that the Judges and lawyers brought all the Courts to a halt because thugs and hoodlums – supporters of Hon Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Trade, threw stones at the Magistrates Court and District Court in Mannar. Surely they must act.
GR “I am telling you again, I will sue your f……g newspaper”
BS I am not familiar with this. I know of good newspapers, poor newspapers and bad newspapers, but not f….g newspapers. I will add this to the lexicon as Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s contribution.
This obsession with sex, applying it even to a newspaper, is worrying. The man has an obsession with sex which will have to be remembered when dealing with the possible diagnosis.
FJ “Mr Rajapaksa, are you threatening me?
GR “Yes”. He then hung up.
BS As I have said, this is a violation of the standards of behaviour expected of a public servant in the Establishments code set by the Public Service Commission, and calls for disciplinary action, resignation or sacking.
The next day FJ called again to let MR know that since the decision not to change the aircraft had been taken, she was not carrying the story because there was now no loss of revenue.
GR “If these pilots are idiots to change a plane for this, that is not my fault. They are f…..g idiots”
BS The Defence Secretary calling the senior pilots of the National carrier ‘idiots’, ‘f….g’ ones at that, calls for action. One does not want to be in a plane piloted by idiots. Safer to choose another airline. Whether they are f….g ones or not, is immaterial.
The people must protest at the loss of revenue if passengers chose another airline,
The Pilots Guild must demand an immediate withdrawal of that remark and an apology. The alternative is to ground the entire fleet till this man comes to his senses.
FJ “I have decided to hold the story but want you to know that I am not doing so because you threatened me yesterday….”
GR “Yes I threatened you. Your type of journalists are pigs who eat shit. Pigs who eat shit. Shit! Shit! Shit journalists”.
BS Again I am confused. I know of good journalists, bad journalists, ‘embedded’ journalists etc but not “journalists who are pigs who eat shit”. Nor am I familiar with his escalation of this later in his tirade, to “dirty f….g shit journalists”. I am not sure where GR went to school but where ever it was, his education has much to be desired. Perhaps this is the way he talks at home. I do not know.
‘Embedded journalists’ area well-recognised group in many wars. The ones in Sri Lanka are ‘embedded’ in the government or are ‘silent journalists’ who open their mouths only to eat, and those in the North, not too frequently either.
GR “I will put you in jail. You shit journalists trying to split the country – trying to show otherwise from true Sinhala Buddhists. You are helped by theUS Ambassador, NGOs……..They pay you”
FJ “I wish”.
BS This is a serious matter that the US Ambassador (indeed the US Government) must take up with the Defence Secretary, who is a US citizen, and ask him for the evidence he has to say what he did.
I was not aware that the Defence Secretary could put anyone in jail. I am well-aware that he can see that they ‘disappear’, or be killed by ‘unknown’ assassins. But to be put into jail? This I did not know. I just wonder how many of the thousands held in jails and prisons outside the recognised jails, held without charge or trial, have been put there by this man? Small wonder that Amnesty International, Human rights Watch and International Crisis Group are not allowed into the country. They might well ask some awkward questions.
I am unclear as to who ‘true Sinhala Buddhists’ are. Who are ‘untrue Sinhala Buddhists’? there seem now to be some new categories since I left that country many years ago – ‘true Buddhists’, ‘f….g newspapers’. ‘shit journalists’, ‘f….g shit journalists’ ‘journalists who are pigs’ and probably many others that I am not aware of.
Thisaranee Gunasekera, the outstanding writer, whose writings are always worth reading, has this to say in her “Violent Rulers, Violent Mores, Violent Nations’ on 14 July 2012:
“The extent to which the virus of violence has infused the national-bloodstream can be gleaned from two recent outbursts of intra-Buddhist conflict. On both occasions mob-violence was used to ‘resolve’ a ‘religious’ dispute, with ‘true Buddhists’ assaulting ‘false Buddhists’. The rights and the wrongs of either case is immaterial; what is revealing is that self-proclaimed adherents of Buddhism, a teaching premised on absolute non-violence, had no compunction whatsoever in using violence to settle a doctrinal disagreement”.
GR “You pig that eats shit. You shit, shit, dirty f….g journalist”
FJ (commendably keeping her cooland refusing to get into the gutter) “I hope you can hear yourself Mr. Rajapaksa”
GR “People will kill you. People hate you. They will kill you”
FJ “On your directive?”
GR “What? No. Not mine –but they will kill you – you dirty f…ing shit journalist”.
BS This is a very serious threat of murder. Remembering what happened to FJ’s predecessor, Lasantha Wickrematunga, it cannot be taken lightly. It is a matter that must go to the UN Human Rights Council and to a wider audience.
“People will kill you”. What people? Is this an invitation to the public to commit murder?
The following are some of the serious concerns about what Rajapaksa said:
threatening you.” “You write one bloody word and I will sue you. I will sue the writer of your f…g newspaper, again” “ you write a bloody f…g word and we will see”. See what? A ‘white van’ with no number-plates?
6. Threatening to kill the Editor. “People will kill you….. you dirty f….g shit journalist”.
All of these call for action, if he is medically and psychiatrically well, and does not have a serious personality disorder. If he is not well, then he should be treated. If he is well, then he must be removed from his post, if the Constitution and the Legal system are to have any credibility. If he is not dealt with,Sri Lanka will lose even the pretence of civilisation and decency.
The first problem is to address the question, “Is he well or unwell, physically or psychologically”?
A Medical assessment
The possibilities are that the Defence Secretary has:
A Medical problem.
To write him off as ‘nuts’ or ‘crazy’ is unacceptable, nor is it wise to refer him to a psychiatrist (as a first step). In a dvd I am just recording of a talk I gave in New York, Sydney and several other places in Australia, “Mental Disorders as seen by a Physician in Internal (General) Medicine”, I have set out the dangers and the traps. I have stressed that patients who seem, at first blush, to have a mental illness, must first be checked by a Physician, if serious problems are to be avoided.
There are several medical illnesses that can appear to look like psychiatric problems. Some cerebral infections, disorders of calcium metabolism, cerebral vascular disorders, thyroid problems and slow growing frontal tumours, can be responsible.
Let me give you just one example, of many, that have come my way in 50 years as Physician. A few months ago a 56 year old man, interestingly from Sri Lanka, came to see me. He had a ‘problem’ which he hoped I could fix. He said he had not received an invitation from the Queen for her Jubilee Celebration and could I help? When asked why he felt he should have been invited, he said that he was the Governor General of Sri Lankaand should, therefore, have had an automatic invitation. I said, “But Sri Lanka does not have a Governor General”. His eyes brightened up, “Precisely, that is why the Queen appointed me. Can you see that?”
I said that I certainly could, but could I first check him out medically to see if he was fit to travel toEngland?
After a careful history and examination followed by some specific blood tests, a diagnosis of neurosyphylis was established. He needed penicillin, not a psychiatrist. He certainly was not ‘crazy’ though he appeared to be. Grandiose delusions (see below) are a well-recognised symptom of this disease.
I am not suggesting that the Defence Secretary has this disorder. I am merely using it as an example of how one could get caught.
Robert Mugabe was, many years ago, quite a reasonable man. He was even knighted by the Queen – it was later withdrawn. Over the years he has got crazier and crazier, and has taken his country,Zimbabwe, to a failed state and his people to absolute misery. I am convinced that the man is ill and has to be checked out properly, before he is labelled as a ‘shit’ or a ‘thug’. What a price that country has paid having a dubiously sane man as the President. It will be a pity if history repeats itself inSri Lanka.
One thing is certain: the Defence Secretary has delusions of grandeur. This “I am not afraid of bloody Courts, I can bring an elephant if I so choose, I will put you in jail” etc are not ‘normal’.
So also is his decision to bomb hospitals in the Tamil North and East, with patients in them (as documented in the dvds I have recorded which have visual clips of his interview inLondon). This “I-can-do- what-the-hell-want attitude”, “the Geneva Convention can go to hell” – are delusions of grandeur.
There is also not the slightest doubt that he is prone to outbursts of rage that are not appropriate, to the ‘provocation’ and entirely inappropriate to the position he holds.
Let me walk you through some of the medical terms in language you can understand.
A delusion is a false belief that is held despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Any attempt to contradict the belief is likely to arouse an inappropriately strong emotional reaction, often with irritability and hostility. The ‘Bible’ of Psychiatry, the DSM (Diagnosis and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders) now in its 4th Edition, which is about to be updated to the 5th Edition, defines 6 subtypes of delusions. The most important one here is the Grandiose subtype.
Grandiose delusions (GD)
Grandiose delusions are states where the person believes that he/she is the greatest, richest (it might actually be true here), and/or the most intelligent person ever. There is an inflated opinion of power, knowledge, and identity. They are characterised by fantastical beliefs that one is famous, omnipotent, and very powerful (which might not be a delusion in this case). They often have a supernatural or science-fiction theme.
GDs occur in a wide range of mental disorders including manic states, schizophrenia, substance abuse and some medical conditions.
Megalomania is similar. It is a psychological condition characterised by fantasies of power, omnipotence, an inflated sense of self-esteem, and over-estimation of these powers and beliefs.
A psychosis is a disturbance in the perception of reality as evidenced by hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder. Psychotic states have a high incidence of agitation, aggression in particular, and other behavioural dysfunction.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder in Adults
This is a recently well-documented disorder that has not yet made it to the DSM 4, but will be added in the next update (DSM 5).Patients with this disorder are periodically unable to restrain themselves and repeatedly destroy others and their property (eg the ordering of the bombing of hospitals and schools in the Tamil North and East, and now taking over vast areas of Tamil civilian property). Aggressive behaviour is unplanned and grossly exceeds the response that is justifiable.
Aggressive behaviour can be classified by the:-
Dr E.F.Coccaro from the Clinical Neuroscience and Pharmacology Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA, has recently published an important paper, “Intermittent Explosive Disorder: development of integrated research criteria for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorder 5th Edition) in Comr. Psychiatry 2011, 52,119.
Those who are concerned can contact him – email ecoccaro@bsd,uchicago.edu .
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A history of trauma is central to the diagnosis of PTSD. The onset of symptoms is a response to a specific traumatic event. On December 1st, 2006, a suicide bomber inColombo rammed his three-wheeler into the convoy of the Defence Secretary, seriously injuring six Army personnel, two of whom died of their injuries. Although Rajapaksa escaped injury, I am not sure what mental damage (if any) was done.
To consider this possibility, it is important to know when this behaviour disorder started – before or after 1 December 2006? This I do not know. All I do know is that when I last passed this gentleman he was working in a 7/11 shop in Los Angeles(or so I was told on my way to the airport). If he had this problem then, and called his boss “a f….g idiot” or told his clients to “f…….off” when they wanted something that he did not have in the shop, I doubt if he would have survived in the job.
I question his claim, in an interview given to another newspaper, (Lakbima 25 July 2012), where he was trying to justify the use of obscenities and expletives that these words are used “commonly in America in normal usage”. They are not, as I am sure theUS Ambassador inColombo will confirm.
There are a number of personality disorders that must be considered. The most important here are Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Anti-Social Personality Disorder and Paranoid Personality Disorder.
It is not possible to go into these in detail, but they are very important.
Borderline Personality Disorder (so named because it was once considered to be in the ‘grey area’ between normal and grossly abnormal). It is now well defined. It is a common disorder affecting 1% (or more) of theUS population, and a life-time prevalence of about 6%. (I do not have the figures for bonnySri Lanka).
The core feature is a pervasive and enduring pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and marked impulsivity.
Narcissistic disorder occurs in the context of a stable grandiose self-image.
Anti-social personality disorder is manipulative behaviour directed at gaining power and material gratification. This is highly relevant – the Ministry of Defence taking over the entire administration of the post-war North and East which has nothing to do with Defence. It has huge material (financial) ‘gratification’ – there for all to see in the North and East, not to mention other parts of the country.
Paranoid Personality Disorder is suspicion and paranoia. For example, the Tamil Tigers are re-grouping and ready to pounce. Hence the “need” to double the Armed Forces from170,000 during the war to 230,000 now, with a request for 300,000 to ‘defend’ the country from an imaginary enemy, internal and external. The external ones being the expatriate Tamils and the likes of myself.
What can be done?
From the medical point of view, clearly the first thing is to establish whether he has a medical problem, a psychiatric problem, or a personality disorder, and whether this can be treated successfully. If it cannot be or he has no such problem(s), he has to resign or be replaced. That is easier said than done,
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is at the very apex of a pyramid of tyranny. To take him to task and demand change is to take on the entire regime. I will deal with this difficult, if not impossible, task after dealing with the risks of being where he is,
What do I, as a doctor, think? I have been too long in Medicine to make ‘spot diagnoses’. I can only give a differential diagnosis of the possibilities – which I have done – at length. To make a firm diagnosis, I will have to sit down with him (a highly unlikely possibility), get an assurance from him that he will not call me a f…g Tamil Tiger shit, take a proper history, examine him, get some blood tests and a brain scan, get a formal psychological assessment, put all this together and come to a conclusion.
When all these are done, what might come out is that he is just a village thug, a psychopath, with the complete inability to handle power. That is possible. For the moment, I would prefer not to call him ‘nuts’, a ‘fart’, an ‘arse hole’ etc, although he might be. There are far more serious possibilities.
The risks of doing nothing
There are significant risks to Sri Lanka and to neighbouring countries (eg Australia, which shares the same Ocean and gets boat-loads of asylum seekers – Tamils and now even Sinhalese from my ethnic group, fleeing that dreadful country) if an unstable person who is emotionally unstable and dysfunctional is running the country. I have already cited Mugabe’sZimbabwe.
1. The USA.
The gentleman is aUScitizen and has a right to go there. His cousin (like so many others) is the Sri Lankan Ambassador inWashington. Suppose, just suppose, he goes toWashingtonand has an interview arranged to see President Obama.
The President: “Citizen Rajapaksa, are you implementing the LLRC as mandated by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012?” This might provoke an outburst, “Are you the f…..g shit who organised that absurd Memorandum. If you are, then you are a pig who eats shit, shit, shit,… you (black) shit President”. That will not go down too well, even if Obama’s faeces were black, which they would be, if he is on iron tablets for blood loss from an ulcer caused by the stress of the war inIraq andAfghanistan.
Say he goes toLondon, and like his brother, organises for the Oxford Union to invite him. God forbid, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) from, of all places, theUniversityofColombo. From the language he has used he should be stripped of this by this reputable University. Or he goes on some other jaunt, or just to do some shopping inLondon(as so many members of the Rajapaksa regime do), and the British media hear about it (which they will) they will interview him That for sure. The results could be disastrous. These are not ‘tame journalists’ like the one’s in bonnySri Lanka. They ask hard questions. He has had experience of this some time ago when he was grilled about the bombing of hospitals in the North and East. Despite this, his arrogance is such that he will readily accept the invitation.
He will be surely be grilled on the ‘progress’ or otherwise of a return to normality in the North and East. This is going to be far worse than what Frederica Jansz asked him. The response could be, “Progress? What progress? That is not your f…….g business, you shit journalist. Have you been coached by those f….g Tamil Tiger shits or paid by them? Or by that f…..g Brian Senewiratne, the Australian shit-doctor whom you trained – who is a pig who eats shit?
This is not a theoretical proposition. In June 2010 in an interview with Stephen Sacker of BBC “Hard Talk”, Gotabaya Rajapaksa exploded, “We will hang him” (referring to ex-General Sarath Fonseka). Does ‘ we’ mean ‘he’ (Gotabaya Rajapaksa) who has set himself above the judiciary? It certainly seems so.
He could tag on to his brother and see the Pope for a blessing – despite being a ‘good-Buddhist’. He will not escape Cardinal Bertone, the one who deals with foreign affairs and is the virtual Prime Minister of the VaticanState. He will surely ask, “Defence Secretary, what are you doing to our Roman Catholic Bishop, Rayappu Joseph in Mannar?” That is ‘provocation’ that he will not be able to cope with. “He is not a real Bishop, he is a f…..g Tamil Tiger terrorist in f….g robes”.
I think I have made the point that he is totally unpredictable and could drift into unacceptable language and aggression, with minimum provocation – which could have disastrous results.
4. Sri Lanka’s Tamil North and East
The situation is serious and the outlook disastrous. As long as Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains in power, the Tamil people will gradually become ‘non-people’ and be replaced by Sinhalese, mostly ex-military men who act on the directions of this man, not of the President or anyone else. The Tamil people will lose their land, their occupation and means of earning a livelihood – as is happening at an alarming rate. Those who expect justice for the Tamil people or any devolution of power are living in a dream-world. I have already cited evidence for this in the opening paragraphs of this paper – the firm statement made by Gotabaya Rajapaksa – that there will be no devolution of power to the Tamils.
The UN Human Rights Council that passed the Resolution on Sri Lankain the 19th Session in March 2012, must be informed of the reality of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
It is no exaggeration to say that the single obstacle to delivering peace with justice for the Tamil people, and even enabling them to survive, is the greed, brutality, chauvinism, venom and arrogance of this unelected man – Gotabaya Rajapaksa. That is not an opinion to be debated but a fact to be faced.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa promising foreign governments, the UN or others that he will address the problems of the Tamil people are mere words with no meaning. He can say what he wants, but what is done is what Gotabaya Rajapaksa wants done. When he happens to be someone with a serious personality disorder or even a psychiatric disorder, the situation for the Tamils, if not the entire country, is dismal.
If I have painted the picture of a very evil/unstable man with unlimited power, and an absolute lack of accountability, who can do what he wants to anyone he wants and can get away with it, I have achieved something.
Friday Forum (see below) and several others have said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa must resign or be sacked. That will not happen. If it does, he might return at even a higher level as the Prime Minister – a move which I gather President Rajapaksa is contemplating. This will be a clean sweep, and for a long time – one brother the Prime Minister, another the Speaker, another a Cabinet Minister and the son, an MP, waiting in the wings to succeed him (if and when necessary).
Sacking Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a ‘pipe-dream’. Why? Because he is the most powerful person in Sri Lanka. When Frederica Jansz, in a recent interview told Reporters Without Borders, that Gotabaya Rajapkasa was the second most powerful man in Sri Lanka, next to his brother, the President, she was probably wrong. He is the most powerful man, and certainly the most ruthless person, with absolute impunity. He does not have to face an election and can slope off to theUS if things turn sour (which they will not).
To get rid of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is essentially a ‘regime change’. Although long overdue inSri Lanka, we are probably in dreamland to suggest it. Much has been made of the overthrow of tyrants in the Middle East – “Middle East‘Spring’. The Sri Lankan situation is entirely different. For aMiddle East‘Spring’ one needs the support of the people, a well-organised Opposition to the regime, and the unlikelihood of foreign interference to support the regime. None of these are present inSri Lanka.
National and International concers
There have been International and National concerns.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
CPJ called and emailed the Defence Ministry seeking Rajapaksa’s side of the story. The emails were not answered. The phone call was picked up and the phone dropped. Subsequent calls were unanswered.
CJP described the threats and their delivery in excellent language:- ‘some delivered over the phone, some by text, some by word of mouth, some by firebombs or claymore mines, others by gangs of thugs wielding pipes and clubs – a fact of life for many Sri Lankan journalists’. To this I would add ‘some by ‘white vans’’.
CJP 2011 ‘Impunity Index’ putsIraq,Somalia,Philippines andSri Lanka at the top of the list.
Article 19 is a London-based human rights organisation to protect free speech. It is named after Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”. Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ‘Article 19, was “very concerned for the safety of Sri Lankan journalist Frederica Jansz”.
This is a global community of writers with more than 20,000, in more than 100 countries, founded in 1921.
On 12 July 2012, The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International joined Article 19 in its concerns for the safety Frederica Jansz, who received a death threat from Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa during a telephone interview on 5 July 2012.
PEN International reiterated its concern for the safety of journalists in Sri Lanka, many of whom are attacked and threatened with apparent impunity for their reporting. It is calling for a full investigation into the threats against Frederica Jansz and for immediate assurances of her safety. PEN reminds the authorities of Sri Lanka’s commitments to the promotion and protection of freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF- Reporters San Frontiers)
RSF condemned the threats and insults that Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the President’s brother, made against Sunday Leader Editor, Frederica Jansz during a phone interview on 9 July.
“In many countries a government official would have to resign for making such comments and would probably be subject to a criminal prosecution. The justice system cannot turn a blind eye when a Secretary openly makes such grave threats.
He and his brothers, including the President, are on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom”.
Amnesty International (AI)
AI, in a Statement, The Human Rights Situation in Sri Lanka, June 2012, A Statement for the June Human Rights Council Session, stated that Sri Lanka is not fulfilling many of its international human rights obligations. It refers to, “Intimidation and smear campaigns against human rights defenders and journalists”. This was written before the recent Gotabaya Rajapaksa – Frederica Jansz episode. When this is known to AI, the next Submission might well be even more serious.
A group of concerned citizens who have come together to consider current issues of public interest with a view to making meaningful contributions towards peace, democracy, good governance, and social justice. The Arrogance of Power (published 20 July 2012,) written by two of their distinguished members is an important document. It is on the net.
Commenting on the Rajapaksa tirade, they wrote:
“The reported response of the Secretary of Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a telephone conversation with the editor of the Sunday Leader, Frederica Jansz, is, we believe, unprecedented.
No other senior public servant has to our knowledge used such vituperative threatening and obscene language in interaction with a member of the public or a journalist”.
They went on:-
“The public has a right to ask whether it is acceptable for His Excellency the President to continue to keep in high office a person who demonstrates an incapacity to control his temper, and responds violently when he is angry and under pressure”.
Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
This is an independent non-partisan organisation that seeks to strengthen public accountability in governance and awareness of the policy making process.
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director, published an article, Gotabaya Rajapaksa too full of power to exercise it. Referring to his outburst, he wrote, “I have called for his resignation or sacking on three occasions- the first in 2007. I do so yet again”.
He asked, “Should we be paying a public official to threaten newspaper editors or indeed any of our fellow citizens?
As for what can be done, he wrote, “There should be a groundswell of public opinion calling for his resignation or removal’.
He concluded, “Even if we cannot transform the ugly and nasty in our midst we must surely recognize it for such. We will be further removed from even the pretense of civilization and decency if we accept and condone it as merely commonplace.
In her outstanding article, “Violent Rulers; Violent Mores; Violent Nations” of 14 July 2012, in the Colombo Telegraph wrote:
When the ‘Queen of Hearts’ in Alice’s Wonderland shrieks, “Collar that Dormouse! Behead that Dormouse!.. Suppress him! Pinch Him!”, that is funny because she is just a character in a book. But when Gotabaya Rajapaksa shrieks, “Your type of journalists are Pigs who eat Shit… You shit journalist trying to split this country”, that is far from funny because he is very, very real. Such outbursts, if they come from adequately restrained inebriates/bedlamites, can be dismissed as harmless ravings. But when they emanate from men who wield immense power – and do so with the finesse of a crowbar – it is terrifying, since their verbal violence can be translated so very easily into the physical variety.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s language is emblematic of his family’s rule which guarantees impunity for friends, is violently intolerant of opponents and indifferent towards everyone else. Thus the Rajapaksa kith and kin are protected even when they are implicated in murder …….. and opponents are hounded for little or no reason. The rest of the populace is treated with benign or malign neglect, evident in the blasé manner in which the Siblings impose economic hardships on the overburdened masses, even as they and their acolytes revel in cocoons of luxury.
History teaches, time and again, that for abominations to breakout, for outrages to become common-or-garden, the participation of the majority is unnecessary. All the majority has to do is to slink into indifference and drowse in apathy, while an active minority turns the land into a moral desert.
What better way to ensure dynastic succession than to turn Sri Lanka into a vast garrison peopled with an army of soldiers and civilians, unused alike to critical thinking and compassion, permanently ‘waiting for a sign’ to hail, decry…or kill?”
On 12 July, 2012, dozens of journalists, activists and others gathered inColomboto protest against media suppression, abduction of journalists and intimidation. Frederica Jansz was very much there – ‘unbowed and unafraid’.
These protests must continue and the ‘dozens’ must swell to thousands, to send a clear message to the Rajapaksa regime that enough is enough. Unless thousands protest and bringColomboto a grinding halt, nothing will change. This is ‘people power’, far more effective than fire power.
A repeat offender
Threatening journalists is nothing new to this dangerous man. It will make this article too long and not add anything to it to recount all the threats that he has made to all and sundry.
I will focus on just a few. On 17th April 2007, he called the Editor of the Daily Mirror, Champika Liyanaarachchi (a Sinhalese) on her mobile to complain about the editorial carried the previous day which Rajapaksa saw as hostile to the government. He threatened her, saying that she would escape reprisals only if she resigned. He told her that a Tamil militant group, “the Karuna faction’ now in bed with the Rajapaksa regime would take revenge on her and that the Government would not be able to protect her. The Government would not be able to protect her (or Frederica Jansz) if the assassins are sent by the Rajapaksa regime. This is not dissimilar to his threat to Frederica Jansz that “people will kill you”.
He also threatened to “exterminate” (his words) another (Sinhalese) Daily Mirror journalist for writing articles about the plight of civilian war casualties.
Reporters Without Borders said that, “making such vicious threats against two journalists, one of whom was the first female Editor of a daily newspaper was a threat against the entire profession”.
Frederica Jansz herself has been threatened many times. The most serious was when she gave an interview to Reporters Without Borders on Media and self-censorship.
In January 2012, Sonali Samarasinghe, the widow of the murdered Lasantha Wickrematunga, marking the 3rd Anniversary of his death, said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa was part of the larger problem of behind “murder, abductions and assaults which were not random acts or accidental killings. They have become emblematic of the current leadership, the erosion of society and the impunity with which the regime now operates”.
The action needed
For ‘people power’ to get going, the people must be informed. I do not know the situation in Sri Lanka, but doubt if the Sunday Leader is read by the vast majority of people. They are fed with government propaganda churned out by the government-controlled (and intimidated) media. To have the Gotabaya Rajapaksa – Frederica Jansz outrage translated into Sinhalese and distributed widely, will cause shock and dismay among the people. That is a start. It has to be done – or attempted.
There is no question that for any action to be successful (and the chance is remote), the ‘attack’ on this dreadful Totalitarian regime has to be broad-fronted. The regime will have to be subjected to, something like what Tennyson said in immortal narrative poem, Charge of the Light Brigade – “cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon behind them, Volley’d and thunder’d”.
One of the ‘cannons’ will have to be Civil Society (or what is left of it), another ‘cannon’ the professionals (eg the lawyers), the students (always the ones initiating any revolt), the workers, and the most important ‘cannon’, the people.
Civil Society in the South (Friday Forum) which has already been referred to, will have to play a lead role.
Politicians in neither the North or the South will act in any meaningful way. If they did, the situation would not have got into the mess it is in.
Asian Human Rights Commission welcomed the decision of the lawyers as “a very important step in the fight back against the serious undermining of the Courts, judicial independence, the role of lawyers and the very relevance of the law itself in Sri Lanka by the Government”.
The Statement went on, “The only way forward is to fight back vigorously or otherwise legal institutions face the threat of extinction and the legal profession being into a position of irrelevance.
Here is the Defence Secretary, the most powerful person inSri Lanka, saying that he is not afraid of the Courts, the “bloody Courts”, as he puts it. Surely the legal profession must act, or become irrelevant.
3. The Pilots will have to act. “If these pilots are idiots” …. that is not my fault. They are f…..g idiots”
The Defence Secretary calling the senior pilots of the National carrier idiots’, ‘f….g’ ones at that, calls for action. The Pilots Guild must demand an immediate withdrawal of that remark and an apology. The alternative is to ground the entire fleet till this man comes to his senses.
Other unions will have to back them. Today it is the airline pilots, tomorrow it will be some other group, as Pastor Niemoeller reminded us in his famous poem.
If all of this is untrue, why have internationally credible human rights groups, one of them a Nobel Prize winner, been unable to enter the country? I refer to the continuing exclusion of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group.
The very least that can be done is to have this taken up at the upcoming UN Universal Periodic Review (due in November 2012). If we do nothing, we will have yet another country in the ‘too hard’ basket, a Failed State.
That said, to be realistic, the record of the UN has been abysmal. That is a fact, not an opinion. While concerned people outside can and must play a role, the problems in Sri Lanka will have to be sorted out by the people. This is the lesson that the Middle East‘Spring’ has taught us.
History shows that no totalitarian regime lasts for ever – the Rajapaksa regime and Gotabaya Rajapaksa are unlikely to be the exceptions. The question is what damage will be done to democracy and the country, by the time they go.
*Brian Senewiratne -MA(Cantab), MBBChir (Cantab), MD (Lond), FRCP (Lond), FRACP,Consultant Physician