By Kumar David –
Everybody has an opinion about which way the ship is listing, and I have mine, but the answer to the question in my caption is important; it will set the national course for the coming months. Let me add that I take no side in this purported sibling row as I am implacably opposed to both. Rather, my effort is to read the signs, summarise arguments of pundits and punters, and to think through what either the great-deception, or a parting of ways will mean in the medium term – say next 12 months.
If Lanka was a normal political dispensation, where what leaders say could be taken as frank, and not as deception and sham calculated to deceive, then there is a searing deadlock in government. No government can survive with such an intractable conflict on the major policy issue of the day. Symbols of the opposed positions are the President (presumably supported by majorities in Cabinet and parliamentary group) on one side, and on the other his brother, the Defence Secretary with the shrill and strident backing of a cacophony of monks, extremists and the military(?) Imagine if this was Obama and Secretary Kerry on Middle East policy, or Singh and Minister Anthony on India’s military stance to Pakistan; the survival of such governments would be untenable. (Don’t be misled that Gotabaya is not a minister, he is more powerful than any Cabinet Minister; who else in the SLFP could challenge government policy so plainly, and even to key visiting dignitaries – Menon for example – and still retain control of the armed forces and the police?)
The core of the conflict is all too well known. The President has, or has been compelled, to proclaim the formation of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) and instruct that elections be held in September. In the interim no changes will be made to 13A. That is now settled policy and can be reversed only conspiratorially – say by inciting an agent to pray court that NPC elections be postponed and quietly making the regime’s wishes known to the ever obliging courts. Short of conspiracy, or rigged elections, come late September we will have a TNA led NPC Administration in place.
The Defence Secretary (DS) on the other hand has said emphatically in interviews and public statements that this outcome would pave the way for the division of the country. In his view it would be a disaster of unimaginable proportions and a betrayal of the great price paid for war victory. He is loudly hailed by a noisy menagerie of political extremists and monks (JHU, MEP, loony Wimal, BSS, the Ravana thugs and other fanatics). The unrelenting stand of this muster, DS included, is that 13A is a wicked imposition that must be repealed, and that Lanka must not allow India to sway its rejection of devolution. Tell India to go to hell is the gist.
The conflict between these two views could not be starker, nor could there be an issue of greater import to Lanka at this moment. How then does the government survive and function; why does it not fall flat on its face as it should if both sides are deadly serious? Pundits have two answers to the puzzle – and variations thereof that I cannot pursue. The alternatives are: An ‘It’s all blithering eyewash’ school, and a ‘Mahinda is heading for shipwreck’ school.
The Janus faced deception ploy
The brothers are working on a mutually agreed and coordinated game plan; there is no rift or conflict, their strategies are well choreographed, says the first school. The President keeps Delhi,Washington, the human rights lobby and Geneva pacified, he dances to their tune and does an encore when needed; the regime, by agreement of all three siblings, does not want any slips before CHOGM; that’s a long time more, and after that it will play things by ear. The scene will be different then, the NP-PC will be in office,Delhi will be nearer its electoral day of reckoning, and how potent the deployment of thugs and monks has to be judged then. What to do about 13A will be decided in relation to factors on the ground at the time. Cross your bridges when you reach them.
The game plan assigned to DS, according to these pundits, is more complex. It begins with recognition that the platform on which the Rajapakse regime stands is the Sinhala-Buddhist vote bank with an emotionally charged current at its core. The Rajapakses dare not lose this footing on pain of political extinction. So while aiya will tango for the international community, malli does a kaavadi dance to stimulate Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. It is manifest that Gotabaya and not Minda is the cynosure of Sinhala-Buddhist eyes now. I see this in responses to this column when I suggest that Gota is out of line as a public servant and should be removed. The response from chauvinists is unabashed and hard hitting: “Just let Mahinda try! He is the one who will end up in the trashcan. Gota is our hero”. The intense reaction is because racists love Gota; they see him as more fiercely anti-Tamil than other senior government figures.
The gist of the deception thesis is that this is all a put on show to deceive the international community on one side and beat a drum on the other side to incite fanatics to howl on the streets. The siblings are close to each other, they work as a team, and I grant that this could well be a choreographed charade typical of Rajapakse trickery. However, this pretence has reached its limits. I will return to this after exploring the second option that there is a real rift between the siblings.
The Mahinda is scared of Gota thesis
The bizarre element in this thesis is not that there is a rift between the brothers (I am aware that important SLFP Ministers are of that view), but the corollary that Mahinda is afraid of Gota. The base on which the regime stands is the Sinhala-Buddhist electorate and its extremist core; if there is a rift, then the hardcore, and not so hardcore, will emote with Gota, these theorists plausibly claim. What is there in Mahinda, as opposed to Gota, for Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism to hang on to?
The country has been sold the fable that: (i) 13A is an evil Indian imposition, (ii) India and the TNA are dead set to divide the country via the NPC polls, (iii) the government is kowtowing to Delhi, instead Colombo should be strong and assert ‘Sri Lankan self-respect and sovereignty’, and (iv) the rotten imperialists are promoting division. This is being force-fed by Sinhala print and electronic media; the English language press also publishes some similar sonorous commentaries by public and diplomatic service retirees, lawyers and hela-jathika types. If Mahinda’s and Gota’s espoused positions drift apart, which side do you expect Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism to drift to?
A second argument of the there-is-a-rift school is that it is not possible to carry deception and dissimulation to such limits. When Indian Security supremo SS Menon met Gota, the later, newspapers say, plainly told him that 13A must go,Sri Lanka does not want it; it will be repealed. That a Defence Secretary must not contradict government policy in not the point; the point is will a DS explicitly oppose government policy merely as a ruse to deceive ultra-nationalists and keep them in a state of tumescence? There is a limit to which you can force-feed fanatics political Viagra; Gota’s position is for real, and not a put on show, these commentators argue.
Things are coming to a boil and events will soon answer these questions, whichever thesis is correct. The monks’ and chauvinists’ rally at Maharagama two weeks ago was, by all accounts, very large; it attracted a ranting crowd of tens of thousands. The message was clear and aimed at Mahinda. Stop trying to cheat us they warned him; they were vociferous in denouncing those who “betray the country and the heroic armed forces”. The point of no return is approaching; we are nearing another 1957-59 watershed. What is Mahinda going to do; dare he panic and pull back; what will then become of his international and CHOGM game plan? On the other hand, what will be left of him and his regime if the extremists goad him on, and he defies them? Dare he take them on; does he have the backing and the guts to use tear gas and bayonets? The answers are blowing in the wind.
And what is Gota’s role if the extremists pose a deadly challenge? Proponents of the deception thesis argue that the point was to use him to first whip up the extremists, and then at the second stage, which is fast dawning, to use him to control them. That’s a neat thesis, but what if the fanatics cannot be controlled as the closing down of the Grandpass Mosque suggests? I am assured by deception theorists that BSS and the Ravana’s are cowardly rabble and a whiff of grape-shot will disperse them. Maybe, but I don’t know. Proponents of the second thesis however see a different unfolding; the rift will come to a boil and the watershed will be reached.
The material I have relied on is out there in the public domain and newspapers. The analytical options spelled out are frankly talked about in society, though most people lack the intellectual strength to think ideas through to their logical conclusion. Therefore, I ask readers to accept this piece not as speculation but as sober assessment.
Muliyawaikkal / July 21, 2013
If there is a split, MOST SLs are with Gota.
Too bad for south Indians, isn’t it?
Tamils who have left SL are very happy, Tamils still in SL are miserable. The simple truth.
It is better to leave SL than stay and get humiliated, etc.
shankar / July 21, 2013
“Too bad for south Indians, isn’t it?”
From where do you think the low country sinhalese came from?
shankar / July 21, 2013
Also if gota and mahinda are convicted by the ICRC one day,too bad for descendents of the malays brought in by the dutch to work on the tobacco plantations in hambantota.
shankar / July 21, 2013
Should be International Court of Justice(ICJ),not ICRC
Park / July 23, 2013
Shankar, where do you think the upcountry Kandyan Sinhalese came from?
shankar / July 23, 2013
park,probably from kalinga,present day orissa.However they have been mixed with the local indigenous as well as women who were brought from the pandya lands from southern tamilnadu.
Upasiri / July 26, 2013
After the kuru war most people of the Kuru cast known as Kastriya cast migrated to Sri Lanka.
Don Stanley / July 23, 2013
Good stuff Kumar!
Gota, the military dictator-in-waiting deploys THUGS and MONKS to divide and distract Sri Lankas – by attacking Muslims, Christians and Tamils.
The Role of the Balu Sena is to DISTRACT people from the fact that Gota is creating a DEEP STATE or State within a state in the name of BUDDHISM – to legitimize and ensure his transition to Lanka’s first military dictator – after brother Mahinda is Deposed. But democracy will not die so easily in Lanka and establishing a military dictatorship will be difficult!
Gota has studied how ISI (Pak Intelligence) and the Military in Pakistan uses Islamists and Taliban covertly to secure itself and also get funding from the US. He is doing the similar thing in Lanka – covertly setting up the BUDDHIST TALIBAN (Balu Sena, Ravaya Balaya etc) to DISTRACT the Sinhalas form the fact that he GOTA the white van goon is the true ENEMY WITHING THE BODY POLITIC in Lanka.
Gota wants to set up a BUDDHIST DICTATORSHIP in Lanka and DESTROY Buddhism which is a peaceful religion, by using and militarizing the monks to spread hate against the minorities. The end game is DIVIDE, DISTRACT and RULE Lanka.
Emil van der Poorten / July 21, 2013
Thanks for that.
The obvious reading of these particular tea leaves is that past behaviour is the best predictor of future conduct.
Need one say more about us being in line for “more of the same” from those who’ve made Janus look like the last of the “single-faced?”
Ammata Siri / July 21, 2013
Good analysis and journalistic reporting, Kumar – I suggest that whichever way it goes, it looks like there’ll soon be a new dawn on the horizon for Lanka…and aiyya and malli will both be served their much deserved comeuppance. It might be to their hangers-on, but ought not to be a surprise to them when it comes.
Sumith / July 21, 2013
Whatever the strategy MR playing he need to realise he is playing with fire and could be creating Frankenstein monsters later could get out of control.
He should follow good buddhist practices or any religious basic concepts. Do the right things for the people and country. You cannot rule a country by fooling people around.
Karma is a cycle. Whatever you do will come after you.
Safa / July 21, 2013
The regime is a hydra headed monster but is fairly consistent in what it says. Firstly we had Wimal, JHU waxing against 13A. BBS rallied the monks against 13A. Then we had the DS in a more definite vein, ‘we dont want 13A’. Then the President did his act and set up the PC in time for the arrival of Menon. Things then cooled down after Menon delivered his message. Finally the prelates chipped in. So it should be taken that the removal of 13A is still on the cards but there are a few events that will be completed before the monster moves on.
Firstly the three elections which will test the popularity of the Govt especially in the CP and NWP. Then there is the CHOGM which the Govt has pinned great hopes but is walking a tightrope. Next comes Geneva. These events will bring us to the Presidential elections as well. So there are many variables in play locally as well as externally such as the Indian Elections.
One thing is certain that the Govt has over reached its capacity and exists only due to the weak and bungling opposition. The minority factor will certainly remain in the forefront due to the efforts of the extremist monks. However apart from an all out pogrom on the lines of July 83, they will not be able to inflict significant damage on the muslims. If the NPC is won by the TNA focus will again shift to the Tamils. So there is plenty of action to come which is event bound and will take another 6 to 12 months to play out.
K.A Sumanasekera / July 21, 2013
Doesn’t Gotta like Tamils?..
Absolutely and definetely not?.
Dr Kumar hasn’t seen Gota next to our dark ,tall handsome Tamil captain of the National Cricket team , which these NGO buds call the Sinhala Buddhist Racist Nation.
Does Gotta like the LTTE , its proxies, and its Agenda?
Definitely and absolutely not will be the unanimous answer of the great majority of the inhabitant population.
How could anyone blame them?
Even our ordinary punters , looking at TV or reading news know that Gotta is the only protection they have to prevent Lanka becoming a Syria, or Egypt.
Aney Apochchi! / July 21, 2013
Tsunamiskera aka the housing cheat aka Leela etc. etc:
Here is a simple quote from YOU:
“Does Gotta like the LTTE , its proxies, and its Agenda? Definitely and absolutely not will be the unanimous answer of the great majority of the inhabitant population.”
This is a most interesting comment even from an (well-Paid) imbecile like you considering the following:
1) How would you describe the conduct of your Goata as the guy who got Col. Karuna a false passport to get into Britain for which he was jailed.
2) The fact that the same Col. Karuna was made the Vice-President by Goata’s brother of the party in which Goata is the most powerful person?
3) How would you describe Goata’s conduct vis a vis KP who managed all the funds that were used to murder thousands and thousands of Sri Lankans?
4) How would you describe the use/sharing of LTTE gold, money,ships etc. by the remnants of the Tigers (KP, the “Masters,” Pillayan, Col. Karuna etc) with Goata and his family?
srilal / July 21, 2013
Professor Kumar ,
What ever the hypothesis/thesis may be, the bottom line is , both will not survive without each other, period !
aratai / July 21, 2013
The issue here is, what will happen after Mahinda?
I cannot even imagine Namal as the President and Gota calling him Sir.
JanakiRam / July 21, 2013
Dream on David!
Do you know that dreams merely portray what is festering in your sbconscious? Its your wish and wild, baseless speculation, moron.
Sun will start to rise from the West before Mahinda and Gota fall out.
You are a sad deluded, (educated) fool.
chatura / July 21, 2013
I have a friend who is a very high ranking officer in the Army.
He posted some pics of a party where MR, family, gotha of SL forces and civilians that were present.
What I can say of looking at those pics is the whole bunch is 400% over wheight, sick, bloated.
The suffering and pay back for MR and the hangers on has already started.
Thay are already living in hell.
My thinking is the rulers have already crossed the line and this will come to a head sooner than later, which ever the theory that is correct.
Senguttuvan / July 22, 2013
Despite the dictatorial, fascistic and intolerant outfit VP so tightly controlled and lead for long, it is believed he suffered enormous insecurity and feared harm from those close to him. Such is the mind of
all despots. Who expected South Koreas Park Chung Hee to be shot dead on the head, within the highly secure Palatial premises, by his own most trusted head of the security services.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” (Shakespeare)
Dr.Rajasingham Narendran / July 22, 2013
Wishful thinking? They rose together and they will fall together. It is a phenomenon on a scale we have not seen before. It cannot last, considering the peace time results and widespread public perceptions. However, they will go hugging each other.
Dr. Rajasingham Narendran
Janak / July 22, 2013
What rift? These two guys are like two drunks leaning against each other. If one moves……..
Wickramasiri / July 22, 2013
My take is that it is more deception than rift. There can be differences, but Sri Lankan families are more united than not. Remember Rajapaksas are a large family. There are other brothers as well, two in the parliament and one overseas too. I think Gotabhaya’s task is to manage the Sangha and the military. The question is can he do so? In any event a rift would be welcomed by those who are fed up with this government, but may not be in the interest of the country after all. I would rather we get the Rajapaksas to change their policy on governance even though that looks like wishful thinking.
ahmad / July 22, 2013
I wouldn’t be surprised if the President has lost his say in a few matters. Gota is very forceful.
Upasiri / July 26, 2013
There are few differences between Gotabaya and President Mahinda. Gotabaya is very crazy and wants the power and slowly doing things to upset the well oil apple cart of Mahinda. Mahinda knows what is going on, but as he is afraid of Gotabaya thinking the Forces are with him keep silent. But the majority in the Forces are not supporting Gotabaya.
Time will prove what Prof. Lumbar has stated hear.
Upasiri / July 26, 2013
It should read Dr. Kumar.