By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“Negligent, ambitious, and perverse Princes are the real causes of public misfortunes.” – D’Holbach (Good Sense Without God)
This month, a female university-entrant fell off a seven-foot wall and suffered spinal injuries[i], while participating in the Leadership Training Programme in an army camp.
The military spokesman says the wall was just six feet high. Let’s believe him.
What sort of ‘leadership training’ entails jumping from a six-foot wall? Armed robbery? Kidnapping? Movie stunts?
The leadership training programme is a near perfect symbol of Rajapaksa thinking and Rajapaksa governance. It is unnecessary, does no good to anybody and senseless almost to the point of insanity. It has not achieved any of its stated aims. The execrable practice of ragging continues; the only difference is that freshers get ragged twice – by the military as well as by seniors. (The Leadership Training Programme might broaden the sadistic horizons of future raggers, teaching them more degrading, dangerous and inhuman ways to torture the next batch).
The Leadership Training is a waste of everyone’s time and everyone’s money.
But it will not be scrapped because it is a brainchild of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Scrapping the programme would be akin to admitting that the Rajapaksas can make mistakes, which violates a key maxim of Rajapaksa rule – Rajapaksa infallibility.
The leadership training programme also provides a clear warning of the future awaiting Sri Lanka, if Mahinda Rajapaksa wins a third term.
Mahinda is not just Mahinda. Mahinda is Basil and Gotabaya, Namal and Shashindra, siblings, nephews, nieces, cousins and in-laws. And acolytes, always acolytes, those pawns empowered and glorified for one crowded hour – or two. There will always be Sajin Vass Gunawardanes, Sampath Chandrapushpas, Duminda Silvas and Mervyn Silvas (and their sons); and Galagoda-Atte Gnanasaras. The Rajapaksas cannot rule without them.
Is this the future we want?
This is the future we will have, if Mahinda Rajapaksa wins a third term.
Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated the LTTE. He did not do so alone but let that be. Is defeating the LTTE a logical reason to give him a third term, knowing what he and his brothers did in the second term?
Make Mahinda Rajapaksa a gazetted national hero. Give him all the accolades and statues his megalomanic heart craves for. Rename every public facility after him. Make his birthday a national holiday. Have an annual parade honouring him. But do not give him a third term, so that he can institutionalise familial rule and render dynastic succession inevitable.
It is only in fairy tales that the monster-slayer gets the country as a reward. This is real life.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is indubitably a friendly man. Fine; set up a Mr. Conviviality award and give it to him every year. But that is not a good enough reason to vote for him, knowing what he will do and what he will allow his brothers, relatives and acolytes to do.
Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot protect national sovereignty. He is in the process of turning Sri Lanka into a Chinese protectorate. Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot build peace. He has failed to reconcile the Tamils while antagonising the Muslims and the Christians.
The only way Mahinda Rajapaksa can protect territorial integrity is by igniting another unnecessary war with another minority and winning it – after several more decades of bloodshed and mayhem.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s idea of development is to build expressways, airports and ports, while ordinary people including, his own Sinhala-base, sink into greater want.
Do we want the Rajapaksas – and that means all the Rajapaksas, not this or that Rajapaksa, because theirs is a family business – to rule this country for at least six more years?
Do we want Gotabaya Rajapaksa in parliament, poised to step into his brother’s presidential shoes, legally and constitutionally?
Do we want a totally degraded judiciary? Do we want judges who are manifestly the pawns of the rulers?
Do we want the new Rajapaksa commonsense to become hegemonic? Do we want impunity, abuse and corruption to become the only normal the next generation of Lankans know?
Do we want the militarization of economy, civil society and our minds? Do we want a morality which despises the weak and worships the strong and the powerful?
Do we want a country which cannot protect its most vulnerable (children and the elderly) even as it spends most of the national wealth on defence?
Do we want an acolyte-capitalism and a serfocratic administration, a country where Dhammika Pereras rule the economy and Sajin Vaas Gunawardanes thump Chris Nonises?
Do we want a country where advancement and safety depends on slavish obedience to Rajapaksas?
Do we want Sri Lanka to become a battleground of regional and global powers?
Do Sinhalese want a lasting peace or a new war with another minority?
Do Tamils want to live under de facto occupation, a life of worsening humiliation, powerlessness and insecurity?
Do Muslims want to become the new Tamils?
Do Christians want to live like second class citizens?
Dislodging the Rajapaksas will not solve all Lankan problems. But the absolute majority of Lankan problems cannot be solved without dislodging the Rajapaksas.
The Final Trapdoor
Defeating the Rajapaksas becomes an uphill task with each passing year. Not because the Rajapaksas become more popular, but because the Rajapaksas make the politico-electoral playing field more uneven, from within.
But economic discontent is growing, especially among the Sinhalese (as the CPA survey reveals). That gives the opposition a trapdoor of opportunity, a decent chance of pushing the election into a second round. For the opposition, an outright victory is not necessary; preventing an outright victory by the Rajapaksas will suffice because it can cause a political tsunami, including within the SLFP.
If the Rajapaksas win the presidency, they will move swiftly to neutralise the most effective figures in the opposition. Once the opposition is reeling from attacks, arrests, calumnies and internal squabbles, the parliamentary election can be held. When a Rajapaksa occupies the PM post, the Achilles Heel of familial rule will be no more.
Life has not improved for Tamils and Muslims during the second Rajapaksa term. But has life become better and happier for the Sinhala majority during the second Rajapaksa term? The Sinhala-South might not be interested in the atrocities committed during the war and in the aftermath. They might be indifferent to Tamil and Muslim problems and fears. But has the condition of the Sinhala-South improved during the second Rajapaksa term? Are Sinhalese better off socio-economically, more secure and more hopeful about the future than they were in 2010? Are they happy about the direction in which the Rajapaksas are taking the country? Are they willing to sacrifice the basic rights they take so much for granted and the prospect of a more peaceful and prosperous future, for the sake of a dead or an unseen enemy?
The Rajapaksas will try to muddy the waters of our thinking by screaming about Tigers and Jihadists, traitors and conspirators, so that we forget the real issue.
Do we want a Rajapaksa future?