20 November, 2019

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Asking The Future

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“You are talking all the time on the past, no. Ask the future (laughs) I’m trying to become the president of the future Sri Lanka. If you concentrate on the future, I think it is better (laughs).” ~ Gotabaya Rajapaksa (at his inaugural media conference)

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The past is what Gotabaya Rajapaksa invokes when he tells us to vote for him. In his glitzy propaganda material, the past has the pride of place – the war-winning man and the Colombo-beautifying man. 

He wants us to remember the past but not all the past, only the approved bits. When questioned about the Other past at his inaugural media conference, he turned testy and evasive. “Ask the future,” he told the media. 

The next day, his media spokesman, Dulles Allahapperuma issued guidelines about questioning Candidate Rajapaksa. Don’t ask him about the past, Mr. Allhapperuma said, ask him about his opinions and ideas. 

Ask the future.

At the media conference, the future was not forgotten. Some of the questions Candidate Gotabaya managed to answer, often with a general dose of platitudes. But when asked how he will finance the generous promises he is making, he had no answer to give. He turned speechless again, when questioned about the debt crisis. When a journalist asked him about extremism and reconciliation, he was silent for several long seconds; he stared, smiled and made a circular gesture with one hand, eventually giving an answer that had little to do with the question. On issues that could shape the future he was as clueless as he was unforthcoming about issues that coloured the past.  

At the conference he didn’t have a meltdown, didn’t call any woman journalist a shit eating pig (as he did when Frederica Jansz questioned him about the Swiss-puppy) or threaten to hang a political opponent (Gen. Sarath Fonseka). But his dislike of probing questions and follow-ups were was clear. Asked why he didn’t attend the all candidate confab on October 5th (he promised to attend it and didn’t) his response was characteristic of both the man and of the president he intends to be. “I have presented my policy proposals on many occasions,” he said, followed by his signature laugh. “Therefore it’s not necessary to go to a place where there are about ten opponents, and one is isolated.”  

Candidate Rajapaksa’s first media conference was more baby pool than ocean. Yet he often floundered and meandered. No wonder he has been shackled to a teleprompter ever since he was named the SLPP’s presidential candidate. In a theatre where every move, every word is controlled, he can don the mantle of sagacity, play the philosopher-technocrat to his heart’s content. 

A firefly needs the darkness of the night to shine.

The president of the future Sri Lanka

There’s much to say for the teleprompter-habit. No off-the-cuff gems that Sajith Premadasa and his merry men excel at (especially Harsha de Silva, who is rapidly becoming the lead joker in a pack of jokers). Every word can be taken seriously, because every word is meant. Like these words, this pledge by Gotabaya Rajapaksa at his inaugural campaign rally: “A large number of war heroes are in jails on trumped up charges. At this moment I’d like to say by the morning of the 17th all of them would be acquitted and freed.” (At the media conference he was asked how many military personnel are in custody. He didn’t answer, perhaps because he didn’t want to admit that the answer is 7 – 48 military personnel were arrested by the CID since 2015. 41 have been bailed out.)

A president can pardon a convicted criminal. But only a judge can acquit and discharge an accused. Therefore Gotabaya Rajapaksa intends to begin his presidency by violating the constitution, by breaking the law, by exercising powers the presidency never had, no presidency anywhere has.  If any judge or lawyer tries to resist this gross constitutional violation, he/she would probably be accused of treason and locked up, if not worse. Given the primordial silence of the Bar Association about Candidate Gotabaya’s statement, it is reasonable to assume that there won’t be any protests when President Gotabaya sets himself up as the judge and jury. The country will fall onto its collective knees, allowing the president of the future to shape the future any which way he likes. 

In his warning to the media about permissible and non-permissible areas of questioning, Dulles Alahapperuma said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa separates black from white. No arguments there. When Mervyn Silva’s son Malaka Silva assaulted Major Chandana Pradeep of the Military Intelligence, the self-appointed godfather of all war-heroes, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa threw that particular war hero under the bus. He saved the ministerial brat by criminalising the major, accusing him of “acting as a personal bodyguard of an individual, which is beyond his duties” (Sri Lanka News – 14.9.2012). Amongst those he intends to acquit and discharge are the four military personnel charged with killing three unarmed protestors in Rathupaswala. 

Black and white.  

Like ACSA and SOFA, black as imperialism when others try to renew the agreements, white as national sovereignty when Gotabaya Rajapaksa renews them. The two agreements with the US were first signed under the presidency of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and renewed under the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, with not a hum from anyone. When they came up for renewal this year, the SLPP went into a patriotic frenzy, accusing Ranil Wickremesinghe of turning the island into an American military base, the Guantanamo of the Indian Ocean. The SLPP patriots even formed an organisation, STOP USA, to defeat this ‘great betrayal’. “If Sri Lanka does not take a stand against…there will be no turning back,” Parliamentarian Wimal Weerawansa thundered (Ceylon Today – 26.6.2019). His partner in hysteria, parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila warned, “The time has come for us to find allies that will not intervene in our internal affairs. Even if this agreement was for a certain time period, what happens when the time period is over and if the US refuses to leave?” (Ibid). Mr. Rajapaksa, who until recently was a Sri Lankan-American, remained silent as his supporters screamed about an imminent American invasion. 

When asked about how ACSA and SOFA would impact on Sri Lanka’s non-aligned status, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s reply was they didn’t. “The agreement we signed went on for ten years.” He said, and laughed. “Nothing actually happened with that. The benefit was for us. Not for them.” Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila both actively participated in the media conference, but remained silent as their candidate gave the lie to their fiery campaign of last several months. (Incidentally, thanks to the Rajapaksa mandated STOP USA campaign, President Sirisena deferred the renewal of the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant by six months. As a result, Sri Lanka stands to lose – or has already lost – a grant of US$ 480 million.)

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president of the future Sri Lanka, is breaking new ground in this campaign going back to the past. On September 26th, he and Brother Mahinda attended the Shanthikarmavedinge Jathika Sammelanaya, a gathering of kapuwas, exorcists, astrologers etc, at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre. According to internet reports, the brothers promised the gathering that these ‘god-men’ will be accepted as a separate profession, given a separate ID card and registered in the Cultural Ministry. A special administrative unit will also be established for them. Are we in the Duvalier territory, with this politicisation of superstition?

Ask the future, where disorder is discipline, lawlessness is law, impunity is justice and superstition is knowledge.

The God-president?

The Mirror and the Light, the long awaited final book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy on Thomas Cromwell will be out in 2020. The official publicity video carries a quote from the book: What have I but what my king gave me? What am I but what he has made me?

Those two lines encapsulate the nature of monarchic despotism where king was god. It was a past common to most of the world. And in some parts of the world, it remains a possible future. 

Candidate Rajapaksa clearly has little knowledge and even less interest in constitutional provisions. He sees post-19th Amendment presidency not as it is – a weakened institution sans many of its powers – but as it never was – an omnipotent position that will make him an uncrowned king, not a constitutional monarch, but an absolutist one, the head of all three branches of government including the judiciary.

The only man standing in Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s path to a god-presidency might be his older brother. Mahinda Rajapaksa is now the spiritual leader of Sri Lanka, at least according to Basil Rajapaksa. “No matter who our candidate or our president is, our leader (Mahinda Rajapaksa) will be the head of the government (as PM). So this arrangement suits us well. He is our leader and he is the spiritual leader of our country” (The Hindu – 13.10.2019 – emphasis mine).

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s elevation from the secular to the sacred plane, from High King (maharajano) to spiritual leader is but the logical conclusion of the Rajapaksas’ boundless self-veneration. But Gotabaya Rajapaksa is unlikely to be content to play nominal president to his brother’s spiritual-leader PM. The contestation between the two siblings and their attendant satellites to lay claim to the centre of gravity in the new regime would make an interesting spectacle, assuming anyone interested in such matters is in a fit shape to observe.

Totalitarian in intent, familial in nature, violent in means, majoritarian supremacist, deeply rooted in superstition under a technocratic and futuristic veneer, adhering to a kith-and-kin capitalism (which combines the worse features of neo-liberalism and statism) – where to pigeon-hole Sri Lanka under a Gotabaya presidency is uncertain. But stable is one thing it will not be. When Mahinda Rajapaksa was the president, his word was the law for his brothers. Who will call the shots when younger brother Gotabaya is the president and older brother Mahinda is the prime minister? What happens when the likes of Kamal Gunaratne, Mohan Wijewickrama and Chagie Gallage confront the likes of Dinesh Gunawardena, Keheliya Rambukwella and Dulles Alahapperuma for power, influence and wealth? Will the Lankan state become the terrain of contestation between the armies of God-president and Spiritual leader?  

Is this future our unavoidable fate? Not yet. The election is wide open still. There is no clear winner the way there was in 2015 or 2010, yet. Currently Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the frontrunner. But given the nature of the man and his politics, his path to victory, while short, is also extremely narrow. He can never win anything other than a sliver of the minority vote. If he fails to win the SLFP vote in near-entirety, he cannot win outright. If he fails to win a majority of the SLFP vote (50% or above) he can lose. If he gains less than 30% of the SLFP vote, he will lose.

A percentage of the 2018 SLFP vote will go to the SLPP, but how much that would be is and would remain unknowable until after the election. There is a real possibility that a majority of those who voted for the SLFP in 2018 will not vote for the SLPP in 2019. The pro-Rajapaksa SLFPers are no longer in the SLFP. Those who remain are more likely to be Bandaranaike supporters or left-of-centre voters with a more modernist outlook and therefore uncomfortable with the extreme brand of familial politics practiced by the Rajapaksas.

If Sajith Premadasa can gain more than 75% of the SLFP vote and more than 75% of the N/E minority vote, he can defeat Gotabaya Rajapaksa, if not outright, then in the second round. His chances will improve considerably if he can persuade those who vote for various third party candidates to give him the second preference, as the only way to stop a Gotabaya-victory. When the real contest is between a joker and a murderer, the choice is cringe-worthy but clear. Sajith Premadasa with his embarrassing antics might give democracy a bad name, but he will not set out to destroy democracy on the morning after. 

Unfortunately, Sajith Premadasa is yet to emerge from the echo-chamber of his supporters’ hurrahs and face reality. To overtake Gotabaya Rajapaksa and reach the finish line, he has a long way to go. 

Filling the Galle Face will not win him election. To win, he needs to heal the fissures in the UNP he and his supporters worsened in their vitriolic campaign to win the candidacy. To win, he must understand that his constituency is no longer Hambantota, but Sri Lanka, a place of not just Sinhalese, Buddhists and monks, but also of Tamils, Muslims, Hindus and Christians, a place of not just villages but also of cities and towns. 

Even if Sajith Premadasa gains a majority of the SLFP vote, he cannot without the minorities. If he thinks the minorities will flock to his side because of their fear of a Gotabaya-presidency, while he spends all his time chasing the mirage that is Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist vote, he is mistaken. The episode with the fasting disabled soldiers should have taught him a lesson about what his real constituency is. His assumed nativism didn’t work even in Hambantota (where he never equalled the UNP’s national average, except once). It will fail miserably in multi-ethnic, multi-religious Sri Lanka.  

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Latest comments

  • 27
    1

    Gotler seeya is not suited at all to become the President of this country. He underwent a bypass surgery few months ago. Guys, let’s forget about all these alternative candidates like AKD and MS. Only SP can beat Gotler. If we do not rally behind SP, we will not live in a Republic, but in the Kingdom of Rajapaksas.

  • 30
    2

    Gotabaya has no right to be the president of Srilanka his past is tainted with murders , kidnapping , killing and harassing journalist , robbing peoples money ,mismanagement while holding secretary of defense post and many court cases .

    Gota is a dual citizen and his family living in USA his wealth is in USA and properties , is it possible to vote for a American no way too dangerous .

    • 4
      0

      A word about the much hyped propaganda that Gotha-Baya is “tough”
      My foot!!! No tough, patriotic soldier would ever betray his mother country and bolt – in the midst of a war – losing war at that time. The “talent” he is possessed of is a sadistic desire for blood and murder.
      He is not a man with a plan – bur more a man with a Van.
      The Order to summarily execute all those surrendered LTTE-ers – who voluntarily surrendered on the promise of being released “after a month after procedural inquiries” – came from him (vide Sarath Fonseka) The man has no education – hardly worth mentioning (note the way he answers media questions in poor, halting English) His knowledge is like that infamous Mahinda Chinthanaya – copied from Mao’s Thoughts. The reality is poor Mahinda was totally incapable of any thinking worth talking. Did’nt we see it over the years???

      ADJP

  • 25
    2

    How can we vote for an American his wealth is in America whole family is in America his past is full of drama and court cases best deal for Gota is to send him back to America or the place he deserves prison

    • 4
      6

      ranjith – Don’t worry Ranilpaksha will cast his vote for Gotler!

  • 7
    18

    Now the Yahapalana campers (UNP, JVP, JHU, and TNA), journalists such as TisaraneeG, and favorite websites like CT are extremely worried about a Gota presidency which is likely within less than a month. I was just thinking as to how Gota (who was about to retire from Sri Lankan affairs), entered politics and has become a popular and gigantic political force.
    Let me quote from DBSJ’s most recent article:
    “There is a Chinese proverb “The tree desires to remain still but the winds won’t stop.” In Gotabaya’s case, his decision to enter active politics was greatly influenced by the political adversaries of the Rajapaksa family. The 19th Constitutional Amendment was the primary cause.”
    Did you, unknowingly wake up a sleeping giant? I’m just curious!

    • 14
      4

      Sleeping giant?

      This thug was never sleeping. He wants to erase all accusations of murder & pillage from the records & if there is any more left to plunder, that would be a bonus. Once this punk is back in power, he will be there for life (or until one of his own stabs him in the back). Zimbabwe, here we come.

      • 0
        1

        The right thinking peaceful Tamils living in SL are not worried about a Gotabaya Presidency, but those like this UK Maharajah must have his balls shaking like hell.. And Gota will find the right medicine only for such losers.

  • 13
    2

    He’s using the ”fear tactics” to scare the fool masses that the LTTE is back, Tamil Ealam will be born, IS is goining to attack Sri Lanka, US going to colonise us, Sinhala is dying, India going to grab the Colombo port and the latest, his grass root supporters are unleashed to rob in day light, threaten and bodily harm mostly the vulnerable women to spread the fear and uncertainty.
    So the people conveniently forgotten the crime and corruption he committed during his brother’s tenure:
    1) MiG Deal (7 Million US $).
    2) Galle Face Green sale to Shangri La (400 Million Rupees in his private banking account).
    3) Avan Garde arms smuggle via Horn of Africa.
    40) Sri Lankan Embassy purchase in Washington (after that he bought three houses in US).

    Crimes:

    1) Lasantha murdered.
    2) Eknilgoda murdered.
    3) Keith Noir murdered.
    140) Media outlets burned.

    Gota’s Motto- ”Don’t ask the past”.

  • 10
    3

    Que sera sera!!! The president will be elected by the emotional masses. CT or Tissaranee will not make a jot of a difference. No hope for this blaguarded country.

  • 9
    0

    Cannot CT publish in the vernacular? The masses cannot make this opinion felt or heard.
    The English speaking minority may not share their (majority) views.

  • 12
    1

    Gota is king. He can pardon anyone in his kingdom. He is judge, jury but not executioner as he simply shoves people into the shark pool in his back garden. The sharks need to eat too. Law and order according to the great lawyer Namal will be kept. Rajapakses will become richer. Will buy up the whole of the Galle Face Green and more. Buddhism will the the state religion. That is all that matters anyway. But, Gota is mortal. All mortal things will pass. One wonders who will succeed him. It will be the speaker perhaps.

  • 3
    1

    There is no future with both Sajith and GONTA.

  • 6
    4

    Sinhalese leaders are all working together and playing chess with world powers.
    Earlier they signed an agreement with the congress ruled Indian government for help to eradicate the LTTE. But in return would allow the creation of an Indian owned federal state for the north and east of the island.
    This promise was betrayed as soon as the war was over and China was brought in to intimidate and push India back. This plan is now backfiring as Sri lanka sinks in Chinese debt and portions of land have already been handed over to China.
    So these Sinhalese politicos have again approached India (now ruled by the BJP) and the USA with two goals in mind. One is for help to push the Chinese out. And the other is to implement genocide against Sri Lankan muslims (this has been planned for a long time). Its no coincidence that the first riot against muslims in recent times in SL occured in 2014 when the BJP came to power in India. The BJP are a muslim hating party and will be too willing to help Sri Lanka in this regard. In return Sri Lankan land is promised to India and the USA.
    At some point Sri Lanka has to pay for its racism against minorities and it will probably be at this juncture. If the Chinese refuse to leave and something kicks off between them and India, then the island may not only see a second internal communal war, but also a regional war. The potential damage it will do will surpass the war with the LTTE many times over.
    Gota is being cultivated for this purpose

  • 6
    12

    The writer who is a well known pathological hater of Lanka and Sinhalese cannot hide her nightmare of waking up to a Lanka under a strong President. The mindset of any Lankan, any Sinhalese and any non-Moslem who would vote for a weakling after seeing the evil and barbarism of the Easter Sunday ISIS massacre is absolutely unfathomable. If they actually vote a weak retard into power and continue to protect the Jihadi ISIS cult, and let the Moslems naturally explode in a Malthusian orgy to become the majority community by 2030 then Lanka richly deserves a horrible future. India has all the right to intervene and protect its flank from the Islamic Republic of Lanka with eunuch domination and with fanatical Jihadi barbarians owning its soul. A Lanka that is a Moslem majority hellhole exporting ISIS barbarism must be crushed and defeated by India before it becomes reality. Its the moral obligation of the Kaffir masses of Hindustan and they will be supported by what is left of the once proud Sinhalese people. Sinhalese will have a better future as an aligned territory under Hindu India than having Moslem barbarism rule over them with Sharia.

  • 0
    0

    US court dismisses case against Gota. Now some will blame the US justice system.

    “The United States District Court for the Central District of California has dismissed and denied the claims raised by Ahimsa Wickrematunge against Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

    On the 15th of July 2019, Ahimsa Wickrematunge had lodged the case against presidential hopeful, former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, alleging him for extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity and torture.

    The case was filed by the International Organization of Truth and Justice Project on behalf of the daughter of late journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, Ahimsa Wickrematunge.”

  • 5
    1

    Gota is the mastermind behind easter sunday attack..? If you look carefully at his campaign ads and what he says. It is more than enough to come to a conclusion.

    • 3
      0

      Very true this is the reason we shouldn’t vote for person like Gotbaya we have to get rid of this ugly dirty ruthless family rule we have no choice we have to vote for Sajith to protect our freedom

  • 5
    0

    I am reminded of a movie with Anthony Hopkins as “Hannibal Lektor” in the “Silence of the Lambs”..all those who understand quality English inferences must watch that movie and be inspired..

  • 4
    7

    Please bear with me about this comment.

    Tisaranee Gunasekera never had a good word for the Rajapakse government during the last stages of the war. So I have very little regard for this write up. This is “Male Fide” stuff.

    I just want to ask the writer if she thinks that the whole of the Sri Lankan Tamil population and the English speaking readers in Sri Lanka could tilt the election against the Pro Sinhala candidate?

    Do you think the poor Sinhala man is really a lotus eater?

    • 4
      5

      Thank you Jerry Cames.
      I have been trying to tell CT journalists and comment writers about what you have exactly mentioned above. Majority of them try to portray that the Rajapaksas are criminals, thieves, cheaters, and an anti-minority political thugs. Let alone the Sinhalese even minority groups don’t buy this argument; not anymore. Such attempt has now become political rhetoric and nothing else.

      It is true that Tamil diaspora tried their best to support the above argument which is just a cooked-up story, and spent millions of $$$ on those who helped them propagate it through writing articles, and comments.
      These journalists and comment writers never say anything about their Yahapalana government that did nothing to alleviate the poverty which is common among the majority and the minority ethnic groups. If they had done so, the UNP led political groups and their ‘common’ candidate wouldn’t have to relate fairy tales on the stage today.
      Cartoonists make so much fun of Sajit’s speeches. ‘Pattare Vistare’ (news from the daily press in Sinhala) which is a breakfast TV program has already made him a buffoon rather than a presidential candidate!

  • 4
    0

    Sumanasekere’s constant References to Sajith as the ‘Keselwatte Kid’ shows how Far Down He is, on the Sri Lankan 79% IQ Scale!
    Educated People in other Countries, Recognise and Value a Person who has Risen from the Ranks! They do not Denigrate such People by constantly referring to their Background in a Shameful Manner!

  • 1
    0

    Let the people once again make a wise choice. It is the people who are not qualified to choose a leader. Or at least 51%

    Power to the people. No wonder the West wants to promote democracy in sovereign nations.

  • 4
    1

    The issue before the public (Sinhalese, Tamils & Muslims) is do they want to experience the horrors of torture chambers again. He may promise anything, but how to rely. After all, a dog’s tail cannot be straightened. Family bandysm especially from Rajapaksas is always dangerous. One thing is certain that press freedom (live wire of democracy) will be silenced with torture chambers.

  • 0
    3

    GR has delivered what we need. The GDP was good as the national Income. Productivity was also good. In progress we neeed to reduce costs and obtain larger outputs. The tamil workers have as ;low wage as well as more days of work. Mechanised agriculture means less workers are emploted. In factories advanced matirial handling mand Numarical control machinary lower cost asnd increasexzs productivity. We have to retrain workers and rdeclasify workerts for advqanc3ed skills. We have many research departments. We can easyly train the workers.Subsidires, extesion trainers, and testing isw necessqary. The standard Beurae has to help factoies as weell as keep inferiour goods out. There are many vacancies for these peop-0le with nskills.Let us be careful of FTI that send outdated m qachinary for our use

    • 1
      0

      Until GR, or any of these 225+1 Indian bootlickers promise to:
      1. Abolish the 13th amendment
      2. Abolish the Indo Lanka Accord
      3. Scrap at least 80% of the unnecessary bureaucracy and “jobs for the boys” (all those public servants who don’t work and sit there demanding bribes from people for totally unnecessary permits)
      4. Cut the cost of government
      5. Promote a clean capitalist (not crony capitalism, or crony socialism) economic model based on Singapore, Korea, Japan, etc
      6. Have one law for the whole country (no tribal laws) and settle Sinhalese in the North to balance demographics

      THEN NONE of them are worthy of support.

      No one in the modern era (unlike our independence movement) has done right by the people. Our growth rate and economy has been DREADFUL for the last 10 years. If we had competent government, then we would grow faster than Singapore did. We are run by utter morons who think the whole world revolves around India, that’s the problem.

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