4 December, 2020

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Bringing A Nation Into Line

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“It used to be that reading papers – Made you stupid and even crazy

One wrote ‘Bravo! Very good!’ – Another ‘Pfui!’ The truth stayed hazy.

Now you can save your dime – If you read one, you know what’s right,

They say the same thing every time – Brought into line, brought into line.”

A state-endorsed song in Nazi Germany[i]

Karim Nabbach is a fortunate man. He will suffer no ill consequences, even though he has incurred the wrath of Kim Jong Un. Mr. Nabbach, a barber by profession, advertised discounted haircuts in a poster, adorned with a picture of the North Korean leader and titled, ‘Bad Hair Day?’ But Mr. Nabbach is safe. He lives in London. All North Korea can do is to formerly request the British to take “necessary action to stop the provocation”[ii].

Mahinda GymPoking fun at their leaders is an everyday-right that citizens of most democratic countries take for granted. But the crime of lèsé-majesté (injured majesty) is far from dead in many parts of the world. Last week the editor-in-chief of the Sinhala daily, Lakbima, was interrogated by the CID. His ‘crime’: injuring the majesty of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s wife. “The newspaper carried a photo on April 7th on page 8 in which the head of the Sewa Vanitha unit of the Defence Ministry Ayoma Rajapaksa was depicted buying goods at the New Year fair of the Civil Defence Department. The caption of the photo was…. ‘They aren’t fake money aren’t they?’”[iii] The newspaper apologised the very next day, but to no avail. Another ‘insuperable line’ no one thought existed had been crossed, with that harmless quip. The editor-in-chief was grilled for three hours by the CID and a statement recorded. The sub-editor, directly responsible for the caption, was dismissed from the job[iv].

Ideally, everyone from fellow editors to the opposition should have been up in arms at this idiotic, extra-legal and unjust Rajapaksa response. In reality nothing much happened. Our collective inertia, as much as the regime’s frenzied overreaction, helped entrench another political precept – Thou shalt not mock the Rajapaksas.

At the 2013 White House Correspondent’s Dinner[v] Barack Obama raised more laughs than the Chief Guest, comedian Conan O’Brien. “These days I look in the mirror and I have to admit I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be,” President Obama quipped at one point. “I’m also hard at work on plans for the Obama library and some have suggested we put it in my birthplace but I’d rather keep it in the United States,” he joked, in a reference to the ‘Birther-issue’[vi]. Mr. O’Brien accused President Obama of continuing to solicit campaign funds, post-election, to feed a secret gambling-habit.

Mr. Obama might be the most powerful man in the world, but he knows that he is going to occupy that position only until 2016. He also has to operate within a host of very real constraints, constitutional, institutional, political and societal. Therefore it would be much harder for him to see himself as a politically immortal superhuman. But even tin-pot despots and would-be despots in less-democratic lands can gaze in the mirror and see not normal men in power for a season, but giants in imperial purple, ruling for life. No wonder they are so allergic to the sort of humour which reminds them of their essential ordinariness.

Roger Owen opines that ‘lifetime presidents’ exist in a ‘mirror-state’ where they see themselves as “omnipotent, indispensable and well loved by a grateful people in whose name they professed to govern”[vii]. And this self-delusion cannot be maintained if people are free to know the quirks of their leaders and to poke fun at them. That is why in non-democratic lands, information and treachery are Siamese Twins and one bout of derisive laughter can become a greater crime than reams of measured criticism.

Last year, a Puswedilla-skit mocking the Commonwealth Summit was banned by the censor board. This was when Commonwealth mania was raging and President Rajapaksa was being hailed as ‘The Great Leader of the Commonwealth’. The skit entitled, ‘The Comon Welthings Summit’ would have been inconsonant with this reverential and celebratory mood. And though the President called the director of the show and promised to resolve the matter, the ban does not seem to have been lifted[viii]. The message is clear – mock the opposition and even ministers; but stay off the First Family.

According to the latest Impunity Index, Sri Lanka, with a rating of 0.443 is the fourth worst country in the world for journalists[ix]. Both the director of Puswedilla and the editor of Lakbima are more fortunate than the staff of the Uthayan, the Jaffna paper under perennial siege. Another one of Uthayan correspondents was beaten up on Sinhala and Tamil New Year’s day[x]. Perhaps in future, Uthayan staff can be arrested and detained indefinitely under the PTA, for having contacts with ‘Tiger Leader’ Gopi – or his innumerable successors.

The Dragnet

The Rajapaksa myth of a humanitarian operation with zero-civilian casualties could not have been sustained with a free media. That was why the regime imposed a blanket censorship on war-coverage and vilified as traitors those journalists who talked about human rights violations by the Lankan Forces. This information-blackout enabled the regime to emulate the Tigers and conduct the war in a no-holds-barred manner.

A normal free media is fatally injurious to the Rajapaksa dynastic project as well. The Siblings need to keep economic hopes and political fears alive in the South; both tasks require an ignorant populace and, therefore, an obedient media. From the censoring of critical websites to the banning of Puswedilla, from the buying-out of anti-government newspapers to the grilling of Lakbima editor, we are witnessing a gradual tightening of screws, of closing of spaces.

On the one hand, the likes of Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero are allowed to spew racist venom in total freedom, while those who oppose such fanatics run the risk of being punished as troublemakers. The regime equates reconciliation with a state of existence where Tamils accept the twin myths of humanitarian operation with zero-civilian casualties and Welfare Villages, welcome de facto military occupation and embrace their second class status. Consequently anyone who refuses to abide by these axioms can be labelled an enemy of reconciliation. So even if anti-hate speech laws are enacted they will be used to silence not the BBS-types but those who speak out against discrimination and injustice.

A notable guest at the Rajapaksa avurudu table in Medamulana this year was the country’s de facto chief justice Mohan Peiris[xi]. That presence symbolised a critical absence: that of at least a partially independent judiciary. In that deadly absence, the Rajapaksas are safe from the fate of Silvio Berlusconi, whose political career was abruptly halted when he was convicted by an Italian court of tax fraud. In the absence of an independent judiciary and a free media, there is nothing much to stand in the way of the Rajapaksas as they violate human rights, abolish basic freedoms and turn a politically vibrant and ideologically pluralist society into the humourless and ignorant monolith of their desire.


[i] Quoted in ‘Dead Funny: Humour in Hitler’s Germany – Rudolf Herzog

[v] The main function of this annual event seems to be to poke fun at the American President to his face Arguably one of the best occasions was when Stephen Colbert, an avid critic of the Bush Presidency, roasted an often bemused looking President George W Bush for 20 minutes.

[vii] The Rise and the Fall of Arab Presidents for Life

[ix] https://www.cpj.org/reports/2014/04/impunity-index-getting-away-with-murder.php (Sri Lanka’s ranking remains constant compared to last year but its rating has increased, indicating movement towards greater impunity.)

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    The nation is in line with a two face clown actor. The “infernal pact.” you have with the Devil goes with the selling of your soul for pittance. Now you can legally worship the Church of Satan. The deadly sins are gratifications. Throughout the ages the devil has been represented by many and varied imagery. As a snake, as a man, a beast with horns and a tail, as a nightmare with bat’s wings. This supreme evil still walking the Earth, tempting, seducing and corrupting those of little faith. According to scientists and other secular scholars these devils and demons are a means of labelling those unseen and often unjust forces of nature that cause us harm.

    “Democracy: The worship of jackals by jackasses.”
    — Henry L. Mencken (1880-1956) American Writer

    • 1
      3

      Titsaranee seems to have an obsession with Hitler!

      [Edited out]

  • 6
    12

    Magrhibi wants democracy in Sri Lanka when his beloved Saudi Arabia is a Dictatorship hostile to other religions and women of other religions who are raped if they go to work under muslim masters.

    • 3
      2

      “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.”
      — John Adams (1797-1801) Second President of the United States and Patriot

      • 2
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        Representative democrasy like the US or direct democrasy like Switzerland is still the best form of government there. Why is it that most of the world want to emigrate to the Western democracies if democrasy is lacking.

        Western democrasy is still vastly preferable to racist dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and all Arab states.

        • 0
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          “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Winston Churchill – House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)

          R. Varathan

    • 0
      2

      Jim Softy and Avatars,

      “..Saudi Arabia is a Dictatorship hostile to “

      The Saudi Arabia Dictatorship recently re-branded Atheists to be terrorists.

      The Agnostics have not been re-branded yet.

      The Hindus are all right because they have Brahma as the Supreme God and 330,000,000 minor Gods, “Prophets” under him.

      Buddhists are all right because many Buddhists have turned Buddha into a God.

      Abrahamic Religions are all right because they have one or three Gods.

      Zoroastrians are all right too.

      And the Earth STILL goes around the Sun…once a year, year after year…

    • 0
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      JimSofty

      “… his beloved Saudi Arabia is a Dictatorship hostile to other religions and women of other religions who are raped if they go to work under muslim masters.”

      Looks like Saudi Arabia is NOT a Muslim Country as per Prophet Mohamed. They follow the Devils religion, and have Kings, and will abuse all Non-Wahhabis and of course women, They follow Wahhabi tribal traditions.

      They even call Atheists Terrorists, when Prophet Muhammad did not call them Terrorists. Prophet Mohamed said there is no compulsion in Religion. So do not take the Wahhabi as Muslim or role model for Muslims. You should take them a role model for the devils, Satan or Shaitans.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09TI5CHQuac

      Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time

      Published on Jun 6, 2013
      Karen Armstrong talked about her book Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, published by Harper Collins in the Eminent Lives series. She described Muhammad, the prophet and founder of Islam, as a respectful man who …

  • 5
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    Thank you Thesaranee. History will remember you and honour you,
    Anura

  • 3
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    Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera – The only person having true feelings for Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese nation and Buddhism is defence secretary Nandasena Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, secretary general of Bodu Bala Sena Ven. Galagodaatte Gnanasara Thera has told several journalists recently.
    The Thera has gone onto say quite, “Namal is a real fool. He does not understand anything about nation or religion. He is a character without any use. It is the same with the president. One thing should be said about Basil. Basil had definitely been born to a Muslim. I know you cannot publish this. Publish anywhere you can. I do not fear anyone.”

    Vasudeva Nanayakara – Minister Vasudeva Nanayakara requested to ban Bodu Bala Sena movement with an immediate effect in SriLanka and also describe movement as terrorist organisation..

    • 0
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      Hambantota Rajapakses are Javanese Moors forcibly settled in Lanka by Dutch. There are couple of books on Ceylon recent history say this clearly. Some Javanese Moors changed their names and become Sinhalese Bhuddist, quite a lot didn’t as we know.
      Faces of Basil, MR, Namal have eminent Javanese facial/body features. Gothaya is kind of outcast and have lot of Sinhalese, Kerala, Tamil genetic features (like me), and he is the real killer in the family but he shows signs of brain. Others with moor faces, do not show signs of having logical brains but have high degree of Emotional Intelligence build on cunningness and shrewdness specifically designed for Sinhalese..

      Having said all this, I believe present Hambantota Rajapakses are belong to Lanka, Lanka belong to them, no more or less than native Veddas or Nagas, so are the Tamil speaking Hindus living in the central part of Lanka.
      {Rajapakses living in other areas like Ratnapura, usually called them as good Rajapkses – ‘Hoda Rajapakses’ , Are there ‘Hoda Rajapakses’ in this forum to confirm or deny what i say here}

  • 7
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    you are right. There is no independent judiciary, no independent police, no independent military and no independent Parliament. All institutions, all politicians from left to right and all religious leaders are just work for one family, that is Rajapakse. What they studied in books, what they learn through Lord Buddha to Allah are replaced by Mahinda Purana.

  • 3
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    In the picture, where is the comical kurakkan on Rajapaksa’s neck while lifting those weights? Bensen

    • 5
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      He has used it as a loin cloth to keep things in place!

  • 4
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    Mahinda R, family and hangers-on are in an unassailable position and will go on thus, unless there is a grass-roots revolution.
    But this too will never occur as the well fed and pampered army and police are eternally vigilant.

    Soon the LTTE will be ‘resurrected’ in the south too.

    Tamil haters – including the Militant Monks, do not realise that they will be reduced to the position of tamils, even lower, soon.

  • 2
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    WOW…. with 5 kilo stuff in his hand, I agree that Mahendra Percy is a powerful man!

  • 3
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    In the picture, that mouth looks just like a cowsars.

  • 0
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    .
    Lasantha mentioned first lady in an article, and he is gone.
    Now this guy writes about second lady!
    I don’t know why these people take risks?

    :-)

  • 0
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    NUMBER ONE WOMANIZER AND POLITICAL CROOK OF THE CENTURY. THIS UNDERWORLD UNEDUCATED CRIMINAL RAJA HORA AND HIS CRIMINAL GANG WILL DEMOLISH AND WRECK THIS COUNTRY IN TO PIECES VERY SOON.THIS BASTARD REMOVE THE TAX FOR SPORTS CARS FOR HIS SUN TO CLEAR 100 MILLION WORTH OF LUXURY CARS AND INCREASE THE DUTY FOR MILK POWDER TO COVER THE LOSSES INCURRED FROM THIS SPORTS CAR DUTY.

  • 0
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    Here is my advice to Tisaranee and her like-minded followers. If you can’t fight them (to any meaningful degree), either join them or stay silent. Repeating the same accusations over and over merely reminds one of a famous quote from Einstein, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Rajapakse is not going away, though one’s limited income stream (derived from the time spent conjuring up a 1001 Rajapakse ills) surely might.

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